Do the right thing

I was in a conversation yesterday with a couple of women at work regarding the decline in good manners pretty much across the board. We spoke specifically about the conduct on board public transport, how people hog seats or play their music loudly, and how rare it is for someone to give up their seat to someone elderly, infirm or pregnant. I shared a story about something I witnessed a couple of months ago – a pregnant woman getting onto a crowded train and everyone ignoring until a good Samaritan – himself standing – walked across to two middle-aged men and tapped them on the shoulder, effectively shaming one into giving up his seat for the woman. I felt like cheering at the time, but was shocked that two such respectable looking men on the Sandringham line train wouldn’t act of their own accord – but then, so few do.

Then, as it happens, there was today. As I get on at the second stop for the train at Hampton I always get a seat. The train is usually pretty full within a few stops and from Gardenvale on people are standing, if not before.

Today, at Gardenvale, a pregnant woman got on. I watched thinking and hoping that one of the men nearer to her would get up and offer their seat. I was sitting by the window, wedged in, with probably a half a dozen men ahead in a better position to give up their seat. When that didn’t happen I signalled to her as I stood up, climbing past those in between so she could take my seat by the window. It was the work of the moment, but I wondered what the other men around me thought.

I know for myself that I couldn’t not act like that. I would stew on it, would feel ashamed and my gut in knots if I didn’t do the right thing. Does shame not like that exist anymore? What standards do we live by, if any?

I accept that I belong to a generation when such behaviour meant more. It was instilled in me from a child to be polite and well mannered. I have some reputation for being direct, even blunt, but if you were to poll strangers and shop assistants and servers across the world then the feedback would be that I am respectful and courteous. I always say please and give thanks. I open doors for others and let them go ahead of me. Unless invited otherwise, I’ll address my elders by Mr or Mrs. I am gracious because I know no different, and because it is a fine thing to be.

It’s a matter of great regret that such standards of behaviour no longer seem to be valued, and seemingly too many children now grow up without being taught this. I sound like a damn old fogey I know, but fundamentally this is about respect for others. Everyone deserves that, regardless of rank or position, until such a time as they lose it.

I hate kids are like that, but sometimes think they’ll grow out of it. There’s a lot happening when you’re a teenager, and a lot of it is expressing yourself as an individual and occasionally in rebellion. It’s no excuse but I understand it.

What I really don’t understand are those – such as the men today, and the men a couple of months ago – who by all appearances are respectable, and who should know better. I reckon they do know better, it’s just that instinct has now seemingly atrophied in them. Given the general decline in standards, I think they’ve taken that as an invitation to ignore their better instincts. If everyone is being ill-mannered, why can’t I be? That’s a profoundly disappointing attitude, but an attitude that accounts for a lot in society today – a society much more selfish and self-involved, a society much less generous and tolerant in nature. And this is why it’s important to hold out against that, to be an example of nobler instinct. Give it up and that will be the end of it.

I wonder what this says about our sense of self and identity? I live by the standards I’ve set myself and to go against any of them would be a betrayal of self. This is behaviour firmly rooted in my identity. That’s portable and immutable, unlike the shifting and capricious standards of society. When you take your lead from the mores of the day, rather than your self-identity, then behaviour will always be rooted in shifting sands. This comes back to education, to the ability to think and reason for yourself, to stand for your own beliefs and to have a strong sense of self. Why would you want to be any other way? But then, perhaps the opportunity isn’t known…

This story ends on a brighter note. After getting off the train I caught a tram up Elizabeth street. I was standing when a heavily pregnant woman got on a stop after me. Straight away a man stood up to offer his seat, just as it should be.


Help us be better

Last week Gillette released an ad internationally which addressed the controversial – but topical – subject of men’s behaviour, with the tagline ‘The Best Men Can Be’. It’s a well-crafted ad and takes on discrimination and bullying, male violence and sexual harassment. I guess it’s easy to be cynical about a huge international corporation putting out an ad like this when ‘me too’ have made such messages on trend, but given the message I think that’s a bit precious. Many have chosen to be cynical, and many more offended.

It’s hard to understand how you can be so epically offended at an ad that portrays the best of men, and urges us to consider our behaviour – but then we are in the age of outrage.

While that still simmers in the background, an awful crime last week captured the imagination of Australians. An Israeli student, returning by tram after a night out at a comedy festival, was set upon near her home, raped and left for dead.

