Men need more than beer and sports on TV

Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - CHRISTO­PHER MID­DLE­TON

It’s hard to ex­plain how, why or even when it hap­pens. One minute, there’s a whole, merry crew of you and your male mates aboard the HMS Friend­ship. The next, there’s just you and a pint of beer, watch­ing recorded sport on tele­vi­sion.

What hap­pened to that happy band of pi­rates? How is it that in­stead of sail­ing the high seas in a great, big, fun-lov­ing frigate, you find your­self pot­ter­ing around alone in a pad­dle boat?

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by re­la­tion­ship sup­port or­ga­ni­za­tion Re­late, some 4.7 mil­lion peo­ple in Bri­tain don’t have a close friend. And I’d bet most are men, given that women con­fided that their friend­ships im­proved with age, in con­trast to those of men. But how has that hap­pened?

Mar­riage, of course, has some­thing to do with it. Main­tain­ing a full ros­ter of bud­dies gets much harder when they hap­pen to be blokes to whom your wife isn’t par­tial.

Just like a soc­cer man­ager, who hears the crowd jeer­ing a for­mer favourite, you have to let some friends go. Qui­etly, of course — there’s no of­fi­cial termination of the friend­ship con­tract, just a di­min­ish­ing num­ber of phone calls and, more and more fre­quently, “Oh, sorry, mate, I can’t make Wed­nes­days. Or Thurs­days.”

The writ­ten proof, of course, is there for all to see, in our fam­ily ad­dress books. The en­tries no longer read “Mike” or “Dave,” with a mess­ily crossed-out ar­ray of bach­e­lor num­bers and girl­friends’ names.

In­stead, there’s a much more uni­sex look to the list of fam­ily con­tacts. En­tered un­der sur­names, too. Where “Terry” used to be scrib­bled un­der “T”, you can now find Paul and Philippa Tidy, neatly en­tered next to Su­san and Stephen Trun­dle.

Look for lone, rogue males in our ad­dress book, and you now have to turn con­sid­er­able pages to find one. And the chances are, when you do, they’ll be gay.

On the op­po­site side of the coin, how­ever, there are nu­mer­ous sin­gle-fe­male en­tries, all of whom are friends of my wife’s. Is it that I have been some­how shamed out of having any male friends, on the ba­sis that if we guys go out en masse, we’ll end up get­ting plastered and pick­ing up women? Hardly likely, given our de­clin­ing years and grow­ing waist­lines.

The only other con­clu­sion I can reach — and I don’t like it one bit — is that I don’t need my friends as much as I once did. The fact is that, in your sin­gle days, male friends were used as a kind of in­for­mal health net­work, pro­vid­ing com­fort, con­so­la­tion and a full cheeringup ser­vice when you re­turned, tail between legs, af­ter some un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to get a girl­friend.

By con­trast, women seem to use their friends less as an accident and emer­gency unit, and more as a ser­vice sta­tion; pop- ping in on a reg­u­lar ba­sis to top up their self-es­teem or en­gage in low-oc­tane ob­ser­va­tions about men’s fail­ings.

The re­sult be­ing, that while we men start to equate our friend­ships with hos­pi­tal vis­its, women view them like a trip to Star­bucks. Which means that, over the years, women get used to reg­u­larly tend­ing and wa­ter­ing their friend­ships, while we men let ours wither on the vine.

There’s no doubt, of course, which gen­der of friend­ship has the longer life­span. Which is why you’ll find me curled up alone this even­ing, hold­ing a pint of some­thing strong and look­ing for­ward to the re­turn of the Pre­mier League next week­end: one of the 4.7 mil­lion with­out a best friend.

That’s not to say that this im­bal­ance doesn’t con­cern me. I’ve spent many a year (es­pe­cially dur­ing half­time) won­der­ing pre­cisely what it is that women sprin­kle on their friend­ships to make them last. And I be­lieve that se­cret in­gre­di­ent to be crit­i­cism.

Whereas women can spend a whole even­ing com­plain­ing about a male part­ner and feel bet­ter at the end of it, we men ap­proach bad­mouthing our wives with much more guilt and cau­tion. Is it a mis­placed sense of gen­til­ity that make us un­will­ing to take a lady’s name in vain or have a good moan about the way she leaves her toe­nail clip­pings on the edge of the bath or always for­gets to lock the car?

What I say is, we men should for­get chivalry and get on our high horse.

If male friends re­ally did let off steam when talk­ing about their fe­male part­ners, I can’t help feel­ing that the world — and women — would be all the bet­ter for it.

Postmedia News/Files

Ac­cord­ing to re­la­tion­ship sup­port or­ga­ni­za­tion Re­late, some 4.7 mil­lion peo­ple in Bri­tain don’t have a close friend. Most likely, the ma­jor­ity of them are men.

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