American Morning

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March 20th, 2009
11:00 AM ET

Men: Jobless in bed?

CNN's Lola Ogunnaike looks at how men are dealing with job loss and how it affects their psyches.
CNN's Lola Ogunnaike looks at how men are dealing with job loss and how it affects their psyches.

Men aren’t supposed to be big on emotion, but at the Santa Monica’s Men Circle in California, they have no problem discussing their innermost feelings. The recession has them worried, they say. The news makes them anxious. There is anger, fear, self doubt. Former masters of the universe all wondering if their futures will be as bright as their pasts.

“I start questioning my self-worth and am I making good decisions,” one group member admits. “And then I start second guessing my other decisions and it starts eroding my confidence.”

In this circle, they feel free to unload.

“There are times when I want to keep a good face,” says one gentleman with graying hair and boyish grin, “and there are times when I need to just let all that go and I really want to give myself permission to do that.”

Of the nearly four million who have lost their jobs since the recession began, 78% are male. And some sociologists say that they’re hurting more than women.

“The idea of being a man, being a provider, being a bread winner is still the sort of anchor that most men have for their masculinity,” says Michael Kimmel, author of “Guyland.”

Men may be evolved—some cry, some get manicures, some even help with housework—but many still feel it’s their duty to slay the beasts while their wives tend to the caves, Kimmel argues. Yes, it’s downright prehistoric, but real nonetheless.

“It’s my job to beat things with a club and drag them home and dress them and serve them for dinner,” says Jonathan Steuer, a media researcher who lost his job in October. “To the extent that I’m not doing that right now it’s a bit of a frustration.”

He’s now over the anger of being laid off, but when he was given his pink slip he was, in a word, shocked.

“I felt like a chump,” says the father of two. “I felt like I’d been taken advantage of, like I’d been played. I worked a lot harder than my job demanded.” For a while he had revenge fantasies. Those have since subsided. “The best revenge in a career situation is to be successful in whatever you do and I’m working on that instead.” Meanwhile, his wife, Marjorie, a writer, is working on staying calm and keeping her family financially afloat. It’s not always easy. “I still wake up in a cold seat in the middle of the night thinking, ‘we’re okay now, but what happens if he doesn’t get a job?’”

For some couples that’s not the only concern. Ego and libido often go hand in hand, say experts. “You could imagine the guy saying I’m not feeling the most powerful in the board room, but here in the bedroom I’m still the champ,” Kimmel explains. “Or you could imagine since I’m feeling so much less powerful in my job, I don’t quite have the energy or the virility to perform in the bedroom.”

Back at the Men’s Circle, Paul Bob Velick, the group’s leader, has just posed a question that prompts spirited conversation. “Can a man be a man in a recession,” he asks, “or can we only be men in good times?”

Filed under: Economy
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. OldDogSully

    cancel your credit cards, espcially capital one which just raised the rates on everyones card by 277% and others will follow. If you don't have the cash tyou really don't need it.

    March 20, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  2. rachid bensellam

    do you want to save some money during this economic crisis, here is A list of practical ideas to restructure your life in recession:

    -Bring your lunch to work. Savings of $1,000 to $2,000 per year.
    -Buy 2 lbs of Maxwell House coffee for $6 at Wal-Mart and make a pot of coffee per day for a month rather than buying a $4 cup at Starbucks and save $1,000 per year. Drink the bad stuff at work for free.
    -Stop buying things.
    -Keep your appliances until they stop working.
    -Realize that it isn’t a competition with your neighbor to die with the most stuff.
    -Mow your own lawn. Better yet, if you have kids, make them do it.
    -Learn to embrace dandelions and crabgrass. Who cares?
    -Wash your car in the driveway. Better yet, if you have kids, make them do it.
    -Buy your next car and drive it for 10 years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first.
    -Buy a car that gets at least 30 mpg, as $200 a barrel oil is a certainty in the next decade.
    -Tell your kids they are lucky to have whatever you give them.
    -When you walk into a room and CNBC is on TV, switch immediately to When Animals Attack.
    -Don’t answer the phone – it’s someone asking for something.
    -Don’t throw out your old sneakers – you can use them to cut the lawn.
    -Turn the heat down to 60 degrees at night.
    -Go to the poor man’s Disney World, Wildwood, N.J. and save $4,000 for a weeks vacation. Stay home.
    -Eat out once per month rather than three times a week and you’ll magically save $3,000 to $4,000 per year.
    -Contribute into your 401k until it hurts. Picture yourself handing out yellow smiley stickers at the age of 80 in a Wal-Mart as motivation.
    -Buy some gold, just in case.
    -Plant a vegetable garden, just in case.
    -Instead of spending $40 at the movies, go for a hike in a National Park like Valley Forge. Stay home.
    -Have a catch with your son.
    -Understand the motivation of anyone who is telling you anything. Most people have an angle.
    -When the guy in the Mercedes or BMW in front of you is wearing their hat sideways, your taxes are probably making their car loan payment.
    -When you see that same guy pushing a cart with a 52 inch HDTV out of Best Buy, your taxes are probably making the payment to Capital One

    March 20, 2009 at 11:36 am |