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The Local Lens: Celebrating Matt Moll

While hanging out at the decidedly downscale, hipster-free Sam and Ruthie’s Riverwards bar with a young artist friend (we had come from a Center City play entitled How to Use a Knife), a woman approached us and started chatting.

 We engaged in typical barroom banter until the woman introduced herself as the owner of Sam and Ruthie’s and then said something far more significant. She said she was the mother of Matt Moll, a young guy I’d met briefly in the bar almost two years ago. Matt introduced himself to me then and we talked for awhile, and then he left. A year or so passed and I noticed that whenever I went to Sam and Ruthie’s, which is not often, Matt was never there. On a whim one day I checked to see if he had a Facebook page, and that’s when I read the bad news. On his page there were comments about what a nice guy he was and how his friends missed him terribly. It was obvious there had been a death, but it took some searching to learn more.

 I learned that Matt had taken his own life. This seemed strange to me because when I met Matt, he seemed perfectly agile and healthy. Well adjusted is the term I want to use, although it is probably impossible to gauge someone’s ‘emotional health’ in 15 minutes.  

 Matt’s mom told me about Matt’s tragic end. She got very personal. She even told me what his last note to her said. It was moving and emotional, and she cried.   

 By the time I left the bar with my artist friend, I promised Matt’s mom that I would check out a Suicide Prevention event at JR’s Bar near Girard Avenue on June 10 at 11 AM. Then I went home and thought about all the suicides that have affected my life in some way.

  1. A brilliant school chum of my brother’s who shot himself while a student at William and Mary College in the 1970s. This suicide came out of the blue. He was an A student, the most brilliant in his class.  
  2. A woman friend of mine (and Riverwards resident) who died of a prescriptions drug and alcohol overdose in the bathtub of her home. This shocking episode, I find, is still hard for her friends to process.  
  3. An uncle of mine who hung himself in a motel after years of drifting from job to job along with fighting bouts of depression and alcoholism. I was 14 when my mother announced his death. I remember how he would come to help my father paint our house in Chester County. He was a tall, good-looking Irish chap who resembled Tyrone Power.  

 According to Dr. Miles Groth in an article in Psychology Today, suicide among young males is four times more common than among young females. Not only that, but suicide is occurring at younger ages, in the early teens. With males, Dr. Groth thinks that one problem may be the relationship between fathers and sons, such as young males not having had a father in boyhood. He cites other issues as well, such as body image and relationships with women.  “Young males are very impulsive, more than females, and they act without thinking,” he said.

 Dr. Groth said in a 2014 interview that men and boys have come to hate themselves. “This is a result of the image portrayed of them and of the roles they are compelled to play, but also given what they hear about themselves and, especially as young boys, come to believe about themselves. As a result of self-hate, the suicide rate of boys and men has increased at an alarming rate over the last twenty years. It is 4-6 times higher in teenage males than in female peers. The life expectancy of males is about seven years less than for females, compared to a two-year difference a century ago. College courses that are pro-male are now necessary to offset the misandric curriculum.”

 Misandry means contempt for men, but you don’t hear that word very much these days because it has been trumped by the word “misogyny,” which is number one in the hierarchy of usage, thanks mainly to feminism.  

 September may be National Suicide Month, but every month needs to be a suicide month of sorts. This means that when a friend or relative, especially a very young person, is in an extreme emotional crisis, it pays to let them talk, vent and get it out. What every person in life is really looking for is a meaningful connection with others.

 The transitory nature of many of life’s problems that leads some to take their own lives – a broken love affair, a job loss, drug addiction (“There’s no hope for me”), the loss of financial security or a startling medical diagnosis—can over time turn into quite manageable situations.  

 One just needs good friends and people to talk to when the going seems impossibly rough and fatal.

 In a Huffington Post article on the subject, Robert Gebbia writes that studies show that men are less likely than women to say that they would tell anyone they were considering suicide. It’s all part of the old stereotype: men hold things inside and are less likely to reveal their feelings. Isolation makes young men feel inadequate and sometimes angry. This can sometimes lead to thoughts of self-directed violence.   

 An interesting side note to this topic is the current role of men and boys in American society. Since the rise of certain strands of feminism, this role, according to Dr. Groth, has been devalued, even though a certain devaluation of men and boys has always been present in our culture.  He cites the institution of Father’s Day in 1966 as opposed to the institution of Mother’s Day in 1905, as an example of the value placed on fathers.

 Why, we should ask, did it take so long to recognize fathers?

 Today on some college campuses it’s not popular to talk about men’s issues because men are seen as the enemy. They are seen as the primary advocates of sexism, as perpetrators of rape, male privilege and the patriarchy. Dr. Groth cites a university lecture about boys and men in contemporary society that was recently held at the University of Ottawa. The lecture drew a number of hecklers. The hecklers seemed to believe that “men’s issues” were not something to take seriously. Men, after all, have it made in the shade.

 While all this has nothing to do with Matt Moll, there does seem to be

something strange happening to boys and men in contemporary American society. Dr. Groth even cites the alarming statistics that the number of men attending college today is at an all-time low (37% nationally).

 Niobe Way writes in her book Deep Secrets: Boy’s Friendship and the Crisis of Connection that the problem with young American men can often be traced to

“[the] loss of the male role models… the father figure. The majority of children of divorce are raised by their moms. There are a portion of children who have very limited contact with their dad. The loss of a male role model is very significant for young men who are developing their gender identities.”

 So yes, I intend to celebrate Matt Moll’s life, the man I never knew, on June 10th.

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