It’s Okay To Man-Hug

Two men hugging.
Photo by Thiago Barletta on Unsplash

We caught up with some friends at the weekend and when the husband and the old man did that awkward shuffle as they greeted each other, our male friend launched into the story of how he had tried to hug his elderly father once, who froze and brushed it off.

‘I’m not much of a man-hugger,’ he admitted to him.

‘But did you like it?’ my friend pushed.

‘It was surprisingly quite nice,’ his dad responded.

What a truly sad world we live in when there are men out there that have never been hugged by their fathers, sons or close friends?

And then, we wonder why they are so emotionally ill-equipped.

Upon further discussion, it turns out that there are rules of etiquette when it comes to man-hugging. Both the old man and our friend agreed that while they hug their inner circle of close friends, they don’t hug the next tier of their friendship group.

‘But I hug everyone,’ I admitted, because I think that women do, in general, once they’ve met once or twice.

But the boys were adamant that it was only their tight circle of friends that got the special treatment. So – obviously – we made them man-hug on the spot, in front of us, which was when we witnessed something truly beautiful happen.

Of course, I’m generalising here. I’m sure that some men are massive huggers, but there is still that stigma associated with men hugging men.

In her book, Boys Will Be Boys, Clementine Ford claims it has to do with the stigma of what the show of affection implied in the past, and the need to prove “compulsive heterosexuality” – one of the issues of “toxic masculinity”.

And she’s right. If we don’t teach our boys how to share respectful, caring relationships with each other, how can we expect them to do the same with women?

She says: “It breaks my heart to know that men – and young men especially – are conditioned against embracing the pleasures of a physically-expressed platonic love for each other for fear that the authenticity of their man-hood may be challenged.”

So let’s change that right now. Any men out there – give your father a big, fat man-hug the next time you see him. And fathers – remember to hug your sons as well as your daughters. Finally, men – for God’s sake, hug your goddamn friends. It’s not a sign that you’re weak or that you fancy them, it’s a sign that you value them.

It’s OK To Be White AND A Man, Just Don’t Abuse The Privilege

 

nick-fewings-532590-unsplash (1)Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Evidently, certain people have a chip on their shoulder about the terrible onus of having white skin.

I agree that it is terrible to be discriminated and victimized for your race and gender, and Pauline Hanson’s motion in the Senate last week reminded me of the backlash that has risen amongst certain male ranks since the #metoo campaign gained traction. And let me be clear, I do not include men that have been abused in that statement.

And yet, what these whinging, self-indulgent groups don’t seem to understand is that while it is okay to be white – and it’s even okay to be a man, I suppose – right now, these fights are not about them. These fights are against white people and men that abuse via the privilege of their skin color and gender.

When feminists point the finger at the harm men do and talk about toxic masculinity, the accusation is not directed at EVERY man.

Let me say that again: When feminists point the finger at the harm men do and talk about toxic masculinity, the accusation is not directed at EVERY man.

It is directed at the men that abuse; the men that refuse to listen to victims, ridicule them or call them liars; and the men that don’t denounce abusers or stand up publicly for equality.

Isn’t it funny how the same people that use #notallmen or “it’s okay to be white” in their defense, are typically the ones that refuse to listen to the opinions of others or support a group that is working to create a mutually beneficial society between the sexes?

I suppose it is inevitable that when a race and gender have held power for a long time that feathers will be ruffled. I get that. I don’t like it when I am ridiculed for being a white feminist, but while I do not feel I need to apologize for my whiteness, neither will I endorse the behavior of certain breeds that are running scared of losing their privilege. 

I am not ashamed to be white. I have never knowingly abused my privilege and I am not a racist. And yet, I have benefited from a system that has always worked in my favor. Maturity has made me more conscious of that. And for the record, I do know that most of the men in my circle believe in equality, and would never harm a woman, but I also know that many of them are scared of change, and that fear breeds anger.

I have never been overlooked or stereotyped as a result of the color of my skin, hence I have never suffered from the social and financial ramifications that go hand in hand with such discrimination. However, I have been felt compromised by my gender.

