At the End of the Day

The boy v girl friendship thing

Perhaps the most crushing offer a girlie ever gives to a bloke is “Can’t we just be friends?”….a line I can only be grateful for not having been handed for over fifty years now, although the elation-to-deflation plummet associated with it lives on in my psyche as if it was yesterday.

It has been one of the relative oddities of my life that I have, on the whole, greatly preferred the company of women to men. I don’t mean by that ‘the company of women in a group’, because to be honest they’re awful in hen-party mode. Rather, I’m talking about the far greater ability to be frank with female friends about one’s doubts, demons, feelings about ongoing sex relationships and, well, just being open about it.

That said – and think about it, there is no contradiction here – the truly close male friends I have are the best friends I have. The reason is simple: they’re far more willing to accept criticism from time to time – and far more constructive in the way they criticise me. So while my female chums are seen quite a bit – and able to offer invaluable insights into their own interminably mysterious gender –  it is the bloke-mates to whom I feel closest. You see, with blokes after a certain point there is no defensiveness…otherwise I gently drop them. With the bumpy-front friends, there will always be the Mars-Venus thing: you know –  the “you’re a bloke so WTF would you know” knee-jerk in the groin.

I know lots of blokes I would call passing acquaintances and valued former colleagues. Sometimes they become ‘cronies’: for example, when ghastly (but mercifully rare) occasions have to be borne with the help of irascible male companionship and rather too much alcohol. But they fail to become confidantes because the blokey dick complex creeps in….that inability to resist nudge-nudge-wink-wank remarks about waitresses and previous secretaries. Women don’t indulge in that with male friends, and so the blessed relief from having to listen to tedious fantasies is worth its weight in saffron. I wonder, by the way, if the saffron sector is manipulated as well these days. How one’s mind divagates around after sixty.

I have one female friend for whom I have infinite affection, because at a time when others passed on the other side of the road, she took me out of myself and devoted selfless time to helping me back on my feet. But she is as daft as a brush about cultural issues, and her fluffiness is at least 95% related to an upbringing that combined liberal bollocks with an outrageous level of privilege. However, when I try to tell my chumette that some of her observations are so socially ignorant as to cause dental roots to shake in their stanchions, she bristles like a daft brush for whom bristling has been her inalienable right since birth. There’s nowt so queer as folk, as they say in Yorkshire.

Another lady mate has a serious downer on Men. I use the capital letter there because (a) it reflects the emphatic tone she affects when talking about my gender and (b) capital punishment is (not too deep down) what she claims we chaps should face sooner rather than later. The only friction in her outlook is that she keeps on falling for the sort of psychopathic blokes I would happily kill given the freedom from prosecution to do so. But when I so much as raise this tectonic tension – dare I say contradiction – she turns grumpy and goes off the air for several weeks. When she comes back on again, she’s met yet another disastrous twerp…and so the circus continues. Except for one vital talent she has, I’d avoid her like the plague. But I am here to tell you that, shove one’s new girlfriend in front of her, and she will predict the outcome with clinical accuracy. Go figure.

Yet another has an image of herself which is wildly at variance with reality. When I try to get a word in edgeways to explain why she is in fact Hillary Clinton and not Florence Nightingale, a predictable Tsunami of ruffled rationality heads my way. The odd thing here is that it’s the Hillary thing I find so likeable (and valuable) about her. She is in that sense the almost identical twin of a lady from an entirely different continent: she tells me of her utter rejection of all materialist considerations in favour of an undiluted return to nature….and then sends me an email recounting her latest foray into the restaurants of Knightsbridge.

The only real saving grace of men (if you too are a man) is that they do retain an engaging ability to see how completely bloody silly they are about most things to do with hypocrisy. You can, at the end of the day, poke fun at a bloke about his double standards: on the whole – in my experience, he added carefully – you can’t with a girlie. When George and Ringo took the piss out of John Lennon about his ownership of endless New York condos while promoting the song Imagine, Lennon replied “For f**k’s sake fellas, it’s only a pop song”. I don’t like to think about how Yoko Ono would react if you tried the same shtick with her.

The Gender War has been going on uninterrupted for more than 850,000 years. This is the bizarre conclusion I’ve reached: men think everything is funny, but some things are worth dying for. Women think nothing of any importance is funny, but nothing is worth dying for. I am beset by an insatiable need for the advice of the latter, and the clubbable company of the former.


Earlier at The Slog: Why the CBI has problems with arse and elbow