That’s Just The Way I Am

Whilst it’s probably true that the competitive spirit which is a part of maleness is a progressive force, it strikes me that it’s all too easy to turn negative.

Consider this for a masterpiece of small mindedness.

Monday I left the house early for our office ‘Monday Morning Meeting’. It was fucking cold, though Yorkshire in January … what could you expect?

But then, what was this? A rose in the garden! Alone, at shoulder height, it had forced itself through the lattice-work fence which separates the house from next-door.

As if to confirm that my eyes weren’t deceiving me, I walked over to inspect. Seemingly sturdy, it was quite big, well big-ish, at least an inch and a half left to right, and a deep, deep pink. I looked at it and smiled as I heard myself say “brother, have you got a big pair of balls!”

As if in response the petals seemed to fluff out and upwards with confidence, then it stared straight back as if replying, “yeah, well, that’s the way I am”. It sure was one of nature’s arrogant little fuckers.

I walked away somewhat reluctantly. Its presence had gladdened my heart and I was chuckling to myself…..

…..but as I hit the pavement to walk to the office my mood suddenly changed.

Less that twelve hours earlier I’d been having dinner with a Friend. At one point our conversation veered into the possible sources of the Life-force, its origin and what sustains it. (I think this is what used to be called ‘Vitalism’ – maybe it still is for all I know as I’m not a science-man.)

As I walked along I thought about what we’d discussed and this deep pink fucker having the chutzpah to trespass into my garden to do battle with the Yorkshire winter, and all quite naked …. versus me, with my cashmere socks, my thermal undershirt, my long-johns, my fur-lined boots, my overcoat, woolly scarf, gloves and Canadian racoon hat, the entire combination of which had failed to prevent my shrivelled dick from hiding out ingloriously from the North-East wind.

I checked out the rose when I returned home. It was still there, nakedly sustaining itself, its petals still turning upwards creating a tiny smile and the ‘yeah, well, that’s just the way I am’. Neither of us said anything.

Tuesday, it was

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still there but I didn’t go over so no smiles or words were exchanged. I could see it was still balls naked; meanwhile I was remained covered in ‘fur’.

During the day it was much on my mind so in the evening I made a point of going over. Unfortunately it was so dark I couldn’t tell whether it was still greeting my like a mate or giving the Canadian racoon two fingers.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I gave it a nod of recognition morning and evening ….

….. but then on Saturday I could tell from the six yards between us that the Yorkshire winter was calling the shots. The petals were drooping and the upturned smile was fading.

I suddenly had a feeling of guilt. Maybe if I’d been more welcoming the rose would have lasted longer. Okay, it isn’t the quantity but the Quality of Life that’s important (that’s the central message in the What Men Do Guide). Still, if the rose had had an intuitive element it wouldn’t have smelled a potential closeness from my fur-covered envy. I was just too anxious to parade that, between us, I was the head honcho.

Now it’s gone and I’m left with ‘that’s the way I am’.

I wish I was that sure of myself.

Telling It Like It Is

Working with teenagers three nights each week as I do, it’s no surprise that the lads in particular seem to have difficulty understanding that there’s a difference between love and lust. If gender is involved, the feelings are not recognised as different.

One thing I’ve noticed which occurs when the

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7-year Life Change happens around age 28, and love and lust have become clearly defined, is that a small number of guys are able to actually speak about their feelings. Not most guys, for sure, but at least some.

Saying ‘I love you’ has always been a big deal for me as I was never able to say it to either my Mum or my Dad.

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That’s no surprise because neither of them were what you’d call ‘physical parents’. Neither of them ever held me in their arms, and I was only able to say ‘I love you’ to my brother shortly before he died.

As for my father, I was living abroad when he died. Time-wise I only attended his funeral by the skin of my teeth. There must have been the most pathetic scene at the crematorium. As soon as I arrived I was taken to see his body. I looked down at what had been my Dad, bent over and kissed his forehead and said ‘I loved you Dad’, at which point an official came in the room and said they wanted to begin the service.

This all flooded back to me a few weeks ago.

It was late evening and I was with one of my mates with whom I share an office. He and I are tight; very tight. However, things had been getting a little tense and the atmosphere was like one of those times when you knew something akin to a climatic storm was about to blow up to clear the air.

Aside from being one of my closest Friends, understand this is no ordinary guy. From the early months of working alongside him I know he can’t be bought. A couple of times way-back I tried. Nothing sinister you understand; just me trying to be sneaky.

As you’d expect of his type he has powerful convictions so if there’s a difference of opinion about how to move forward he has to be ‘won over’ ……. which takes time and can be a pain in the arse.

Anyway, a few weeks ago the storm broke. Unpalatable truths were spoken by both of us in language more suited to enemies than blokes who are tight. It reached a point when we were both on our feet and, almost nose-to-nose, he raised his fists and said “just say that to me one more time…….”

I raised my fists as well, though I admit this was largely for my own defence cos I knew if he snapped and ripped into me I’d get a pasting. Mind you, I was so angry myself I was up for a scrap just to settle things.

But ……. we both held off and went our separate ways.

