17 votes

The lacking foundations of male friendships

9 comments

  1. [2]
    Loire
    Link
    I've been a moderate introvert my entire life. On-top of that I have moved around a lot, both as a child and in my adult life. I also have a bit of a standoffish look in my resting state. I don't...

    I've been a moderate introvert my entire life. On-top of that I have moved around a lot, both as a child and in my adult life. I also have a bit of a standoffish look in my resting state. I don't make friends easy and whenever I would move the friends I had would disappear. At some point I realized, despite my introversion, that I would have to cultivate a strong friends group if I didn't want to end up 30 and completely alone.

    Despite presenting with typically masculine traits I have since learned how to maintain a friend's group and I agree that this isn't a fundamental issue of toxic masculinity as the article sort of worms its way around to concluding, although it may play a part. You don't need to hug and touch your friends like women do (although there is nothing wrong with it if you do!) and typically masculine "banter" is not an issue as long as it falls within the comfort levels of your counterparts.

    I think the article makes a good point about the idea of face to face vs shoulder to shoulder interactions. Early on I had to force myself to face my friends directly, and look them in the eyes while they talked. Really listen to what they have to say instead of letting it pass through me unacknowledged.

    The big thing to keep in mind is that friendships take effort and, typically, someone has to be the focal point of that effort. In the end I determined that if I wasn't going to take the lead in developing these social circles then nobody else would. So I make the plans, I organize the events, I schedule the timing and fit everyone in. I host, I organize the group chats, I check in on people. Despite my introversion it's gotten easier over the years. Whereas it was difficult and exhausting to start, now it's just time consuming.

    And my efforts have paid dividends. I have maintained, and even grown, the same friends group for seven years now, even despite moving across the continent twice. I've even become the "Social sherpa" within my relationship providing a social outlet for my unusually introverted fiance. Despite the effort I think it was worth it.

    In essence, while I think it's pretty normal for guys to have few friends, and I imagine this applies to many of the people here on tildes, this is a completely fixable situation with effort. It will take significant effort, and will probably even be uncomfortable, but it's worth it.

    17 votes
    1. NaraVara
      Link Parent
      You've kind of highlighted the issue I have with this piece and wasn't able to quite put my finger on. But I kind of reject the implicit assumption that there's one healthy way to express...

      You've kind of highlighted the issue I have with this piece and wasn't able to quite put my finger on. But I kind of reject the implicit assumption that there's one healthy way to express camaraderie and affection and I don't view some of the stuff that is often dismissed like "task orientation" or banter/shit-talking as inherently bad. That's a perfectly valid way of bonding, and I daresay I have a much sharper sense for what friends that I shit-talk with like and don't like, where their boundaries are, etc. than the ones who are super focused on being very polite with each other all the time.

      A little bit of controlled aggression is a normal part of play in all animals (and children too). I think it's important for kids to learn how to, say, not fly off the handle when someone accidentally hurts them since that's a natural part of life. How to forgive each other when they make mistakes. How to control and resolve natural impulses like anger or frustration without letting them crystallize into resentment. Banter is a verbal form of doing this by testing limits and encouraging people to lower their barriers and be more open and accepting of your shortcomings.

      13 votes
  2. [3]
    Grendel
    Link
    I've been feeling this for years and I agree (at least in my case) that the cause has been adulthood itself. In high-school I had good friends that definitely shared emotional intimacy together...

    I've been feeling this for years and I agree (at least in my case) that the cause has been adulthood itself. In high-school I had good friends that definitely shared emotional intimacy together without issue.

    I was 19 when I got married. For some reason my wife and I believed that once you got married you didn't get to have friends anymore. Part of this was because we were married but none of our friends were, so it was harder to connect because their experiences weren't the same as ours.

    But, it's finally starting to get better. And it has been effort on my part that has changed that. My younger brother got me into D&D. He and his wife come over every week to play with me and my wife now, which is amazi g since him and I had drifted apart the last 5 years. Now I've started a small group of my own with one of my best friends in the world who lives in another city. We are reconnecting after years of being in limbo. I'm also making new connections. I've partnered on Facebook with another photographer for mentoring, and we talk weekly on the phone and via email.