And yet, I don’t believe that I have the right to moan about my woes in the context of the current climate. Not when refugees are still being caged like animals; not when women are still being killed in their own homes; not when people are still being judged for their choice of faith, and we watch them in shame, powerless in the face of governments that refuse to listen to us, the people that voted for them.

I will excuse Pauline Hanson’s latest shocking attempt to instill fear because she is a mockery to humanity, whiteness, women, and politics. But I cannot excuse the selfishness and arrogance of those who persist in putting their own agenda ahead of minorities at this turning point in history.

And this IS a turning point in history. We are marching for equality; we are marching for our rights and we are marching for what is right. There is no doubt in my mind that change will take time, and there will be many times when it won’t sit comfortably with everyone, but the tide is already turning.

Why Are Men So Obsessed With Sport?

morgan-david-de-lossy-575823-unsplash
Photo by Morgan David de Lossy on Unsplash

The old man is that breed of men that needs to hit a ball at least once a day. He delights in telling anyone who can listen to him (without falling asleep) about his childhood spent in the family garage, throwing ball after ball against its back wall. And while the sporting promise of his youth didn’t translate into a career, that need of a fix – to either hit, kick or knock a ball of any shape – hasn’t dwindled with age.

Since he began to work from home and has more flexibility with his time, his obsession has returned; which puts a lot of pressure on his most obvious opponents. Admittedly, The Princess takes some of the pressure off me by collecting and returning the hundreds of air golf balls he whacks into the back hedge of the garden, and he has made a couple of friends that play tennis with him or accompany him on silent missions around the golf course. However, I’m the unlucky sod that picks up most of the slack.

For our recent anniversary celebration in Bowral, I picked a quaint hotel with a nine-hole golf course, because, a feminist, I wanted to demonstrate that the romantic weekend was about both of us before we trawled around the main focus of the two days to the town’s mecca of interior design shops. img_8680

With a forced smile on my face, I followed him around what was a beautiful, scenic, (and thankfully) short golf course on our first day. In arctic temperatures, I searched for balls, complimented good shots, sympathized with bad, whilst maintaining a smile on my face at all times, my eye firmly on the prize of the hotel bar at the end of our two hours of hell.

The following morning, he was awake three hours before me, and when I opened my eyes to a bouncing puppy on the end of our bed, eyes pleading to let him play golf again and forgo his much-anticipated first-day cushion-shopping, I gave in.

We met up again later that morning, to play tennis – a warm-up for a grueling afternoon tour of the local wineries – and a sport that I have come to enjoy since I’ve learned to ignore his scathing comments and tantrums from the other side of the net. Nevertheless, it took some control not to laugh in his face when he suggested a game of pool that night.

Is your partner obsessed with sport?

My Husband Seems To Have Forgotten This Year That Valentine’s Day Is A Competition

I choose not to remind the old man about special events during the year, such as our anniversary, my birthday and Valentine’s Day because it makes our relationship so much more interesting.

I know that many people frown upon the commerciality of Valentine’s Day, but personally, I have always lapped up the opportunity to receive the only bunch of dead flowers from the petrol station I’m likely to receive in any given year as well as a meal out – nothing too expensive, mind you, because as a friend reminded me today, then they think they deserve sex.

In the old days, the old man used to cook for me on Valentine’s night, a mistake that I soon realized wasn’t romantic at all when I had to stand over him the whole time and interpret the methodology into a language he understood, then had to clear up his mess afterwards.

In our forties, when we thought we were rich, (before being rudely reminded about the cost of care homes and healthcare), we progressed to dinner out – generally not on the night itself due to the sacrilege of increased pricing that the old man couldn’t quite stomach – but the sickening sight of young couples, and particularly men, squirming in their seats, praying not to fuck the night up, (albeit highly entertaining), wasn’t how we wanted to celebrate our own special love.

So our current Valentine status is that we pretend we just don’t care are pretty chilled about the whole thing, even though, deep down we both know that there is still a competition going on. Generally, there is a reluctant exchange of cards with a few lovey-dovey words that convey that although we hate each other most of the time, VERY, VERY deep down, there is obviously something deep and meaningful there. And perhaps we’ll treat ourselves to a pizza.

