Men need the places where friendships are forged, without them we are vulnerable more than most people realize.
Have you ever wondered about male friendships, wondered how they can seem so shallow, based around computer games, football and tinkering in the back shed? Have you ever wondered why more and more men seem to be withdrawing these days? From what I can tell most women haven’t really worked out what male friendships are about, they know guys need these friendships but I don’t think they understand how they work. They see the things being done within these friendships as being purposeless, pointless, and they wonder why we do them. Why would we spend hours tinkering with a car that already works? Why do we watch endless sport games fighting over whether the red team or blue team won? Why do we play video games? But for all women’s vaunted ability to listen they aren’t very good at hearing the sounds in our silence.
Women don’t truly seem to understand that male friendships are based on the doing; actions performed together, the experiences gained through having a shared goal. For us men to truly know another man we have to see how he works, how he handles stress, ridicule, practical jokes, success, achievement and loss. Through this we test his metal as much as he tests ours and we find out whether he matches our own way of thinking under pressure. When life gets hot will he turn the same way we do or will he buckle, if the answer to that is yes, then we want him on our team. We don’t really judge other men by what they say, we never really have, we boast a lot and we know it. No we have always waited to judge other men by their actions. We don’t need words for this; words are not enough, only actions count.
I not even sure us men understand what male friendships are about. They can be so hard to form and then click, we wonder how the hell it happened. One day you meet someone and have a chat and the next moment almost every second or third day is spent doing something together. I know people call it a bromance but that term isn’t as incorrect as it appears behind the giggles. You see we are attracted to our bromance brothers. No not sexually, but it’s an attraction based on admiration, an attraction based on something they do or have achieved that makes us want to be like them. So you want to spend time with them, learn from them, become a better person like them. With a true bromance that will happen in reverse as well, both brothers bringing something to the table as much as any relationship does. We don’t need words for this though; words aren’t enough, only our actions, past and present matter.
I think the most misunderstood part of male friendship though is our feelings. Us men cop a bad rap for being stoic, unfeeling beasts. It’s far from true of course; some of the greatest emotional artworks and songs have come from men. Men don’t shout our emotions to the world; they get used against us far too often. No us men have learnt to be far more subtle. We know our mates, we know how they feel, and we don’t need to talk. Have you ever seen two friends sitting close in a bar not talking? Have you seen two friends fist pump the air? Have you seen two guys play a game for hours on end without talking? Have you seen one guy rock up to the house of another unannounced? I can tell you a thousand different ways that guys show their feelings towards each other but I am not going to tell you what they mean. We don’t need words for this; words aren’t enough to describe our feelings, only our presence counts.
So what has happened to male friendships in today’s world. They have come under fire for years now, but I don’t think it’s been deliberate. Women asked for equality and grudgingly at first it was given to them. Women asked to enter into traditional man spaces and grudgingly at first they were let in. They asked to be respected, that their way of communicating be taken seriously and grudgingly at first men did. Yet when we asked that our communication is taken seriously women only heard silence. We keep asking women to respect our needs but none of our silent pleas have been heard. We asked to be treated equally but women didn’t understand our actions, misunderstood our anger and took our frustration as a challenge. The loss of male spaces has left men without a place to form our friendships and we haven’t had the time to reconstruct new places in their absence. Without our friends we have no purpose, no real reason to do anything. We don’t need words for this, words are simply too much and the only course left open is the action of inaction, so we withdraw.
Men aren’t asking for a return to the old ways, that isn’t what their silence and withdrawal is about. Men don’t hate women, most of us never have, but we need our friendships, and most of all we need to be heard. But women can’t hear what men voice silently and women can’t see the untold pain when a man’s silence goes unheard. Our silence literally kills faster than every other disease until we reach the age of 55. We men need our places of doing. We need spaces where our friendships can form through a common goal. We need time to just be with other men, to learn about character and metal, both theirs and our own. I know some of the things we do seem pointless and absurd but the point is in the experience and not in the result. We need our friendships now more than ever and whether you agree or not society will be imperiled if men can’t learn how to form them again. As more and more men withdraw their absence will be felt in the things they do which go mostly unnoticed, when these men withdraw those things will stop.
Photo: Getty Images
*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
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