I find male company stiflingly awkward and unpleasant. I think beer tastes of coins, my knowledge of football is sketchy, and ‘banter’ gives me acid reflux. Over the last couple of years, though, I've had to spend more and more time in the company of men because as my kids have picked up friends, just like colds, lice and conjunctivitis, whatever they get so do I.
Generally when it came to friendships, male or female, I was absolutely no longer in the market. Since about 2008 I'd been operating a strict one-in one-out policy. I'd decluttered my contacts and it felt great. I binned off birthday drinks for box sets, weddings for weekends at home and dinner parties for ... well, just dinners without the conversation. Like many men I'm socially very bovine (it's always bothered me that women got the cow label - it fits men much better: we'll gladly stand in a field chewing and doing enormous dumps).
In 2012 we had our first child and slowly but surely we started hanging out with other people who also had young children. We just sort of gravitated towards each other like copies of 50 Shades of Grey in an Oxfam, identical and musty. We frequently found ourselves all at the park, congregating inside the gated areas. Other people would drift past and blankly stare over the railings at us, like Groupons at a crap zoo.
Initially I imagined we were the gorilla enclosure, and these kid-less people were impressed and awed by us nurturing our young. Then over time it became apparent it wasn't a zoo. It wasn't a zoo at all. It was more of an open prison, and we were Jeffrey Archer or Tim Yeo and the kid-free general public are just schadenfreudering their tits off.
As we made friends with these people there was a huge problem, semantically. What do you call them? There is no instant phrase. You can't use 'friends of my son' because that sounds like you're hanging out with your son's friends. And you definitely can't say 'parent-friends' because people will think you're spending time with your parents' friends. And no offence Judy, but that ain't gonna happen.
So for now I've gone with ‘breeders’.
And the thing about breeders is some of them are men. Dads, let's call them. And while you watch your kids play together, you have to hang out with them. And as anyone who has ever got stuck in a conversation with a man will know, it can be a tricky experience.