There is something glamorous about the idea — the playboy life, complete with images of Bond and dashing international spies who seem to have it all. So it was the perfect title for my community college (CCSF) course for men who had no idea how to live independently. I figured they wanted help but couldn't ask because they didn't know what they didn't know. I put large posters over every urinal in Batmale Hall — thinking it was best to interest them while they were dealing with other organic issues. Result: Mega-popular, racially mixed — plus a waiting list!
Who were these guys?
They were 18-year-olds, away from home for the first time. They were returning vets or ex-cons, both having been former government guests. They were recently divorced, fifty-plus, now on their own, or new immigrants, alone in a foreign county. No one had taught these men how to live independently since most had been supported, clothed, and fed by someone else — a family, a government agency, a military unit, or a wife. Many had worked and brought home the bacon, but none could make the bacon edible.
I divided the course into six parts over a 17.5-week semester: food, clothing, housing, finance, social protocols, and consumer protection. One time, I asked a class of forty who had heard of compound interest? One hand went up.
So we began; it was intense as they discovered their human needs, and the work and knowledge it took to meet them. The students learned to shop in a supermarket, read labels for nutritional info, plan menus, and cook. They sewed, examined fabrics and stitching for quality, learned what looked good on them, and how to wash and iron. They loved learning to put their own 'pad' together, selecting and purchasing furniture and lighting, arranging it, and keeping it in good shape. They opened bank accounts, learned about contracts for housing and business, and began saving and planning a financial future. They began to understand professionalism, the importance of etiquette, and the vigilance required in consumer markets. The course was a real-life mix of basic science, economics, health, safety, and social interaction — aspects of daily life common to all of us. The men acquired new horizons for themselves, but they could also now see how their home and life were part of the larger world, the national economy, and the world of accomplished people.
One fellow from South America wrote me a note saying that he had no idea of all the valuable things a woman took care of in the home. Big surprise there.
Another fellow made himself a red velveteen jacket — he had been a quartermaster in the Army and knew where to get clerical velvets! He went on to operate a garment manufacturing business in Los Angeles. One time, we were eating dinner in an upscale restaurant in Napa Valley, and the chef introduced himself — he was a former vet and Bachelor Living student who had learned to cook in class and found his passion. It was so great to see him again! The graduates became builders of the community and our economy.
In the end, the men gained the skills and abilities that inspired confidence in themselves and their ability to function in society. They learned that they can build a beautiful and meaningful personal base, an anchor of security and health that allows them to be productive and build a career. They became self-determined and began recognizing and appreciating their talents and interests, allowing them to imagine even further horizons. They had acquired the missing foundation for staying in school and growing into a new life — and I'm sure many also adopted the Bond lifestyle!