I wake up slightly before the alarm goes off and already feel my cortisol levels going up. I take a few deep breaths and stretch in bed. I have to keep reminding myself to be more relaxed. My shoulders and pelvis are always so tense, everybody notices it and I’m constantly being told to smile more. They don’t really get it, the problem is not that I’m reluctant to create a pleasant environment and keep up with the expected decorum, but it is just hard to relax. My jaw is clenched unless I think about unclenching it. My forehead muscles are tense unless I do some face yoga. High concentrations of stress hormones flow through my veins at any point in time.

And can anyone blame me? No man is safe nowadays. I’ve been lucky to only be subjected to nasty looks my whole life, but more than enough of my friends have scary stories. Will was just working late the other night, thinking he’s the only one left in the office, when Tamara from Invoice sneaked up on him and grabbed his shoulders, as if that was necessary for her to draw his attention to her. That woman is creepy and everyone is more than aware of her presence. I always grin back at her just because I’m terrified of the thought of upsetting her and ending up less than 10m away from her. Anything less is just scary. Will didn’t really say it, but I could sense he felt threatened by being there on his own with her. I wonder if I’d feel the same with Ofelia. She is great. If she’d stay late at the office with me I think we might get closer as friends, but I’m definitely not cool enough for that. I can only dream of interacting with her as a peer. She is so sophisticated and I don’t understand anything about her world. I tried to get interested in make-up tutorials, but it’s just 90 minutes of women stroking brushes on their faces and mixing colours. I don’t get why women get all hyped up about these competitions, so I guess it is only fair to be left out from those areas of life. Women just have more versatile interests and a larger palette of hobbies. I do wonder if this is the nature of nurture.

I grab my phone and open my emails. I remember it is International Men’s Day and I’m getting loads of good discounts. It’s a great time to refill my skincare arsenal and buy a 10-shaves package at my local barber. I know we are supposed to not care anymore, but women can be quite judgemental if they touch your beard and it is not perfectly soft. You can see it in their face and how they retract their hands once they graze it and it doesn’t meet their expectations. I guess it just doesn’t feel natural to have such thorns grow out of your face and it can be unhygienic, too. All the crumbs that can get stuck in there if your beard is not professionally oiled and combed.. I can do it myself, too, but it just takes so much time and effort. At least by going to the barber shop we get a bit of quality time with the boys. It does feel really nice to just be among guys. Easier to relax my muscles, without all those breathing exercises.

I’ve also been meaning to buy this dark blue suit. I don’t know why, but I keep imagining myself wearing it and walking behind Ofelia at one of the fun parties she goes to in East London. I doubt she would ever take me, but ever since she asked Tamara, I’m thinking my chances can’t be that bad. She’d probably say something like:

“Nice suit, Lawrence.” And I would be wondering if she meant it ironically or indeed appreciated my choice of clothes. Ofelia has this way of grinning that confuses me and puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to keep guessing. More stress hormones.

I get out of my flat and run to work. Considering today everybody will be handing out flowers and compliments, I put some more effort into looking the part. Work is uneventful, Ofelia ditches some files on my desk in the morning, but I manage to go through them just in time to get some cake leftovers for Men’s Day at lunch. All women sit together and occasionally one of them ventures out to us, congratulating us and thanking us for existing, grabbing some cake and retiring back to their pack, while weirdly scanning one of us from head to toe. I don’t want to be a nag, but their congratulations sound quite in-genuine. Almost as if they have to say those things as part of the bureaucratic side of their jobs. I don’t know much about how it feels in a personal life context, as lately I have been on a Raya break. I got sick of all those girl CEOs ogling my pictures and asking for more within the first five minutes of a conversation. The lack of interest in my personality is just so off-putting. I am more than a pretty face and I am tired of constantly having to prove it. Anything I say seems to be falling on women’s deaf ears, anyways.

Hence, this year, the two most important women in my life are my mum and my boss. I know dad nudged mum this morning to call me, I could hear him in the background, essentially telling her what to say, but I still appreciated the gesture. She tries her best, and I know how women can be. Always have something more important on their plate, than the men in their lives and that is ok. We should learn from them. However, I do wonder who nudges mum to be nice to dad at least one day a year. As for Ofelia, she did say:

“Happy International Men’s Day!”