Saturday, February 20, 2010


When Ray Sawhill left in order to move his pop stand to Facebook, a lot of naughty energy went with him to the new location. Who am I not to follow? Ray says good things about my writing! So when he posted a link to a blog talking about Alpha Males, I jumped to it.

What I found was two chapters of a very intriguing story in Costa Rica, sort of a meeting between Carmen and Che. More is supposed to come. But then I read the comments. Oh, dear. More generation whateverthisis obsessing about the same old Hugh Hefner markers: access to bunnies, tech stuff, hot cars, and all that. Although I have to say, when one young man (35 is young to me, baby) boasted about his Ivy League education and his dot com fortune by saying he could have any twenty-year-old chick he wanted, the slightly older guys told him he was fishing for guppies or maybe those little feeder goldfish the pet store sells. “Man up!” they told him, “Find a real woman.”

Yeah, right. Someone like Carmen.

This same blogger likes to point out that Obama uses Alpha Male body language. No lie. Does anyone who has been a professor at the U of Chicago Law School NOT use Alpha Male body language? (Do you realize what those students are like?) Check out Scalia. He has more children than most men have mistresses and I expect no one at his house is confused about the kind of relationship they have. Obama wasn’t at the school when I was. Cass Sunstein was and the whole concept of “Alpha” was irrelevant to him. He would need an entire alphabet in several languages. It was a mercy they had just made computers available -- he rushed straight from his car to his office, developing three new concepts before his fingers hit the keyboard. Actually the whole U of Chicago Law School faculty reminded me of Lippizaners, very powerful, very disciplined, able to act in synchrony, and white. No blacks, yellows or reds at that time. These guys were empowered by two forces: the law and the institution of the university professional school. This was an historical, civilized, institutionalized, bureaucratic sort of Alpha-ness.

In more organic societies, like a small town or a rez, the alpha male is the “go-to” guy. If you needed help fixing something, or some advice about a local political matter, or to borrow something, you’d go-to this guy. If you were in really major trouble, you’d go-to him. And if you were really out-of-line, being a horse patootie, others would go-to the Alpha to straighten you out. The model here that’s outside the law -- or in an alternative law system -- is “The Godfather.” Or you might invoke Marshall Dillon from "Gunsmoke".

They say that in the new movie they’re making of “Gunsmoke,” Brad Pitt wants to play Marshall Dillon, but that’s all wrong. Pitt’s personal authority doesn’t come from the slow consideration and sorrowing experience that James Arness gave the role, but rather a sizzling, trendy, thoroughly sexual aura, which is exactly what this blog I found was talking about. Although it helps that Pitt is older now and helping to herd all those rainbow children around. But -- the camera can change what someone is like. Now and then a person who is unremarkable off the set can become a solar flare on film.

An alpha in real life might not look like much though I’ve known some who do. (I’ll stick to men.) I taught a boy who was troublesome and the other kids said, “You won’t understand him until you meet his father.” The father lived out of town (divorce) but when he did show up, it was in a crowd and the kids were right. I didn’t need anyone to point him out. Partly it was a matter of moving, like a dancer or a major athlete, and partly it was that people gave him space. Partly it was that his eyes were taking in everything and partly it was that his posture told you he was a compressed spring. The trouble with the kid was partly that he wanted to be always with his dad and couldn’t, and partly that he was trying to be just like his dad, but couldn’t. The path he was on was his mother’s path. He controlled her by making trouble and it was a strategy that would not allow him to grow up. So being alpha is not hereditary.

I do think that alphas are not promiscuous. A good fictional example might be the continuing saga Peter Bowen creates around his Metis man Gabriel DuPre, whose fictional domain in right around here somewhere. He is a protective man, a thinking man, a go-to man (who has his own go-to coyote consultant), and his wife might be like Carmen, but she doesn’t try to control him nor does he ever allow himself to dishonor her. Rather the two are held together by an invisible force field, like gravity, rather like what it is fashionable to call “gravitas” these days. That is, they take the relationship VERY seriously and those around them recognize it. But DuPre is not normally grim, and the great joy of this relationship comes out in his highly skilled fiddling. On the violin.

So these young men who are obsessing about “Alpha-ness” and its relationship to sex would do well to compare and contrast the marriages of Obama and Tiger Woods. I think that Woods was pressed so hard into the development of his athletic skill that he had no chance to mature as a human being. If I were working with him to understand, I would ask him whether the first affairs coincided with the loss of his father, his main source of intimacy aside from his mother.

Alpha males are slightly different in different cultures, and I mean the interwoven but plural cultures in any country. Some require the capacity for violence and some allow for differences in intimacy, but all cultures require effectiveness, skill which is the mother of confidence which is the cornerstone of achievement. Part of that is choosing your ground. Can a man be an alpha on the Internet? Ray? I’m going to you.


Whisky Prajer said...

There's an old joke about two bulls standing on top of a hill, looking down at a grazing herd of cows. The younger bull says, "Hey, Pop! Let's run down there and fuck a cow!" The older says, "Hang on, son: let's walk down there, and fuck 'em all." This pretty much embodies the chief preoccupation of the current crop of Alpha students, and I'm grateful to you for raising the deeper issue: pack loyalty. Reigning Alpha males don't focus on expanding their gene pool to the exclusion of all other concerns -- that is an adolescent approach to Alpha-ness. Continued existence, and thriving into old age, require a larger command of long-term emotional strategies, some which necessitate delayed and even denied gratification.

Whisky Prajer said...

You needn't publish this: but did you intentionally give Ray the last name of "Stark"?

prairie mary said...

Dear Whisky,

I think I told you that old, old joke about bulls which was told to me by my then-husband (b. in 1914).

Ray Stark is posting on Facebook under this name, which is how I found the Rawness, the blog I'm quoting. As you know, Michael Blowhard was a pseudonym. For all I know, so is Ray Stark.

The Rawness' post today continues his thinking about "Alphaness" which he's working through in terms of economics and social arrangements such as polygamy and harems. It DOES relate to this joke about bulls.

I regret that he's not continuing the VERY intriguing story he started in parts 1 and 2. You might want to read the actual blog posts.

Prairie Mary