The Complex World of Male Friendship: It's Tough Being a Guy
A book which speaks well to the stilted nature of many male friendships is Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man. I cannot highly recommend the book, as there is much objectionable content written from Vincent's perspective as a lesbian dressing up as a man, but I can say that she has an eye for human nature. That is, she identifies the nuances of human behavior and rightly targets their cause. Her book is essentially a study on the emotional lives of men, and it reveals much. Men, for example, cannot typically just go out and talk. They need an excuse for companionship--a sport, a quest, a diversion, and only then can they slowly begin to talk with one another. Even as they do, they often never get very deep.
I recall experiencing this with a friend from seminary. I asked him if he would like to get lunch in the near future. A few days later, he called me to tell me some guys were going to a wings restaurant to watch some sports and eat wings. I declined to go but have not forgotten that exchange. It symbolizes well the awkwardness many men feel in creating friendship with one another. I've seen this same tendency played out hundreds of times on the basketball court. Guys don't naturally approach one another with kindness. They approach one another warily, revealing as little as possible in initial encounters, everyone sizing one another up in an attempt to find their place in the male hierarchy. It's not the purpose of this blog to try and overturn all these situations. They are what they are, and I myself possess some very typical male tendencies. But I am trying to say that the male social world is strange and complex, awkward and rough, difficult to move in.
I've met few men in my life who were really able to get past the awkwardness and allow themselves to enjoy male friendship. Most of the time, guys stand on the opposite sides of the room from those they don't immediately know or click with. It's as if we're all still in the Old West, each man measuring the other to see whether he should launch an attack or expect one. Bonding is difficult, and often accomplished by talk about things that don't matter--sports is a huge topic--or things that shouldn't be talked about--coarse jesting. Conditioned to be withdrawn, afraid of being seen as feminine, men hunker down in their own little social corner, aware like those Old West gunslingers that life is not ideal, that it might be nicer to have a few more friends and a little less bravado, but that survival beats submission any day. It's a tough world we live in, us guys. Curt conversation, size-em-up eye contact, and the need to posture. They say the female emotional world is complex, but I'm thinking that the male side of things has its own share of difficulty. That chip on the shoulder is harder to carry than you might think.