The Dublin Boys Club have a WhatsApp group. It’s also full of typos and emojis, but on any given day, the conversation is usually about how to deal with a broken heart, self-help podcast recommendations, and page after page of offers to meet for a coffee or a Zoom hangout if anyone’s found themselves in a hole that week.
I was having lunch with a friend recently when my phone pinged and a text appeared on my screen. “That’s definitely a message from a woman,” she said, casually stealing a glance. “It’s not, it’s actually from the Boys Club,” I said. “Really?” she replied, only half believing me. “In the history of online communication, no Irish man has ever written a message that long before.”
The Dublin Boys Club has existed for less than a year. It’s an offshoot of a boys’ club that I started in Germany called the Berlin Boys Club. When I moved back to Ireland, I reached out to an old friend, the artist Maser, and asked him if he liked the idea, and together we launched the club in his studio space.
The Dublin Boys Club, like the Berlin Boys Club, is a place where something very radical happens: men, strangers initially, come together with one purpose: to practise real talk.
Real talk means dropping our masks. It meets answering the question: “how’s it going?”, not with “grand”, “nothing” or “sure, you know yourself”, but with a genuine, heartfelt analysis of our feelings.
It takes huge balls to open up to a room of 20 other men, but the respect that naturally flows from these acts of courage is huge. Nobody interrupts, nobody laughs, and when it was allowed, there was more hugging than at a funeral.
Young and even not-so-young men in Ireland are incredibly vulnerable to isolation, and then addiction and then suicide. By practising vulnerability together, the club creates a community of brothers who act as a safety net for any member who might stumble along the way.
Frederick Douglass, the African-American activist and author, said that “it’s easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men”. He was right of course. It is hard to repair broken men, but it’s also not impossible.