52. Fellowship with men
What does it mean to be with other men? This is not a question most men attempt to answer, since, by nature, men are the silent sex. Women do the talking and men endure their speech, perhaps grunting in agreement or, more likely, remaining silent. Man’s role in life is to build through reduction. What does that mean? It is man who most remove to procure. It started with hunting; we kill, we take life, so other people may eat. What we remove from life becomes the meat and flesh that sustains more life. It is the same with war; we remove other men, so that our tribe may live. And we do the same in business: we keep the budget sound, through reduction, so that all may benefit from the profit. We do not speak so much for the same reason: we are the great reducers. We are here to take away from other people. When we see a man offering too much in conversation we see him as a woman or a homosexual. Politicians and actors are all homosexual; they all speak far too much, and they say very little. A real man speaks little, except with his body. When he speaks he must be laconic and short, or perhaps make a joke or a tease.
Other men, together, is a difficult subject, since everything is communicated in the body. A group of women is a simple thing to assess, since they make much noise and say much. They say much but reveal little. Men say little but reveal much. You begin to learn at school, on the playing field, surrounded by the other boys. You begin to learn about small acts of heroism, the dash to the finish line with a ball that ends in a tackle. Yet everyone knows it was a strong effort and your father acknowledges that he saw it. There is not much more to say about it.
In the changing room, a little older now, afraid that other boys look at your penis or that you will be caught looking at another boy’s too long. Yet, of course, still curious, in a competitive way, to see who dominates in this field. Have the hormones taken effect yet? Will it always be like that? Will I really look like that forever? Nerves. These changing rooms are masculinity, the smell is very apparent. Men together, it puts your body in different mode. If you are with strange men then you go on the defensive. You are in another tribe’s area and vulnerable. Eventually, the lesson is learned and a downward gaze is cultivated. The only things of importance are the locker in front of you and you and your watch—so expensive, be careful not to lose it—and the towel that slides down at your waist. Never let it go! There is always a tension about letting it go.
The beer glasses are arranged in a broken circle. The pub quiz is coming to an end. There is pride, same pride as on the rugby field all those years ago, at making a contribution and scoring a point. It put the team over the edge. It was enough. It was a valuable job, it made everything worthwhile. The plates are empty, the carcasses gutted on the plate. A few jokes, a few tests. We are always trying to see who is the top of the hierarchy. The reality, unacknowledged, is that it is between two men, and there are two groups behind them who offer their support for each party. There you have it: from Romeo and Juliet to the race to be president of America, all found in those two packs of men. Sometimes, the packs split. Here, among the middle class, it happens with backhanded recrimination and a slow drift, a drift as sure as the icebergs in the northern seas. If the packs should clash with each other, there will be a slight grating, very understated.