Being one’s own man

Wednesday 27th April 2011

WE’RE an odd lot, us blokes. We have hairy bodies, produce several hundred million spermatozoa when we ejaculate, and fart, on average, fourteen times a day. Being male allows many of us to develop a lifelong fascination with football, beer, women, weaponry, and acts of derring-do. Some of us also weep at funerals.

Four times now have I been called upon to deliver tributes to men of virtue: my father, my son, and two dear friends. I held it together during each of the ceremonies, only for unbridled tears to fall, in private, later. A soft, whiskery down has overgrown any stiff upper lip.

Does this make me any less of a man, I ask myself? Am I a wimp or just an old softie? Have I not yet grown up, or was my head turned by reading too many ‘Make Love Not War’ placards at an impressionable age?

Ach, there are always more questions than aspirins.

I recall visiting, in my twenties, a London dental hospital. The pain raging in my mouth was unbelievably unbearable – as any man reading this will recognise. A student nurse gave me an injection, prior to the insertion of a temporary filling. From down the corridor came the anguished screams of a man whose suffering sounded even greater than mine.

“Gosh,” I observed. “Is he having every one of his teeth extracted?”

“No. He’s a foreign gentleman. Had a different upbringing, that’s all. British men have a very British attitude about expressing feelings. It’s called… we don’t.”

Over the intervening years, I’ve taken to saying ‘ouch’ when something hurts; to welling up in the cinema; to approaching male friends with the obvious intention of hugging them. Responses to this latter audacity range from bear-like enthusiasm to embarrassed limpness.

I try not to draw too many conclusions from this. He has as much right to ask me to respect his reserve, as I have to interpret his discomfort as a mask of masculinity worn by the wary. Or is it simply that one man’s weakness is another man’s strength?

Not easy being a bloke, sometimes.

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One Response to Being one’s own man

  1. Thank you for being that kind of a kind bloke. And the other man in my life also hugs his male friends and family. As a woman, I find it beautiful. Love you xxx

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