Monday, 1 September 2008

One of the lads

Men sometimes try to befriend me thinking we can establish some kind of masculine matiness, nipping down to the pub for a pint and having a good barney about women, football, cars and gadgets.

Sadly I have to disappoint them as I just don't share their blokey obsessions. Or their assumption that we have to get together to preserve our masculinity against the constant threat of creeping feminisation.

I wouldn't mind talking about women, except that their take on the opposite sex is likely to be more defensive and critical than appreciative. Women as liability, women as shopaholics, women as over-emotional fusspots etc. Sorry, lads, I just don't see them that way and never have.

The one thing I'd love to discuss is the male experience and its problems and dilemmas, but that's just what men usually don't want to bring up. That would open such a huge can of worms, so many hidden anxieties and insecurities, that they avoid it all costs and stick firmly to the well-trodden conversational footpaths.

When women get together they discuss the female experience in exhaustive detail but for men it's still often the unmentionable elephant in the room.

If a friendly chat with a guy got to the bottom of why I find it so hard to show I'm upset or sad or demoralised, or why I don't always pick up the emotional nuances of what a woman is saying, or why I'm so bad at multi-tasking, or how I feel about my partner earning a lot more than me, that would be time well-spent. But it's much more likely he'll ask me which team I'm supporting in Saturday's big match.

Men still think anything too personal or intimate is girly stuff, okay for women to fret over but too trivial for men. There are more important things to sort out. Like Saturday's big match. And anyway, it's only gay guys who like that personal stuff.

One day men will get together not to build up masculine defences against the feminist hordes but to let down those defences and share all the things they still clutch to themselves like secret hoards of treasure.

In the meantime, my apologies, guys, but I can't spare an evening eyeing up the ladies, analysing that disputed goal, comparing rival sat navs, swilling beer, and generally proving I'm one of the lads. Because I'm not one of the lads, I'm just an average bloke looking for some like-minded souls.


  1. You know I believe that is more true in UK and Ireland than in some other countries. Over here (in NL) I believe men are more secure in their masculinity and it is not so much of a big deal. That is one of things I hate in Ireland - men seem to feel the constant need to display how masculine they are - and in a certain laddish way.

    Anyways Nick, you are a gem and man any male friend should feel fortunate to have!

  2. Conor - Hmmm, perhaps I should emigrate to the Netherlands! I know little of the male culture down south but I suspected it was much the same as up here. And thanks a lot for the lovely compliments *blushes deep-red*

  3. I'm not sure I agree. You paint a piture of blokes as people who would really be better off being far more female in nature but stave this off with excess masculinity. Men are fundamentally different to women, and while I find discussion of sport or similar laddish topics I am equally uninterested in admonishments to start behaving like a girl.
    I wander along to the pub with a mate of mine on occasion and the subject of sport does not come up, work, family, random shite in the world is often discussed at length, but the projected force field of masculinity you imply is entirely ansent, as is any gushing femininity. I thoroughly enjoy such an evening as a respite from the unrelenting pinkness of my all female household, but neither myself or my mate feel the need to boost the machismo levels with traditional male topics, prefering current affairs or general stuff in our existence that is good/bad/amusing/annoying. I think there is an element of the dreaded stereotyping in your description there Nick, as it is more that just myself and my acquaintances that behave as such.

  4. sorry about my shit typing, bit tired today.

  5. "Well-trodden conversational footpaths" - love this phrase Nick.
    My friend R whom I've spent so much time with is a like-minded spirit as yourself, he hates those machismo sessions and my brothers are quite aware of hiding behind the football scores to avoid "emotional conversational stuff".
    I think there is a deep, longing out there, Nick, to shed the false-sporty-dudely bravado and be more real.
    Men surely have evolved from the smelly hunter portrayed in those Mars books?
    I know so.
    You are looking for friends in all the wrong places perhaps?

  6. I am very lucky to have a bunch of male friends who are not afraid to express their softer side. I don't do football and childish ogling of the fairer sex just annoys me.

    Our group talk about anything and everything and have no problem discussing 'male problems' and occasionally we'll mention sports and very occasionally we'll discuss hot celebs we'd like know.

    I'm lucky to have such open friends to be honest, but I know where you're coming from. For years I was surrounded with beer guzzling tanks who think the greatest thing in life is getting drunk watching the match on Sunday afternoon while eyeing up the big breasted waitress.

  7. Thrifty - Hmmm, food for thought. Yes, there might be some of the dreaded stereotyping there, though that's only because of the sort of men I've run into. Not sure women are fundamentally different from men, so much is conditioning. But it sounds like you have a really good friendship there that nicely complements your family life without any masculine posturing.

    www - You may well be right there, I'm looking for friends in the wrong places. Or perhaps I've just been unlucky in the men I've come across. As you say, hiding behind football scores because anything more personal seems a bit risky.

