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Columns and Reflections

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

from On My Anger, 2002

‘I bet boys don’t have these kind of talks, do they?’

‘No way! They can’t talk about anything. They’re too scared to even talk about their dicks in case it turns out they’ve got a small one.’

‘Do many of them have small ones?

‘As far as I’m concerned, they all have small ones!’

It was probably the childhood trauma of manly silence such as the above that led Melvin Burgess to write such utter tripe as Lady, the book this conversation comes from. It’s a book about a teenage girl who somehow manages to get herself turned into a dog. The rest of the novel consists mainly of dogs shagging and accounts of teenage female sexuality. The cover boasts a Guardian quote – ‘Melvin Burgess is about to trigger an earthquake in the publishing world with his new book’. Earthquake is right, ’cause it’s like a massive release of (un)Godly flatulence. It’s crap, basically.         

But the above conversation between sisters seems to ring true. Guys don’t talk. We have the highest rate of suicide ever in this country now. The most susceptible? Males under twenty-five. It comes from planting in our sons the seed of a false perception of masculinity. Big boys don’t cry. Big boys are strong. Big boys get over it. On their own. If I say Billy is my best friend, somehow I become a homo. But you know all this.         

And I beg to differ. And I know a lot of guys who also do. I’m heterosexual. I watch football. I’m not the most liberal person with my emotions – when I say ‘I love you’ to someone, I will know that I mean it. But I cry. And I talk. I have both male and female friends. And I’ve had trouble.                                                    

And who has been the most supportive?

And who has said the more moving things?

And who has been there no matter what?

And who has shared more?

And who has been most honest?

And who has been more understanding?

And who has been more loyal?

The guys.

And why?

Because it’s all lies, damn lies and statistics. Guys are crying out to talk to each other. The relief I felt when I had my first conversation with a guy about masturbation was unbelievable. If only to know that someone else fancies the odd wank. You might laugh, I will when I do my proofreading. But even removing the curfew on such ridiculous topics as this can relieve immeasurable strain.

Of course, it didn’t stop there. With my best male friends I soon discovered I could share anything. From my most intimate feelings and intricate pains, to debates on faith and politics.

So I’ve been blessed, to have friends like these. The question is, will it last? Time will give its judgment on that. But the more I think I about it, the more it doesn’t matter. So often, in our quest for safety, we forget that it is the moments in our relationships that matter. And how we felt at that instant. The important thing is that we are here for each other now, when we need each other. What will happen in future years should be left till then.

So, until I can’t, I’ll relish what I have. And I’ll bear the weight of your sniggering easily, fellas. Boys like me are better off. And unless the rest of the male gender realises that, we’ll keep heading down a cul-de-sac of emotional impotence to Unenlightened Nowhere.

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