Things are not always as they seem

I suppose it’s no big deal to find yourself the proverbial ‘spare prick at the wedding’ if you’re not much interested in having sex.

I’ve never contributed excessively to the prevailing idea that all guys are obsessed with ‘having it away’. How much this is a fantasy I’ve no idea, although I acquired one of my best friends as a result of it.

I was at grammar school at the same time as a guy called Ernie. Whilst I was there I hated him – well, envied would be closer to the truth. He’d got everything. Even at age 13 he looked like a movie star. He had height, muscles and there was no party to which he wasn’t invited.

He moved along the ‘A’ stream – I shuffled along elsewhere – and was a good all-round athlete. Guys liked him, girls adored him, I hated him.

And while I only seemed to become ganglier with each additional year, he just got manlier. It got to a point where my feelings toward Ernie were utterly at odds with each other – on the one hand I hated him, but on the other I really admired him; the looks, the strength, the athletic prowess. At 15 that’s bloody confusing for a lad who had considered himself firmly into girls (if a little weird).

A few years later we found ourselves working the lunchtime shift at a bar close to the railway station. To my surprise we made a terrific team. After two or three weeks of playing what the Guide calls ‘Mine is Bigger than Yours’, we began to open up to each other. That’s when we became best mates.

In the evenings we both had other jobs. Ernie worked as a waiter at a shoobe-doo bar and restaurant (we do have ‘em in Yorkshire here and there) which didn’t close until their wealthy clientele had finally disappeared into the early dawn.

As a result, Ernie was often invited to spend the night with several members of staff who lived much closer to the restaurant than he did or, occasionally, with one of the evening’s lady diners.

And it was inevitable, Ernie being Ernie, that they’d invite him to slip under the covers with them.

One lunchtime as we were getting dressed for duty, he told me that a few hours earlier he’d been ‘on the job’ when he got a stitch and had to ask for a re-match at a later date.

The thing was, not only did this situation happen regularly, but quite often it was actually something he pretended so he could piss off home. It wasn’t just that he was knackered; having a shag didn’t have much appeal.

I was gobsmacked. Bearing in mind the way he looked and, as I’d chosen to see it, acted, I couldn’t believe he’d ‘fess up all this stuff to me. I’d had completely the wrong idea about him and his life – how I’d imagined it.

I sometimes wonder how much illusion and bullshit makes up the so-called ‘male mystique’. Is Joe Average really as randy as he pretends to be?

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