The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
Do it by the
Writing is a lonely sort of business. Not penning this column, no – this column and its readers have come to be so familiar to me that writing it never feels lonely at all.
Instead, each time I sit down to write it, I feel like all of you are in the room with me, which I realise may sound a little strange, not to mention overcrowded.
It’s great being a man. We can eat anything, urinate standing up and only need three pairs of shoes, including thongs (four if you’re still playing footy).
We also don’t have to go through menopause. Hallelujah.
Over the past decade or so I’ve watched with empathy as many of my female friends negotiate “the change”.
While some women sail through it without much fanfare, others suffer terribly. It doesn’t look like much fun.
But it’s become increasingly obvious that blokes don’t escape a fundamental shift in their chemical make-up either.
I’m talking about the grumpy man syndrome. it is, or rather there you are, right here beside me as I hammer away at the keyboard, although I must say your tea making abilities aren’t quite as I’d hoped.
Anyway, apart from this column which, as I said, has come to have a distinctly communal feel to it, it’s the writing of books I find a tad lonely.
I’m writing my third novel as we speak, and yes, since you ask, both Walking on Trampolines and The Best Kind of Beautiful are still available from all good bookstores, and yes they both would make excellent upcoming Mother’s Day presents.
What’s that you say? You didn’t ask? Well, I’m sorry but that’s a little rude of you, and I’m going to have to ask you to leave the room.
Now where was I? Oh yes, writing my novel, or rather not writing it because when I start a new book, it takes me a long time to get going.
This is because it takes me a long time to get used to sitting in a room by myself for hours on end with no human interaction whatsoever unless you count Martin the courier, and my best friend.
Martin and I are very chummy these days, oh yes, I know all about Martin’s wife, their two lovely daughters, their border collie Rex, and where they go on holidays each year – Alexandra Headlands.
In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Martin asks me along to Alexander Headlines, or “Alex”, as we like to call it, with the family one of these days, so chummy are we becoming. This is because I like to chat to Martin when he drops off packages at my door (mostly books from authors who I am going to interview) and I give him a cheery wave from my window, before I bound down the stairs for a bit of a chin wag before he’s on his merry way.
Only lately he seems to be getting away before I can catch him. I mean greet him. Yes, lately it seems that by the time I’ve bounded down those stairs, desperate for a little human company, his white van is already halfway up the street. I can’t imagine why he’s in such a hurry, I must ask him next time I trap him in my doorway. I mean greet him. Apart from Martin, on writing days, there’s just me and my imaginary characters, except on the days I go to the library with my friend Fi and we write together. And snack. And
I’ve noticed it more and more. Men who I know well and who have always leaned towards the sunnier side of life are turning into full-on whinge bags – myself included.
Cynicism, sarcasm and intolerance are the drinking companions of the grumpy man.
Nothing wrong with any of those things in measured doses but it can become a little wearying for the listener, usually a spouse.
It seems to strike hard in that cohort of men who are reaching the end of relevance in their career or parenting role – both often coincide.
Here’s how you spot a chronically grumpy man:
1. They preface many of their utterances with the terms “Back in the old days”, “Back in my day” and “These days” a lot.
2. They think everything the government – any government – does or says is stupid. Ditto their bosses and work colleagues, the law courts, the tax office, doctors, the media, the coaches and selectors of our national sporting teams, other drivers and men with flamboyant haircuts.
3. They are unwilling to accept that any music not