Dear men: you should totally have close friends post-30 years of age
November 9, 2015 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Three more years have passed in a blur of deadlines and I still don’t know anybody who isn’t connected to my work. If I nip out to buy wine on Saturday evening, I pass pubs full of people who look like they’re having fun. I see groups of men often catching up one-to-one, and I experience pangs for when my weekends were like that. Everybody except me has a fulfilling social life. Or does it only look like that? The difficulty of forging friendships in your adulthood on MeFi, previously and previouslier.
posted by Kitteh (176 comments total) 100 users marked this as a favorite
 
yeah, i've been trying to make this work the last few years. i'm now exchanging the occasional letter with an old friend back home, play board games once a fortnight with the german husband of my partner's cousin, and have an occasional lunch with an ex-colleague. and frankly, achieving even that has been one heck of a lot of effort. i'm sure there's an emotional labor tie-in here...
posted by andrewcooke at 10:27 AM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


For me, my social circle has always been dominated by tabletop RPGs. The group I play with I joined in 1997. Some of them have known each other since elementary school.
posted by cuscutis at 10:33 AM on November 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


I host a regular poker game. That seems to work pretty well.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:34 AM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah... helps to have a regular social hobby, but I totally can relate to this. I rock climb... but if I didn't do that, I doubt I'd hang out with anyone, now that I'm 40 and married and boring...
posted by ph00dz at 10:35 AM on November 9, 2015


There's a group I'm part of that organizes a big, monthly beer gathering for people to make friends (we're talking like 300+ attendees).

It doesn't work. The people who attend are totally fine -- a bit heavy on the techy/geeky side, but generally friendly and interesting. The beer is good and they pick fun and trendy locations. That's not the problem.

The problem is that friendship depends almost entirely on having some kind of shared, challenging experience together. Work, school, having kids in the same school are 3 of the biggies. You can't just find someone you have a lot in common with and be like, Hey, we're friends now. That does (sometimes) work for dating but not for establishing friendships.

Those 3 experiences are really, really time-consuming and expensive though. No one is going to get a specific job or go to school just to make more friends. And for work specifically, in many jobs it is not a great idea to be close personal friends with your coworkers.

I think there are a lot of things that are not huge time investments that can result in long-term friendships. Weekend camping trips. Sports leagues. Board game nights. Basically anything where you're sharing some kind of challenge with someone. But they're not obvious and seem to be difficult for many people to do in practice.
posted by miyabo at 10:40 AM on November 9, 2015 [32 favorites]


When I was a teen, I had this theory that the key to happiness were the 3 F's: Funds, a Flame, and Friends.

Now as an older guy, I realize there are other important things in life that contribute to happiness: health, self-worth, stable, not-soul-sucking career, family (for some).

But that original theory (and wrong or right as it might be) still sticks with me today.
It took me a while to get the first two F's. The last one - the subject of this post - still eludes me, and I've accepted the fact that this piece will be forever missing from my life.

It hits hard sometimes, yeah. And when you think you've beat it, it will rear it's ugly, annoying head again. But you deal with it. And you move on. And you keep yourself busy, and you stop focusing on the 3Fs and focus on the other things.

It's not easy. But you gotta do it. You deserve to be happy. You just have to work harder to find it.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:41 AM on November 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


As a 40+ guy myself, I totally sympathize because maintaining friendships as a married middle aged guy with kids is definitely a challenge. However, with the exception of one reference to Twitter, this reads like it was written in 1994. Facebook sucks at a lot of things, but low friction keeping up with friends when everybody is really busy with real life is one of the few things it's really good at. Since the author apparently has Twitter, one must assume he is familiar with Facebook and how it works.
posted by COD at 10:44 AM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


'Having friends' and enough leisure time to nurture them, is quite a new invention beyond childhood. My working class grandparents appeared to have no such concept, although they did chat to their neighbours relentlessly. (Or a shopkeeper. You could chat for half an hour to a shopkeeper in those days).
posted by colie at 10:46 AM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


I was talking to an old friend (who I see once or twice a year, because we're that close) who is about the same age that I am. After we did our annual, "we have to keep in better touch" thing and lamented not following through on our "we have to keep in better touch" promises for the last twenty years, we came to the conclusion that men our age don't get friends. We get associates and acquaintances.

