Benjamin by name, Benjamin by nature
I am a man. I know this. I enjoy scratching, I believe myself to be fascinating when I’m drunk and this month alone, I have shaved my face nearly seven times. So I’m comfortable that I am a man.
The trouble is the idea of what a man should be has changed a lot since I was growing up.
If you ask my friends what sort of man I am they will probably tell you – not a very good one. They will also say I’m cheap, arrogant. That I can’t form relationships with people that don’t rely on a shared interest of beer and pizza – grumpy, bad hair, to be honest the list went on a bit.
Never ask your friends what they think of you they might tell you. That is the last time I share a pizza with any of them.
The reason my friends don’t think I’m much of a man is because I can’t do anything particularly manly.
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I don’t know how to change a tyre, I know nothing about cars or football and the only fight I ever had was against a kitten with one leg. I lost but in my defence it was a very muscular one-legged kitten, almost a lion.
In fact aside from shaving, keeping an endless supply of dead batteries and being uncomfortable with hugs, the only manly thing I’ve ever done is DIY.
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I don’t actually know anything about DIY but that doesn’t stop me giving it a go. I am a man, remember.
Recently I acquired one of those marvellous girlfriends I had heard so much about. This is where the manliness scale lets me down. Its difficult to explain your intentions to another man’s daughter when you don’t even know what the electric hole on the wall is actually called. (It’s a socket apparently.)
What made it worse is she had just bought a house when I’d met her and so there I was with a paint brush, bucket and no clue what to do.
Craig David, in my eyes, got it very wrong. I met a girl on Monday, took her for a drink on Tuesday and on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday I was painting her radiators.
Then on Sunday I had to go back and go over the bits I missed. Mr David had a lot more fun. But, as my new girlfriend helpfully pointed out, I’m nowhere near as good looking as Craig David.
My level of interest in DIY depends on the scale of the job. If you ask me to sort out the garage my inner fire-maker will scoff.
I would feel my great grandfather looking down on you guffawing at the minuteness of the task I’ve been offered and I would walk away because it is a waste of my large toe nails and chest hair. However, if you ask me to build a new wing onto the flat I’m your man.
I’ll get out pens, pencils, plans and paper and instantly design a new wing. I’ll have no idea how to implement the design, the toast and marmite room alone would take up most of the money, but I would get a hard hat, the biggest digger I could find and a vest.
Then I’ll give it a go. Then I’ll call a man out to fix the mess and he will probably just put me in charge of the pencils. (It is unlikely, but if any of my ancestors built the pyramids they must have had administrative roles. Perhaps sales or H.R.)
There are moments when I sit there and wonder if my lack of male ability is something I should do more about.
Maybe I should learn more about cars or football and I should really know less about musicals and Kafka. But then I realised it isn’t really my fault.
Look at Bear Grylls. He survives in the jungle for weeks on end living off his wits and ability to tie knots. He’s called Bear for goodness sake and he’s not even a real Bear.
You can’t call someone Bear and then expect them to work in the admin team of a sales floor. Thanks to his parents that man had no choice but to grow into a bush jumping, lion wrestling jungle man because of his name.
My name is Benjamin. I spent last week deciding which soup I would take to work and being a bit awkward around Jenny from accounts.
Perhaps if my parents had called me Bear I would have grown up to become a Bear. Instead, I grew up to become a Benjamin. Its all their fault.