Nearly two years ago, I was over in my friend James’s house to check out the Playstation virtual reality set-up he had gotten himself. It was then he told me that he was going to be a father. I got a little emotional. I was so excited, I had been dreaming of this moment since childhood. A real virtual reality game – in your own home. Unbelievable. It didn’t disappoint.
I haven’t seen James in ages. And so – as I was back in Dublin recently and a good friend – I figured it was time to catch up. He decided on coffee. Pints were out of the question. He’s not allowed out anymore, or so he claims. To be fair, he looked well, almost content – I assume it was the lack of beer recently and not fatherhood that was adding a spring to his step. It was then he broke one of society’s unspoken taboos. It’s a problem that is uprooting platonic friendships everywhere – we need to spread awareness. He started talking about his baby and didn’t stop.
A recent report revealed that men become most lonely in their thirties. The phenomenon is blamed on several factors including relationship breakdown, moving for work and friends settling down.
I moved to London a few years ago but I go back to Ireland every couple of months, always making sure not to miss out on big social occasions, engagement parties, baby storms and Christmas.
Friends getting married didn’t really affect things too much. But after some deep consideration, I’ve figured out the real issue is babies, and friends talking about their babies constantly. I love my friends and their kids. I just can’t relate. I’ve been to more birthday parties for toddlers than adults in the past two years.
During our coffee James said, “Kevin can count up to ten”. Good for him, I thought, that’s something at least. Maybe we can get him a job pushing trolleys or something. It was only when James said he was now reading the second Harry Potter book to Kevin that I remembered we weren’t talking about an adult but a toddler – James’s toddler, Kevin. Of course we were. I take another sip of coffee and nod as if I’m listening.
James is the first of my friends to have a child. And, from how he bangs on about it, is the first human dad in existence. I understand that James is a proud father and I get that he’s excited about every little thing his son does. But he used to be the most hilarious and entertaining guy I knew. He needs to understand that every little thing that is exciting to him is not relevant to everyone else – well, to me at least.
I know this sounds harsh. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve actually met Kevin twice and he seems like a decent guy. Hasn’t got much to say for himself, but I’m sure that will change in time. Maybe the baby talk annoys me because I don’t have one. No doubt my attitude would change if I did. One day, hopefully I will, but right now I don’t think I’m ready.
A key benefit to being a dad, from what I can tell, is that just when life is becoming boring, you have a new person to show the world off to. You can appreciate life through their eyes. Like showing someone the film Goodfellas for the first time – you enjoy them enjoying it. Side note: kids don’t like Goodfellas, they don’t get it and they don’t seem to care that it’s one of my all-time favourites. They tend to prefer films like Frozen, on repeat.
I think the real problem is that James is settled now and I am not. That is his life, and it’s different to mine. I think my irritation at the baby talk is more soreness at my own life than resentment at his.
As I finish my coffee, James asks me about how comedy and things are going. I say they’re going grand. James tells me he’s delighted for me. I’m not sure. I am now more and more conscious that something important is missing from my life. I am well aware that I’m not getting any younger.
It’s a big step. It’s very expensive. It pretty much kills your social life, but ultimately I think it’s worth it. I think it’s time I took the leap. Screw it, I’m going to do it. There will never be a right time. Why not now? Amazon are doing a deal – four hundred quid for the headset, move-motion controller twin pack and camera all included. I order it on my phone with one-click, and then I ask for another coffee. James asks me to be Kevin’s godfather – I don’t think I’ll have time.
Conor will be performing All My Friends Are Dead at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, from August 2-28, 6pm at Bar 50, Blackfriars Street, EH11NE.