Do you ever catch yourself, during the machinations of your day, pretending to be someone that you're not? Like when your line manager talks about the key performance indicators of a client and you smile and nod like you care, except you really don't give a toss? We all have to do a bit of pretending. Reading from the right script at the right time defines what it is to be normal, and in regards to KPIs, avoids you getting the sack.
I'll let you into a little secret. I pretend to be someone I'm not all day every day, but it's a bigger act than faux diligence at work. I pretend to be a man. No, its not a transgender issue. I mean being a man in the traditional day-seizing, lady-killing, shelf-putter-uppering sense of the word. I'm not bad at pretending, and for the most part, people seem to believe me. But I'm rubbish at actually being one. Because, when it comes to being a man, my toss giving abilities are close to zero. Don't cry! Don't show weakness! Don't be like a woman! Every time I'm expected to read from the pre-written script, a nagging voice inside my head reminds me that its not really who I want to be.
And it's not just me. I know men that would love to go down on their girlfriends but can't, for fear that their mates will find out and call them a 'pussy'. I know stay-at-home fathers who lie, when asked about their profession, and say they work in an office. I know men for whom the most devastating possible insult is being called a woman. It makes you wonder what we teach young boys about women when they're growing up.
So here's another secret. I don't think there's anything wrong in being 'like a woman'. If being a woman means I can demonstrate a little empathy or humility then I want to be one. We are more alike than we are unalike. And the people that say we live on Venus and Mars are only doing it to sell more self-help books.
Women often wonder why men behave like 'dicks'. Well I've got the answer. Society, to paraphrase Naomi Wolf, sets men up to fail. Every day we're expected to perform roles that, if we're being brutally honest, don't often come naturally to us. And that's confusing. And Irritating. And uncomfortable. You can't programme a computer to perform a task it wasn't designed to perform. If you do it'll crash. The HAL 9000 computer in 2001 went berserk and rubbed out the space crew when it was given conflicting primary orders. Well, men crash by behaving like arrogant, domineering, eye-wateringly stupid macho dicks throbbing with impotent fury.
Men behaving badly - when they'd secretly rather not - are everywhere. Packs of beery blokes that leer at women when they really just want a hug. Bluff politicians that spend all day on the attack, when they really just want to get things done. Hard-arse businessmen on the land grab that just want to provide for people they love. Imagine Sir Alan Sugar staring at the mirror, in his smalls, in the dead of night. I don't have special access privileges to his bathroom, but I'm guessing that, minus the pinstripes and cowering lackeys, Alan the business titan looks and feels very much like Alan the vulnerable and bewildered boy.
Macho behaviour is not only engrained in our culture, it's positively celebrated. But its not what any of us actually want. Men are committing suicide in record numbers because they feel they cant live up to expectations, say the Samaritans. More men die each day as a result of suicide than road accidents, HIV and assaults combined say the charity CALM.
Personally, I've had enough. The next time, when I'm not feeling very much like reading from the script, and someone tells me to 'Man Up', I might very well stab them in the eye with a biro. But before I get sent down for aggravated assault, I'm going to write this regular Huff Post column to find out (a) who wrote these man scripts (b) who makes sure we follow them and (c) what happens when you tear them up and start again.
It doesn't make me politically correct. It doesn't make me a wimp. It probably makes me a feminist. It definitely makes me a real man.
Next Week: To shave or not to shave - the prickly issue of balls and the beauty mythSuggest a correction