I went for a run in the Domain - well a schlep, really. Yes, I know, exercise is vile but turns out to be less vile than taking antidepressants.
Anyway on this particular day I found myself in the midst of hundreds of teenage boys in matching kit being made to run around, disconsolately.
It must have been the cross country or something.
They were being bossed about like they were in the army. It looked so miserable, poor luvvies.
They were students from Auckland Grammar, the "prestigious" boys school. I live in the Grammar Zone, which is supposedly an advantage, although I could no more imagine sending my son to that school than I could packing him a cheese and pickle sandwich and waving him off to Mars.
But maybe I'm being a little unfair. Because Grammar principal Tim O'Connor has introduced a "healthy relationships" programme to try to teach young men to have respect for women and be informed about consent.
(My mum used to teach sex education at Hamilton Boys High. Seemed to be the thing in the 70s - the era of the Little Red Schoolbook. We also did a lot of tie-dyeing)
I don't want to be a downer, but I wish I was as upbeat as Mr O'Connor in thinking that a school programme could have "a major effect" on how young men form relationships. I'm not sure any school lesson can teach you not to be an arsehole.
Because you don't learn about gentleness and empathy on a whiteboard.
We learn the most important lessons, not from book learnin' or even by being instructed by a teacher with an expensive PhD and a cheap suit, but by mirroring the behaviour of those we see around us.
This happens below the level of conscious awareness, so it is not easy to change even with the most well-motivated campaign.
We learn those lessons of mercy, one by one; the time when someone doesn't yell at us for forgetting, for failing, for stuffing up. We learn it when someone sees the goodness in us even when we go astray.
We learn those lessons with our heart, not our head. We learn it when someone in authority gives us a soft place to fall, not a lecture.
Sheesh, no need to shout! I can hear you. You are saying "But this is how you learn to toughen up! It's character building."
And you may be right, for some of us. The strong ones who get through without breaking.
Although, I would venture to say that for all of us, life is going to offer up plenty of pain and failure without having to contrive to invent more misery as a "lesson" when you're too young to shave.
If we want young men to grow up capable of healthy intimate relationships - for healthy, I mean loving - we would be better off demonstrating that it is okay for them to be gentle and vulnerable. If we treated them with love rather than judgment.
No doubt there are many splendid aspects about an old-fashioned school like Auckland Grammar - its academic teaching is meant to be first rate although it does appear to be preparing a lot of kids for jobs like law that may not even exist in a bit- but I don't know modelling gentleness is one of them. To be fair, most schools don't.
Kids who are being educated in an oppressive and hierarchical culture of conformity and control - at Grammar they really do yell at the kids to pull up their socks - will learn, surprise surprise, how to dominate and control.
Go figure. When your own needs are over-ridden (no, you cannot wear your hair long) and you are forced to comply with a one-size-fits-all regime, you may be forgiven if you get the impression that relationships are power battles.
The person with the power (usually money) sets the rules. Not much point in being shocked when young men who are demeaned and shamed, then grow up to treat women in the same way.
I'm possibly unfairly picking on Auckland Grammar because this probably applies to most mainstream schooling where children are taught to be dominant, to be "winners", and are instructed that success inevitably entails gaining power over other, less Alpha, individuals.
Some robust neurotypical kind of kids will function fine in this winner-takes-all environment.
Others, especially highly sensitive children, will have to learn to switch off their feelings, essentially to split off part of their personality, or risk being shamed as a wimp.
If you are educating children to switch off their sensitivity, you can't then just expect them to install it again later when it's more convenient. Be empathetic now, damn you!
I can imagine for many people what I am saying sounds like gibberish. They think "winning" is the only way.
But maybe that is changing. The New York Times this week published a piece suggesting perhaps there has been too much emphasis on winning and these days we need fewer leaders and more followers, more enablers, supporters, team players and those who "go their own way."
Not everyone will have a type A personality - and that's okay. Look at me - I hated cross country - but I'm still schlepping on.