I can't argue with this blog post about women and society, I can only regret that it rings true:
My answer, from experience and a man's perspective: the “when” is easy: When we grow up.
The growing up, for men, is the hard bit and I don't know where the answer lies. I live and work as a tech reporter, in an industry that will still think an app to look at tits is worth applause, or that thinks swimsuit models for the launch of aphone – a phone for pity's sake – is worth column inches regardless of the qualities of the product.
These are men who haven't grown up.
I can't name the women in my life without their permission, but I can tell their character.
The curmudgeon: she terrified me 20 years ago and still does. She also follows my life closely, either by quizzing me when she sees me, or quizzing my friends when she doesn't. When I was her employer, she roundly abused me for what she saw as mistreating another female employee over what was actually a simple argument. She is a survivor of the Sydney Push of the 1960s, and never forgets a friend. Including me, and I'm honoured.
The first wife: Our marriage was long ago and a mistake, and we got over it. We've now been friends for far longer than we were both engaged and married. She has nursed me through terrors when I thought my second wife was dying.
A terror: The first time I heard from this woman, prominent and respected in public relations, she was defending one of her staff against my once-famous bad temper. She abused me roundly on the phone, and we remain friends 20 years later.
A victim: The woman that got me in trouble with “the Terror” quickly became a friend. She was the first person to put my sons on horses. I once gave her a home-made marmalade that made her husband overdose with a spoon.
A hippie: I can't think of this one without a lump in the throat, only because she's also been the willing hostess of my whole family, generous beyond belief, loving and always ready to reconnect over gaps of years.
The casual friend: a woman who stayed with Ms T and our sons when they were toddlers and I was overseas. She gave my son the only teddy bear he ever got attached to, and faded from our lives when live took us apart.
The mate: God, when I met you, you were one of the most beautiful women I'd ever seen. We somehow managed to skip an affair and form a friendship. If you read this, you know who you are, and I treasure the way you always call me “darling” or “sweetie” and ask about my life.
The insane: whose friendship can be dangerous, because she's not entirely sane, but she's also devoted and generous and will forget her own troubles at the merest hint that mine might be worse right now.
My second-best friend: Yet another woman. Once merely a staffer in my care and subject to my whims. Only “second-best” because Ms T, my wife, is my best friend. My second-best friend holds my heart in her hands anytime Ms T can't do so. From another country, she reassures me that my best will be enough that we'll all survive. And she loves all of my family nearly as well as I do.
And others: because it's so easy to form friendships with women. To go from a casual acquaintance to friend can be a matter of nothing more than a “true bloke” deciding it's more important to tell someone how you feel, because they've just run into a bit of life they weren't expecting.
And through all of this: Ms T. Partner of my soul, mother of my sons, love of my life. My joy and my Shiralee and the best friend I ever earned. The woman who understands, even though most of my best friends are also women: she loves and trusts and opens the doors of our loves to the wider world.
And in all of this list: the common thread is character.
It's not so hard to learn that women have character. All you need to do is grow up. To the kind of man that hasn't yet done so – the target of this post – I'll say this: If you can't see beyond the body, you're missing a constellation of friendship, arms around you, voices on the phone, and love.
Oh, in the interest of full disclosure: sure, I notice perfumes, hairdos, faces, cleavage, figure and legs. Ms T will call the ambulance if that ever ends. Or the undertaker.
But, gentlemen: if you'll stick to a juvenile attitude to woman, you won't have them as friends. The bromancers and hand-slapping wankers can have their swimsuits and tits. I'll have my friends and loves and women and the years in which I grew up, and fuck it, I win.