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David Miller: Escaping the ‘Old Boys Network’

David Miller Online
Escaping the ‘Old Boys Network’

While doing some research for a column on Afghanistan, I happened to come across an article that featured in ‘The Press’ a few months ago concerning those people, or should I say men, who are believed trapped in the ‘old boys network’. I must admit I was amused when I read the article and it reminded me that despite the war on terrorism ongoing, the failure to find peace in the Middle East, the saga over Air New Zealand and of course the rugby, not all the stories in the media are tinged with such seriousness or melancholy. It also reminded of me the trouble some of the men in this country had found themselves in throughout this year, such when the Christine Rankin court battle was raging and when I decided to tell of my debate with Lisa in my column on dealing with powerful women and it made me wonder that perhaps there is something of the ‘old boy’ in all of us.

According to the article in ‘The Press’ the title ‘old boy’ refers to a male who is getting older age wise, but cannot alter their lifestyle accordingly. Hence while the hairlines are starting to recede and traces of grey can be found among the brown and the black, the old boy is still out on the weekends partying like a teenager, unable to commit to a permanent and lasting relationship and still harbouring a belief that girls still find them attractive. The article went on to claim that usually such people are friends with other old boys and together they form a kind of ageing brat pack who are destined for life long bachelorhood even though deep down they would love to find stability with the woman of their dreams.

Personally I felt the article was a little harsh and tended to tar too many people with the same brush. Of course there are those amongst us who fit this category perfectly but not all the old boys are beyond redemption. Two weekends ago I was enjoying a few drinks at a bar with a group of old friends, all of whom I had known for many years and indeed had grown up with. Here was a group of men who could qualify as old boys, at least that is what my mother thinks. We are all now pushing 30, regrettably, and to my knowledge there was not one permanent girlfriend to be found among us. Still we did not care as we were discussing the indoor cricket match from the previous week, the Ranfurly Shield and how much we enjoyed playing paintball a while back as part of a friends 30th birthday celebrations.

Old boys everyone of us, or so I would have thought until one of the chaps announces that while out on the town the previous Saturday he had met a 21 year old with whom he had found true love. Everyone was speechless and then the questioning began with the rest of us demanding to know all the details. In truth there was not much to tell, at that point they had only been out together once and that was to see The Fast And The Furious at the movies. Apparently the following evening was the big date and he needed some advice from his pals as what to do and what not to do.

Given that she was only 21 and still living at home with her parents, the first piece of brotherly advice he received was ‘don’t get her pissed’. The next piece of brotherly advice was more of a question and concerned how much money he could throw around before the cash-flow card declined. Then he asked me what I thought he should do.

My first piece of advice was that he should tell everyone before they found out through people and that included her parents. “Why?” he asked. I replied that it is polite to tell friends and relatives of such matter plus it gives you a chance to get your side of the story in first before her parents hear something that worries them through the grapevine. To be honest I felt guilty telling him this, as I had not followed my own advice. The boys now know that I am seeing the lovely Aimee but what they do not know is that both our sets of parents are none the wiser. In my defence I must point out that Aimee is younger than I am and I have also since heard her father is much bigger than me. He is not only likely to be furious that she is seeing a 29 year old and if he reads about our relationship in this column he is also likely to be concerned at the thought that Aimee may have got herself mixed up with some ghastly self-publicist.

Given that my friend has only just finished his tertiary education, my second piece of advice was to choose the restaurant wisely. This is of course something of a balancing act as the last thing he needed while trying to make a big impression was to go a whiter shade of pale when he saw the prices and heard her tell the waiter to bring over a bottle of his finest bubbly. This happened to my flatmate who after getting a surprise when he saw the menu at one of Christchurch’s Italian eateries developed that horrible feeling that he and the young lady would be washing the dishes. However on the other hand one cannot expect the poor girl to be taken to McDonalds.

A week later we all met for the update and I am happy to say things went beautifully. Our friend followed our advice to the letter and did us proud. His choice of restaurant was a wise one, the food was superb and they enjoyed each other’s company so much that they are still together. This called for a celebration and how I got home from the nightclub and at what time is anyone’s guess. But maybe there is hope for those in the ‘old boy’ network, maybe we can find the girl of our dreams if we are prepared to look and maybe turning up to the parent’s house is not such a terrible prospect for us. I have my doubts. Aimee is lovely and I am missing her terribly while she is away but I am still not sure about the family part. After all, what better way to bring a rural Mid-Canterbury family barbeque to a halt than to tell them all you prefer to watch the soccer.

PS Rugby is only a subject of melancholy if you support either Wellington or Auckland.

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