This year, however, I had been somewhat out of sorts after a virus knocked me sideways, increased my intolerance to wine and gave me a cold sore as its finale. Added to which, he-that-rhymes-with-Burt has been stretching every last ounce of my patience since Xmas as he continues to deny my rights to retire from parenting. So, I have been lethargic, bad-tempered and meaner this past week than normal. Everything is the old man’s fault, including the length and debilitation caused by my illness, because he made me play tennis when I was literally still on my death bed.

I am of the belief that if you try hard enough, it is possible to blame your husband/partner for just about everything.

So I was not feeling particularly amorous when I spotted the first red cards in the shops, and perhaps it had nothing to do with the virus at all, and the reason Cupid has been on an extended holiday from our house is because we work from home together, hence get on each other’s nerves 24/7. Anyway, call me bitchy, but I knew that the old man would have no idea what month we were in without a reminder as salient as billboards in our street when I decided to surprise him with my card.

You get where I’m coming from, Ladies?

Unfortunately, however, last week was one of the rare occasions that the old man left the house over the past year and he too spotted the red balloons and the heart-shaped stickers and didn’t wonder whose birthday it was. Something resonated, and because he has no respect for my privacy and is the type that raids my in-tray and text messages regularly – he says, to check which bills I’ve forgotten to pay and what library books I’ve forgotten to return; I say, to see if I have a lover, because deep down I like the idea that he thinks that I could get a lover – he found my Valentine’s card to him and hotfooted it down to the petrol station to buy one for me that was no-way near as offensive as mine – in fact it was downright romantic – and so this year, I suppose, he wins in the game of love.

But where exactly are my dead flowers, ass-hole?

Taking The Middle-Aged Man On Holiday

Mini breaks are what you do in middle age when the kids get too cool to come away with you (and you can’t afford to take them, anyway), and the idea of a long holiday with your other half is too daunting. They should be long enough to give you a break from the pressures of normal life, yet short enough to ensure that you don’t run out of things to talk about or start to plan your partner’s death. pots-738172_1920

The old man and I have bravely booked a couple of such mini-adventures away this year, on our own, and our first took place this week, when we ventured south of Sydney to Bowral in the Southern Highlands, and then onto Kangaroo Valley and Jervis Bay.

 

The locality of these areas is renowned for its rolling green pastures, quaint village towns, wineries, cooler temperatures, (much more agreeable, if like me you are of a certain age and become completely unreasonable in the heat), and during some parts of the year… flies. If you take out the fly factor and the fact that each little homestead we’ve stayed in has warned us not to antagonize snakes in the small print, it is very reminiscent of the British countryside.

 

The problem with dragging the old man out of his comfort zone – ie. away from home – is that he needs to acclimatise to any new and potentially threatening environment and he tends to flail awkwardly for the first few days, rather like when you take a fish out of water, while he adjusts to life without his regimented, “home” routine of work, exercise, food and annoying me.

 

I, on the other hand, have the propensity to sleep for a disconcerting number of hours on holiday, both night and day, so I’m rarely conscious long enough to help alleviate his boredom.

 

I feel no guilt. Why should I entertain him? He is a grown man and I refuse to disempower him. Perish the thought that he turns into one of those poor men you see dragged around the supermarket, tethered to an invisible leash and a nagging wife, henpecked to death because she’s lost respect for him. So in much the same way that I have tried to ignore inane conversation this holiday, I have resisted the urge to rise to trigger questions such as ‘do you think I need a jumper?’ when we go out.

 

Although in hindsight, perhaps I should have checked that he’d packed his towel before we headed out to the beach this morning.

 

This destination of the south coast was his choice, although whether he realized that outside of the arresting scenery, the highlight would be the charming, small towns, I’m not sure. Full to the brim of cute antique shops, local crafts, cafes that serve high tea and wicked flavours of home-made fudge, as well as chic homewares stores far superior to those in Sydney – in which I like to whittle away as many of my conscious hours as I dream about my Hamptons house – I imagine this week has turned out be the old man’s idea of hell.

