You must have brothers in your life. We need fathers, but we also need men of our own generation and times to share our feelings with. We need brothers to get drunk with, to wrestle, to play sport against, talk shit with.
Several real male friendships, forged over time, are worth a million times more than the dalliances that consume most teenage and young men’s time. You probably need both, but men are not reminded or taught that they need each other as brothers. They generally do not view other men as brothers. At best, they are strangers and are indifferent. At worst, they are looking for a fight, looking for someone to shame, someone to compete with and better.
Understanding a true brother takes time, and can only be forged through actions and experiences, more than words. Forged is the right word, in the sense of a blacksmith forging a piece of steel. It takes time. It is hand-made and reflects the personality of the smith. And it is imperfect, but it cannot be truly made any other way. You cannot buy friendship, you have to forge it yourself.
If you have no biological brother, like me, it is both easier and harder. Easier because you can pick your brothers, you can be fussy. But also harder, because at least your biological brother will, for better or worse, still be your brother.
But whether your brothers are from the same or another mother, you must have them, for they offer you what women cannot. They offer understanding, because they are men of your own age. They have more or less recently lived or are living what you have. No years of pain and experience moderate their view, as with fathers and grandfathers. Your brothers are living with their hearts in the same time as you. Women have little idea of what true male friendship is – they usually think it centres solely on beer, cars, TV and football. It might, but these are not the centre-stage reason for your mates, or at least shouldn’t be.
You give your brothers freedom. Freedom from women, and their usually boxed vision of the world. Some women may know this and, in typical female style, perceive mates as a threat to their power, seeking to cut you off from them. Truly realised women understand that you need your mates to keep sane.
Brothers understand your problems and your heartaches. They will listen to you. But they also have no fear of waking you up to your own vanity or neuroticism. True brothers will bring you into line, if you are out of line. They speak your language and will be as blunt as necessary to help you realise if you’ve gone wrong.
Brothers help us regain a sense of fun that we somehow lost as teenagers being disciplined at school, or as young men made to feel guilty for all the problems in the world. Brothers help us break the rules and create a little haven of political incorrectness and subversiveness – if only for a little time.
I watch with sadness at how married men allow their friendships to atrophy, the zest, harshness and zaniness of youthful male friendship long forgotten. But the truth is that we need these brothers all through our life. They will be there, after the devastating break-up or divorce. They will be there, after you lose your job or go bankrupt.
A group of brothers will look after each other – magical fairies or crickets won’t show up to stop you taking your own life. It’s more likely to be John, who turns up in his ute, weighs 90kg, and plays footy on the weekend.