By Michael McNeill
The process and time for introspection accelerates as you age, particularly after 70. The prospect of certain mortality and my commitment to influence my grandchildren in positive ways, has caused me to reflect on what I’ve accomplished, where I’ve fallen short, and what are my desired contributions going forward.
Having a group of like-minded Baby Boomers and facilitators guiding/supporting this process is of great and enduring value.
I’m fascinated, disturbed, and heartened by the recent conversations about sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances—conversations that have finally come out into the open. Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Garrison Keillor, Al Franken—men I have respected are losing or damaging their careers. And, it’s about time that women were believed. Still, what’s the difference between sexual harassment and jerkish-ness? How does bullying come into play. When do you speak up as a witness instead of staying silent around toxic behavior.
When is forgiveness coupled with a groper’s heightened awareness and sincere apology an adequate response? And when is punishment and a forever-ruined reputation appropriate?
When in the last six decades has my own behavior been inadvertently disrespectful or misunderstood? And how do I coach young boys and men to respect the sexual and power dynamic among friends, colleagues, and “romantic” interests? (I already counsel young woman on sending clear signals around what they mean and desire.)
Last night, my wife and I dined—if you could call it that—at a “dive bar” wallpapered with provocative bumper stickers and old brassieres. The words that most caught my attention were “Want to raise your own dope? Plant a man” and, “Most of life centers around ass — covering it, kicking it, kissing it and pursuing it” and “Married men live longer—or at least it seems like it.” Funny? Sure. Disrespectful? Again sure. Where are the lines and how have they changed? What is funny and what really isn’t anymore (and maybe never was)? What do “good men” look like these days—and how can I play a role in growing them?
I don’t have answers to these questions, but I am now in a community of smart, well-intentioned Baby Boomers who can help me figure this out if I’m willing to remain open and in a mood to learn. These are the kinds of conversations that will help shape what I want to do with the rest of my life, and I’m so grateful to be having them.
So, what is your contribution to a society where men are still men and women women—but where boundaries are clear and clean and respect and curiosity come first? And who are your thought partners in helping you to figure out the best use of you in this charged social climate? I credit Life Reinspired for creating a space to think about this and peer partners to play with.
Michael Karr MacNeill is a senior advisor to Life Reinspired, a reset lab for successful Baby Boomers contemplating a meaningful next chapter of life.