I thought I'd take this opportunity to discuss an issue that impacts a lot of us, is discussed at length in a variety of forums, and yet to date has no known solution. The problem I'd like to tackle is: men.
Now I know you're thinking: "But Jordan, you're a man, probably the manliest of all men, how can you have a problem with men?" Even if this were true (it isn't), men are still a struggle.
Socially, I find myself surrounded by women. I'm not complaining -- this is definitely not a bad thing -- but sometimes I find myself craving the company of men. And then when I am given the opportunity to socialise with men, I fail miserably.
I'll paint you a picture...
I'm at a small social gathering with my usual crowd of girl friends (just to clarify for my wife's sake, I have no girlfriends, just friends who happen to be female. Maybe woman friends or lady friends is a more accurate term? Who knows?)
Anyway, I'm chatting, having fun, perhaps indulging in a little wine or beer, when a man enters the fray. Suddenly, I'm forced to interact with someone of the same gender. We shake hands, introduce ourselves, it's all going well. Then... silence.
Occasionally the silence is punctuated by a sentence or two of conversation and a forced, awkward laugh. My go-to man subject (English Premier League Football) fails miserably in Australia. The man raises AFL (oh no) and I nod occasionally as I patiently listen to stories about a game with rules seemingly made up on the day of play.
Then the subject of work comes up. The men I find are always hands-on men: builders, plumbers, mechanics, mine workers... I try my best, but they can see from my baby soft hands and my carefully coordinated trouser/boat shoe outfit that I've never done a "proper day's work" in my life and have no idea where the carburettor is located on my car or what its purpose is. (FYI, I googled "car engine parts" to locate suitable terminology for that sentence.)
So what now? Well, to fill the awkward silence I bring out my arsenal of sarcastic quips and self-deprecating jokes. This makes an already sketchy encounter sink quicker than a replica Titanic made from cement, and as joke after joke misfires I find myself unable to stop. It's like trying to dig yourself out of a hole by digging further, hoping you might break through to some magical world on the other side.
At this point, if the guy has any common sense, he'll make a polite excuse and leave, and I'll immediately pull my phone out and pretend to be immersed in something much more important anyway -- though really I'm staring at my reflection on the screen, trying to convince myself that it was him and not me that was the problem. My wife may, or may not, come over at this point and rescue me.
I allow my usually confident demeanour to be filled with self-doubt as I compare myself to this man and judge myself based on what I understand to be society's archetypal 'manly man'. This perfectly friendly guy, who had the best of intentions when striking up a conversation with me, has had to deal with my full-blown insecure neurosis and has very politely exited, while I am left wondering why men are just so difficult. So I store this encounter in my memory, ready to dwell upon it should I ever see this person again.
In the meantime, my female friends, who are well-versed in my struggle to find man friends, give me a commiserative look as I strike out yet again. I feel like I am in 'Bridget Jones', but a grittier, Aronofsky-directed version that ends with a seven-minute shot of Bridget silently weeping into a cup of tea.
Now this doesn't happen with all men. I've been watching 'I Love You, Man' frequently. Not as a comedy, but more as an instructional video. Occasionally I'll find myself in a rare situation where I meet a man and we get on well. This man is seemingly able to accept my idiosyncrasies and see past my crazed non-stop commentary to enable us to have a second encounter, in which I'm usually much more relaxed and act more like a human. If I can get to this stage successfully, I know I've snagged the guy. I'm lucky enough to have done this a few times since moving to Australia, and I've even managed to keep hold of some male friends in the UK, too. So there's definitely hope for me.
I hope this article will do what it's intended to; help open up discussions about male friendship and the difficulties involved. I know I can't be the only one out there with this problem, and maybe if we are all a bit more open about it, we can work through this problem together.
At the very least, maybe someone will read it and be able to give me those man-things I crave -- a special handshake and an awesome nickname. Or we could just hide our feelings away and talk about sport, women and motorbikes while we awkwardly sip beer. Whatever.