Between work, managing adolescents and regular old relationship vagaries; I often feel that I don't have the energy to get to know new people. I think that maybe I'm too jaded (or just too lazy) to make make friends. I tend to stick with the same core group of friends I've had for twenty years and while we've drifted apart for a variety of reasons, these are the men I trust and love.
posted by cedar at 10:46 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am nearing 30 and as weird as it sounds gchat has been such a godsend for maintaining friendships. It's super nice to check in with friends while I'm taking lunch or between tasks at work, no matter how busy or married or long distance they are. You sort of just poke them at some point during the workday like "dude, did you watch the new Aziz netflix show?" and then next time you actually hang out, you don't feel like it's been two or three months.

Anyway that's how I've personally been able to maintain close friendships and without facebook and gchat I honestly would also not be in touch with anyone. Of course this requires a group of friends who also use social media or chat apps in some form, as well as jobs that involve some downtime and computers.
posted by windbox at 10:48 AM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


This is one of those things I've been struggling with. On one hand I do miss having friends and wish that I did have more people to spend time with in person. On the other hand trying to have those friends meant a lot of work for me, following up, calling, always being the person who initiated the contact. Having stopped trying to be the only one to make things happen I've definitely lost the amount of contact I'd love to have with more people.

But on the other hand, if I am usually or mainly the one who's initiating contact, am we truly connected? Is their a friendship there? or is it something where people are happy to hear from me in an old contact sort of way, but don't truly value the connection? I'm honestly not sure.

I'm not sure how to resolve the contradiction. It's hard. I've sorta settled on a it's great when it happens and when I am truly feeling it I'll reach out every 6 months or so, but I'm not waiting by the phone and trying not to stress out when I am not in contact with people.

For a while, about a year or so, I was on a kick where I really did want to stay more in touch with people, I'd make sure to call or try and email more frequently. It wasn't bad while it lasted, but as I tried to scale back me being the only one to reach out it never felt that there was an effort to connect. Saddest for me was my aunt, I get that people are busy but it's nice to be thought of, and it rarely felt that I was.

This ended up being sadder than I meant it to seem, I'm generally pretty happy and it's not something that I think about all the time. And again, I don't really know the solution, I'm not the most social and when I do see my friends for the past it's like we never were apart. I love them and wish them the best, just sometimes it's so easy to feel alone.
posted by Carillon at 10:50 AM on November 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


As a lady who would like nearby lady friends, I did my time living my life virtually on Twitter/FB/etc (reasons: moving to a new country in a province where I didn't speak the language). Yes, you can stay in touch with people but you still don't have anyone you can go have a drink with.
posted by Kitteh at 10:50 AM on November 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'm glad articles like this are out there. It’s easy to let relationships just happen and just fade away when circumstances dictate. But hearing about people who have lost their friends and about the work required to keep friendships going is important so fewer people experience that, and can put time and effort into friendships. I just asked a buddy I haven’t seen in weeks out to happy hour because I read this. Publishing articles doesn’t exactly fix the problem, but accurately describing the problems can help readers (like me) remember to put conscious effort into fixing it ourselves.

This article doesn’t do it, but one thing that really bugs me about people who write about friendships is the people who insist that social media and emails too lowly to maintain a friendship, and calls and physical letters are required. Social media is the reason I know what’s going on in people’s lives. I use Google Hangouts to discuss politics with people I only get to see every year or two. And when we do get together, it’s so much more natural because we’ve been in touch in these little ways. The barrier to entry for phone calls and physical letters is way too high, it demands too much of both people. The Internet has been great for keeping me in touch with friends.

On preview I see COD and windbox have had similar experiences with social media / online messaging.
posted by Tehhund at 10:51 AM on November 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


The problem with having all your friends be from a shared activity is that if you stop doing that activity you lose your friends. I used to be very active in the local hiking community, I had a shit-ton of friends to go off and hike with any time. Then life got busier (marriage, mortgage, a kid) and I fell out of that community and lost most of those friends.

