[America’s most respected novelist has some things to say about “Smotherlove” and how to preserve our masculine resources.]
By Taylor Caldwell, March 5, 1975
For you ladies: Let us sit down and talk confidentially together about a very important matter.
We women know that real, honest-to-God men hardly exist any more, that homosexualism has vastly increased and become overt in America, and that it has now, in Washington and New York, taken on respectability and élan and has an air of delicate chic.
We know now that the student body of our colleges, and the faculties, too, reek with feminine “males” and limp-wristed flits. Drugs and homosexuality are rampant among male youth. They seem to go together. We are not concerned just now over the fact that our government is permeated with deviates who are often manipulated by our nation’s enemies and are a terrible hazard to our country. We are mostly concerned at this immediate time with a general failure of manhood among boys, and most of us understand that it begins practically in the bassinet. We also know that such a national failure has brought down the great empires and republics of the past and may bring down America to ruin, too, unless the tendency can be reversed.
How can you be certain that your son, or sons, will escape the emasculating pollution? It is well-known that both sexes possess latent characteristics of the other sex, and that environment and companions of evil intent can bring out the submerged tendencies. To become a man, a boy must be treated as a man from the very cradle.
But first of all his mother must be a woman, whose husband is her dearest treasure above all else, whose children are SECONDARY to her mate in all things. A woman must be womanly — not just “feminine.” She must have the strong instincts of a woman, and a love for her home. A mother whose FIRST concern is “sex”, and clothes and personal indulgence and hairdos, will not produce a manly son.
I’ve known dozens of these “women,” and invariably their sons have been lightweights. How could they escape the insistent picture of self-indulgence and self-love which they saw every day of their lives as children, in their mothers? How could they not see with what indifference their fathers were treated, and how they were regarded as providers of goodies, and not as beloved? The mother was the Queen, arrogant, svelte, greedy, perfumed, silken, demanding all things — and so the little boys began to identify with these creatures, these heartless, stupid, selfish, grasping, inane and pretty things. Mama was Everything. She implied that firmly, herself. And boys want to be Everything, too. So they identify with Mama.
But the world cannot accommodate two “Everythings.” So lust for position leads to resentment. There is the root of this emasculation, even beyond what the head-shrinkers call Smotherlove.
It is no accident that homosexual men almost invariably hate their mothers. Homosexuals are made at home, from the very earliest years. Hatred for women — and for Mama in particular — is the homosexual’s most outstanding characteristic. One can feel honest compassion for them, and condemn their mothers, who are trivial women — and murderers of the best in their men, emasculators really.
So treat your son, from the very bassinet, to be manly. He is a human being and has dignity from his birth; he is not a cutesy toy; he is not “adorable.” He is not “sweet.” He is an embryo man. Treat him so. Let him see from infanthood that you respect his status and he will acquire pride in himself. The Smother type of woman corrupts, degrades, and emasculates her son. She excuses her neglect by calling it “giving her baby what she didn’t get in her own childhood.” She is living vicariously through their child, chasing her own unhealthy lust to be “Everything.” How many times have you seen it yourself?
And forget the absurd idea that children, even in the bassinet, are “helpless,” I’ve noticed that by the time a child — a boy especially — is a month old he has his mother’s number down exactly. He may not be able to talk, sit up, or speak, but he is extraordinarily bright and clear-eyed — far more than he will ever be again. Babies have no sentimentalities.
I’ve seen my grandsons, just crawling, sit up and ponder on how to devil Mama and get something they want. You could almost hear their little brains clicking as they turned the subject over in their minds. They considered whether a spell of yelling would accomplish things, or not. Then they looked at Mama most thoughtfully, weighing her possible reactions to the demand. And quite often I’ve seen them come to the conclusion that this time Mama was not in the mood, or the idea is hopeless, and they continued to crawl and go about their business.
It is this clarity of understanding and honest animal cunning which should be cultivated and made to work for the boy’s manly future. So, no matter how delightful your baby is, look at him with respect, and never – but never — use comfy-cozy-chintsy language to him. Give him your love and gentleness and tenderness, of course, and hug and kiss him when you wish — and you wish far more often than he will! – but again treat him with the dignity he deserves. Let him know at all times that you are on to him, and he’ll be delighted and amused in the dark little realistic heart of him, and he’ll respect you and honor you. Always be one step ahead of Johnny, and two steps ahead of his plottings. He’ll not only regard you with consideration when he is a baby but will be considerate of you when he is older, even during adolescence. No man, whether ten days old, ten years old, or twenty, has anything but contempt for the soft touch.
