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Same time next year: Why men really do need the silly rituals of the 'boys' weekend'

Opinion

They might be childish and puerile, but rituals played out on a boys’ weekend are food for the soul, writes Michael Blucher

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“Is it wrong,” the bleary eyed reveller asked, ”that approaching the age of 60, I still need to check my luggage to make sure nobody’s hidden a dead fish in my bag?”

The question was asked in jest, but at the same time, he certainly wasn’t ruling it out. Not without a quick search, just to be perfectly sure.

On “weekends of fellowship” – a more elaborate way of talking about blokes going away together and being childish – old habits die hard. If at all.

A lot of middle-aged males I know heartily embrace this practice. Golf trips, fishing trips, mountain biking trips, surfing trips, camping trips, punting weekends – it doesn’t matter what the platform of escape – it’s the escape itself that’s important.

Routinely these trips take place once a year – we go away for a few days to catch up, to relive old memories and recapture past glories. The same lame jokes, the same well-worn stories, embellished almost beyond recognition. What’s that old saying? The older we get, the better we were. Nostalgia, as we know, can be a seductive liar. But how much fun?

At this point, I need to address the elephant in the room, as I can picture the female reader/s preparing to protest indignantly. Why should the men get to go away, and we don’t?

Two important points, Your Honour. We, the household defendants, are all in favour of the girls going away. In some instances, insistent – in fact the longer the better. But surely it’s not up to us to organise the said weekend escapes? Besides, there’s no way known to man we’d get the logistics right. We wouldn’t get anything right.

Point two – even more important – neuroscience and the accompanying social constructs point to men needing to go away on such trips. And regularly, because get togethers of this nature link strongly with male mental health and wellbeing.

The old friends, the familiarity, the ridiculous rituals and repetitious childish frivolity is what nourishes the brain. It’s food for the soul.

Seriously, Google it. Or read Shawn Anchor’s book “The Happiness Advantage”. There’s been extensive studies carried out on this stuff.

The code of SMB (Secret Men’s Business) of course prohibits me from delving too deeply into what routinely transpires on such bonding weekends, but I can say this with impunity – girls, it’s not what you think. It’s worse.

On the positive side, I can confirm there’s never been a life lost on account of beds not being made or the dish washer not being properly stacked. Amazing.

Like a lot of blokes, I recognised the therapeutic value of boys’ weekends away at a very early age. I can still remember the first one – a fishing excursion to Fingal Head with my mate Bill. Can you imagine the disappointment when, after driving all that way, we realised we’d forgotten to pack the rods? Thank goodness Bill remembered the rum.

Over the years, we’ve become a lot more organised, even sophisticated. Matching shirts, shorts, caps, themed stubbie holders, even trophies, awarded for touring excellence and/or unbridled stupidity. There’s been some trips where there were more trophies than tourists. How could that scenario fail to please? Winners, one and all.

For a few years, around the “arrival of children” phase of adulthood, the boys’ weekend away was threatened with extinction, or at the very least, abeyance. Thankfully, there were a couple of forceful types doggedly determined for the “tradition to continue”.

New excuses were found for touring – landmark birthdays for instance. How could you let those pass without appropriate acknowledgment and fanfare?

It was during such harried times that we saw the birth of “The G40” – a weekend at Stradbroke, marking the 40th birthday of our good mate Geoff, who fate would have it, owned a house on the island. So good of him to let us share it, even if, in year one, it was a surprise.

Geoff’s much closer to 60 than 50 now, but that’s never impeded us celebrating his 40th. Annually.

“Hey boys, a reminder Geoff is turning the big 4-0 this year… any thoughts of how we should mark the occasion?” the self-appointed CEO of The G40 movement will write in a widely circulated, predictably-phrased email.

“What about a weekend at Stradbroke?” one will respond.

“Great idea. Any thoughts on where we should stay?

“I know a bloke with a place…”

“Seriously? That’s fantastic. Can you see if it’s available?”

And on it goes, year after year, the same childish, banal banter, reminding us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The bloke who can never back his ute onto the barge without 11 failed prior attempts; the one-legged beach barbecue that invariably collapses or topples, sending the sausages sand-wards; the 80s vinyl, the cocktail competition, complete with tasting notes and the threat of punishment for any pre-island mixing. The Friday night paella, the outdated beach permits, and the captain’s call – a nine-leg “all-up” multi bet, promising returns in the tens of thousands – per punter – should all the results fall our way. No sign of it happening yet.
One year that Geoff turned 40, we got four legs up, but we live in eternal hope that the big payday is nearby, perhaps buried in the sandhills of Deadman’s Beach, like a tiny turtle egg, waiting to hatch.

Then of course, to cap off the weekend, the old “hide the bream in the overnight bag” trick…. talk about sophisticated humour. Bahahaha. These guys are good.

A few years back, we lost one of the G40 originals to the indiscriminate bastard that is cancer. The following autumn, we sprinkled some of his ashes off the headland at Cylinder Beach. The remainder are kept in an op-shop urn that, every year, we take across to the island and stand, pride of place, in the middle of the table. Once there were tears, now there are just toasts. The memory of our great mate lives large, just like him.

Old friends. They know where you’ve come from, they know who you are, and they know where you’ve been. There’s no hiding, and certainly no pretence. Just comfort and belonging.

Boys, if you don’t have your annual catch-ups, I’d encourage you to start. And coax your wife into doing the same thing. It’s a win-win, I promise.

You won’t have to shower or make the beds or stack the dishwasher with caution or precision.

Probably just hold off on the “bream in the bag” trick for a few years, until she understands what real touring is all about.

 

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