The following morning I was in the office before him. When he arrived he checked that I was there and we were alone, then threw his jacket in the vague direction of his desk and came towards me. Shit, I thought; this is gonna be nasty.

But when he got close he said “sorry about last night, I reckon we were both pretty out of order”. I hastened to agree with him and we settled on one of our occasional manly hugs.

However – and I’ve no idea where this came from – I didn’t totally release him but heard myself say “I love you man”.

There was a fleeting silence as he pulled away from me and then, looking me directly in the eyes, he said “I love you too …. you awkward little fucker”.

A Rude Awakening For 2014

I had a really, really strange Christmas. Talk about being in a parallel universe!

I’d had a warning in the three or four weeks prior to the actual holidays. I wasn’t feeling sick or unwell exactly, just aware that, as y’might say, ‘things weren’t right’.

At first I wondered if it was an early warning that a Depression was looming. There was no specific reason why this might be the case although not every department of my Life was as satisfactory as I would wish – but then, whose is?

And I became aware that increasingly I was distracted – like falling in love, and the hassle it brings as you juggle with the imponderables of Time and Space in order to ‘be together’.

But it wasn’t sexual; far from it … in fact I’d have been much happier if it had been; at least what was making me increasingly unhappy would be clear and I could set about putting it right.

All these thoughts and feelings were taking place against the demands of Christmas and a diary full of reminders to pick up the meat for the Christmas Day feast, put the silver charms in the Christmas Pudd and de-freeze the Dock Pudding which I‘d managed to acquire from the champion of the Calder Valley Dock Pudding Championships way back in the Summer.

But slowly I became aware that certain elements of my Life were breaking up, though how and what I couldn’t work out. It was as if my outer appearance and inner philosophy were about to be subjected to enormous pressure, fissures would allow suppressed truths to force their way through the cracks of the outer shell I’d been using to sustain the image of who I was.

And then I read something. Actually it was a book I must’ve been reading for the third time. (I’m a bizarre

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reader. The first time I get through to the end of a book – say on philosophy or psychology – I immediately begin to read it again. This is because experience tells me that I’ve missed whole loads of important stuff in what amounts to ‘skimming over’ the first time through.)

In this particular case it was the third reading of Henri Tracol’s book ‘The Taste For Things That Are True’. I read:

“There is a heroism in behaving without any other sanction than the intoxication of moving in the direction which is truly one’s own.’


He follows this up with:

“These words of my uncle have accompanied me unceasingly since adolescence. And from decade to decade they resound in me more and more like a call to be free.”

His words hit me like a thunderbolt, especially when I thought of my status as one of the three writers of the What Men Do Guide and weekly blog. Was I up to the job? Was I ‘free enough’ myself? And if not, why not?

And all this whilst other adults and children ate and drank and gossiped, enjoying the benevolent spirit of Santa Claus.

It’s been an awakening time.

Seeking To Express The Inexpressible

Writing about Friendship in the What Men Do Guide, reference is made to the thoughts expressed over 500 years ago by the French essayist Michel de Montaigne.

In 1567, writing about the death of his Friend Etienne de la Boetie, Montaigne restricts his comments to:

“if pressed to say why I loved him, I feel that it cannot be expressed.”

Twenty years later, when editing his earlier writings, Montaigne added: “except by saying, ‘because it was him; because it was me’.”

So much for the great essayist.

This reluctance to articulate his thoughts and feelings rings true with the experience my fellow writers and I had whilst compiling the section on ‘Friendship’ in the Guide. Much to our surprise it turned out to be one of the more difficult pieces to write.

Nothing seems to be more difficult to write about than the bonding of males. During a recent re-reading of the book ‘Men and Friendship’ by the American psychologist Stuart Miller – a book originally published 30 years ago – I hit on the early observation:

“Most men find the subject unutterable. Some will, of course, talk popular sociology, others will discover psychological truisms, but they can’t really talk about Friendship itself. They do not have the words for such a subject. Partly it is a taboo about looking at something so sacred. Often, it is a reluctance to look at something so painful.”

I was particularly struck by Millar’s use of the word ‘sacred’. Subsequently I’ve checked ‘sacred’ with other guys but none of them were willing, or able, to attempt to elaborate. The general consensus was that it ‘went too deep’.

So what is the problem? And shit, I can recognise it within myself! Can’t I talk to me …. about me?

One thought is that the bonding we now know of as ‘Friendship’ dates to way, way back when we were still in the trees and the guys with whom we bonded were fellow members of the hunting tribe. As this pre-dates the invention of words, this bonding is deeper than our current flimsy communication methods are capable of elucidating.

Trying to be practical; say I’m introduced to three guys I’ve never met before. I start to smell them – much like dogs sniffing each other’s arses – seeking some form of psychological compatibility. A feeling in the solar plexus area – that gut instinct favoured by 1940’s detectives – seems to suggest one is very different from the others, and I can tell he has a similar reaction to me.

Smell? A feeling? These vagaries seem to add flesh to the idea that, as amazing as our advanced

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ability at linguistic communication is, the internal motivations that drive us are far more fascinating.