Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Old and boring

Are all older men terminally boring? One journalist thinks so, and she's caused a bit of a row among other journos who happen to be older men. How dare she, they fume. What a cheek!

Personally, I don't know that many older men, so I couldn't say if she's right or not. But speaking for myself, I'm fizzing with wit and wisdom and I have fascinating opinions on every subject* - well, perhaps not negative entropy or mulching techniques.

But Liz Hodgkinson, who clearly has met a large number of older men, concludes that they are mostly humourless, tongue-tied, ill-at-ease, lifeless and dull as ditchwater. Older women on the other hand are firing on all cylinders and excellent company. And they're usually talking to the other women because it's much more fun.

"I often wish I could invite the female half of a couple to lunch and leave the husband at home" she says. What should be an enjoyable social occasion can easily become "excruciatingly painful" as the men have so little to say.

I find it hard to believe older men are so lacklustre. Do they not enjoy gossip? Or setting the world to rights? Or just recalling that crazy person in the supermarket? Or are they simply intimidated by all these confident, articulate women?

I can think of older men I know who are indeed monosyllabic and brain-dead. But I know others who are bundles of energy, talking nineteen to the dozen and taking a keen interest in everything around them.

I need some feedback here. What's your experience of older men? Are most of them spent forces or are they full of life? Is Liz Hodgkinson right or is she just man-bashing for the sake of a good story?

* No false modesty here....

31 comments:

Aidan said...

Nick,
As my music teacher used to say 'generalizations are odious' but anyway....
I am not sure whether the issue is 'older' or 'men'. It seems to me that men have to fight harder to keep involved as they get older. At my stage in life I notice it with the bonding that mother have but fathers don't or with the way women support wach other when it comes to dating and such like. Men have a clear role at school and maybe college and then work often plays the main role. Unless they make an effort to be involved in other things they can start to slip away. Women seem to have more natural roles to play as their lives evolve.
Getting to the older men point I think that some men maybe become focused on their work and have little else as they get older. Many men do not read regularly (anecdotally, every conversation I have about books seems to be with women). Nowadays many men play computer games but is that something you can chat about at lunch?
Also many people suffer from hearing loss and don't necessarily do anything about it. It all adds up and can explain why some men get stuck in their ways or start spacing out. Some just seem to unlearn their social skills.

Nick said...

Aidan - Thanks, an extremely interesting comment! Liz did mention in her piece the fact that many men's lives revolve around work and when the work stops their identity collapses with it. As you say, they don't have all those other roles and bonds that women have.

Intriguing that most of your conversations about books are with women. And men often have more physical and self-contained hobbies like fishing or woodworking that aren't of much interest to women - or even other men. They tend to avoid the sort of sociable hobbies that would make them more gregarious.

kylie said...

i was sitting in restaurant on saturday night waiting for a take away and there was a table with two older couples having a meal(truth be told they were prolly younger than you but anyhow...)
the two women talked non stop for the whole twenty minutes i watched and the men watched football on the tv, one had to twist around to see but it didnt deter him.they didnt even talk about the game!

i have to go off and think about older men.

my second boy keaghan is testing his comedic skills on you over on facebook. he seems to have decided thats his thing :)

Nick said...

Kylie - I'm always amazed that men see nothing wrong in being so obsessed with a sport that most women aren't interested in and can't talk about. And in this case, surely there was SOMETHING the women were discussing that would interest them? Or were they really that insular?

kylie said...

well, nick, the talk seemed to be all about an upcoming wedding, which isnt a turn on for most fellas and it WAS a very big game but i thought it would have been more honest and better for all, if the women had had a girls night out and left the men to do what they enjoyed.
though, i guess that would just further insulate them....

Nick said...

Kylie - Ah, I can see why they weren't interested, unless it was a relative who was marrying. But as you say, a girls' night out may just increase the gulf between the sexes.

meno said...

I was just talking to my husband about this the other night, that men don't generally have friends outside of work. (Note the use of the word 'generally'.)
And the hobbies that they pick all require extensive, expensive gear and are solitary; photography, cars, woodworking, boating.
This is just some men i happen to know who have retired early due to richness, and just can't seem to find things to do with themselves.

rummuser said...

I am an older man. With rare exceptions, I find older women boring and full of their health problems and totally uninterested in the things that interest me.

It is a natural phenomenon that each sex finds the opposite older sex boring and unappetising.

The way I look at life, if the older man has money, and lots of it, or power, better both, he is found to be totally acceptable to the same type of women who find other older men boring. Exactly the same with older women with money and/or power for younger men.

Nick said...

Meno - That confirms what I thought about solitary hobbies. I guess they CAN find things to do with themselves but they don't involve much human contact.

Ramana - I'm sorry you find older women boring, perhaps things are a bit different in your locality! I don't agree the sexes naturally find each other unappetising, I think it all depends on individual behaviour. And I'm sure money and power is a strong incentive to overlook terminal boredom!

Grannymar said...

At my age I have met many men of different ages. It is my experience that if you ask them about themselves, their work or their hobbies they can talk until the cows come home - They are really no different to women.

Nick said...