This, sadly, is not an uncommon crime, which is one reason it led to such an outcry, while the Gillette ad played out in the background. Here was yet another instance of male violence upon a woman. As with all of Melbourne I was deeply affected, disgusted by what had happened yet again. My instincts ran to the Old Testament. It seemed apt to me that her rapist and murder would be well punished by having a meat cleaver taken to his genitals. He has now been arrested.

In an earlier time this would have played out conventionally in the media. In the age of social media, in the wake of #metoo and increasing militancy of women this has gone to a whole new level. Women are speaking out, sometimes quite violently, decrying the unending cycle of male violence and voicing the oppressive fear they feel so often, and have kept silent about for so long. Fair enough, they demand an end to this.

Not all men take well to this. The #notallmen hashtag sprung up in the wake of these crimes, but the men using this as a defence miss the point – as I have previously commented on. We are all responsible even if we would never stoop to such heinous behaviour. Other men – the type of men who complain about the Gillette ad – claim to be oppressed, and make ridiculous representations regarding ‘men’s rights’. They have a twisted and entitled view of what those rights are, which is indicative of the problem we face.

I like to think I’m a tolerant and fair-minded man. That’s how I was brought up to be, as were many more of my generation. It might sound a bit flaky, but I approach people as a human being first, then as an individual. I have my bias, of course, and probably have some unconscious prejudice, but officially I give everyone the same fair go. As a heterosexual I look at women differently to how I see men. As a westerner I’m open-minded, but naturally I’m more comfortable in the culture I was brought up in (which is one reason I travel, to take myself out of that comfort zone and experience the culture of others). I don’t really care about one’s religion, and the colour of one’s skin seems irrelevant to me. Clichéd as it is, it’s what inside that matters.

When I look to engage in these discussions that’s my starting point, overlaid with conscious rationality – I want to be fair and objective, though my opinion is clear. My view is that we must talk about these things and so I don’t shy from these discussions, even if it can be a bit rugged at times.

Mostly I engage on Twitter and, as I seem on the side of the angels, my commentary is tolerated. Mostly. That changed a little last week.

There’s a very passionate woman I interact with on Twitter occasionally. She’s articulate and intelligent and unafraid to say her piece. I find little to disagree with, though I’m more temperate in my expression. Last week I replied to a discussion she was part of regarding an article which had been published saying that men had to ‘take sides’ in this struggle over male violence.

By instinct I was uncomfortable with that. For a start I think it’s unhelpful terminology. It’s the expression of extremists – if you’re not with us, you’re against us. It’s the language of the times, the binary extremes that won’t accept anything in between. I hate that about this era because nothing is as simple as that. And I pointed that out, we needed a more sophisticated approach to this. To be honest, something in me resented the demand to step to one side of the line or the other. I’m here already.

To cut a long story short she didn’t entirely agree and ultimately said it was time for men ‘to put up or shut up’. I opted out of the conversation at that point. I wasn’t offended, but realised that nothing I could say would make a difference at this point – and that’s the problem.

It’s probably too soon to have a measured discussion about this, but ultimately if this epidemic is to be defeated then abusing men and marginalising them won’t do it.

I think education and upbringing is key to a lot of this, but that’s a slow burn. I think many men are learning by observing the #metoo movement and having women open up to them about their fears. I think the government can do more in terms of education and promoting better behaviours too. I think change will come, much as it has in the general perception of the LGBTIQ community over the last twenty years. By and large homosexuality and its variants are no big deal now, when once there was a distinct stigma.

If this is to be resolved then men must be allowed a voice because we’re the group perpetrating this. Many of us now are advocating and stepping in when necessary to drive better behaviours, but it takes more than that. We need to own it, and while more of us are every day there’s a segment are being driven further to the extreme by the commentary surrounding this. As I commented to her the other day, those of us receptive are already listening, but those of us who need to hear won’t listen. There has to be another way.

My experience is that you have to work with recalcitrants to find a way forward. You need to give them a way out acceptable to them. Abusing them has the opposite effect. It closes their minds and makes them stubbornly indifferent. It incites these men to further misbehaviour. This is just human nature – work with it, not against it.

I guess the other thing I find generally discomforting about all this are the double-standards we turn a blind eye to. I understand that. Sympathetic to their pain and understanding their victimisation we allow for the language that expresses it. We have to move beyond that though. If you replaced the word man/men in a lot of the statements made with black or jew or muslim then there would be an outcry.