    Darren - You seem to have a great bunch of friends too, who're confident enough to talk freely and not cling to the safe male topics. I've certainly been stuck with a few beer-guzzling tanks in my time!

  8. Funnily enough, as I get older, more and more of MY friends are men. Perhaps men find it easier to talk to women? And older women aren't a threat? I don't know.

    Maybe you should concentrate on making friends with a few more women instead!

  9. Nick I think it's generally true that men are less forthcoming with the emotional stuff when in male company(Jen maybe that's why men DO talk to women - especially older ones. I have a few younglings that use me as their agony aunt because their mates don't share personal stuff). However, I also know men (not many) who abhor sport and are happy to talk about personal issues. However I don't think you'll find many of them in the sports bar down the pub! Maybe you're just a SNAG Nick!

  10. Jen - Maybe you're right, I'm trying to talk to the wrong sex!

    Baino - Yes, it's interesting that young guys use you as an agony aunt. We guys really need to loosen up with each other a bit more instead of keeping so much locked away. Sensitive New Age Guy? I like to think so, but I can still be pretty obtuse at times.

  11. I'll talk about the male experience with you any time :)

    I agree with earlier posts that it may be a cultural thing: the Dutch are much more open about almost everything, and I've been in some emotionally strong work conversations that I never would have heard in the US.

    In part it may be posturing: males project confidence and soft doubt undermines the appearance. I think many men are just less reflective too.

  12. Dave - It sounds like I'm living in the wrong country! Yes, definitely a lot of masculine posturing in the Brits, as you say projecting a phoney confidence by supressing doubts and anxieties. I don't think men are naturally less reflective - they're trained not to be to ward off precisely those nagging doubts.

  13. Nick, I have to ditto Conor, you are a true gem! Might I add, also a dream. Your kind is rare. So like Jenny, I am unbelievably lucky; I am with one.


  14. Gee thanks, Gayé, it's always nice to be appreciated! Not a dream, though, I have plenty of faults! Glad to hear Niall is similar, as you say we seem to be thin on the ground compared to all those boorish skirt-chasers.

  15. Heheh skirt chasing can't be that bad after all he chased my skirt but the good thing is once he caught it, he wouldn't let go or chase more skirts while holding on to mine. :)))

  16. Gayé - That's okay then. As long as he's loyal to one skirt!

  17. Nick I too can't get with the program and I have come to realise that those that do are the ones who are losing out. I have a few close friends and none of us like any sport so when we get together it's for a catchup and a good natter about what's going on in our lives. There may well be an occasional appraisal of the female form but none of the leering and crude beahviour I witness when I do go out to a bar. My wife tells me she is very glad I am not sports obsessed and can talk about how I feel. She tells me her female friends have no such luck and think she is lucky. I don't get a big head over it as that is something I tend not to do.
    The posturing and overconfidence I see on a daily basis. I work with a bunch of guys who don't invite me along on nights out as I don't beahve like them at all. I reckon my presence makes them embarassed at behaving like a crowd of kids making dick jokes all night. I've been in their company previously and that's what I saw happen.

    I feel secure in my identity and have a solid sense of who I am.
    I believe this is rarer than I think.

  18. Muddy - I'm relieved to know you have the same experience with your workmates. I was beginning to think I was a minority of one! Yes, just why do men feel compelled to act out these unattractive stereotypes? Don't they realise how many women they're alienating? Particularly with all the leering and groping at any female in sight.

  19. Have you visited Todger Talk ( Set up as a sex blog, it's nevertheless a brilliant place for men to talk about , y'know, emotional stuff. And that.

  20. Clair - Thanks for the link. Interesting blog, must keep an eye on it. Intriguing that men having affairs say they are looking for more emotional satisfaction rather than someone younger or more sex.

  21. You're just not mixing with the 'right' kind of men, Nick. And I mean 'right' in the sense of being right for you, on your wavelength.

    This is an argument I have had with a lot of very hard-line feminists (which I'm not). And I'm not entirely in agreement with you that 'all' men are like this. Yes, a lot are, but by no means all.

    Maybe it's the way you want to talk about stuff rather than the fact that you want to talk about it at all. Your mind is focussed on wanting to get to the nitty gritty of things (there - analysis is supposed to be a male trait, but really it's neither male or female, some people are analytical, some aren't) and when you've not met people - men in this case - who aren't on that wavelength, then it's difficult.

    I think this thing of being able to discuss stuff at a deeper level, particularly emotions and feelings, has much more to do with upbringing and expectations than with gender. But you see, that's my experience - not everyone's. Almost certainly not yours.

    I often think it would be much better if people left 'male' and 'female' out of things altogether.

  22. Val - Maybe that's it, I've never been fortunate enough to meet the right kind of men I can actually have a meaningful friendship with. As I see it though, the ability to discuss emotions and personal stuff is very much a female thing. As you say, we must have had different experiences.