Now most of my social circle is based around parents of my kid's friends. It's great and we have fun when we all get together but in most cases these aren't my friends. I would almost never just go off and do something with the other dad without our families joining us.

I'm too old to ask friends to help me move, and I don't plan on moving any time soon, but I miss having the sort of friends that I would ask to help me move. I have friends but not the sort of "I'd do anything for you bro" kind that I had when I was a lot younger.

Even people I consider some of my better friends are people I maybe hang out with twice a year, if we're lucky. It's too bad though It's nice to know this is a common thing and probably not a case of me being unlikable, which is a place my mind often goes to when I start to think about this stuff.
posted by bondcliff at 10:51 AM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


You can't just find someone you have a lot in common with and be like, Hey, we're friends now. That does (sometimes) work for dating but not for establishing friendships.

Sure it does! You say, "Hey, you seem wonderful! We should hang out sometime!" And then they look mildly bewildered and then you get their contact info before they have a chance to realize what's happening
posted by Greg Nog at 10:51 AM on November 9, 2015 [64 favorites]


Kitteh makes a good point - online-only friends can only fill certain roles in our lives. Online-only friends can certainly be awesome, but I'm more grateful for how online activities can keep us in touch with the people we know offline.
posted by Tehhund at 10:52 AM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Shit, now I feel out of touch with modern realities that I have plenty of friends as a post 40 year old male.

I see more of the opposite rather than what the article details, middle aged men thrown together into situational friendships, think at kids sport activies. I have never had sucess with that style of freindship. Many dads seem to fall into an easy comraderie with fellow parents, I never have. Meh, whatever, on balance I'm happy.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


The problem with having all your friends be from a shared activity is that if you stop doing that activity you lose your friends.

Applies to marriages especially.
posted by colie at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


This is pretty much the hole that church, social groups, and volunteering groups fills. I'm a woman but unlike the stereotype don't have a Sex in the City Forever BFF group. So I had to make an effort. For me, a UU church worked great; I have a reason to go every week, I do a lot of social stuff/do-gooder stuff, and I can take my kid and he has a good time.

Doesn't have to be that for you, of course, but just getting together to drink is really not enough. Try organizing a 500-person charity dinner, or a parade float, or a toy collection with someone, then you really get to know them (for better or for worse). Then you have stories to swap.
posted by emjaybee at 10:54 AM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sure it does! You say, "Hey, you seem wonderful! We should hang out sometime!" And then they look mildly bewildered and then you get their contact info before they have a chance to realize what's happening

We totally just did that recently with a lovely young British couple we met at one of our vegan drinks gatherings. It was awkward at first, but they looked relieved that someone was polite and nice enough to extend a welcome as no one else bothered.
posted by Kitteh at 10:54 AM on November 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


I've been single more often than not in my adult life so have always kept up friendships. I'm getting a little reluctant to do them now because it's just me sitting across from a couple while they tell me great news (house! engagement! kids!) and I try to fill up my side of the conversation talking about work.

Still though, making and maintaining friendships has been pretty easy for me. It seems like a lot of coupled people don't want their friendships any more, though. See all the AskMes about single people whose friends only want to spend time with their SOs, and also one of the Metafilter comments from years ago that I remember most:

"Sorry, we like each other more than we like anyone else." or something pretty much to that effect.

If that's your attitude for years and years...maybe that's why your friendships drift off.
posted by sweetkid at 10:56 AM on November 9, 2015 [36 favorites]


But on the other hand, if I am usually or mainly the one who's initiating contact, am we truly connected? Is their a friendship there? or is it something where people are happy to hear from me in an old contact sort of way, but don't truly value the connection? I'm honestly not sure. - Carillon

I used to struggle with this - I was often the one who had to organize things. I didn't get as many invitations to just hang out randomly, and I had to be the one making some event happening or at least reaching out to say "happy hour?". Eventually I made my peace with it - if I'm the organizing friend, and I'm good at it, and my friends keep hanging out with me because of it, then that's good enough for me.
posted by Tehhund at 10:56 AM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


"Sorry, we like each other more than we like anyone else."

