A Refreshing Man-date

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I am not a great friend. I cannot say for certain how my friends perceive me, but from observing my wife’s behavior with her friends and noting how my guy friends approach me, I know that there are some areas in which I am seriously lacking. Don’t get me wrong here. I care a great deal for my friends. I enjoy spending time with them. I look forward to every guys night out, poker night, Monday night softball game, and any other time when I get to hang out with my testosterone-filled compadres. I love hearing about their lives. I just forget to ask.

That said, I have never really been good at initiating in my friendships. I usually explain this away by my being an “in the moment” person. I tend to do a great job of going with the flow, getting along with others, and having a good time regardless of what others want to do. The danger I’ve run into is that this uber-laid-back attitude leads me to not think of my friends when I am “in the moment” doing just about anything else. This flaw in my friendship skills has led me to greatly appreciate social invitations from my friends.

Two friends in particular have served as healthy models in this area and, quite frankly, have made me feel special and important. One of these friends regularly calls me on his way to work. He is a busy husband and father of three boys and is quite possibly the most joy-filled man I’ve ever known. He is strong, vulnerable, considerate, thoughtful, and hard-working. Sometimes I wonder why he continues to be my friend! If this man can make time to keep in touch with his friends–and, judging by the number of children and parents at his sons’ birthday parties he keeps up with many more people than just me–then I certainly should be able to make a few calls here and there.

The other friend happened to come into my life as a result of his dating and eventually marrying one of my wife’s best friends. He also has quite a few friends that he keeps up with, somehow managing to work full time, go out with his wife frequently, spend time playing games with friends online, double date with friends, host dinner parties, and organize semi-regular poker nights for the guys. While at Disneyland on a double date with our wives and children last week this friend invited me to hang out this coming weekend. I–knowing my wife will NEVER see “American Sniper” in theaters–suggested that we go see a “guy-flick.” After giving a polite nod to my request, he suggested that we could instead just get dinner or hang out at a bar and watch some basketball. He wanted to talk. I agreed and we now have plans to spend time talking at a bar or restaurant this Saturday.

The thing that struck me about this encounter was my friend’s desire to just talk. I don’t know if it’s male socialization, watching bumbling, impotent, unthinking husbands on TV, or just my desire to see a “guy-flick” in theaters, but “going somewhere to talk” had not occurred to me as a possibility. I always appreciate the times that I get to sit down with one of my friends and just chat about life, work, faith, family, or whatever is on our minds at the time. I hug my friends. I tell my friends I love them because I do. I just need to work on being the initiator of these kinds of conversations.

It’s a crying shame that so many men feel inhibited verbally and emotionally these days. I’m glad that there seems to be a bit of a trend away from “traditional masculinity” and that more young men in particular seem to feel safe talking about what is important to them and sharing their feelings. This notion of traditional masculinity is in many ways a misnomer anyway. 150 years ago men in America were much more openly expressive with their male friends. In many cultures around the world men are much less inhibited than 20th century American men in expressing their affection for their male peers. My hope is that the men in my life will continue to live on the front edge of male-male communication, staying open to serious conversations as well as doing “manly” things together. Being talkers AND doers. I obviously need to work on initiating in my male relationships, and I’m glad to have these two friends to look toward as models of this essential quality.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessieleong/

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4 thoughts on “A Refreshing Man-date”

  1. I am going to be honest this entire post sounds like it was written by a 25 yr old female. A “man-date?” Hahaaha the mumbling impotent, non thinkers are not men but what you have been sold through the media. Traditional masculinity has been pervaded so you new age men can be comfortable having, “guys night out, ” or “dinner talks.” I cannot believe I have even bothered to comment. Us “traditional men” bond through an activity, and while we work, we have a conversation, crack jokes, sometimes build each other up through shit talking. If we have a problem that for some odd reason we cannot resolve, we throw it out in a story format…never “let’s talk.” My woman says that. You guys need some real male role models that can provide, firmness, hardness, control of your emotions, resilience, and male comaderie. All that other nurture stuff is for the ladies.

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    1. Mavellian, Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your perspective. I checked out your recent posts and based on the anti-feminism rantings I can definitely see why this post received a comment. Thanks for taking the time. I am happy to say that I am definitely not a “25 year old female,” although that did make me laugh. I am used to hearing comments like that when discussing expression of emotions. I have been fortunate to have–what I consider–some great male role models. These men typically were not what I imagine you are picturing as mushy gushy, touchy-feely, no-backbone men. They were strong (physically and emotionally), hard-working, and at times expressive.

      My experiences with boys/men throughout my life have typically been activity-focused. Research shows that this seems to be the norm. I am glad you commented because it looks like I may not have been entirely clear about my intentions in the post. I want balance in my relationships. I enjoy going out and DOING things (in traditional male fashion) more than I enjoy just sitting down to talk, but I also appreciate the occasions during which I just get to focus more in depth on what’s happening in a friend’s life. I have found this more difficult to accomplish while concentrating on my poker hand, yelling at a quarterback to squeeze the back-shoulder throw a little closer to the sideline, or while our wives/girlfriends are around. My main points were that I’d like to be more of an initiator with my friends, and that I appreciate when they take an interest in what’s going on in my life.

      As an aside, it’s probably helpful to not take an “us vs. them” mentality. Feminism reacted to male “dominance” by lashing out and seeking to make women equal, if not dominant themselves. Something in the middle is probably what we’ll end up with eventually. We should probably shoot for mutual respect and acknowledge our gender differences while also acknowledging that there are some definite biological and–as a result–behavioral differences. Emotions are not evil. We men just tend to not show them as much. I’ve also read some research that demonstrates that men are perhaps just as “emotional” or “intimate” with each other as long as they are in a context that affirms their masculinity (sports, etc.- i.e. Russel Wilson bawling last weekend after winning the NFC Championship game). I’d be happy to send you those citations if you’re interested!

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      1. No. I have heard it all. As you can see I am bit more traditional. Grew up with a stern father and influences. Though by no means am I old, and I can say I was blind to all these social changes since I was under my father’s guidance. My mother was present but was always, “go to your father.” Even supported the control and limited expression of my emotions, so now that I am in my late twenties, all this expression is baffling my mind. While, I will forever commend it because as you said, emotions are not an evil but should also always be examined and given a little room. It is the woman who forever lives by her feelings. Many women I meet (even feminist) admit they are intrigued and find attractive such self-control, while secretly abhorring the emotional in tuned man. So, am I bit confused you tell me.

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  2. Yes, it’s quite a balancing act we’re asked to carry on! I’m glad your dad was there for you. I think it’s great that he was there at all! So many kids are growing up without their dads around these days. Divorce, prison, poverty, and “unplanned” births (though, I think it’s irresponsible to think about sexual revolution and freedom of sexual expression without considering the potential consequences–children- of our actions) have left many a young man un-fathered. It’s great that you were able–even encouraged–to seek out your father’s guidance. We’ve all got feelings, and it’s nice to have some models for how to express them appropriately in different contexts. I look forward to reading more of what you write about the lives of modern men!

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