Being Steve McQueen

Cover of "The Great Escape (2-Disc Collec...

Cover via Amazon

I have a friend, Prospect, who calls me Steve McQueen. He compared me to Errol Flynn too, and admits his girlfriend thinks I look like Colin Firth(though a rugged version I reckon), but it’s Steve he keeps coming back to because he thinks Steve’s the man, and so is H. Steve McQueen is old school man’s man. Let’s face it, there’ve been a lot of blokes walking around wishing they were Steve McQueen. Masculine and cool as, and he always got the girl. What’s not to like?

Of course I’m flattered by being compared to Steve. I recall Steve McQueen in The Great Escape and how he tried to leap the barbed wire fence on a BMW motorbike trying to elude the pursuing Wehrmacht and I think, yep, that’s me. My claim to fame apparently is that I’m also a man’s man. That’s a bit of a poison chalice these days, but it’s nice to get the respect of my male compadres – every bloke wants that.

Does being a man’s man preclude you from being a ladies man too? I pondered that for a bit, as if it was an either/or proposition, before figuring that being a man’s man often enhances the appeal to the ladies. As evidence I could think of a number of actors at least besides Steve McQueen who fit the bill – Sean Connery, Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, and so on, which is reassuring to someone who needs to be attractive to women.

Funny how I admit that so readily. Most men – people – want to be alluring, it’s part of the human condition, but I said ‘need’. Strange to see that when I’ve always set myself up as being the rugged individualist, independent of need. That’s rubbish of course, that person doesn’t exist – everyone has needs, whether they admit them or not. I still account myself to be unusually independent and self-reliant, but now that I’m willing to admit that I have needs it’s interesting to wonder what those needs are, and why. In this case a lot of it is just habit.

I was precocious in my attraction towards girls. Most of my schoolmates still thought girls were icky when I was trying to crack onto Christine Okarli in grade 5. Ever since I’ve been a very interested player. Besides the obvious stuff of liking how a girl looks and smells and tastes, I loved the rest of it too – and still do. I love the possibility to which my active imagination lends wings. I love to flirt, to bring a girl close through a combination of wit and clever conversation. Obviously I love the thrill of the chase. I like discovering women too. At it’s best it’s like peeling the beautifully wrapped layers one by one from a sublime gift. I love the exchange of minds, love considering how the world appears through the different perspective of a woman’s eyes. I love the femininity of women – there are times I can just close my eyes and breathe in that delicate and mysterious essence as if it’s the sweetest perfume. When I’m in love the greatest pleasure is in sharing myself, in giving, in every way. And hell, I love the sex.

But sure, these are things I love, or like a lot. I want them, but do I need them? And it’s a subtly different conversation as well – being attractive to women is different to being attracted to them (though clearly it helps serve the other). Why do I need to be attractive?

Old fashioned reasons – some kind of validation as a man. In my case, apparently, as a man’s man living as a ladies man. I have to admit that it is a keener sensation than it was 10 years ago. Back then I took it for granted I think, today it is one of those things – like the fear that my days of adventure are over – that feels more tenuous, less certain. And that’s because I am older. I can no longer rely on my youth, which gives unthinking confidence as well as supple limbs. I may look a decade younger than what I am, and may remain pretty fit, but the fact remains that I am getting older, and have the odd grey hair to prove it.

And so this need to be attractive is very human because it is related to my vanishing youth. This is why people take botox or have facelift’s, or wear clothes inappropriately young for them – to cling hard to the vanishing glories of youth. We deceive ourselves that it isn’t so, that the new hair piece is just the thing – and doesn’t it look natural? – and in so doing hope to deceive the world.

I’m glad to be still youthful looking and fit. I’ve not yet played any tricks on myself, and doubt I ever will. It’s true, I love being with women, but a large part of needing their attraction is in the reassurance that as long as I am attractive I remain relevant. It seems a fatuous conceit, but I have little control over it beyond the understanding my words here give me. I’m human, ergo, fallible.

It’s true also, that if I had someone I loved as they loved me then I think this would be a non-issue. Love is validation; without it you seek it elsewhere.

So I’ve come in a circle and back to the concept of being a man’s man, by way of the usual digressions. In Prospect’s eyes, I think, I’m not the he-man because I’m tall and have muscles and have had adventures around the world. I do think he envies my track record with the ladies, as men will do, but that’s a little beside the point. There’s something pretty old school these days about being a man’s man, maybe even a little bit unfashionable. I’ve gone on long and hard about what might be termed the feminisation of man. There’s nothing wrong with looking good, or being well groomed, or any of those softer aspirations, and it’s great being sensitive – I share the same aspiration. But being a man is more fundamental than that, and it does hark back to traditional male values whether you like it or not – hard work, enterprise, loyalty to friends and loved ones, courage to stand up for what you believe in, and honesty with yourself and others. At the end of the day the only person you need account to is yourself, but to manage that means that you have lived by those standards. To be a man is nothing passive, it must be actively lived.

Mostly I do, I think; and sometimes maybe I overdo it. I fell a little embarrassed writing like this about myself, but it’s an interesting topic I am interested in. And it’s important to me. I want to be that man. I want to be who I seem to be. I try to be honest with myself. I try not to cut corners there, though I have my conceits. When you’re honest with yourself you come at the world honestly, without cant or prejudice. You mean what you say, and say what you mean – and without fear. You carry yourself knowing that a lot of the silly things that trip people up are just that, silly, and that life is really much too short to be anything else but straight-up. That’s what I think a man’s man is – not the charismatic man of action necessarily, but someone worthy of respect because they have taken responsibility for their actions without excuse, are honest and brave enough to do the right thing rather than the popular thing, and a leader because they stand for things that people are willing to follow.

Am I a man’s man? It would be nice to think so, but I’ll settle for Steve McQueen.

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2 responses to “Being Steve McQueen

  1. Dear H, if we had the misfortune to be stuck in pow camp, you would be voted most likely to jump the fence on a motorcycle….probably get away too! You are Steve M.

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    • Nice of you to say Prossie, but given the choice I’d probably prefer to snuggle up to Ali McGraw in The Getaway than take my chances jumping the fence in The Great Escape. All the same, pretty cool…

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