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Speaking the Unspeakable

By Michael Elias

Sometimes it seems anything men do is wrong. Either they’re a workaholic or a cave man. Perhaps women just need to learn that what men say and what they mean are two completely different things.

The gulf between what men say and what men think – and what we actually mean – is a perennial favourite to ponder. Is it a greater gap for men than women? Are women more transparent and truthful? Do we want different things from each other, or do we just want to be loved and have someone to snuggle up with later at night? And just how true are the old stereotypes when the genders are more confused than ever?

According to the old adage, all men are bastards. But chat with a group of women for a few minutes and men are also bullies, wimps, emotionally unavailable, Mummy’s boys, abusers, abandoners, stupid, useless, lazy, and dirty. Oh, and don’t forget that they are only after one thing and it’s not your Manolo Blahniks. Is it any wonder that suicide is the number one cause of death for men under the age of 35 in the UK? No wonder men get a bad reputation for not saying much, when we’re already judged and damned.

So my friend Ed and I had an idea. We wanted to find out what men really think. Over fourteen months, we recorded our friends’ conversations, giving voice to the dark side of our male psyches. Then we put our findings in a book, “MEN Speak the Unspeakable”. These are some of our findings…

Why don't men talk?
“My Dad didn’t speak.”
“Men in my family didn’t speak about anything worthwhile, so I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“I wasn’t brought up that way. We were brought up to hide our feelings–stiff upper lip, stiff drink, hold it together.”
“I do speak, though I suppose it’s safely devoid of any depth or emotion.”
“My male role models seemed to internalize everything; and my peers would take the piss if I talked about anything that actually meant anything.”
“Who am I allowed to say what with? Where and how do I start? This is all new to me.”

Why does no one listen to me?
“It hurts too much to finally speak, then to be ignored, corrected, argued with, talked over or told that ‘if only I had listened to blah blah blah in the first place…’”
“I only want someone to sit with me and listen, not bloody well butt in every few seconds and try to fix me.”
“I want empathy, not sympathy! Otherwise I’d go to my Mum.”
“I know that if I spoke about certain things with my mates, they would think I’m going weird on them and just change the subject back to nonsense.”
“It’s not worth talking unless I say it right. I can’t even use my own words. If I sound aggressive, it’s because I have feelings and I need to express them. I am so frustrated that all I can do is just skin-up and go numb again.”
“Everyone seems to have an ulterior motive, or a way they want me to be, mainly for their own selfish benefits. Apart from a group like this, I have nowhere to begin to honestly express myself. I have no intention of paying a shrink a fortune and spending years learning trendy, girly, ‘therapy talk’. It’s just not me. I’m a man.”

What are men afraid of?
“The risk of humiliation is too high.”
“I’d rather hide my weaknesses and show that I’m the same.”
“I’d rather sell myself as doing well to whoever I’m with and deal with what’s going on inside by myself. I’m not showing anyone I’m a failure.”
“My mates take the piss. About everything. All the time. I’d rather get pissed with them and have mates, than be the victim of their abuse and lose my standing. Anyway, we speak all the time, especially when we’re pissed – we just don’t say much! There’s nothing we can do about our situations anyway…”
“I’m just a fool, why would I want to speak and prove everyone right?”
“I hate the embarrassed silences that can follow when I sometimes open my mouth. Silence, until it’s ignored away. Then paranoia.”

Michael Elias and Edward Seeker met at the Sex & Spirit Conference at the Findhorn Foundation, Scotland and became unlikely friends. They (somehow) ended up taping conversations, as they checked in, while exorcising their own shadows. The result is "MEN Speaking the Unspeakable". Two men spill the beans on their hilariously shocking journeys into manhood. Mind, body, spirit ... and balls!
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