By Sir ScotchMistery
As a bloke, I’ve never been a party to a conversation between two women except perhaps on the periphery and I was brought up not listening to other people’s conversations. My mother always said it was rude, and since she was generally correct about everything else I have always accepted that as fact.
Men define themselves on meeting, by their societal role. “G’day mate, how are you?” Followed almost immediately by “what do you do?” In their answer, a man then defines himself in the newly established relationship, by the task which puts food on his table.
I am experiencing a major change in my situation because I decided that after 35 years, I no longer want to be party to the phone call at 7 o’clock at night by someone with a computer problem who feels that my time, whenever their calls arrive, belongs to them, by right.
I guess it would be a little bit different if there was an unspoken acceptance that at the end of a half hour call during which I’ve corrected the issue, that I would send them an invoice for the 30-minute phone call, but I have felt particularly uncomfortable asking for an email address or a credit card number. I’m not blaming the caller, please understand. If I had a few more balls I would just send the invoice, or ask for the credit card number and be done with it. But I haven’t – but that’s down to me.
She ‘who must be obeyed’ and myself, have, for some years, contemplated the idea of a change.
I love coffee. In fact, if there was a stronger word than love, that would probably describe me. I don’t only love drinking coffee I love exploring its history. I like to know about the beans. Where they originated. How they were picked. Who they were picked by. My preference is for coffees whose origins are “fair trade”, and where I can be relatively sure without taking long journeys, that the coffee beans were not picked by 7-year-old children.
I’ve just come back from my local favourite coffee joint, where Darian and I discussed the art of coffee, especially the effort he puts in to his “latte art”, producing from moment to moment such beauties as “a heart for all seasons”, “the blooming lotus”, “the summer seahorse” and my all-time favourite, “the split definitive”. Maybe you’ve seen some of these on your lattes in a busy city coffee shop. Maybe you’ve seen them and had no idea what they were. Maybe photographed them and sent them off on Twitter or one of those other social media conjunctions where people interact for a microsecond and then all memory of them is gone.
One of the great difficulties of writing in this format is the capacity to run off subject, or be seen to be dribbling, but the nature of a man’s conversation, not only with himself, but with those close to him and those unknown to him are by their very nature, fleeting. A man’s development of friendships, over years, changes as he ages.
Probably a year ago, I leaned over and said “G’day” to a chap who was drinking in that same favourite coffee joint. He was older than me by a few years, but unfortunately was equipped with a full head of grey hair unlike my own fleeting glimpse of what once was. I introduced myself, and noted that we had sat in the same coffee shop never more than 20 feet from each other, for some months and on that basis alone, we had something in common.
Since that day, John and I have joined together each morning to enjoy a cup of coffee and chat about the day’s politics, the state of our crazy nation, the nature of the staff at the coffee shop and a dozen other things that from time to time have arisen based on his reading of the AFR.
My conclusion has always been that anything owned by Murdoch was anathema, which generally means I hadn’t read what he had read. We eventually got around that by the simple expedient of him cutting out the article and bringing it along to coffee.
Frequently, the subject of “change of life” enters a conversation, and almost invariably the subject of the discussion is a woman we know. But as a 60-year-old, let me tell you; men have a change of life as well.
Finally, after all these years, my life as the go-to man for a computer problem is ending and my beginning as a local go-to coffee creator commences. I am leaving John with a mobile device so we can maintain contact, but the camaraderie of those mornings will not be there, and I will miss them dreadfully.
Yesterday I called in one of the members of a group I set up 5 years or more ago, for socially isolated, mature-aged gay men, and Grant came along after a couple of years of that running. Now he is not only a regular at our get togethers, he is a mainstay within the group. I explained what I was hoping he would do for me, which was join me for coffee, so that John knew he isn’t the only bloke around who drinks coffee on his own.
There was no intimation that John was gay, because he isn’t. It just wasn’t part of the invitation to Grant, who most assuredly, is. It was an invitation to one man, to meet another man, and perhaps in that meeting, foment another “stop by and chat” friendship, much as the one I have with both John and Grant, but at different points in my life.
They got on quite well by the look of it. I will leave John with Grant’s number and he can call if he wishes, but that is entirely up to him. I just can’t help wondering how different things would be, if there was no issue of sexuality in our community. I wonder how different things may have been if 40 years ago the church had stayed the fuck out of it, and hadn’t made homosexuality first, a crime, then later a state of difference between men. Being gay is neither a curse, nor a highlight. It’s just a thing, and if I’m not planning to sleep with someone, it shouldn’t even be an issue.
So, as I head off next Saturday night to the pub, in my new town, in my Hawaiian shirt and RM Williams moleskin trousers, and matching RM Williams elastic-sided boots, I will be quiet, but I won’t be hidden, and I won’t lie.
Such is the joy of aging, disgracefully or otherwise.