I like my in-laws

Looby posted recently about how he’s ended up liking his family without really expecting to, through the interplay of chance and social circumstances that ends up with you – sometimes – actually getting on with the people you’re related to. While I wouldn’t say I necessarily get on with my father these days, I have had a completely different – and healthier – relationship with my parents over the past five or ten years, which I’ll always be glad about. But that’s not what I want to talk about here.

I was an only child; while I wouldn’t say I was lonely growing up, I was certainly undersocialized. I lived a lot of the time in my head, reading books, playing on prototypal ’80s computers, and listening to late-night radio. Only when I got to university was I able – gauchely – to actually have a social circle. The only one I had at school – a private school, I admit – was made up entirely of boys, until we were forced to somehow make our way through a confusingly and intimidatingly co-ed sixth form.

And yet: despite formative socializing which was almost all male – or maybe because of it – I tend to prefer the company of women. Many of my friends at university were women; most of the others were men who also preferred the company of women. My earliest temp jobs were in historically female-dominated sectors: catering, office administration, publishing. The office dynamics were somehow always more relaxed; or maybe, as I naturally tended towards the culture of such offices, I was simply more relaxed in them.

When I married K, I married into a social solar system whose nearest orbits were taken up almost entirely by women: with the exception of a father-in-law, who despite his protestations is probably also most suited temperamentally to the company of his daughters; and also the more distant sets of cousins, the closer ones to K at the time all being female. Suddenly I also went from an only child to a married man with two sisters-in-law.

And although it was intimidating at first – as any new family members might be – I have since grown to appreciate their company and familial affection, and am also able to act as the social balance for my father-in-law that lets him tick the patriarchal box by drinking a beer with me, so that we can both then be happy in the novelty of our roles as members of a minority gender, embedded in the gender that we get on with better anyway.

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2 Responses to I like my in-laws

  1. looby says:

    I’ve always got on best with women too. I find people who play their cards close to their chests frustrating after a while, and I find the way that men are socialised into doing this inhibits friendship (of course, there are many individual exceptions).

    The atmopshere in the female dominated work environments I’ve worked in hasn’t always been relaxed though. Women can make dramas out of things which men get over more quickly. Watching the occasional furies of a spurned or offended woman, as it’s played out in office life, was a fascinating spectator sport.

  2. smallbeds says:

    “Relaxed” is the wrong word. I suppose “at home” is a better way of putting it, although it does more clearly assume that the feeling is down to my internal temperament rather than the external culture of the workplace.

    More than the fact that men are often buttoned up in social situations, I feel sometimes with a large group of men like conversations often turn into competitions; it’s often a competition about a subject, or in a specific discourse, which gives me a kind of indigestion of the mind when I participate.

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