I understand why, but, like it or not, we’re all in this together. If men are to change we need the help of women, not their disdain.

Karmic balancing

Last day of the year. There was a time when I’d formally review the year past, before going on to set my goals for the year to come. It’s not so formal these days, but I adhere to the basic concept still. It seems a natural thing to do. I know people decry the making of resolutions and whatnot. They make the reasonable point that it shouldn’t take the end of the year to make plans, it should be a normal part of life. And resolutions are a cliché besides.

That’s fair in principle, but few people live up to the principle. What we should or shouldn’t do rarely matches what we actually do, and there’s plenty of reasons for that.

The older you get the quicker life slips by. It takes a lot of mental effort just to maintain. Routines and schedules blur and confound. Deadlines rush at you. It’s easy to slip into a kind of torpor where life runs on autopilot. There’s not the space or the occasion to stop to look around and re-evaluate. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m saying how it is so often. And thus life proceeds apace, until it ends.

The Christmas/New Year period acts as a kind of break in that routine. There’s plenty of traditions and rituals around Christmas, but much of it is about returning to family and the values learnt in the formative years of your life. Nostalgia and sentimentality take over from the practicalities of making a living. And this time of year there’s the time and space to actually sit down and contemplate such things. I think it’s natural to reflect on what was and, from the leisure of your Christmas break, to ask yourself what it is you want different to what you’ve had before? The division of one year to the next is the perfect time for that.

I’ve been more aware of this than most people, I think. I won’t necessarily claim to be a planner, but I’m definitely a thinker. I’m cynical enough to doubt resolutions as such which, in any case, tend to be spurious and swiftly forgotten. For me, this time of year is about looking back at the direction I’ve taken and to re-align myself for the year ahead. And I’ll set myself KPIs to guide me on that journey.

It seems to me not much changed in a practical sense this year past. I’m in the same home, I have the same job, I’m earning practically the same, and I remain largely unfettered. I wiped out a big chunk of debt and got my car repaired (to the tune of $7K), but in so doing incurred another, consolidated, debt. Still, the pressure is less than it was and I can see my way clear eventually.

The big thing that happened this year was in my self. I don’t know how you measure these things. Am I happier now than 12 months ago? Certainly, at this moment I am, but happiness is like the tides, and anyway I’ve never thought it much of an indicator. I may be an oddball, but there are more important things to me: what would I rather, a dull but happy life, or a challenging but interesting life? That’s a no-brainer for me. I crave experience and knowledge. I want to understand, knowing that is a chimera. Truth and authenticity are the things I want, things that are real and meaningful. Enlightenment perhaps.

This year I have become more enlightened. It’s well expressed here repeatedly in the last 12 months so I won’t go on about it now. I feel a more honest man now than a year ago and have relinquished a lot that was holding me back. Still, a long way to go, but good signs.

The only other thing worth noting is my writing has continued strongly. Certainly, I am better at it now than I was then, and expect given another year the improvement will have continued.

I also have a working car now – that’s a big thing. And after many years I finally renewed my MCC membership, though it has relapsed again.

So, next year.

My goals are simple. I want to continue on the path I’m on psychologically, though it takes courage and the way forward is not always clear. That’s not something I can review every 12 months. It needs constant attention.

As I did last year I’ll strive to improve my lot – a better job, more money. It’s wearying being constantly under pressure, and infuriating that I’m not properly rewarded for my work. And I want some nice things for a change – more of a social life, a holiday, the odd trinket, not to mention the formerly ‘normal’ things I’ve learned to go without. In practical terms, it means – most likely – finding another job. I’ll get onto that. More simply:

  • I want to be properly rewarded for my effort.

I’ve set myself little KPIs to ensure I live better:

  • I plan to go out for one cooked breakfast/brunch a month.

Considering I would do this every weekend for many years this is hardly extravagant.

  • And every three months I plan to take myself off for a massage.

That’s good for body and soul.

So we come to friendship. People change, they live different lives, they go off in different directions, that’s life. I’ve been out of step with a lot of my friends for a while simply because they are now family men, and I am not. We worked around that pretty well, but then other events intruded.

You live life at different speeds. That 15 months I was homeless life was superficially slow, but in terms of experience, it was sped up. I came out of that with issues unsurprisingly, but by all reports, I was fundamentally unchanged. The biggest reported change has been this year past when suddenly I began opening up. The point of all this is that I’ve moved on while others – comfortable, happy, content – have remained the same. Somewhere in that your friendship changes.

