I cried in the car on the way to work today, because Okkervil River and I have a cause and effect relationship; and then I told weightlifting, man-talk making, Meatstock attending, plane and chisel wielding, beast-mode-always-engaged, David about it. David laughed and nodded knowingly, admitting that very angry music and a lot of tin thrown about was his coping mechanism, “you gotta do…”
I was tormented by my sister via Return of the Living Dead so badly at five years old that I slept with a light on through my twenties; and drifting, shooting, spannering, shredded, fishing boat owning, Geoff and I howled in laughter about it on our sushi date last week. And then he subtly rebuked me for noticing 7′ of legs and long hair gliding past the window.
I shared my deep love of three live albums apropos their studio versions** with my ultra masculine, Fred Perry devotee, soccer hooligan incanting, archetypically angry Scots, hair cutter, when in his chair last month, and he told me I looked like a fat Justin Bieber fan and then proceeded to obliterate three month’s of diligent growing efforts while elucidating his parenting goals.
The thing is that these are interactions with men that I’d never, ever, have considered venturing or surviving only a few short months ago, yet here I was, doing this stuff, talking to men, being amongst men, at my and their level.
Dive instructor Mitch, replete in suede boots, aged chinos, blue checked shirt, a fucking walking RM Williams advert, with his twenty-year-old high school gym-bag emblazoned ‘Virile Agitur’ slung over his shoulder, which is literally “Do the Manly Thing”, ergo manly man, Mitch and I talked at length over lunch of the existential dread, families, careers, various worries and weaknesses.
These confessions and considered collaborations on enfeeblements and emotion with men are very new for me, and only subsequent of immense effort and conscious observations. I have many female friends with whom I wouldn’t hesitate sharing a moment of frailty, or engaging on a spiritual connection to music. Leaning on their resilience when I have none, or counselling their singleness saliently. But exposing the …real… me to a man, non.
Nowadays I’m of an age and place where the old crutch of emotionally baring oneself to a [girl] friend in anticipation of reciprocation via benefits is useless and some atavistic affect. Nevertheless I still traipse out the old trope, rehearsed in the theatre of conquest, accidentally… in that way an immortal thespian will hold their hand aloft and stare through poor Yorick in their sleep, or the way my Blitz surviving grandparents flinched and stared forlorn for a moment at the local volunteer fire station muster siren, a reappropriated air raid siren in small town Waikato. Old habits die hard, I find myself flogging a horse that isn’t even there.
it’s been 3 months of baby steps and horrible self illumination. I’ve learnt that I test man friends for weaknesses by dangling my own like a poisoned chalice to join me in drinking from, only to have been repulsed should they dare expose by, supping at that cup, their own. The realisation that my relationships with woman-friends were nearly all so selfish that having to accomodate their needs incited fury, was a horrible moment in a life of excoriating self review. The problem wasn’t men. It was me having to learn how to be a man.
There is a quantum of hope. My new mates show patience and a relaxed caring. In having to drop my gruff guard with my doting daughter I’ve found a true masculine challenge, with instant reward.., she perseveres. Jim laughs when I try and laager my defences and he chuckles: “you think you’re the first man to…” when I’ve had a total meltdown over nothing. I am at least aware of what is me gaming the system, and when I’m slipping in to the old yoke. I’ve started migrating appropriate friendships to my wife, or perhaps just getting out of the bloody way. Affectations which are a wall of camp constructed to repel cobbers are being forgone.
Sometimes when I’m totally stumped on how to wrap up a blog post, I borrow from someone else, and since today has been bookend by Okkervil River, I’m going to close this out via Will Sheff:
^^“I had to let it go, I gotta gotta let it go, Gotta let it go, All right, man?”
**Portishead - Roseland NYC Live vs. Dummy Ray La Montagne - Live from Bonnaroo vs. Trouble My Morning Jacket - Okonos vs. Z.