 

Within 24hrs of our departure from civilization and the National Broadband Network, he had stalked every meter of the perimeter of our hotel, eaten every lolly (including the licorice) in the mini bar and asked me several times when we could go home.

 

Fortunately, the weather has been kind to us after the abysmal rain of the past two weeks in Sydney (see here), and thank fuck our first hotel had a pool to entice him in, (in spite of its icy temperature), where he burned off some of the scones and cream that we’ve been eating with gay abandon restlessness incurred from two hours of looking at lamps made from ginger jars and lengthy discussions with local shopkeepers about different types of Indian tea.

 

‘This is the life!’ he pronounced unconvincingly as he lay on the hotel sunbed, soaking up the afternoon sun and gazing at the unnerving sheet of ice on the surface of the pool.

 

“Shall we go back to the room now,’ he then asked, five minutes later.

 

We have mutually come to the realization that we need to plan our days from this point onwards because whereas my main aim now is to be fed, watered and to relax on holiday ie. a daily plan that ultimately leads me to a good pub, the old man needs more structure. He needs to know the time of each meal and activity between breakfast and dinner time, when he can finally unwind as he gets one step closer to our return home.

 

 

Suicide, And Making Men Understand That They Don’t Have To Be Heroes

man-1465525_1280It seems a million shades of wrong to be preparing for Christmas drinks when a week or so ago another family lost their son, in his early twenties, to suicide. I cannot imagine their ongoing suffering as I worry about whether we’ll run out of wine or if I’ll poison everyone with my Thai chicken meatballs.

 

A week has passed since the funeral and while the rest of us move on with our lives, prepare for Christmas and celebrate another day of life, that family’s life is shattered. Somewhere on his journey, their young son who always wore a smile on his face, lost his will to live; he lost sight of the value of his life and how much he mattered.

 

We have a duty to find out why our men are choosing to leave us when seemingly they have everything to live for. It’s doesn’t seem right that a child should find justification to end his life before his parents. That’s not the natural order of things. But castigating ourselves about how that boy could not know how much he was loved and valued, or how much he touched the lives of others, is futile now.

 

We accept the powerlessness we humans have in the face of the blows dealt by fate to change the lives of some irrevocably. We accept that we are mere pawns in the game of life with no power or foresight to change the direction of its steely hand. Illness, political gamesmanship and even climate change all impact and mould our destiny.

 

But we should never accept suicide as another of nature’s or God’s ways to control our population, because it is a choice.

 

However, unless we fund the research to identify the triggers that provoke men to give up on life prematurely, the statistics will continue to increase. Change will only come about via education and sniffing out the vulnerability before it takes hold. We need to change the way we raise and talk to our boys to make them understand how much their position in the world has changed. We need to talk to our boys. We need to remind them that they don’t need to be heroes, and perhaps, if they understood that they don’t need to carry the weight of responsibility or swallow and store their emotions to maintain a mask of strength, we could prevent such loss.

 

Television series such as the “Man Up” series are starting to embrace this rhetoric – to “start a conversation about male suicide.”

 

Because the statistics are appalling.

 

“In 2015, preliminary data showed an average of 8.3 deaths by suicide in Australia each day” – approximately two-thirds of which were men.

 

“We need a revolution in the way we think about and deliver mental health care and suicide prevention across Australia,” wrote Jeff Kennett for The Sydney Morning Herald

 

Sometimes it’s hard to truly believe that our lives are equal in value. But whether we’re in the support team on the plane of football stars that crashes, refugees seeking new lives or the nurse in the rehab centre where the multimillionaire seeks sanctuary, when our time comes our material wealth becomes immaterial. I believe that our legacy is about what we leave in the hearts of others.

 

That young man’s death has left a gaping hole in so many hearts, so we have to ask the question, why?

 

Here’s what we do know:  We know that when they are young, men can be impulsive because their brains are not fully formed until their twenties, which means that their ability to manage emotional crises may be compromised. So in those moments of despair, they don’t have the experience to comprehend that the searing intensity of pain will diminish, that things may not be as bad as they seem or that communication may contribute towards healing.