It’s taken me a while to acknowledge that. It’s a bit sad, really – I wish I could be as close as I used to be to some. I think my new openness makes some uncomfortable (others have embraced it) not knowing how they should respond to it, or how it makes them feel.

The bottom line is that while those friendships will continue they won’t be what they were before. I realise I need to make new friends – friends more aligned with the open person I want to be, without the baggage of preconceived notions. So:

  • I want to widen the circle of close friends, with more women particularly.

This is easier said than done. It’s not easy making new friends. But then this other plan may help.

I’ve always been a believer in karma. I’ve always been socially engaged. Since I suffered my ‘misfortunes’ I’ve been more alert to the deficiencies in the system. And I want to give something back.

Perhaps volunteer work will fix the need – and it’s a way to meet people besides. An acquaintance studying social work wants to use me as a case study and has suggested getting me along to a St Kilda homeless shelter. The idea appeals to me.

  • Check out volunteering options.

Then there’s my health. I’m reasonably fit, but there are more things I can do. Unfortunately, I’ve been constrained financially, especially when it comes to dental work. I’m in good health generally, hardly get sick, but there are nagging issues:

  • Dental – I need a crown and probably another filling.
  • Sinus – must get sorted this issue that every night sees me with a blocked nose.
  • Psoriasis – small patch on my right, but a nuisance.
  • Knee – could it be my patella? Slipped at the airport a couple of months back and hasn’t been right since.

I want to get on top of these things. Seeing a doc on Wednesday to get started.

There’s my writing too. By this time next year, I expect to have completed the revision of my first book and have submitted it to publishers, and I’ll be working on the final draft of the book I’m currently halfway through writing.

There’s nothing there about romantic relationships. I want that, but it’s not something you can legislate. If I put myself in the right places and measure up to being the man I want to be then it might happen. That’s all I can promise.

If there is one last thing it’s something I don’t have direct control over. I believe you’re master of your own destiny, but I also feel as if I’ve been dealt some tough cards in recent years. I’m putting it out to the world: deal me a good hand this year. I’m due. I’m in karmic credit I reckon and ready to cash in.

Happy new year to you!

Being a woman’s man

I’ve never aspired to be a man’s man, though I’m sure there are many who see me like that. I can play the role well enough, and a lot of it comes easy. At work I mix easily enough with the blokes, stopping to chat about the footy or cricket and portraying some classic Aussie persona both laconic and sardonic. I can settle over a beer or ten and happily chew the fat about classic male subjects such as sport and work reminiscing about times shared in the past. That I have a confident, strong aura, and perceived to be independent of mind, means that I portray a masculine authority that papers over a lot of the cracks.

I’ve never really been terribly interested in it though. Sure, it can be fun and the conversation of passing interest, but generally its superficial too. This is one of the pities of masculinity, that we rarely engage in the deep and meaningful with each other, and when we do it’s generally awkward and uncomfortable. It’s sad to think that as men that intimacy man to man has been bred out of us. Even when we choose to we’re generally poor at it. It’s easier to skate across the surface with a ready laugh and a glass of beer. Of all my male friends I think there’s only one I have a truly candid relationship with, and I barely even see him.

I wish this was different, particularly given the challenges of recent years. I can’t say I’m particularly good at this either with other men, but it’s a different story with women.

I was at a party last Saturday at which there were a bunch of people I knew quite well but hadn’t seen for a while. It became familiar very quickly and easy and all the rest of it. I ended up sitting between two women, which suited me fine as I was a bit weary of the blokey carry-on at the other end of the table.

What resulted was a series of very authentic and open conversations. There are probably a variety of reasons why this happened. Everyone knows of my struggles and I think that makes it easier for others to be vulnerable with me. I’m a good listener, too, and trust comes into it as well. I think a lot of this plays to my natural self. I’m reflective by nature and I think women particularly see me as thoughtful and sensitive. This is not something new.

In a lot of ways, I think I’m more naturally a woman’s man, as opposed to a ladies man (though I’ve been accused of that). I’m interested in those things. I’m curious about what moves and motivates people. Cause and effect are fascinating to conjecture. And I care too, really. I understand that each person has a life, it has weight and complexity and, to them at least, is precious. You can’t help but respect that.