Ha! I think my husband is the bee's knees and we already dig spending time with each other, but no way man, we need friends, together or apart!
posted by Kitteh at 10:58 AM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've always found the key to maintaining friendships is to be handsome as hell and charming and interesting and fantastic so that strangers cannot help but flock to you.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:58 AM on November 9, 2015 [40 favorites]


I wonder how many MeMails Greg Nog is gonna get that begin with "Hey, you seem wonderful! We should hang out sometime!"
posted by bondcliff at 10:58 AM on November 9, 2015 [21 favorites]


This is a challenge for me. My wife seems to accumulate friends and networks which I am somewhat a peripheral part of. The part where your friends come over and hang out with you seems to have completely dropped out of my life. I go out to events where I have a milieu of people I see and who I appreciate, yet that doesn't usually end up in spending quality time together other than at the event.
The friendships I had back in school were some of the most grounding relationships I've had in my life, yet reaching out to friends from 35 years ago seems like an insurmountable task. Changes in attitudes, circumstances, adult inertia....and general reluctance to reach out all play a role.
I don't see there's any real problem here other than that if I want this to change, I'll have to learn some new behaviors leading to closer friendships.
posted by diode at 10:59 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


After moving across country as a 48-year-old and leaving behind friends of 15 years, Metafilter meetups were a godsend for helping me rebuild a social circle.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:00 AM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wonder how many MeMails Greg Nog is gonna get that begin with "Hey, you seem wonderful! We should hang out sometime!"

That's gonna be awkward considering Greg Nog is a performance piece conducted by the UCB Theatre.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:00 AM on November 9, 2015 [63 favorites]


I (female) had a conversation with a close female friend this weekend about how her husband struggles with this, and I mentioned that one pattern I have noticed with him (and a LOT of other men) is that in the US context, male friendship/fondness is often displayed as a form of verbal abuse/mockery.

The problem, though, is that anyone who makes the jump from “hey maybe we could grab a beer sometime” to cruel, cutting remarks too quickly then kills the burgeoning friendship. I have seen this in her husband from both directions— he quashed a new friendship by bringing out the “suck it up/grow a pair” rhetoric with someone who refused to put up with that kind of treatment from anyone other than a sibling/high school buddy. But he also torpedoed a tentative friendship when the OTHER guy made an “I am going to insult you in order to show that we are buds” overture.

Now, not all men make friends this way. But enough of them do that it becomes a minefield— you aren’t real friends until you are verbally berating each other. But verbally berate someone too early, and you’ll never get the chance again!

I seriously think this is one of the most soul-crushingly sad parts of toxic masculinity, especially of the American variety, that a huge number of men are offered so few spaces or contexts where being kind to one another is normal/appreciated. And even the men who would like to cultivate friendships that way have to be wary, lest they upset a dude who only understands insult friendship.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:01 AM on November 9, 2015 [72 favorites]


emjaybee: but just getting together to drink is really not enough

To each his own, but I have to admit that I really hate this sentiment and I think it has a strongly negative effect on friendships. My truest friends are the ones I go have beers with and just talk. We just catch up about our lives and how we're feeling. Just getting drinks in groups of 2 or 3 is the most intimate thing I do with someone besides my wife.

The people I know from activities or organizations are rarely that close with me. There's always the concern that I'm going to cross a line - reveal some politics that don't match, make a joke that they find troubling - and so I can't open up to them as much.

