Published On: Tue, Aug 29th, 2017

How Not To Be A Boy by Robert Webb – book review: A brilliant telling of a sad story


How Not To Be A Boy by Robert Webb(Canongate, £16.99)

Throughout his memoir, Webb comments on the way gender roles impacted upon his life, although he didn’t realise it at the time.

Webb’s father was a drunken bully but he did not physically abuse his son beyond the odd spanking. His mother died suddenly when he was 17. Despite the tragedy he went to Cambridge and on to TV stardom with David Mitchell in Peep Show and That Mitchell And Webb Look.

From the start of the story, Webb hints that he will behave badly and let his family down after he becomes a father in his forties. When we reach the closing chapters, we find Webb drinking a bit too much and wasting his time on Twitter feuds instead of helping with the housework. Anyone hoping for humiliating meltdowns or debauchery may feel a sense of anticlimax.

But he realises that the reason he feels unhappy is because being a new father reminds him of his own early childhood, filled with fear for failing to live up to society’s expectations of masculinity. In all, Webb’s story is fairly ordinary – and that is his point. He wants to show that many men went through what he did and that much of their suffering is entirely avoidable.

He feels that he and his father were both victims of a society that tells men and boys to behave in a certain way: be like other men, show women who’s boss, don’t talk about your feelings. So inevitably when men suffer grief and rejection, those feelings turn into anger.

Like Webb, I was a spindly, non-sporty boy, and I grinned and groaned with recognition at his memories of his “negative-space-triangulation” technique for finding the spot on a football pitch where the ball was least likely to go. He brings out the funny aspects of all this, but I was reminded that the shame of not being good at things boys are supposed to be good at is very real.

The difficulty of living up to a prescribed template of masculinity, Webb suggests, may explain why the suicide rate is so much higher among young men than women. If he often mounts his soapbox, he does so with wit and style.

I laughed innumerable times and cried twice – and the fact that I thought twice about admitting that shows how strongly the early training takes hold. Still, this book made for an effective stage in my ongoing deprogramming. 

You should give a copy to any young male you care about.


Celebrity Funny Gaming
Health Food-Recipes Books
Sports Lifestyle Music
Movies Business World
Fashion Top Stories Travel
Technology Education

buzzfix TODAY

Videos

Most Popular Posts