HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around masculinity in the 21st Century, and the pressures men face around identity. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, from bringing up young boys to the importance of mentors, the challenges between speaking out and 'manning up' as well as a look at male violence, body image, LGBT identity, lad culture, sports, male friendship and mental illness.
Firstly, an apology to Will, Jack, Sam, Miranda, Pat and Johnny who probably thought they'd be in the running - but as I approach 30 and become more reflective and pensive than ever, I've realised that me and my old man, Alan, have become best mates and I'm incredibly proud of that.
It's something that has taken 29 years to master. Growing up, our relationship was a mixture of going down the park to play cricket, going to the Oval to watch cricket and taking me to deepest darkest Essex to play cricket. Quite cricket heavy then. Oh, and in the winter I'd force both parents to drive me to Chelmsford every Saturday to do indoor nets instead of getting cold and hurt playing rugby. As well as cricket, he also got me into comedy, and to this day we still communicate in Fawlty Towers and Dad's Army quotes. His nickname for me is Fawlty. He's The Major. But not quite as bigoted.
Both my parents were teachers, my dad a headteacher and he was really good at it. Luckily, it wasn't at the same school I went to. I can only imagine the horror of that. I think you'd be treated as spy. And not in a 'here's an Aston Martin and a hot girl' way, in a 'don't tell your dad that the geography teachers bought us all Jagerbombs on the eve of your 18th birthday' kind of way. By the way, Mr Howard, thank you. And also, I did tell my dad. But it didn't matter as he wasn't your boss. He was actually quite impressed. He was bought some Jagerbombs of his own by my friends at a recent birthday and the next morning called me and asked me what those 'little drinks' he kept being given were called.
I feel like I've gone off topic. I sometimes feel like I didn't do 'being a teenager' properly because I genuinely don't remember getting bollocked by them. But actually, I just think they were really relaxed. They let my sister and I mess up then afterwards take us to one side and say, 'probably best not to do that again, hey?'. I don't remember my dad ever controlling what I did. If I wanted to do something he'd offer advice and be there for me, but was never one to say 'no' just for the sake of parenting. This is something I'll steal from him when I eventually get round to having a family - which, by the way I can't wait for. Maybe my semi-famous child will write about me in The Huffington Post one day. A boy can dream.
Speaking of being semi-famous, my dad has been instrumental in my success thus far. Sorry for saying 'thus'. Maybe I'll try and put in a 'doth' and 'thou art' before I wrap this up. Anyway, 'ere' I wanted to become a Radio 1 presenter, it was my dad's fault for getting me hooked on being on a stage and performing in front of people. His training was in english and drama, and I absolutely caught my passion for 'the arts' from him. He is a master of them, after all. (He's got an MA).
I, as a lowly bachelor (of arts, and also a batchelor as it goes) knew that performing, presenting, 'holding court'... generally arse-ing about, was exactly what I wanted to do and he never once thought it was a bad idea. This allowed me to go for it, and I couldn't be happier with how it's turned out. I have ended up doing an extremely sought-after job which I love so much, but, as with all good jobs, it has its challenges. It is tough and you have to sacrifice certain things and you have to be careful who you confide in and trust. It's also incredibly stressful and pressurised at times. They'll be people who will read that last sentence and say 'yeah you're a lucky git for getting to do it though so stop moaning'. I'm very cautious to ever say publicly that I find my job hard for that very reason. Because yes, I am very lucky and it is a dream. But when you get your 'dream job' you never think of the shit bits of it. I won't list them here, but I do list them to my dad regularly. And that is incredibly helpful. He has become so much more than the bloke I went down the park to play cricket with as a kid. He has become my closest confidant. He knows everything. I've told him everything. Whether it be a relationship that I've messed up, someone I'm jealous of, a bad show I've done, a person I've accidentally killed... (just checking you're still paying attention)... I tell him everything is my point. And that is a wonderful feeling. And I'd be lost without it.
I'm in the really fortunate position of being invited to things I would go to anyway. Mainly sporting events and cricket dinners; The Ashes, the Grand Prix, Rugby World Cup to name but a few and dad is almost always plus one. It's first and foremost because I want to have an excuse to see him and because I know he'll love it but also it's because I want him to know how grateful I am for his friendship and how thankful I am for his support. He's also an incredibly sociable man and is a great fun plus one. People gravitate towards him and if I can be half as popular as he is when I'm 100 years old like him, I'll be happy man.
The first question at most sporting events I go to is 'how's your dad?' Or better still 'Is your dad here?' In fact, I got asked back to the Rugby World Cup Final by Will Carling because he got on so well with my dad. Will Carling is my dad's hero by the way so you can imagine how excited he was. People love talking to him, he's never a show off, always interested in what you have to say, gives great advice and never outstays his welcome. Except when I leave him in the company of very beautiful PR girls at Lord's because I have to go off and do my show. 'Will you be OK if I go, dad?' The reply from our hosts is always, 'Oh don't worry, we'll look after him, Greg!' As they hand him another glass of wine, he raises it to me as I trudge off to the BBC. Playing second fiddle to such a impressive chap is absolutely fine with me. If you're going to be number two to anyone, it probably should be your hero. The man who made me.
PS: I must just say this for fear of anyone (Mum) thinking I have a favourite parent here. But Mum, please take this up with The Huffington Post, they wanted me to talk about Dad. You still give the best hugs. And you were best at doing my art homework for me. And also, he doesn't flirt with PR girls. Too much.
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