Men need more than beer and sports on TV
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.
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.