Thanks, Jezebel, but your latest post about the death of male friendships has me totally depressed.
Since I don’t like to wallow by my lonesome, here’s a quote. Maybe you all can get equally alarmed and bummed on a sunny Friday morning: “According to [author] Niobe Way, male friendships are in a state of crisis. … Way says that while boys are often viewed as unemotional loners, they actually need close friendships as badly as girls do. After conducting interviews with boys from the U.S. and China for two decades, she found that in early adolescence, they would often express that they valued having a best friend they could talk about their feelings with, not just a guy they occasionally exchange grunts with while playing Wii. Yet, when the boys got older they reported fewer intense friendships and seemed worried about being seen as girly or gay for having feelings for another guy.”
It’s nice to hear that, at least when boys are young, they are happy to admit–brag, even–that they have a best friend they can tell everything to. The unfortunate part comes later, when they are too old and macho to pursue friendships, and so, in some cases, they simply accept loneliness.
The simple fact that guys will let important friendships fade for fear of appearing gay, if true, is really quite sad. Perhaps not shocking, but sad. And I’m feeling extra bummed about it today, because for the past few days, I’ve gotten bonked over the head with the influence a true friendship can be in a guy’s life. You see, today I’m off to Matt’s best friend’s wedding. The value Matt puts on this relationship is incomparable to any thing else in his life (yes, including his wife. Not more important but different, and probably equally important). His BFFship, though he’d never call it that, means the world to him, and the fact that some guys choose to let that kind of relationship fade for reasons of appearance is just the worst.
The last couple of nights, I’ve come home after Matt’s usual 10 pm bedtime, shocked to see him still awake. Let me be clear, there’s pretty much nothing, aside from a Red Sox World Series run, that can keep him up. Except, apparently, his best friend. He’s been preparing his speech, trying to get it just right, to make sure his pal is happy and entertained on the big day. There are so few things a groom gets, really, but Matt at least wants to give him a laugh.
Watching–and listening to–the preparations, I keep thinking how glad I am that Matt has such close friendships. Even if they are long-distance. And even if the last time I tried to force him to make man-date instead of go to the casino he told me to “stop friendshiping me.” (Apparently I’ve become a pusher.) The friends he has mean everything to him.
If I were to have a son one day, I’d hope he’d feel the same. Not, as Way, whose new book is called Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection, purports, that he has to choose between having a girlfriend and a best friend or that people would think he’s gay, as if that’s the worst thing in the world. With amazing timing, Jezebel author Margaret Hartmann writes, “Way makes boys’ teenage years sound pretty lonely, and without close friendships, those kids grow up to be be emotionally stunted men who will never know the joy of showing up late to a dude’s wedding and declaring that you love him.”
Do you think guys are afraid to admit how important their friends are? Has it always been like this? Is there a fix?