Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where's the Bromance?

Do men really have that hard a time making friends?  There's been discussion over in Time Goes By on the subject, with most of the comments coming from women.  Leaving that interesting fact alone for a while, I have been wandering in the valley of the man cave recently.  It started with Nance's love note to her husband, who seems like an all around great guy.  Then Ronni posted Bill's lament, and I began the old "compare and contrast" game.  Why is DH never referred to as lonely or alone?  Why can't Bill find anyone to discuss world events instead of sports and hunting?  They are both men, yet one is content and one is not.

Revenge of the Caveman was a C+ theatrical event, but it did have some interesting moments.  One came as he drew a distinction between the hunter and the gatherer.  The hunter - typically male - was engaged in a one on one battle to the death with another living being.  The gatherers depended on one another to collect enough food to feed them.  In a semi-funny way, the show went on to bring this distinction to the modern world, with the man going out to slay the corporate dragon while the woman tended the hearth.  I was struck by how 1950's that sounded, but the comic went on to link hunting alone to men's inability to connect with others who might want the prey for themselves.  Is this why men have trouble making friends - because they are always guarding their territory and have become innately distrustful of the motives of other men? 

Bill complains that he cannot find like-minded humans with whom to converse.  The Bride, my faux-daughter, just moved to a new town in a new state in a new part of the country and she's bored and lonely.  Making connections is hard work.  It requires lots of energy and an acceptance of the fact that most of the attempts you make will result in disappointment.  The chatty woman on the treadmill next to you turns out to have nothing of substance to say.  The gardener who promised to call and then never followed through, the volunteer organizer who reneged on her promise to sign up for the same shift you were working so that you could continue the very interesting conversation you began at the enrollment booth, the hiker who turns out to be slower and duller than you'd hoped.... you have to go through a lot of nonsense before you find the ripest fruit. 

Perhaps that's Bill's problem.  He's expecting to walk into a room and be overwhelmed with the wonderfulness of the conversation.  He's looking for someone to meet all his needs, when any rational being would accept the fact that no one person can be everything to anyone.  Perhaps the hunters don't talk about politics, but do they play a mean game of darts?  My book group friends probably wouldn't have much in common with my hiking buddies, but they each filled a piece of my soul. 

There's too much pressure to have everything be perfect, to have every situation turn out just the way we anticipated it would.  Yes, the housing market has tanked along with the stock markets and America's standing in the world, but there are still smart and engaging people out there.  Not all of them will be terrific in every sphere, nor will every one of them be worthy enough to join your circle of friends.  But some will.  If you search with an open heart and an accepting mind.

And maybe that's Bill's problem, in the end.  He's unwilling to do more than dismiss the men he meets on a superficial, what-they-like-to-do impression rather than probing a little deeper and seeing if there might be more.  Is he willing to make the effort to create and nurture a friendship?  Most of the women I know value these relationships and put time and effort into maintaining them. 

I had a long conversation with an old friend this morning. I was telling her things that were difficult to say out loud, but which she heard and accepted and corrected and took risks in responding to and at the end I was in a better place than I had been before she called.  And why had she called?  Because she's been wishing us a Happy Anniversary for 28 years and she's never missed a one. We didn't really have much in common except that our husbands shared a common friend, but our lives have been intertwined for decades, and today was a reminder that the effort to maintain a long distant but meaningful relationship has been based not on what was similar in our lives or our experiences but on the kind of people we are.  I wonder if Bill is willing to put in the time to see whether some of the friends of the friends he encounters might just offer more than they did at first glance.

And just when I was stumped for an end to this post, Amster dropped by with this little gem. After two long weeks of lonely lunches, Mr. 5 has finally made a friend in kindergarten.  This monumental event was greeted with the appropriate amount of joy and congratulations. "What's the friend's name?"  I asked.   

And after a slight pause, we both laughed as she said 
"He doesn't know."

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