I really like having friends with whom I mostly talk. We still have parties and events and go to each others' soirees, but it would be exhausting if that were required for the friendship.
posted by Tehhund at 11:01 AM on November 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


A lot of this may be because women often do the emotional labor of creating social gatherings, as well as remembering birthdays, its been a long time since I've seen you phone calls, etc.
posted by agregoli at 11:01 AM on November 9, 2015 [36 favorites]


The friendships I had back in school were some of the most grounding relationships I've had in my life, yet reaching out to friends from 35 years ago seems like an insurmountable task

I've had people from high school/college (15 or so years ago) get in touch through Facebook and it's been totally cool hanging out.
posted by sweetkid at 11:02 AM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


After moving across country as a 48-year-old and leaving behind friends of 15 years, Metafilter meetups were a godsend for helping me rebuild a social circle.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:00 PM on November 9 [+] [!]


Oh yeah this is definitely true! A bunch of my best friends are people I met at MeFi meetups and it's great because it gives you the opportunity to meet people with whom you have some experiences in common and to have meetups a bit more frequently so friendships don't just fizzle out.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:02 AM on November 9, 2015


That's also true Tehhund. I've definitely known people who were terrible, just terrible at that organizing portion of it. I've been bad at it too for certain parts of my life! On the other hand, and the article touches on this, sometimes it's the whole wanting to be wanted thing as well, that part I do certainly miss at times.
posted by Carillon at 11:03 AM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


"...I’m headed for loneliness later in life if I don’t start actively sustaining friendships."

Well, a friendship involves two people. One person can't actively sustain it on his or her own. Maintaining the friendship aspect is easy work compared to the problem of stopping friendship partners from vanishing, into work, marriage, or family. And how can one make themselves a priority over those other aspects? You can't.

'Actively sustain your friendships.' Great advice now that everyone's gone.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:04 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of the opposite; when I was a kid and through high school I didn't have very many friends (although I did have a few close ones). In university I met and became friends with the people who still make up the vast majority of my current social circle, and I'm very lucky that most of them live pretty close by. Maintaining these relationships is extremely important to me, and I work hard at it...and it does take a lot of effort, because at my age (42) virtually everyone is busy; marriage, kids, jobs, and everything else that goes along with middle age, and it's really easy to sit down on the couch after work, blink and suddenly realize that you haven't spoken to, let alone seen, someone in six months.

Now, like I said, I'm lucky...because if I'd settled in a city where few or none of my old friends had also moved I'm not sure I would have had much success meeting new friends; I don't really have any hang-out-outside-of-work work friends, and even the post-university friends I've made are almost entirely people I met through through school chums.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:04 AM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


This article is such a great reminder for men in particular to cultivate their friendships.

Not only do you need friends to be your best man, but you also need them to be running commentary at the game, encourage you to drink just one more beer, feed your cat when you are gone, watch your kid for 20 minutes in an emergency, and hold you up when your wife leaves or your mother dies. You need them to help you make big career decisions and end of life decisions. You need a moral compass and a drinking buddy. You need someone to carry your coffin.

Don’t let those relationships wither until they have become awkward as in the article. But also remember, the best of your friends love you now as then. Simply pick up where you left off.

I’ll be reminding my husband to call his best friend for a few fart jokes tonight. You may feel too busy in this hurried-up society, but at the end, was it more important that you answered that work email or more important that you renewed your connection with someone that can make you laugh and help you through the rough stuff?
posted by littlewater at 11:05 AM on November 9, 2015 [28 favorites]


I've often wondered about the existence of research into middle-age friendship, and, more specifically, what it shows about American men.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:06 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I’ll be reminding my husband to call his best friend for a few fart jokes tonight.

Please feel free to share them in-thread if they need help workshopping anything
posted by Greg Nog at 11:07 AM on November 9, 2015 [30 favorites]


It sounds cheesy, but it always pleases me when my husband calls his best friend from university for no reason other to see what he's up to and how he's doing.
posted by Kitteh at 11:08 AM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't have a huge number of friends but between the ones that I have and friends that my wife and I have as a couple and neighbors that we're friends with, I have more social obligations than I actually want. I'm really hoping that my one friend gets a girlfriend soon so that he might stop texting me and calling me two or three times a day. There's really one so much social contact that I want to deal with.
posted by octothorpe at 11:09 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe the issue isn't having friends. The issue is the quality of friends given the modern forces operating on society. Even the relation "friendship" is employed as a loaded term - what's missing is a critical sociological, historical, scientific, anthropological lens on what it is, as opposed to relying on the possibly distorted folk, common-sense, or therapists' definition of what it is, given these times.
posted by polymodus at 11:17 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was a pretty lousy friend in my late 20s (not cruel, just absorbed in my new career and marriage) and also went through a bad breakup post-college that made a couple friendships awkward. I'm Facebook friends with lots of folks, but there is only one friend from those years whom I visit or call.