 

What we can do is encourage them to talk, ask them if they are okay, look out for signs of depression.  We can remind them that they don’t have to be heroes.

I’m Learning About ‘Privilege’

‘Privilege’ is a word that crops up increasingly in conversation at the moment – as it should – to make every one of us question our attitudes towards different races and genders. woman-1302674_1280

 

As a middle-aged woman with some free time now that the kids are older, I have noticed a reignited hunger and enthusiasm for learning to understand what the world holds for my young adults entering into it and the generations of our family in the future. I’m becoming more aware about the different kinds of ‘privilege’, in particular those that have been staring us in the face for centuries – that of ‘white privilege’ and ‘male privilege’.

 

I learned more about these when I went to the launch of Clementine Ford’s book ‘Fight Like A Girl’ in Sydney last week.

 

Sometimes when I try to convey my personal feelings about inequality, whether it’s with friends or here in this blog, internally that little voice in my head tells me that I don’t really have the right or enough knowledge to speak about this important topic that divides nations. I was never an activist for feminism in my youth and when I read articles by leading feminists that are so much more intelligently written and researched than the meagre offerings I put out, I feel like a novice. Yet everyone has their right to their own opinion, everyone has a voice, and we should use it in whatever forum we have if we are to progress and make any change in our society.

 

I suspect that if I mentioned the term ‘male privilege’ in one of the heated discussions about feminism that I have monthly with my dad on Skype, he’d laugh in my face, in the same way that he does when I talk about the pay gap and climate change. I’m not making excuses for him, but there is a distinct generational gap of understanding when it comes to equality, I believe, and interestingly his opinions don’t necessarily anger me – he’s entitled to them – it’s the fact that he won’t listen to my perspective that irks me.

 

Perhaps because he’s male.

 

I’m sure that Clementine would disagree, but I can’t draw up a huge list of times where I’ve been the victim of male privilege, either on a personal level or in the work place. I’ve been fortunate to have been given the same education opportunities and I don’t believe that I have ever lost a role due to my gender or colour, so I am undoubtedly the perfect example of ‘white privilege’.

 

Perhaps my bolshy nature has helped because I’m no pushover and I’ve always voiced my opinions loudly, so although I can admit to being witness to sexist and racist remarks that I since regret not jumping on immediately, and I’ve equally suffered at the hands of the occasional, ageing male predator, I’ve made sure that my circle of friends and my partners have inherently feminist ideals, even if they choose to be more ‘silent’ than I’d like.

 

Certain among them have required some extra coaching – not mentioning any names.

 

There was one situation in my late teens when I was hitchhiking through France and the initial delight that a Mercedes had stopped to pick me up quickly turned to fear when the driver’s hand found my knee and I was forced to bolt at the next petrol station.

 

Inevitably, more and more stories about male dominance are currently bombarding the media due to the catalyst of Trump’s march, nay limp, towards the Whitehouse – thwarted recently (*praying*) by the exposure of the level of his abuse of women, (and it seems to me), general misogyny.

 

How any nation could consider putting such a man in power when girls and women around the globe continue to be kidnapped, raped, tortured, married off and made pregnant when still children – often for political gain – or silenced and abused in the workplace, I have no idea.

 

Yet in spite of these daily events and stories of male dominance, (that even the most ardent anti-feminist can surely not remain immune to), astoundingly there remains an underbelly of male supremacy that continues to try to curb whatever progress women at the coalface of the feminist movement, such as our own Clementine Ford and Germaine Greer, or politicians such as Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton try to make. And they employ brazenly vitriolic bullying tactics and threats.

 

The state of Victoria is about to introduce a new program to public schools to educate children about ‘male privilege’, not to ‘man-bash’, but in an attempt to get to the root of where this concept of male dominance comes from and to reduce the number of female deaths at the hands of domestic violence, before this privilege spreads like a cancer into the developing brain cells of the next generation of young men.

 

Of course the program already has its skeptics, who have accused its creators of brainwashing our children into a campaign of ‘man-hating’ – yawn – the atypical reaction to feminism in spite of statistics that prove that many of us man-haters continue to put up with them, and some of us even like and marry the fuckers.