Suddenly, I’m everybody’s friend.
No, I haven’t unexpectedly expanded my social circle (that’s as narrow as ever). It’s just that everywhere I go, I’m called ‘mate’.
It’s such a small thing – but it’s recently got very, very big. I’m sure there are rules, but I haven’t yet worked them out. I don’t want to ask people, because that’s like a naturalist telling bears where to shit. It’s just not natural. Instead, I have to proceed cautiously, observing the rituals of mateyness:
- It’s related to class. Yes, I know we’re supposed to live in a classless society, but we don’t (sorry Polly). The fact is, posh people don’t call you mate. But the further you slide down the hill of social privilege, the more common (in all senses) it becomes.
- It’s related to age. Older people are less likely to be called ‘mate’. Obviously, I haven’t yet crossed the line.
- It’s related to class and age. Now this is where it gets a bit complicated. A young man will call an older man ‘mate’ if he senses that he’s an older version of himself. But if he thinks he’s above him in the social scale, he’s less likely to use it. And the older, the better. So an old vicar or tweedy baronet is highly unlikely to be called ‘mate’ by anybody.
- It’s related to sex. Gender, that is. Women call men ‘mate’, though far less frequently than men do. And when women call each other ‘mate’, watch out. Better still, run.