Month: May 2014

JJ’s Young Man

I woke up this morning to see I had received a message from a girlfriend. ‘I have an assignment to finish but when I am done I am coming to visit you’. There then followed an icon of a plane and a thumbs up.

It reminded me of an interesting few days I spent in Europe earlier this spring and a few conversations I’ve had with other men recently.

I first saw JJ on a sunny spring morning as I walked down to the market to get the ingredients for my breakfast. She is a well dressed, intelligent looking, beautiful young girl and when I saw her she struck me as a modern day Lois Lane type. She wore over-sized black rims, sported long well kept dark hair and looked like there was a lot going on behind the eyes. I said hello to her and commented on the Lois Lane comparison.

What kind of Superman does this woman date?

What kind of Superman does this woman date?

During our conversation she was quite nervous. I couldn’t put my finger on it but she acted like one might act were they interrupted in the middle of something they shouldn’t be doing and wanted the interrupting party out of the way as soon as possible. Yet she made a lot of running in the conversation, asking about me, not wanting to leave.

Eventually, my turn in the queue came and went and it was time for me to head back. I invited her for a coffee later that day and she said she couldn’t, then she left.

A chance meeting in the street two days later and JJ and I went for a coffee. Now, as an aside, she told me something that explained her initial nervousness.

She told me she saw me walking down the hill and thought I was a well dressed handsome guy. She told me she said to herself ‘I’d love it if he came to speak to me’. When I did, the coincidence of it took her slightly by surprise.

Now the interesting thing about Jola was, at that time, that she had a boyfriend. Over the course of a week or so we went on a few dates and we discussed her particular situation with her boyfriend. She told me how he was very emotional, very jealous, he checked up on her constantly, often insinuated she was cheating and really, she had generally grown to find him tedious. However, she felt immense guilt about this because he was her boyfriend of several years and she felt she should be loyal to the relationship and work at it.

What struck me was that Jola’s description of her boyfriend sounded like someone quite immature. Indeed when I asked her, he told me he was the same age as her. Both 22.

I put it to Jola that her boyfriend wasn’t a bad guy. He just was too immature for her. We considered how he hadn’t fully grown up yet. He wasn’t yet a man. The behaviour she described of him was that of an impudent, angry youth. A child who has not yet been out in the world and earned his successes, still confused and relying heavily on the collaboration of others. Jola is a beautiful, smart, confident 22 year old woman. In Jola’s particular situation, her boy is simply not top man enough to run with her but she is woman enough to earn a ticket with the top men.

A Rolls Royce of a woman, needs a top quality man and sometimes, boys don’t become men for a long, long time. If ever.

We mused that in Jola’s case, it was almost like her and her boy had got together in their late teens and over the following few years, her rate of personal growth had just outstripped that of her man child’s.

Now it’s important to understand my relationship with Jola, while certainly romantic (she is the kid of woman I date and I am the kind of man she wants to date going forwards) is not sexual. This wasn’t me talking Jola out of leaving her boyfriend. I made that clear. I had no dog in this fight.

No doubt when Jola left her boy child, he was distraught. He probably thought his life was over. What he doesn’t realise maybe, is that the road from boy to man can be a long one. I personally don’t think I grew into anything resembling an admirable, capable man until I hit my early 30s. Everything I did in my 20s was just mistakes leading me to the man I was to become. I still think I am on that journey. At 36, I still think I am in training for the man I will become. A man’s peak can be as late as his 50s.

I meet friends of friends all the time. Guys in their 30s who are single and talk about how they feel like they’re being left on the shelf. They aren’t even out of the traps yet and they are talking about how they have failed.

On the same holiday I met a young lady outside a clothes shop. She looked like the kind of girl who would have modelled in an INXS video. Tall, slim, beautiful. She was 23 and turned out she was in international photo-shoot model.

Looking for a frantic, emotional teenager she can take care of?

Looking for a frantic, emotional teenager she can take care of?

While I spoke to her I got the impression she considered me sweet but not date-able. At some point she asked me my age and as soon as I told her I was 36 her whole manner changed. I could see in her eyes that she was now seeing me as a serious romantic option. I invited her for coffee, she readily accepted.

