Cicero, a dead Roman who hung out, more or less, with guys like Mark Antony and Julius Caesar, wrote a little book of advice to his son. It was more like a long letter, but then there weren’t as many things to distract a fellow from doing something like that as there are today. So, the letter goes into circulation, sometime, I guess around the time Cicero loses his head over politics; which is a thing that shows signs of becoming fashionable again, and I have a copy of it.
The English title is “On Duties”. That last is an old word, rarely used any longer, and it means stuff you should do before you do what you wanna do; like get stoned, or “chill”, alone or with your homies, or some ho du jour.
As a matter of fact, Cicero’s point in the whole thing seems to be that a real man will turn these “duties” into habits, and habits into the way men live. Habits back then, by the way, did not mean being peculiarly attracted to “substances” and chemicals of one kind or another; attracted so completely, that you cannot live without them; that you become, in a sense, your habit, and no longer a Man, or even a human being.
In other words, getting back to the book, a man is not yet a man, he is an unfinished thing somewhere between a blob and a living being until he has become, through exercise and attention to these duties, a Man, and can be among other men as an equal, a person, someone taken seriously; good company among good companions. And, until he has grown up and takes his place among the other men.
At one point along the way, Cicero devotes some time to such things as beauty, modesty, and proper dress. In fact, he modestly mentions dressing and behaving so that certain parts of the body are not exposed to other men, or in public. Imagine that?! The Kardashians would never make it in Rome, I think.
He says this about beauty:
“There are two kinds of beauty, in one of which grace, in the other dignity, predominates, we ought to regard grace as belonging to woman, dignity to man. Let then every species of apparel or adornment unworthy of a man be removed from his person, and let him guard against similar faults in attitude and gesture. For the manners of the wrestling ground are apt to be somewhat disagreeable, and the affected attitudes of actors frequently give offence; while in the entire carriage of the body whatever is direct and simple receives correction….. The same rule is to be observed in dress, in which, as in most things, that the which is becoming lies between the two extremes.”
And this ends my little excerpt: “Care must be taken lest in our gait we accustom ourselves to effeminate slowness.”
Poor man. He had probably seen never seen a gay pride demonstration, a rock concert or an antifa romp in the park, or Ru Paul. Though, if it would change his mind I am not too sure.
I think he would never get his book published today. As a matter of fact, I do not know if there is a recent edition of “On Duties” The one I have is a freebie on my Kindle. Anything in print is probably hidden back in the stacks of some college library…soon to be tossed out as homophobic, racist and anti LGBT.
And, the guy wanted to be, all he wanted to do was be a good father.
I remember my own father, God rest his poor soul, telling my brother and I to stop slouching, and get a decent haircut. He thought dungarees (an old and out of use word) were gangster clothes. He would probably be arrested today.