Sure us blokes love to get together for a barbie and to chug a few frothies. Yes we would generally hack off a limb with a rusty spoon to have night at the pub with mates. And of course there is no better thing in the world (apart from, um, 😂) than a weekend away with the boys.
But this is pretty much the extent of social planning by men. Event based. Reason based.
So why is this a problem you ask? Well it wouldn’t be such a problem if we did it frequently enough for starters. And probably even better if it didn’t involve get plastered every time. And ideal if we actually opened up and talked to our mates instead of just calling them a pussy for not wanting another beer after they have just spewed their last one all over the pool table.
The problem I see is that we don’t lean on our friends enough for support. When was the last time you ever had a mate ring up for relationship advice? When was the last time you asked a mate if he was Ok, and he actually told you the truth? Even better, and you actually listened? When was the last time you told a friend about something that has been keeping you up at night? Bet you can count the times over the last year any of these things happens on one hand….
And now ask a woman those same questions. No don’t really, you haven’t enough time to hear about them all 😂😂 (easy tigresses, joke)
I’m your poster boy for this archaic behaviour, believe me. As large, varied and dispersed as my friendship circle is, I have 2, yes 2, mates that either call me or I call them on a regular basis; just to check in and see how things are going. Pretty shit hey. And even then I am almost assured to respond to any probing questions with “all good” or the like. Our conversations may only last minutes, but they are worth it just to know someone is thinking of you.
So why is this? Why do us men find it so difficult to pick up the phone and just talk? Why don’t we rally around our mates when they’re down? Why do we feel like we can’t just vomit out our feelings and worries?
I believe this is yet another side of the recently termed “toxic masculinity” that Australian boys grow up with and hence is ingrained in the adult male phyche.
It starts off in our youth, with ribbing of mates for outward displays of emotion and congratulating feats of conquest, and escalates to outright admonishment for any sign of weaknesses or lack of life mastery in later years.
And this is something I not only find hard to understand, but likewise struggle to overcome on a personal level. It really is hard, rightly or wrongly, to break lifelong habits, reactions, thought patterns and to quash ancestral education.
But as men in this fast paced society, we must. We simply have to stand up and challenge what it means to be an Aussie male. We have to shoot down these antiquated stereotypes and prove to ourselves, not just women, that being tough and stoic is not the first priority in life. That our mental, emotional and physical health is priority one.
Which will be no mean feat. Because we are going through a period in time where we are expected to be both “manly” and rugged, yet open, and heartfelt. We are told to talk more and express ourselves, and in the same breath urged to step up and be men.
But what is it to be a man?
I think being a man is being true. Being honestly yourself in the face of expectations. Standing up for your own values, not those we’re told to pursue. Being there for your family and friends, your kids, your mates. Relishing in all that makes you feel strong and capable, yet acknowledging and accepting your shortcomings and not being afraid to admit them. And most of all, accepting that you have fears, feelings and struggles. That these are just part of being human, not something to be pushed down and bottled up never to see the light of day.
Anyway, tangential opinion rave aside, back to the main theme. Us blokes need to get better at regular contact. Regular check ins with our mates. Because a biannual phone call doesn’t cut the mustard.
So why are regular check-ins so important?
Well this is my reasoning:
Regularity breeds familiarity, which in turn creates closer bonds. Closer bonds with others reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness, and increases the sense of inclusion.
Bit wordy? Ok try this example:
Ever notice when you catch up with an old friend who you haven’t spoken to for quite some time and the conversation is stilted and perfunctory until you both feel like you have a handle on each other’s lives? And then you talk to someone who you have regular contact with and the conversation flows easily, you’re relaxed and you both understand the things, issues and events you speak of? That’s a closer bond thanks to familiarity.
That’s the difference between a biannual phone call and regular chats. And when you’re feeling comfortable with someone, it makes it a hell of alot easier to open upand get things off your chest.
You get the point lads. Pick up the fucking phone. Drop in and say gday. Organise a cheeky beer after work. And do any of these not for any specific reason, just because. Just to stay in contact. Just to stay in the loop. Just to be a mate.
Because family, work and life can be so consuming that it’s easy to forget your mates, indeed yourself. And sometimes knowing there is something or someone else can make all the difference.