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.