I’m wary of generalisations, but generally, women have a closer, more intimate relationship with their deeper self, and are much less wary or self-conscious of it than men. I think many women wish more men were as sensitive and as open as they are. That’s where I play well. I am interested, I am sensitive as well as curious, and I’m respectful of their feelings. Both women the other night gravitated to me, and at the end of it expressed the hope of catching up again soon.

This is why I miss all the female friends I used to have. It’s a different conversation and a different way of being. As I get older I realise that more and more I become a woman’s man – because it’s more real.

The pain I’m meant to feel?

Sour today. Back at work after a day home yesterday. The wind and the branches of a mulberry tree out back had ripped off a bunch of roof tiles a few weeks back, leaving a hole. I worked from home while someone walked on the roof in the hot weather. It was hot still last night. Even with air-con, it made for disturbed sleep, and then I dreamed, it felt, all night long. The dreams were not bad dreams but they were dreams I would rather have not had.

All of this leaves me feeling a bit pinched today (not helped by the disgraceful behaviour of federal parliament yesterday). It’s another hot day today and I have no real appetite for anything.

I was flat-out yesterday preparing this submission and that doesn’t help either. It was a productive day but by the end of it, my brains were leaking from my ears. I can’t really face much more of it today, though there’s still more to do. Somehow I can’t be bothered doing much else either – but then you have days like this, especially when you’ve not slept well.

You know me though, I’m always searching for causes and effects. I reckon all this started a little after lunch yesterday when I pulled from my letterbox the first Christmas card of the season. It was from my aunt, and once more she invited me to share Christmas lunch with them. I wish she wouldn’t.

I appreciate the gesture but it places me in an awkward position. Even if everything were good I’d think twice about going. They live about 90 minutes away, and though I’m fond of them all I’m close to none of them really. It’s their do and as far as I’m concerned Christmas day is not a day to be a hanger-on.

On top of that, however, I can’t really go because my sister and father will be there and I don’t want to see them – and don’t want to make it awkward for my aunt and her family. They know nothing of this. I’m not about to gossip to them, mainly because it would be unfair. And so, instead, I run the risk of seeming aloof.

So I got the card yesterday, read the message, and all this ran through me. I worked on through the afternoon, I stopped to watch the cricket sometimes, I made dinner – but all this had started I reckon.

It informed my dreams in the end. That’s how it works in my opinion. Not always like that, but often, the things you’ve put aside or lingering at the back of your mind return to you interpreted through dreams. There’s something pure about the process. It synthesises the real dope, stripping the extraneous white noise. It gets to the real cause, and then creatively portrays it in much the same way as when I sit down to write – though perhaps more psychedelically at times. Dreams are magical realism.

What I’m left with is the sour residue. Back in the day I’d shrug it off and get back to things. That was a strength. Funny thing is that if I wasn’t running from it then I was just about sweeping it under the carpet. These days I figure I’m meant to be running to it. I think I’m meant to feel this pain.

To be

I had a woman during the week tell me I was a good man. When I answered that I try to be she said that I was good without having to try. It’s funny, but I can’t hope for a better compliment than that.

I had a bunch of women tell me the other week how handsome I was. Isn’t he handsome? Don’t you think? Yes, of course, very handsome. And recently I’ve been told repeatedly how charming I am – though I reckon there’s an equal number who mutter under their breath about my lack of charm. These compliments flirt with the ego, but they don’t speak to character. I can’t hope to more than being a good man, and it’s lovely to have someone tell you so.

For most of my life, I’ve been conscious of being this or that. I’ve strived to be a good man because I believed in it, but I also strived to charm (sometimes) because I wanted to – and so on, across the board. I’m very ‘conscious’, very self-aware, so this was natural to me.

I’ve had my tribulations in recent times and lately, it hit hard. It’s a lot better now as I have consciously dealt with it. For a man such as me, life often feels like a series of trials designed to test and potentially mould you. How you deal with these trials and what you learn from them feed into who you are, but it’s a constant feedback loop, ever adjusting, ever assessing. I think this blog attests to that very well.

I am what I am, I’ll always be a thoughtful, analytical type, I don’t know any other way. I process things. That’s what makes me good at my job because I get to the bottom of everything in a very rational way.

I hesitate to proclaim what I’ve learnt from this latest episode, but I have come to some provisional understanding – and the first may seem surprising.

