Some quick thoughts before I lose my mood. Just returned from my best friend’s Stag do in Newquay, which largely involved being surrounded by heat, men I didn’t know, men I’d only just met and men I knew well. It was great for examining male personas.

I spent the drive home talking with one of my friend’s in laws, a really interesting guy who pretty much personified what I think of when I think about ‘man’ – calm, big, collected, with an air of control without repression, comfortable confidence, not a maintained performance of confidence.

Also on the weekend I met several guys who I immediately felt were at the other end of the ‘man’ realisation scale – not idiots, or babies, but young men with a slight disconcerted look in their eyes, or who tried too hard, or who didn’t try at all, or who were beginning to get a handle on how to move up the scale.

Some had kids, some were married, some were single, they were all different, but nicely unlike my own Stag or others I’ve been on none were using it as an opportunity to force anything, to enforce anything. There was drinking, of course, but none of it was pressured. Mind you the Stag was wearing a girl’s outfit, but compared to the examples hulking all around us our group was tame.

Crucially, only a few were even slightly ‘boys’, unlike my own et al where a good portion of the guys there were still planted in an extended boyhood. Even the most boyish was at least composed, even if boyness seemed often only a few uncomfortable moments away.

But what is interesting following the weekend is how I feel now, how being so resolutely not at the boy end of the group’s scale has left me with an assured and confident feeling which I’m committed to examining here and pinning down and of course to continuing from now on.

I came back home and built the barbecue I’ve been ignoring for the past four weeks, and shit it felt good to get it done. While out there I saw how easy it would be to spruce up the terrace area, and then cooked myself and another friend dinner. Today I went to work and felt oddly tall.

I’m remembering conversations and what we got up to on the weekend and that sense of having been in control, but not repressed, of having been confident but not insensitive, of having been myself and comfortable, of having made judgements and decisions which reflected me and my feelings rather than the expectations of other people…

If I was looking for what being a man meant to me then I’ve found at least a way of starting that conversation – it means being dignified, honest and composed, aware both of your failings and your strengths enough to make decisions you can stand by, and act in a way you can be proud of.

I’ve done things in my past which have threatened my future, my credibility, my trustworthiness, my health, my emotional wellbeing. But none of those decisions or actions need to influence my ability to avoid that in the future, to be who I am, and to do what I can honestly feel happy about doing.

About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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