Men and friendship.

Having watched City Slickers at the weekend, a film about male friendship in exhilarating and risky conditions, I started to think about how we now view exclusively male pursuits. They are increasingly being eroded on the basis of being sexist, and excluding. I am a feminist and absolutely believe in equality, both in opportunity and the way women are treated. However, there is something about ‘boys on tour’ and the domain of men that has somehow been lost in the last decade.

Men often talk utter bol***ks when they’re together. They lark about, frequently doing really stupid things, endlessly discuss football (and worse still cricket, yawn) and rarely analyse relationships and feelings. Many women, wives and partners actively criticise this behaviour because it seems so lacking in depth. But is it essential for the average man? I think so, and weirdly groups made up exclusively of women are not seen in this negative way. Go figure!

I recently met an older man through a mental health organisation, who described feeling alone, abandoned and isolated. He described his family as somewhat neglectful as they leave him on his own at home, while the girls go shopping. He also said his friends only turned up when they needed help with something… And seemed utterly miserable that he had no friends and was being abandoned by his family. I thought carefully about these scenarios before replying, and then…

I explained that in my experience men who recommend a local guy to help someone are actually showing their friendship and respect; it’s recognition that you’re able to do something well. It’s not an insult, taking you for granted, or using you. The ‘I know a bloke down the road who can sort that for you’, is a compliment and the highest indicator of close friendship. It’s a signal that you’re good at something, reliable, and that people think you’ll actually take the time to help. All good.

It’s all in the perception by the individual concerned. ‘Cognitively reframed’ it means you’re one of their best mates! He looked surprised at this contradiction. Hmm. I was surprised he hadn’t understood what his mates really meant. Not many blokes would compliment another bloke directly, the referral is the compliment, it signifies real trust.

Then I asked him if he likes shopping. “No.” So in fact, when your wife and daughter go without you, they’re really doing you a favour 😍. They know you hate it and are giving you space to go down the pub! I hope you get the gist of where this is going…

At the moment, I suspect men are feeling far more isolated than women under lockdown. Talking nonsense in the pub, playing and watching sport with ongoing commentary, and being at work chuntering on, are all off the menu. The core systems of male friendship are just not there. There’s nowhere for them to have a laugh or mess about. Nick Knowles from DIY SOS was on the radio this morning, and reminded me that men genuinely say not much at all to each other of any consequence, but are still mates nonetheless.

Having a laugh is massively underrated in our society, particularly in some female friendship groups. It’s one of my favourite things to help me destress. I have often been to a pub on my own to chat at the bar, to whoever is there, have a laugh, talk about the subject of the day, and feel connected for a while (Interestingly lone women in a pub are seen very negatively, unlike lone men who are commonplace at the bar.) When you live on your own, you need contact with others and it doesn’t always need to be deep and meaningful conversation. It doesn’t need to be a life long friendship; just an hour or two in good company with a bit of hearty discussion is enough.

So please open the pubs, let us go to live games; it’s for the boys sitting at home getting more isolated by the day πŸ˜‰. We need the jollity, a giggle and the opportunity to moan or put the world to rights. It’s totally essential when we’ve all reached the point of being utterly stir crazy, especially for men that live on their own… I’m not sure how lockdown has affected suicide rates, but suspect the risk is increasing as time goes on.

Worth thinking about, methinks πŸ€”πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘Œ. All the best to the bored.

Love Ruth x

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