Ruban's blog: P.S. I Love You
How did three of the shortest words, when combined, make up one of the most powerful phrases known to the human race? The modern slayer of men's confidence, the words that turn them into a quivering mess of stuttering vowels and consonants, and the precursor to a series of many an awkward exchange. What is it about these three words that can stop us dead in our tracks?
I recently had the fortune of attending the Happy Place Festival at Chiswick House, London. Happy Place, the brainchild of broadcaster Fearne Cotton, started life as a podcast in 2018 to drive joy and self-empowerment through story sharing and expert's wisdom. It's success then expanded it into an annual bi-location festival featuring guest speakers, workshops, and more. And so, it was as I bounded along, happy as Larry, alongside my good friend and our families into the festival for our first time on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon. I was particularly pleased with myself for wearing a jumper emblazoned with the words 'Choose Love' because after all, who wouldn't want to choose love at a happy go lucky place such as this? It turns out that oversized boldness of the lettering also caught the eye of the festival 2-man media crew who cornered me just as I was scooping up free cans of sponsored flavoured water for the troops.
"Would you mind if we ask you a few questions" they said. My friend and I both nodded but they proceeded to side-line him, presumably due to the lack of bold lettering on his clothing.
"When was the last time you said, 'I love you' to a male friend?" they asked. A bead of sweat formed at my brow as it started to dawn on me that this wasn't going to go the way I thought it would. "Errrr.....I cannot remember at all" I stuttered. I could not possibly tell them the truth that it would have probably been on a bender back in the hedonistic early 2000s.
"That's ok" they said. "We're asking men if they would call one of their friends live now to say that they love them. Would you be up for doing it for Happy Place?". I started to curse the day I bought this flaming 'love' signpost of a jumper as another bead of sweat dropped. The brain started whizzing with who I could possibly call without them bursting into uncontrollable laughter or thinking I was dying from an incurable illness. "No" I simply replied. Fearne Cotton is going to hate me now I thought. There was another minute of further pain until the interview ended. I laughed uncomfortably as I joked how there wasn't any material for them to use.
The whole affair haunted me for the remainder of the festival so much so that I considered burning the jumper. How could I 'choose love ' but be unable to say it to those dearest to me. It did get me thinking why it is so difficult for a lot of men to express their affection for their closest comrades without fear of being laughed at? Up until this point I thought I was quite a forward-thinking modern chap, but perhaps not. Was I back to square one in thinking that I had to live up to male stereotypes in embracing friendship through strong handshakes and powerful nods? Who is more fearful in this exchange? Is it the 'sender' who fears mockery as a response and a loss of 'being a man' (whatever that means at the moment), or the 'recipient', who confuses it to be as an awkward 'coming out' moment?
In reflection, what hurt most of all was that I didn't need to call anyone. I had a great friend standing a few feet away from me. One that understood and appreciated who I was without judgement. One that I could say I love without fear of being mocked. For that I am sorry. And to Fearne Cotton for that awful interview. To him, and to my other close male cohorts, don't laugh but, I love you.
p.s. I am not dying of an incurable illness.
Ruban is a husband to one amazing wife, father to two wonderful young boys, and a willing slave to all three. When he is not dancing around with a child on his shoulders or ferrying them around on piggyback, he can be seen attempting to kick footballs, save worlds on his Playstation and occasionally audit some things for a lucky City insurance firm.