Much has been made of the disintegration of family values in recent times.
The divorce rate has never been higher and Hollywood has made a bundle from the sexual antics of the 30 and 40-somethings.
But why are relationships so fragile, and why has that fragility been passed on to the children?
There are great sociological arguments put up to answer these questions but I have another hypothesis. The whole problem emanates from a very unstable and somewhat bizarre sexual foundation in the male species.
The normal boy meets girl scenario lasted from the beginning of time right up to the ‘50s then things began to get a little weird.
Just when the male hormones started jumping around a little, the first flights of fancy were taken, not with people but with black and white pen drawings.
It is not widely talked about but I reckon the Four Marys were among the first sexual icons. Any male of pre-pubescent age took a fancy to one of the jolly hockey sticks quartet; I am not ashamed to admit my first love was Mary Simpson, whose dark locks hinted at a sultry mystery.
Mary Simpson was definitely the most snoggable. When my sister’s threepenny comic popped through the letter box once a week, I eagerly anticipated another adventure with Mary and her three chums.Braddock VC, Alf Tupper and Wilson were heroes, Mary was who I would take to the pictures and later marry.
Thankfully, I outgrew this embryonic lust for a line-drawing, though I reckon the damage was already done. The spread of TV provided the rising blood-pressure of my generation with a more sophisticated fantasy figure, and they definitely weren’t cartoons.
The exotically named Venus, Marina and Penelope were just a hat-trick of ageless goddesses.Sophisticated, intelligent, gentle but resourceful, they were a teenager’s dream. They had but one failing - they were made of wood.
Squint your eyes and the puppet strings would fade into the background and to all intents or purposes they were alive.
Did anyone else feel a touch of jealousy at the obvious sexual chemistry between Steve Zodiac and Venus, or Troy Tempest and Marina, and there was definitely something untoward in Lady Penelope and Parker’s ``yes m’lady’’ relationship.
Of course, these early sexual awakenings took place in an otherwise normal development which encompassed football, playing Commandos, train sets and Scalectrix.
Although she did nothing for me, there are more than a few of my generation who readily admit to having, and still having, a serious obsession with Betty Rubble (``not Wilma, of course,’’ they emphasise with inexplicable distaste).
This fascination escapes me because Betty was obviously a cartoon and prehistoric to boot!
And so as we grew older we duly did enter the `normal’ boy meets girl situations. Life progressed from the juke-box blaring cafes and pinball machines, to the chummy seats at the pictures, then on to serious winching, culminating with the walk up the aisle.
But real life was never as good, innocent or fulfilling as walking hand-in-hand across the playing fields of comic-land with Mary Simpson while the other three Marys waved from the windows of their cosy dorm.
``Isn’t Harry such a nice boy,’’ they’d say in perfect unison as they rubbed linseed into their hockey-sticks, ``I wish he’d asked me out to the pictures.’’
Of course, linseed would have been needed in abundance with Venus et al to keep their complexions fresh as Harry took his man/boy/puppet place at the controls of Fireball, Stingray or Thunderbird 3 and set out to save all of man/boy/puppetkind.
``Harry is so brave’’, they’d say, with the whole of their chins jerking away, their hands in permanent juggle-mode and monstrous eye-lashes flapping frantically.
Yes, the need to be brave and hero-worshipped in a land where nothing can hurt you lies at the root of a male generation’s approach to the opposite sex, though few will admit it.
Those approaching womanhood today are forced to compete with the images portrayed by the supermodels, celebrities and the film stars.
But they are human and flawed as the tabloids like to reveal as often as possible.
The women of the generation before actually had tougher competitors, they maybe were only two feet high and made out of wood, but they didn’t have feet of clay.