    All of this has come together in the last month. It's been a crazy fast change and I feel much better for it. If your looking for an activity to reconnect with people, try D&D!

    11 votes
    1. [2]
      Tardigrade
      Link Parent
      I can definitely 2nd the D&D suggestion. I've reconnected over the last two years with some highschool friends through D&D. We'd done a trial campaign that fell apart quickly back then but one of...

      I can definitely 2nd the D&D suggestion. I've reconnected over the last two years with some highschool friends through D&D. We'd done a trial campaign that fell apart quickly back then but one of them out of the blue suggested retrying it online in the pandemic and we're however many sessions deep now having met weekly for nearing two years now. It's a lovely way to have something you're doing but also space to talk before and after the session with various life issues coming up in the campaign in an abstracted enough format to discuss them without anyone feeling the need to say more than they want.

      6 votes
      1. Grendel
        Link Parent
        Maybe the role play aspect actually makes it feel safer to express some of those things, since you are a layer removed from it.

        Maybe the role play aspect actually makes it feel safer to express some of those things, since you are a layer removed from it.

        3 votes
  3. lou
    (edited )
    Link
    I think I've been lucky. I have friends — a few, but more than enough. Sometimes we have deeper conversations. They're not frequent, but my friends are there for me when I need them. Years ago,...

    I think I've been lucky. I have friends — a few, but more than enough. Sometimes we have deeper conversations. They're not frequent, but my friends are there for me when I need them. Years ago, when I was profoundly depressed and heavily medicated, they used to take me to the mall or on long car trips to nowhere and back. I barely remember that time, I was not myself. They tell me the stories, and it's not pretty.

    Many of our interactions contain some form of banter, old inside jokes that we update with new information from time to time. That's not at all hostile and does not cause me any kind of grief. We know each other shortcomings, and joking about them only reminds me that they love the real me, good or bad, and not some perfect idealized version of myself. We also compliment each other quite often on our appearances, I don't think that's very common between men.

    I'm very much an introvert, and socializing is often draining. I don't need to see my friends every week, not even every month. When we get together, it's almost as if time didn't pass. There's no awkwardness, we just resume from where we left off. Pre-pandemic, I might spend 6 months without seeing my best friend. During the pandemic, we spent more than 2 years apart. It was good seeing him after so much time. We even hugged.

    I never liked hugging anyone regardless of gender. Personal space is not really a thing in my culture, so that was always a source of unpleasantness. After the pandemic, I decided that I would not get back to hugging anyone. Ever. I don't care what anyone thinks, I will not allow this invasion of my personal space anymore. But I made an exception for him.

    Nowadays, our small circle has a Telegram group, and we talk via text every day.

    I personally don't feel that we should have more "real conversations". The affection is always there, implicit, under the hood, almost tangible, ready to surface. It's in everything we do. When a serious issue presents itself, we do talk about it at length. But, most of the time, there's nothing wrong with our "male stoicism". There's also nothing wrong with men that favor a more open and emotional approach to life. To each their own.

    10 votes
  4. rosco
    (edited )
    Link
    This article is so interesting to me. It's almost a write up by my father. He feels awkward about hugging, rarely says I love you, and can only compliment is a faux mocking way - even if he means...

    This article is so interesting to me. It's almost a write up by my father. He feels awkward about hugging, rarely says I love you, and can only compliment is a faux mocking way - even if he means it! Sometimes, when he has truly drank the bar, small kernels of his youth will come out. My dad was raised in a very poor household in an industrial town just post WWII. From the few flashes when he's been genuine, he references having to have a very thick emotional shell at the risk of exposing too much of yourself and being torn apart by the other young men. Being intimate with men was seen as gay, a quality ripe for ridicule. We took a trip together a few years ago that saw us hiking all day with only our thoughts and opinions for a week. It was shocking not only that we had never spent that amount of time together alone, but that it was so difficult to engage in real conversation. Subject like family, politics, and generally opinions at large were all off the table. Anything with substance was brushed off. So we resorted to stories - funny moments. We're planning another trip for 2 weeks aboard a small sailboat in a few months and I'll be shocked if it's any different. It's odd though, because even he had incredibly strong friendships that have weathered living on different continents and spanned 50+ years. Who knows, maybe he shares things with them he won't with me.

