International Men’s Day feels like kind of an unusual day to celebrate. Some use it to highlight the staggering numbers of men who commit suicide every year , while others take the opportunity to raise awareness of the various forms of cancer that are more prominent in males. Check your balls and your prostates, lads. Or maybe have a doctor do the second one. And wash your hands.
Beyond that, there’s this weird element where people feel like they need to be on teams. There are those using Twitter as a platform to dismiss the day, and then , as a result, you’ll see certain men becoming fierce defensive and often aggressive too . It’s fucking ridiculous and it’s a vicious circle that doesn’t end.
I saw a colleague of mine post something I thought was cool. It was a nice picture of his Dad and a message thanking him for his guidance and inspiration on International Men’s Day. He nailed it . For him, someone in his life who’s been a strong figure, lead by example, shot from the hip and generally been a guiding light. What better day to say it than a made up day for men with the absolute best of intentions.
I have two older brothers; considerably older. One has 9 years on me, the other has 10. I have a lot of memories of growing up with them. I spent the first 15 or so years of my life in a tough, working-class area that didn’t take many prisoners. Well, figuratively. In the literal sense, I know a fair few people who have ended up in the slammer or worse, dead. Granted, it wasn’t The Wire but some days it wasn’t far off and when you’re a sensitive sort whose body hasn’t quite caught up with his head , you’re ripe for mocking. That’s what kids do. It doesn’t make it any less hurtful or difficult or isolating, but it’s a fact. I did also have a fat fucking head, so fair game…
My Mam told me recently about a gang of kids sitting at the back of the bus, between 11-14 years old. There was one kid probably older than he looked, taking shit the whole way home. It apparently got to the point that people on the bus had to step in, this poor kid was getting so much guff. I wasn’t there but I was still welling up just thinking about it and could only hope he had older brothers like I did. Sometimes they’d go out onto the street after it kicked off while we played football or something, and the antagonist would subsequently shit themselves. Other times , they’d point out, quite rightly, that I was being a “bit of a pussy” and should stand up for myself.
Older siblings define so much about you at a young age; what kind of music you like, what kind of actors you think are cool. These formative years are so crucial in what shapes you when you finally get old enough to shave (which was about 12 in my case). Having strong figures you can relate to, look up to and even occasionally get beaten up by , were more important than I’d ever realise.
A few years back, I was the editor of a successful, male-aimed website. So whenever the LAD signal was shone into the sky by radio stations or TV shows I’d invariably get a call. One time I was asked what I thought “makes a real man.” Look, that’s a broad question; it’s not fucking chopping wood and getting into bar fights for the love of a sassy dame. I hadn’t even thought about it until I was saying it. “Mike, what do you define as a real man?” I said simply the way my brother’s kids look at him. How, above everything else that’s going on in his life, those two boys are his world and it’s fucking inspiring. The host was a bit confused, I think he expected me to shout “TIIIIITZ” down the microphone, but as I said, I’m a sensitive soul who cried at the end of Warrior and came perilously close at the end of Sing Street.
My other bro ended up in hospital about 13 years ago with a bad back. But it wasn’t a bad back ; we found out he had a tumour “the size of a football” somewhere in his stomach. A doctor with the bedside manner of Hannibal Lector told my Mother that it was likely he was brown bread. I say it like that for effect, and it’s also how my family deals with tragedy, but we really were led to believe his time on this here Earth was fleeting at best. Long story short, the tumour wasn’t cancerous and after a couple of months in hospital, he was fine. Tough bastards, us Sheridans . Through that whole ordeal, he was worried about other people. His girlfriend and her son. What he’d be leaving for those around him; his family, loved ones. At times like that, there’s a real sense of clarity. THIS is what the fuck matters. “Look, I’m probably bunched but I want my family to be OK.” It took about two days after he got out of the hospital before we started abusing each other again. Hey, it means love to us…
Seriously. “Story, c**t” is us saying “how are you this afternoon?” While we regularly have a game of what’s the worst shit we can say to each other over chicken wings and beers. I always win, as apparently, I’m the “creative.”
Celebrating or raising awareness of this kind of thing is pretty common nowadays – a lot of them worthy causes. They really are what you make of them and if they present an opportunity to express something heartfelt and real to someone in your life then they do serve a purpose. I expect vast amounts of shit over this piece come next wings and beers night… I’d do the same. It’s how we know we still care.