Personal Essays

The Man Who Loved to Have Coffee With Women

From playing with childhood friends to sharing tips with other new parents, the author concedes he just gets along better with girls.

Marilyn Minter, Little Girls #3, 1987. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94 New York.

I don’t know why it is. But for years, I have got along better, on the whole, with girls.

Unlike most men, I find it very easy to chat and socialize with women. I don’t feel uncomfortable when I’m the only male in a room full of females. It’s happened to me so much that I’m used to it. The vast majority of my closest friends are female. They always have been. I just get along better with girls.

I do have some male friends. We drink beer and we talk about girls. All perfectly normal. But I’ve noticed that a lot of them tend to be men like me. They get along well with girls too.

It works the other way. Stuck in social situations with men I don’t know very well, my conversation gland begins to shrivel up. I can’t talk about football because I have no interest in it. I can’t talk about TV because I don’t really watch much. I don’t wish to talk about the weather because that’s just too dull. Inevitably, blokes talk about football at me anyway. I just mumble and nod and pretend I know what they’re saying. It’s nothing personal, it’s not intentional. I’m not trying to be unfriendly. I just get along better with girls.

There have been times when, mixing with a group of adults, I’ve found myself choosing to sit down with the women for a chat. I’m more myself then. To be honest, I’m usually pretty quiet. I’ll sit and listen and nod and sometimes interject, but at least when the moment comes, I’ll have something worth saying. Close female friendships have been part of my life since I left the all-boys school I attended as a teenager. (Perhaps my attending an all-boys school has a lot to answer for here; although not all my classmates turned out like me, so I’m not convinced that that explains it.) I made one friend through teenage amateur acting. She became a confidant over tea and cake in her mother’s kitchen. Another accompanied me to hundreds of gigs. Another encouraged me to start writing. Another became my wife. I’ve met more since. My wife’s used to it and isn’t bothered. She knew me well enough before we married to understand that I just get along better with girls. 

We had a baby—we moved out of London and had a baby. After maternity leave, she returned to her full time job and I returned to freelancing, which meant I did the daytime childcare. It made sense. Suddenly I was a house-husband. It didn’t bother me. Me and the baby got along fine. I get along fine with babies, too. 

As you do with babies, we went to baby events. They’re full of mums, loads of mums with babies. We went to a few that were difficult. The mums gave me weird looks. I tried getting into conversation, but they looked like they thought I was some kind of lunatic, even though I had a baby with me. We didn’t return to those events. Then I took the baby to a coffee group. They met every Thursday morning, taking turns to be the host. Standing outside a stranger’s house with my baby boy in my arms, I took a deep breath, despite knowing that I get along better with girls.

In the evenings, I’d talk to my wife about the events of the day and I’d casually say something like, “And one of the other mums said so-and-so,” and my wife would laugh.

“This will not be intimidating,” I said to myself. “I get along well with girls. This will be fine.”

I knocked on the door. It was fine. It was great. The small group of mums welcomed me and treated me like a human being, and I had a new bunch of friends and that was that. I took my place on the rota and hosted coffee mornings at my house. I was one of gang. In the evenings, I’d talk to my wife about the events of the day and I’d casually say something like, “And one of the other mums said so-and-so,” and my wife would laugh.

“So you’re one of the mums too, are you?” she’d say. I suppose so, I’d reply. We both understood it. I just get along better with girls.

The baby grew into a toddler, and the toddler became a kid. He went to school with his peers, and the coffee morning rota passed into other hands. But I still saw the mums at the school gates. I was still freelance, so I did the walks to and from school each day. It made sense. It didn’t bother me. It provided punctuation for the day. In the school playground, mums gathered in little huddles. I lurked and flitted and chatted. I got to know some new faces. I expected to. I get along better with girls.

Sometimes, my boy would invite a friend round to play. The friend’s mother (almost always the mother) would come to fetch their child, and would sit in our kitchen and drink a cup of tea and ask me how come things are the way they are in our family: all back-to-front and inside-out. I’d explain some of it. The stuff about the freelancing, and how it made sense. But not all of it—I wouldn’t go into the detail. It’s not something you say directly, not something you declare to people, be they male or female. It’s not something you depend upon. You can’t —I don’t—expect to instantly strike up a friendship with every female on the planet. It’s just that on the whole, generally speaking, when there’s a choice of people to talk to, I’ll talk to the women more. I’ll probably talk to them first. I can’t explain why or how I ended up like this. I just get along better with girls.

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