Category Archives: Relationships

The Bachelorette: An Experiment in Modern Masculinity

When I return from my Monday softball game each week, my wife is usually engrossed in either ABC’s The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. We are currently in the midst of The Bachelorette at this point, and I have to say, it’s been pretty interesting. I would never tune in to either of these shows on my own, but I get sucked into the drama like a good Carl’s Jr. commercial.

What has struck me the past few weeks has been the considerable differences in the apparent “maturity” and emotional depth of the various men who are playing suitor to the start of the show, Kaitlyn (I apologize if I’ve spelled her name incorrectly. Minor details…). Some enjoy passing the time with the fart jokes and sexual banter that best typify “locker room talk.” Others seem more reserved in their language and appear to show, in the words of the old Sears ads, their “softer side.” They talk consistently about the development of their strong feelings for Kaitlyn and their emotional reactions to the other suitors on the show.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with either approach (stereotypical jock talk and affective/relational vulnerability), the thing that stands out each week is the result. All of the guys would be considered by a majority of women to be at least a 5/10 in terms of attractiveness and generally being a “catch.” It’s kind of a given that if you’re on this kind of show that you’re at least a stocking stuffer, if not the one true “God’s gift to women.” Looks are not the issue. Most of these guys have abs that could be taken to the river to scrub clothes on. The thing that seems to separate the guys in the eyes of the Bachelorette is their ability to live in both worlds.

Kaitlyn specifically states in almost every episode that she thinks ___(insert any guy from the show)___ is really hot, and she’s just waiting for him to open up and be vulnerable. Kaitlyn wants a guy that is competitive but not self-centered. A guy who has the ability to win a competition, but not the compulsive, angry, aggressive need to. A key lesson here for guys looking to get the girl is that being an attractive and skilled physical specimen is often enough to get you in the door. It may even get you in her bed, if that’s your goal. But if you’re looking for anything more than that, you’re probably going to need to learn to speak what sometimes feels like a foreign language. As confusing as it may seem to the guys,

One guy in last night’s episode seemed incredulous that Kaitlyn was not “impressed” by him being “a former model who has traveled the world a couple times.” He actually said on the show that his ex-girlfriend was twice as hot as Kaitlyn. I laughed out loud at this guy. Why does he think his ex is his ex? He clearly doesn’t get the importance of embracing both the traditionally masculine and the traditionally feminine. In an increasingly egalitarian world, women are looking for more than washboard abs, a cool haircut, a slim-fit tie and a paycheck. Sure, those things may be important at getting your foot in the door on a first date, but to close the deal on anything longer term, consider unflexing your muscles and working out your communication skills.

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/