When he is a man, then, properly brought up by a proper mother, he will detest the whining and the deliberately helpless, the mendicant, and the faker, the malingerer and the feeble “Liberal.” He will be brave and proud and truly masculine, scornful of those who live, as Samuel Butler put it, “only to lick the platter clean and leave a pile of offal.” He will demand of others that they be men, too, and so will be a force of strength in a world which sadly lacks true men in these days. His voice will be loud and clear. Best of all, as Solomon says of true mothers, he will “rise up” and call his mother “blessed,” and say of her “all her ways were pleasantness and all her paths were peace.” What more can a mother desire?
“Tell it like it is.” That goes for your boy children. (Girls are less likely to believe Mama’s homey little lies and cutenesses, all dressed up in Sweet Phrases.) Therefore, tell your boy children the absolute truth on any occasion , no matter how tragic or distasteful or horrible it is. A man should learn the truth from his cradle.
Let us get it firmly in mind: Children are tough and resilient and hard nosed. They are not “petals and flowers” as Dr. Spock once insisted to me in a letter. They are saner and colder of heart and more adaptable and tougher than they will ever be after they reach their maturity. They have no illusions; the dreams of children are violent dreams, not concerned with gardens and fairies; their aims are strong and sturdy and ruthless, concerned with self. Above all, children catch on to darling euphemisms at once, and cooing lying voices and false smiles — and they despise them.
Children are primitive men – they are of the cave absolutely. We civilize them later, but civilization does not necessarily include lies. (In fact, any civilization based on lies, euphemisms, fantasies, unreal ideologies, and refusal to face the truth will inevitably die, and good riddance to it.) Now, primitive man knew all about life and death. He accepted both without fear and with realism. Men are born – men die. It is of one piece, to primitive man, and your child is long a primitive. As a realist, he deserves your respect and your truth.
My mother was a realist, and I honor her for that at least. When I was very young she introduced me to religion and told me the unvarnished truth about death; children need little comfort, they are filled to the brim with it from birth. When a child is taught that he is masculine he can take life “like it is,” and the hell with the immediate trouble or pain. We may become skeptical later – and who isn’t? – but at least as we grow older the idea remains in our minds, immutable, and can give us courage.
So introduce your boy child, especially, to religion even while he is in the bassinet. (Boys are far more timid and fragile than girls, as any mother of both can testify.) You may think your baby is too young for religion, but he is not. My own children at six months understood that I was praying by their bedsides, or crib-sides, before they could even speak. I know, for if I neglected the ceremony they cried and were insistent. Children are ritualists. Well, they may not have even understood to Whom I was praying, but they gathered the idea that it was One who protected them and remained with them through the night, and so they had no night-terrors. I heard one of my daughters, then only eighteen months old, talking over things quite seriously with God after I had kissed her good-night. And I had thought that she still was unaware! It was a lovely conversation, between an infant and her Guardian and her Father, and I am sure God listened to it with more tenderness and attention than He ever gives to sophisticated adult prayers – for it was pure and unaffected and right to the point. She wanted a teddy-bear, and she described it exactly, then fell asleep assured she would get it. (She did.)
I, myself, was not an exceptional child, except that I was bigger and stronger than most others, and more bellicose. But I knew to Whom I was praying when I was very young, indeed, and I knew the difference between good and evil. I knew there were no “situation ethics” or grey places in morals and behavior. You were either on the side of the angels, or on the side of the devils, and if the latter you could be absolutely certain that you would be painfully thrashed as soon as Mama or Papa caught you.
And that brings me to another point: corporal punishment. Dr. Spock and Company think children are too innocent and too lovely to be chastised. Nonsense! Again, children are primitive man. Primitive man knew that his parents wanted to protect or warn him of danger, and as speech was ineffective the blow did the work thoroughly. Watch animal mothers: They do not croon over their young ones and try to “persuade” them not to do naughty things or dangerous ones. They slam –and the youngster immediately learns that some things are forbidden. They love and cuddle their infants, but when a lesson in the realities of life is needed Animal Mama lifts her paw and lets go painfully, and does not comfort the culprit when he howls. In fact, he learns that he has to work hard to get back into her favor and the kitchen.
Girls, being slightly more civilized at birth than boys, are sometimes – I say sometimes – open more to reason. (But don’t bet on it!) So, when a girl is about twelve Mama can often “explain” things to Susie, and if Susie has learned to trust her mother she will listen. But boys are more determined and, when they are young, reason seems like a silly thing to them. They do understand the swift punishment; they respect pain. Don’t wait for Papa to come home to slam your boy-child. Slam him the moment he commits a crime, and slam hard. He may yell and say some incredible things to you, but he will respect the lessons of that good right hand which deals out immediate justice, as well as cookies and caresses.
