After a late night phone call with a best friend, Tim Mousseau realized it shouldn’t take tragedy for men to tell each other “I love you”
It was odd getting a call from Jon at 10 PM on a Tuesday, especially when it was two hours later his time. It was even more concerning based on how he started the call.
“I love you man. I wanted you to know that.”
With these two sentences, I knew something was up. Sure enough as our conversation played out, Jon told me about the loss of his friend: someone close to him that he had spent years in college with and although I had limited interactions with, was someone I knew to be a good person. It was difficult facing this death knowing how young we all are and how good a man this friend was. It is rough facing any death, this one hit pretty hard.
I could tell the impact it had on Jon based on our phone call. He felt a need to reach out and share feelings of affection for another, to make sure we both knew the friendship mattered. I mourned with him and felt his pain. I processed the death the best we could. After the call, it was his expression that got me thinking: thinking about the loss of a human life, thinking about what it meant to love another, thinking about why as men we don’t always share our emotions. It was these thoughts that helped me realize I am very lucky.
Jon is one of my best friends and an adopted brother. He is one part of my trio of friends that we warmly call the Three Amigos; Jon, Brandyn, and I. They have been there for me through break ups, through medical issues, through failures, and to celebrate my successes. The three of us are an odd match up sometimes, resembling characters in a TV sitcom through our differences. But we are a family. We love each other, we know we love each other, and we have never been shy about saying that.
It is a point of pride in my friendship with these two that we frequently say I love you. When we are leaving each other’s cities after visits. When we are hanging out and some one says something so stupid we can only make fun of them before relenting. When we are out in the world on adventures. We have never shied away from this term and never been self conscious about it. We are brothers in a sense of time, shared experiences, and our ability to support one another.
I am proud that I can say I love these men. Recognizing this however makes me curious.
I am curious then why sometimes people freak out about saying I love you to their friends. Why men hold these thoughts inside. Why we can be afraid of saying I love you to too many people. I’ve never understood why telling another you love them is considered taboo. It is a part of life and one in our Tuesday phone call I realized that even I can take for granted.
When Jon called me, the circumstance behind these words made it devastating including the fact that little under two years prior, Jon and I had a similar call about another lost friend. Where it is not uncommon for us to tell each other our feeling, in the moments following this late night conversation, I was touched by the concern that I had not told many friends these words enough. That if circumstances were different, I might never have been able to tell Jon or Brandyn they mattered again. It got me thinking on how we as men express our love for others.
I mentioned that just under two years ago Jon and I had a similar call. This one was much more difficult for both of us. Those two summers ago the death was one of our shared close friends Christian; connected to Jon through his fraternity and me through a mutual love of philosophy and martinis.
After Christian passed, hit by a reckless driver the day after his graduation, I was lost. This was a man I loved. Another man who had spent years as a friend, making me a better person, helping me grow and often times getting into trouble through mutual mischief. He attended my college graduation party and was one of the few people I stayed in touch with once I left to the professional world. Every Tuesday when we were in school we spent an hour or two at a bar, drinking their special because $4 martinis for two college students mixed with conversations on life felt up lifting.
Post my move and prior to the accident Christian and I had stayed in touch. But I still regretted something. In the time leading up to his death, since our last real conversation, I hadn’t told him how much he had mattered. My last contacts with him prior to his passing seemed too distant, too trivial, compared to what I should have said. It hurt knowing I had lost my chance to tell him how much he impacted me, how proud of him I was for crossing the line of graduation, and how much I loved him.
I missed that chance and I spent weeks upset about that. This last Tuesday, listening to Jon on the phone, I recognized that chance again. That fear of regret in losing someone before they know they matter. When Jon hung up, I decided I needed to change that by talking to people that mattered.
My first conversation was with Brandyn. Our conversation transitioned from “Life man” having processed our individual calls with Jon to catching up to us ending with “I love you man. You know that right?”
I was glad I could tell him this, happy that both of those guys were coming to town only a few days later so that we might celebrate life. I was even happier that on this night, both these men knew how they mattered to me.
Often times in life, we wait. We take time for granted. We get caught up in the routine. Even worse, we fear words. I have learned that, as a man and as a writer.
Growing up, I was into books and lucky to have a family where words were free instead of cloistered. I never knew why you should be ashamed to tell someone you loved them, even if it was another man. Especially if it was someone you considered your best friend.
I have grown and learned. I have found that certain men are afraid of expressing emotion or affection. I remember being told to hide my emotional side. I have learned that this fear of our feelings is a human condition as well. We fear speaking too much, being too raw, too open. Too vulnerable.
Coming away from this week of phone calls with the two men who have stood next to me, holding me up on my darkest days and who stand next to me throughout my successes, I am honored and humbled. I am privileged and lucky. I am fortunate I have friends where we are comfortable saying we love one another.
I am also challenged. I have countless other people in my life who have touched and shaped me. Men and women alike, friends who I have neglected to reach out to in a few weeks or months or even years. It is my failure I have let my words of affection remain closed inside instead of letting these individuals know the impact they have on my life and why they matter so damn much.
I am challenged to do a better job of expressing myself. The people in my life, the ones who have touched and influenced me, they deserve to hear it.
So my question for the world, especially a week away from the holidays but more so throughout the coming months. Who do you need to tell you love? Who hasn’t heard from you in a while? Who is the person that you must stop waiting to share your words of love?
Think about it, and reach out. Tell them whether it is a later night phone call or a personal conversation. But don’t wait.
No friend or loved one will ever regret the affection you share with them but you may regret the love you never share with another.
I love my friends, my adopted brothers. And I will never regret telling them that every chance I get.
“I love you” from The Good Men Project. Get the best stories from The Good Men Project delivered straight to your inbox, here.