I think part of my problem, and probably common to most people, is that I am striving to be something. That’s a complex thing wrapped up in identity and personal history, expectation and ego. I set myself and even when I go some way towards achieving whatever it is it’s never enough. I don’t think anything of this is surprising, except that the answer as I see it is simply to ‘be’.

That will be hard for me because my mind is always engaged and I’ve got a hand on the gearstick. I’m not about to disengage my mind, even if I could – but it means that I might be inclined to let things take their natural course rather than trying to intervene. I’m always searching for ‘ways’. I get stuck in one of these fugues like lately and I’m right on it trying to figure things out and make a difference. That’s fine – here I am, after all – but I might not be in this fugue in the first place if I was less consciously trying. I am a lot of things and many of them pretty good – why not let them take me where they will?

This means not making rules – won’t do this, can’t do that, and so on. If I just let it happen then I’ll find the way that is natural and right for me. Don’t worry, be happy.

This will take some adjusting to and I’m bound to get it wrong probably more often than not, but it’s no more than an adjunct to the philosophy I embraced earlier this year to open up and let go, to accept.

Part of all this is to accept who I am. I think some of the troubles I’ve had comes from the conflict between what I feel and what I want, but such are the complexities of human nature that sometimes they reverse. That leads to much confusion.

Let me give you an example. I feel a general reluctance to take on too much these days. That may pass, it may not, but it’s true for now. It rubs up sometimes against notions of self. To be honest, it embarrasses me sometimes, it feels unmanly even – but really, it’s only against the arbitrary standards I set myself before. At the same time, I still feel often that surge of adrenalin and competitive fervour. How do I reconcile these things? I don’t.

I’ve always been someone eager to take things on. I’ve always been bullish and aggressive. Over time that’s manifested itself in self-image so that I’ve strived to be that man, rather than just being that man. He’s still in me, but I don’t have to be him if it doesn’t feel right. There’ll be times when that assertive character will take it to the ring and it will feel perfectly right; and times when I’m happy to bystand. They don’t have to be incompatible. I don’t have to be one or the other. They can be simply different elements that abide in harmonious balance. This is what I have to get my head around. Everything is true, everything is right if I just be.

The friendship of women

After writing the last post I found myself randomly sampling posts from the past, going all the way back to 2006. What if I knew then how things would turn out, I wondered? Most of what I read was confident and thoughtful and sometimes a tad melancholy.

Something that occurred to me is that in the years since I’ve lost the collection of women I would circulate between, catching up on a regular and rotational basis. These weren’t women I had a physical relationship with, though in the past I may have. Rather, these were women with whom I’d found some common ground and mutually enjoyed our catch-ups.

Generally, we would meet for a drink and sometimes for dinner. They would tell me about their life and I would tell them of mine. The conversation was different from those with my mates, softer, more sensitive, occasionally flirtatious, and with a platonic intimacy.

For many years I was lucky enough to have three, four, even five of these women at the end of a phone. Today there is probably only one, Donna, and even with her, it’s not what it used to be.

I’m sad to think it’s changed, but I’m not surprised. Some women found permanent blokes and drifted away. Another I had a stupid falling out over a misunderstanding on her part, which I was too proud to correct. Others were anchored in certain times and places. By far the biggest reason is that I’ve not been nearly as social as I was before, and not in a position to replenish as others went. I’ve been living in a hole for years, and I’m not out of it yet.

I’ve lost something more than just good company. I like women, but it’s not all because I’m a lustful man. I like women for their perspective and their sensitivity and for their genuine affection. I like to open up to them like I can’t but one of my male friends. Oh, I like being masculine and witty and interesting too, like myself reflected in their eyes and flattered by it – but that’s a transient thing. I miss the connection not of shared interests but rather of shared humanity.

I think that’s something. Forget being man and woman, we were two human beings yarning about the journey. I needed that and I miss it now.

Life would be easier now if I still had those relationships. I could pick up the phone or catch up for coffee and have an authentic conversation with them knowing they wouldn’t judge me. In a way, they were like shock absorbers for me. I could tell them things I wouldn’t tell others and they would interpret them for me, and I would do the same for them as a man. In between, we would have a great time and laugh aplenty while drinking wine or cocktails and sharing – most often – a gourmet meal.

I need more female friends. It feels harder these days, and not just because of the constraints I live within. Times have changed, it’s not as seamless as it used to be. Still, I set myself – more female friends.