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THE NOISES MEN MAKE

They are unique to the human male...

Do not ever doubt that we men are, at our very essence, nothing more than heinous, grunting brutes living in a world that condemns our very essence.

 

As men, we learn at an early age that crying and wailing and shrieking are for women. We are told to “stop crying” and “be a man” the very first time a dog bites our face off, or when our father beats us like an ox in a cabbage field for some exuberant boyish malfeasance.

 

“Men do not cry” is branded into our childhood psyche, and remains with us our whole lives – which certainly causes our prostate to enlarge and our cholesterol to clog us with its hatred.

 

But we must have an outlet for our suffering. Crying and weeping is denied to us, so we must, perforce, make alternative noises when we are beset with pain and anguish.

 

And so we do.

 

One of the first noises we learn to make is related to pain. Our pain. You’ve come a-gutser off your bike/skateboard/tree/Hills hoist, your warm inner meat is exposed, some flesh is tattered, and gravel has possibly embedded itself in your hide. There might even be a bone or two that needs to be re-grown. It’s all part of growing up.

 

So there you are on the ground. The pain builds in waves after the initial adrenaline hit, and it’s now a tsunami of agony. You want to cry, but you cannot because you must not.

 

Instead, you begin to suck air through your clenched teeth. “Sssss”, you hiss, like a big snake. When you breathe out you go “ah.” You do this over and over – “Sssss…ah, sssss…ah, sssss…ah”, while your companions ask you if you’re alright.

 

If standing is possible and if walking is crucial, the hissing is punctuated by the staccato “ohgh” noise. So you hiss, puff, and ohgh, until you reach a place where a responsible adult will deal with you.

 

This is the first manly noise you learn on your journey to adulthood. But you will learn many more.

 

The first time you’re punched hard in the face, an event that used to regularly occur in one’s teen years, but is sadly not such a common event anymore, a new noise is learned.

 

By this stage of your life, crying is now firmly the province of your mother, and girls who give you painful erections. You have not cried in years, and are well on the way to being slain by your prostate as a result. This is nonetheless better than being a deemed a “bitch” by your friends, which is instant social death.

 

So your first face-punch. It’s a bastard. It doesn’t hurt when it happens because you’re engaged in combat and leaking adrenaline like squashed orange, but it will hurt very shortly. Most especially if broken teeth, a pulped nose, or a smashed jaw is involved. The latter being especially noisome.

 

Win or lose, when it comes time to count the cost of your fisticuffs and kung-fu kicks, the noise you’ll be making is a combination of dog-panting interspersed with a basso-profundo “hghgh”. Your nose is full of blood and your teeth may be broken, so the earlier hissing noise is not practicable.

 

Through early adulthood, you make do with these few utterances because you’re young and strong, and your enemies are always looking for signs of weakness – like you making noises when you’re suffering, so you keep them to a minimum.

 

But as you age, things change. You start to accumulate new noises to deal with the suffering in your life. Crying is still “streng verboten”, as our German friends say, and by now your tear ducts have dried up anyway, so you’d just be wailing like a speared girl-seal with no eye-water accompaniment. Not a good look.

 

Middle age and late middle-age are now here. Your vocal repertoire is accordingly expanded. The injuries you’ve incurred in your early years must now be paid for. Just as every line you snorted, cigarette you’ve smoked, rum-and-coke you’ve necked, or wheelie you’ve failed at, has also sent an invoice.

 

You’ve also probably accrued some heft. So while your joints and your muscles might have uncomplainingly coped with a svelte 80kgs of man, they are not at all happy with now having to deal with 120-plus kg of overfed hog.

 

Raising yourself from a prone or seated position is now invariably accompanied by a stentorian grunt of effort. As you lever yourself upright, you make the short exhalation of “akh”. If you’re especially well-fed and far weaker than you should be because you’re lazy and soft-bellied, then you will also make a blowing “wwwwh” noise through your pursed mouth.

 

Also, at this age, sleeping on the ground is no longer a viable option. The amount of effort needed to get to your feet after a night on a floor – be it carpeted lounge, tiled kitchen, or leaf-strewn forest, is simply ridiculous. Giving birth is less strenuous.

 

Almost the same can be said for stupid items like inflatable air mattresses, self-inflating camping mattresses, or anything that is manifestly NOT a Sealy Posturpedic, which had better be on a nice, lofty base, or it too can prove to be problematic.

 

Should you find yourself in such a situation, you’ll not only be using the “akh” and “wwwwh” sounds, but you’ll be interspersing them with breathless swear-words, and adding a few other sounds. These will usually be “Oooss!”, “Awgghhh!” and “Pprrrr” (that’s the vibrating lip thing we do when we’re confused, exasperated, or have no idea how we’re going to get our legs under us, and are cruelly hungover and full of hatred.

 

Another sound-emitting pastime at this age is getting dressed. My wife knows exactly when I am putting my socks on, when I am putting my underpants on, or when I’m lacing up my boots. I make a different sound for each.

 

For the sock-donning position, which is usually seated and leaning forward so that my lungs have collapsed, and I don’t have much time to get the bastards on because I will faint from lack of air, it’s usually a protracted “Hhggnnnnnn…” sound. Sometimes followed by panting if the socks are new or very snug-fitting.

 

Underpants I still put on standing, though I fear that time may soon be coming to an end. It’s a matter of dangling one end of the underpants down by my right leg, then trying to lasso my slightly-lifted leg with the corresponding underpant hole – and sort of repeat for the left leg.

 

I make a grunting low-level “awh-awh” noise. It’s very quiet, but somehow, my wife can hear it from the other end of the house. She has the hearing of an elephant, but with much smaller ears.

 

Lacing or zipping-up boots can be an entire jungle symphony. If the knees are working at the required time, it’s not too bad. I can kneel and put them on. But sometimes the knees are not working, so footwear needs to be donned in a sitting position, much like socks. Except the process is longer, and so my lungs stay collapsed for a protracted time.

 

If that’s the case, I begin with a brief “Hhgnnnnnn… and then hold my breath and emit a longer and higher-pitched eeping sound with a little bass undertone threaded through it, almost “eeeeegrreeeegrreeee”. Then panting. Always panting. The body, after being deprived of air for that time, needs it back.

 

Getting in and out of cars, on and off bikes, and all that stuff we still need to do to remind ourselves we are not yet ready to go into the void, I’m still able to do with a minimal “hgh” grunt.

 

I have not yet reached the stage where I must buy an SUV because I’m too fat and broken to get in and out of a normal sedan. And I can still get on and off a superbike without losing my balance and falling to the ground. But I’m sure that day too, will come.

 

So these are the noises we make, brothers. These are the noises that let us, and our wives and partners and friends know we are still alive and making an effort to remain so.

 

Do not be ashamed of making them. You have earned the right to make them. They are yours. They are every man’s. We have been making them since the days we fought bears at the edge of our camp’s firelight, striving with all our might to protect our families from being eaten.

 

We don’t fight bears much anymore. They are largely protected animals, and not normally found in places where we drink. But we do still do mischief to ourselves.

 

It’s called “living”. And it’s noisy.

 

Death is nothing but silence.

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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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