Oh, the torture of being a man . . .: Are men really as bad as some women make them out to be? David Cohen asks seven of his gender what aspects of their maleness they most dislike. We are trapped by conditioning

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The Independent Online

33, stage name Chas Smash, is a vocalist, dancer and trumpet player of the pop group Madness. He lives with his partner and their two children.

TODAY is not my best day, today I am confused, because there is a man who I think is sexually attracted to me. Nothing has actually been said and I am more intrigued than attracted. But it's a conundrum because I've been in a monogamous relationship for 12 years, and it's made me wonder about exploring that aspect of myself, about kissing a man on the mouth - intimately. It's made me think about where I stand as a man.

It's a shock to realise how much conditioning you carry. The thing I hate most about being a man is that we are trapped by our conditioning. There is a pressure to behave in a narrow, superficial way - to be strong and to suppress vulnerability and emotion. Three years ago I went to a Buddhist retreat with our keyboard player. I was listening to him talking to another guy but I couldn't get a line on what they were saying. They had reached such a level of honesty and insight that their words made no sense to me. I thought I should check it out and when I did, all my exterior character projections collapsed, my skin was peeled away and I had nothing to hold on to - I was incredibly vulnerable.

I come from a Catholic, male-orientated background so I've plenty of conditioning to overcome. There are times - when I'm sexist and patronising to women - that I wish I could clear out my whole brain and start again. I'm often in group situations with men. It's sort of a gang thing - talk of football and how pissed you got last night. And jokes. But at the end of the day it's boring.

I tend to enjoy the artistic notion of 'screw 'em'. That doesn't mean that I scorn people, but I do tend to wonder at their values. I've spent a lot of time travelling, meeting people, seeing how they tick. You develop a dangerous conceit that you can be above it, that you can survive without joining the rat race, without being trapped by the conditioning power of society. At the height of our success as Madness, people expected us to be chirpy and wacky and zany all the time. I thought I was above society, but the truth is I used to succumb to that. Now I try to be true to how I feel at the time. More like a woman. That's the challenge of being a man.

(Photograph omitted)