Men, says modern myth, are barely civilised, occasionally lovable incompetents who eventually turn into sick, sad old gits. Without women, we would fall apart.
This message was hammered home again this week by the Royal College of Nursing. Men who don't live with women, said the ladies with the lamps, slip into a downward and often fatal spiral of fags, booze and junk food.
We all know what they mean. The BBC's Men Behaving Badly provides weekly proof that we just can't look after ourselves without nanny, without big Dorothy to sort us out. We are all, it seems, babies at heart, bereft when not at the breast, in its absence taking comfort from whatever else we can stuff in our mouths, be it a lager can, a Marlboro or a Double Whopper with cheese. And, try as we do in our own clumsy fashion to find a substitute for Mother, we inevitably pay a high price for our loss of women: cirrhosis of the liver, lung cancer and heart disease.
It's a depressing picture of dependency, particularly when women themselves are busy saying they hardly need us anymore. They're leaving us, divorcing us and heaping abuse on us in what history may judge to be an extraordinary act of collective anger. And so, the myth goes, we are increasingly condemned to misery, a half-life of ill-health and unhappiness followed by an early death.
But do we really need women? I think not - at least not in many of the ways that these myths would have us believe. Without women, we do not have to turn into emotional cripples and inadequate orphans. Just as women today can enjoy the achievement and fulfilment of being whole in their own right without men, so is the converse true for many men.
We have in the past sub-contracted part of our lives to our female intimates. Without a woman to talk to many of us have had been unable to gain access to our feelings, to our emotional depths. Women have fed us, cared for us, mediated a social world for us, whether it is by sending Christmas cards to Aunt Beryl or getting to know the neighbours.
We have seen our fathers shrink with age as a result of abdicating personal responsibility for these aspects of life. They were used to expressing and defining themselves through work, sport and, perhaps, sex. The rest of life was left to women. Then the work went, the sport became physically difficult and the sex wasn't so good. And so our fathers became half-dead, living with women who were still full of life but stuck with men in whose infantilisation they had colluded but whom they also held in disdain. It was a poisonous brew for men and women.
It is not one from which many younger men, such as myself (I am 35), wish to sip. We want to live full lives. …