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.