“You will only teach them physical violence,” mourn the Dr. Spocks. Well, we have two whole generations reared on Dr. Spock and Company, and who has been more violent on the campuses, and who has been more savagely murderous on the streets? Our juvenile delinquents are the RESULT of the Spock philosophy. The assaulters of teachers and the old and the helpless were given “gentleness” a la Spock in their homes. Imply to a boy that no matter what he does he will be “loved”, and that he is the most important creature in the world, and he will become, even as a youth and a young man, cruel, arrogant, selfish, demanding, and fierce. When he comes up against the real world of life – unsheltered by pampering Mama — he will be outraged, for no one there will coddle him and defer to him and listen to his vaporings. And, he will take revenge on it. He will shriek “brutality!” when he is given the blows he ought to have had at home. He will be uncontrollable, savage, resentful, believing that everything should be granted to him and nothing demanded of him. He had been treated “democratically” by his parents, and so he will believe, as a youth, that his callow opinions are as good as anyone else’s, and that authority is something to be derided. For isn’t he the Real Authority? He had been taught that by Spock and Company.
Teach your boy children to work, and work arduously, even when toddlers. A three-year-old can help around the house. He can pull out chairs; he can dust; he can put away his own clothes and toys. He can dig weeds. He can hose lawns, straighten furniture, carry out garbage. He must learn that if he has a place in the family – an honored place – he also has responsibilities. By the time a boy enters his teens he should have a summer job, no matter how affluent his father.
And be honest about your boy’s inherent capabilities. If he is only average, or less, in elementary school and high school, consider having him taught a trade instead of sending him off to some liberal arts college, where he will learn “dissent” and radicalism. Good machinists and mechanics and plumbers are worth their weight in gold, and always will be. Don’t listen to the educationists. A successful life doesn’t depend on a college diploma! Half the eminent men and women in the Who’s Who books never went to any college – though later they did receive honorary Ph.D.s. Intelligence is never learned or acquired. It is inherent in a child’s genes. No education – never mind what the self-serving educationists say! – can increase a child’s capacities for learning and understanding and intellect. These things are in him or they are not.
If your children manifest a capacity, through marks, for higher learning, then go to it, but pick out a really decent college and not a “democratic” one. There are still religion-oriented colleges in the United States, and private ones. So be realistic about your children. If Johnny wants to be an automobile mechanic or plumber – and that is where his aptitude is – don’t wail about what the neighbors will think, or what the teachers say. Give him what he needs with your honest blessing – his manhood and self-respect and success will depend upon it.
To make American boys manly, don’t be cute with your sons. The English language is rich and vibrant and full of millions of shadings and meanings. Don’t use a “cute” word when a good Anglo-Saxon word will be better. Don’t be “homey” with your boys. Don’t handle them in public! I’ve seen Spock-mothers pawing their half-grown boys in supermarkets and on the street, patting them, cuddling them, resting their hands on their shoulders, embracing them. Disgusting! A real boy hates it. Keep your hands to yourself, Mama. Treat your boy’s manhood with respect, even when alone with him. You can’t begin too soon.
There is a sort of woman – you have probably met her – who softly groans about her “Maternal Instincts,” and presses her hands to her bosom, rolls her teary eyes and admits, confesses, that she is “all mother” and just can’t help loving up her young son before her audience. She begs you, with those wet eyes, to “understand,” and then to applaud her or at least to give her a sentimental smile in return. Funny thing, though: She isn’t overcome with maternal passion when with her daughters, and doesn’t handle THEM in public!
You want your son to be a man when he enters his teens, and not a girl in a boy’s body, nor the sort of male who will be a “boy” until the day his weary wife either shoots him or divorces him or leaves him, nor the kind who will whimper that he won’t defend his house nor his family, but will only “love” an aggressor.
There is one “boy” however whom you may cuddle, pamper, cosset, hug and kiss to your heart’s content, and be rewarded handsomely for it, and be appreciated. That “boy” is your husband. Lavish on him your affection; delight in him; praise him even when you’d like to kick him where it would do a lot of good; tell him he is marvelous and magnificent. Men have left their wives for many reasons, but not one I know of has left a wife who truly cares for him. Pretty legs are a dime a dozen, and so are inflated bosoms and mini-skirts and perfumed hands and lacquered hair. A man likes them, but if his wife is a mother to him as well as a sweetheart he will think she is the loveliest woman on earth, above rubies, beyond price, no matter if she is overweight and doesn’t have beautiful hair. A woman like that is not stupid! Only the professional “mothers” are, with their feminine sons and disgusted daughters.
The present generation of children and the present generation of young adults from the age of thirteen to eighteen is no different from that of their great-great-grandparents. Political fads come and go; theories rise and fall; the scientific “truth” of today becomes the discarded error of tomorrow. Man’s ideas change, but not his inherent nature. That remains. So, if the children are monstrous today – even criminal – it is not because their natures have become polluted, but because they have not been taught better, or disciplined.
Withhold not correction from a child: for if you beat him with the rod he will not die.
You shall beat him with the rod and shall deliver him from death.
He who spares his rod hates his son: but he who loves him chastens him early.