Sometimes a man’s light takes time to start burning. I see that more readily now.

Richard Scudamore and Donald Sterling

I don’t want to talk politics on my blog but a large part of my freedom I enjoy and the life I have chosen stems from my career choice. I haven’t chosen the career that pays most, I haven’t chosen the most impressive.

I have chosen the one that gives me the most freedom from the demands of others.

The work place can be a mine-field. A few weeks ago it was Donald Sterling, now it’s Richard Scudamore. Two people at the top of the sporting profession who have made the mistake of talking freely in  private conversation in the workplace. Well, when I say talking freely, I mean saying things that we all don’t like. You’d think at their position that they’d know they are not allowed to do this.

Just so we’re all on the same page, what did Richard Scudamore actually say. In company emails to a friend he reportedly:

Made innuendo involving women. About a game of golf his friend was having with a woman he made  some reference to her ‘polishing his shaft’ or something.

Said women are irrational or some such.

Passed on a joke which included the words ‘big-titted broad’

It’s one of the reasons (office politics) I left my career to become a contractor. Since I did I’ve never looked back. As I type this, I am at my home in the UK, the sun is out, the breeze is flowing through my conservatory, I am sipping a fruity drink and later I have a friend calling round for Sundowners.  We’ll talk, sing and play a little guitar.

The life of a contractor is thus: Work for a pre determined period of time, say 3-6 months, get paid an extraordinary amount (remember though, you have to support yourself and cover all bills while you are out of contract), take time off (could be weeks, could be months) to do what you want while you look for a new contract.

The benefits are:

1) More money.

2) Lots of time off.

3) Freedom from career pressures.

4) When you start paying top tax bracket (you end up working more days for the Government than for yourself) you just stop working.

So back to Scudamore and Sterling. I remember two years ago working for a big company in London. I had roughly the following conversation.

– Are you coming for work drinks this Friday, have you been given a pass?

Me –  What’s a pass?

– Has your girlfriend said you’re allowed to come out?

Me – I’m a grown man. I decide what I am allowed to do.

– I think you’ll find your girlfriend is the boss.

Me – My girlfriend tends to defer to my judgement if anything. In our gang, I suppose I’m the leader.

– That’s really sexist. You should join Al Qaeda.

Me – I am 36 and a man, she is 23 and a girl. She sort of sees me as being the senior. It’s one of the reasons she likes me. She enjoys the guidance of a man.

I’d accidentally, in an unguarded moment, said something sexist. I hadn’t meant to be sexist. I’d let my guard down in the workplace. I didn’t even realize while I said it that it was sexist. While possibly not quite at the extremes of Donald Sterling (admittedly racism not sexism) and Richard Scudamore’s comments,  I had made a similar mistake to them – I hadn’t watched carefully what I had said.

A few days later I was called into my manager’s office, I was told I’d been complained about for being sexist and that I’d have to watch it going forward. I was on a warning.

It’s hard to know what we’re allowed to say and what we are not and there are quite a lot of grey areas. I also hadn’t said anything that wasn’t true. That makes it even harder. There’s a virtual rule book which tells you what you’re allowed to say, but you have to know the rules and even if you know them, grey areas can trip you up. Even some truths you’re not allowed to say. Also, as we see with Scudamore and Sterling, you can be in trouble for what you say in private with a friend too.

In office politics you have to know the game and the rules of the game change all the time and often at a person’s whim. What is fine on Monday with person A is a serious crime on Tuesday with person B.

Well, no thanks. The simplest solution is just to opt out.

And that’s how I ended up here. As a contractor I can turn up to a new place of work and only being there for 3 months, I’m largely excluded from the bickering and back stabbing. I can keep quiet as much as possible and just get by. I now contribute only as much as I absolutely must, what my duties demand and no more. As soon as I have made my money, I am out of there.

The downside is that there are a lot of ideas and qualities I could contribute that may never see the light of day. It’s not all roses, but on the whole, it’s the best solution for ME.

I have never looked back. It’s been one of the best decisions I have ever made.