    In my own experience, I have many deep male friendships. I am confident that 2 of my friends understand me better than my own partner, and another 3 aren't far off. We no longer live near each other but I continue to engage with them on the phone, over email, and through texts. That said, it wasn't until college until I was comfortable with hugging or saying I love you. I was jealous of my best friends family growing up as they did both so easily and frequently, and decided it was something I would conscientiously integrate into my own relationships. I love hugging, I love telling my friends I love them - even if it still feels awkward sometimes. Funny enough I find it much easier to tell male friends that I love them as it won't be construed as romantic interest. With women I'll usually stick to "much love" or "love you guys" as a way of differentiation.

    I like the authors take on banter as the underlying builder of men's intimacy.

    Take banter, for example. Yes, men can be absolutely brutal to one another. Yet aggression is often employed not as the opposite of intimacy, but as a strategy to achieve it. While laughter bares teeth, this underestimates the complexity of what’s going on in that moment. It ignores the context – the sacred space of friendship, where there’s a tacit agreement that we don’t actually think or feel what we profess to think or feel. While there is a perpetrator and a victim, everyone is in on the joke. When that’s understood, mordant banter is actually a perverse form of love. It is, in a real sense, intimacy in action, communicating both “I know you” and “I know you trust that I’m not being cruel, that I have permission and that we are playing a game.”

    It can be used as a shield, there is no doubt of that, but often I find banter to guide my friendship compass. Who has a similar sense of humor. Who is more self deprecating than insulting. Banter gives a real clear indication of who I would want to build that deeper connections with and makes me feel like part of the community once I'm in it. I'm in on the joke. A feature of that, and perhaps this is what our author is lacking, is an openness in banter. Maybe that's the key - vulnerability. The folks I'm drawn towards, regardless of gender, are the ones who will share embarrassing stories or take a stand on unpopular opinions (not racist/sexist ones, but more like "Of course I pee in the pool!"). I think the "stoic" man personality often lacks vulnerability as a show of strength.

    I have one observation I'd like to share, but get out a full shaker of salt as it's very anecdotal. I notice that within my circles the men tend to be very good friends with people they grew up with (i.e. ages 5-15) whereas women seem to have more recent friends. If I were to think of who would be in my top 5, it would be ones from age 7, 8, 15, 21, and 25. My partner on the other hand would likely be 14, 23, 26, 29, and 33. Her friend groups have shifted much more than mine, being more dependent on proximity. Perhaps this is inline with the article, she quickly has deep relationships with the folks we often interact with.

    Also while on the subject, I love this skit from Aunty Donna and I love my boyfriends!

    Billy No-Mates

    As a last aside, and complete non-sequitur, I love this term. My dad is British and has used it throughout my life. When I can't find a friend to join me on a trip, or even when everyone is out of town or busy, for some reason my mood is lifted when I start calling myself Billy No-Mates. No friends? Who cares, I'm Billy No-Mates. I'm not sure why.

    9 votes
  5. ntngps
    Link
    I felt that...

    “You have an aura that you are not open or connected. There is a detachment. A block. You might be a laugh, but you have a vibe where other people aren’t going to share their innermost personal stuff. They get a feeling that you’re not able to give it back. So, perhaps, it’s no wonder you don’t have any close friends.”

    I felt that...

    8 votes
  6. JXM
    Link
    I guess I'm lucky that I have four close friends that I've known since elementary school. We all still live near one another now, but over the years have moved away for periods of time. Lucky for...

    I guess I'm lucky that I have four close friends that I've known since elementary school. We all still live near one another now, but over the years have moved away for periods of time. Lucky for us, we have stayed extremely close.

    I would feel comfortable telling them damn near anything. While plenty of our conversations are superficial, there are also plenty of "deep" ones too. We've all had our trials and tribulations over the years - be it mental health or substance issues - but we are always there for one another. Nothing is off limits and there have been plenty of times where one of us has reached out for help or had us reach out to make sure things are okay.

    We are all very different people than we were when we first met and while we don't have as many common interests as we did when we were kids, we still love each other's company and make an effort to see each other regularly.

    So thanks for posting this, it's made me realize how truly lucky I am. Having a group of close friends like this has been an essential part of my life and it makes me sad to think so many men don't have that.

    2 votes