Grannymar - Maybe that's it, Liz and her chums just weren't patient or curious enough to draw the reticent guys out of themselves. Or maybe they tried and failed.

Grandad said...

Are all older men terminally boring?


Yup.

Heh!

e said...

Well, I can say that in my experience, not all older men are boring, used up, deaf or useless.

I've met some who were quite happy to chat over lunch about anything, and do it in such a way that I forgot the time...

On the other hand, the others who were doing nothing particularly interesting, found themselves depressed or casting about as though adrift, were the hardest to talk to because they simply had nothing much to say. I've been told I can draw conversation from wall paper. That may be a bit of exaggeration, however.

I think the secret to staying interesting is staying open to opportunities and finding ways to stay engaged.

Nick said...

Grandad - You're a splendid example of an older man who is anything but boring. I saw you ram-raiding an ATM with your cement-mixer just the other day.

e - I think as you say the secret is to be doing something interesting. Many old guys seem to do nothing but watch the telly and moan about the weather.

Bunc said...

I read the first couple of lines then I thought oh f** me I wonder if I'm a boring old fart? - but I'm told I'm not. Perhaps they are lying to me?

Nope - that's just my paranoia showing. Phew ! ... at least its not alzheimers ( yet)

Eryl said...

I try never to generalise but, generally, I have found most older men never shut the f*** up if you give them the opportunity, and they have plenty to say, some of it fascinating some of it not. Actually, I find that with most people, you just need to tap into them, probe a little, everyone has a story to tell and they are often desperate to tell it.

Isabelle Allende also complained rather bitterly, I thought, about 'old men' in a TED talk a little while ago. You can find it on the TED website if you get the urge. I'd link to it here but my links never seem to work.

Must make a mental not not to talk about my health problems as I get (even) older.

Bunc said...

grannymar said At my age I have met many men of different ages. It is my experience that if you ask them about themselves, their work or their hobbies they can talk until the cows come home - They are really no different to women."

and I say Grannymar is right on the button.

Eryl said...

That should be: 'note not to...'

While I'm here, again: I also think that if some people don't want to talk and would rather watch sport or build boats, why not just leave them to it?

Wisewebwoman said...

Oh I so disagree Nick. I find men (and women) who were boring as young men continue to be as they get older and I have loads of examples.
Whereas my older men friends who were interesting when younger are still engaged with life and their imaginations.
What was the famous quote - we are only old when we lose our sense of wonder?
I know loads of old bores, married to some of my dearest female friends but they were always yawn-making and disengaged from life and mainly mono-syllabic.
XO
WWW
PS and you're certainly NOT!!!;^)

Nick said...

Bunc - Not a boring old fart at all. You seem to have plenty of very interesting opinions. And a great sense of humour.

Eryl - If you can tap into them, they never shut the fuck up? That confirms what Grannymar says. They're only shy, the poor things! And yes, if they only want to watch sport, why not? As long as they aren't just being offensively anti-social.

Nick said...

www - Life-long bores or life-long bright sparks. I think there's some truth in that. And you're spot-on that a continuing sense of wonder is the vital thing - whether it's wonder at something beautiful or something unbelievably cruel.

Los Angelista said...

I agree with www - once a bore, always a bore. People get set in their ways and if they get used to not having to talk or engage in stimulating two-way conversation, well then, they won't when they're older.

Nick said...

Liz - I think that's true that people tend to stay one way or the other, either chatty or silent, throughout their lives. And boys generally get less encouragement to be chatty when they're growing up.

Liz said...

I have to admit that the most boring people I've met are men. But that may be because I prefer to talk to men.

That made sense in my head ...

Nick said...

Welsh Liz - Come again? Why do you prefer to talk to men if they're so boring?

Val said...

Before an older man (or come to that, older woman) can be designated 'boring' one has to define 'older'. As it's usually someone older than oneself and oneself at some stage in ones own history is quite young... er... well, the answer is 'No.' All older men are not terminally boring. Unless one has boring men (or women) in ones life...

I'm a lot of help, aren't I!
;)

Nick said...

Val - Er, don't think I quite follow your argument....

But I take it you don't have any boring older men in your life. Glad to hear that!

secret agent woman said...

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy your blog?

The research on intimacy of friendships shows that two women have the most emotionally intimate friendships, two men the least and a male-female friendship in between. So just in that sense, women are much more likely to talk on a lively, personal level. I have known boring men and women and interesting men and women of all ages, so I hate to make generalizations, but I do think it is more common for me to get stuck in a dreadful conversation with a pompous older man who seems to think I should be endlessly fascinated by his pontificating. I'm not.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Thank you, and I enjoy writing it! Yes, from my own experience I know that women have much more intimate friendships than men. I always find it a lot easier to talk to women as men so often hide behind the impersonal. I've also been the victim of an awful lot of (older) male pontificating.

Liz said...

Indeed, Nick. I suppose I mean that because I talk to more men I'm more likely to find some boring ones amongst them. Is that more sensible?

Nick said...

Liz - Ah yes, that makes more sense. But what you're saying is that men in general aren't boring, only a small minority?