These days, I'm basically a member of the group of friends centered around my wife. Some of them are my genuinely my friends and not just friends of my wife (though she comes first in their hearts), but the group is mostly women and so is my old college friend (she was my best man). A few times my wife has set up what I can only describe as "play dates" with the spouses or partners of women she knows (she worries about my lack of male friendship and is very generous), but it hasn't gone well. The set-up is so awkward. So, I have no real male friends, and I do miss it. A group of us used to bowl together once a week in my early 20s, and it was great drinking and talking. Knowing what was going on in all our lives. Those guys have moved away and I don't know what to do now to find friends. I'm busy with my job, wife, and kids, and I was always bad at making friends with men and boys. I get weird and stiff when it comes time to banter and tease in traditional male ways and I can't talk sports, except for cross country ski racing (this exception doesn't actually help.)
posted by Area Man at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I do have one married friend that I tried calling on a lazy sunday afternoon realizing it had been a few weeks. I texted first in case he was running errands or working on his house like, "hey man, free to chat?" and he texted back like "sorry - running errands with wife! Let's definitely chat next week though!" Like, next week? Assuming you're getting 8 hours of sleep per night, you're saying the entire next 112 waking hours are completely booked? I was in this persons wedding last year. Someone who pulls this shit, please help me understand your mindset.
posted by windbox at 11:23 AM on November 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


I have three male friends in particular who I arrange meet-ups with...typically we can only get all four of us in the same place at the same time 3-4 times a year, so we've taken to calling them our Gentlemen's Quarterlies.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:24 AM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


> Someone who pulls this shit, please help me understand your mindset.

I can't speak for your friend, and I don't know how old you are, but among my male friends and I the phone has virtually ceased to exist as a method of communication. Texting, yes, but I almost never actually call anyone to have an honest-to-God conversation.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


you're saying the entire next 112 waking hours are completely booked?

Does he have kids? If so, then yes. If not then he's just not that into you.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


Frankly I'm terrified. I'm 33, single, moving to new cities every few years, and not great at doing the emotional labor involved in maintaining my old close friendships. The internet is a social lifeline for me, and I have IRL friends, sure, but this is only going to get super harrowing as I grow older if I don't ACTIVELY put in the necessary work. It's hard.
posted by naju at 11:31 AM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


Talking on the phone is too reminiscent of those satanic rituals called conference calls. They're the antechamber of heck. The last thing I want to do with my own time is a long talk on the phone. Let's go for a beer instead.
posted by bonehead at 11:32 AM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm really hoping that my one friend gets a girlfriend soon so that he might stop texting me and calling me two or three times a day.

Not to pick on you personally, but this is pretty emblematic of the problem single people face when needing to maintain friendships -- you're left feeding on these scraps. Perfectly understandable, of course, and it's not that anyone is doing anything wrong -- but how to maintain a friendship when your respective needs become irreconcilable?
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:35 AM on November 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I will talk on the phone if we are fleshing out final details of when/where to meet but otherwise we can either text/chat on the phone or talk in person.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:36 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


you're saying the entire next 112 waking hours are completely booked? Someone who pulls this shit, please help me understand your mindset.

I can't speak for your friend, but if I want to have a conversation of decent length and quality with someone I want to make time for it, and yes, that might require waiting a few days. Who knows what is going on in his life? Obviously not you. Cut him some slack.

And as for bagging on married people without kids not dropping everything to spend an hour on the phone with someone, it doesn't necessarily mean they're "not that into you" - it just means they have already allocated their time, potentially engaging in relationship maintenance, which requires lots and lots of hours.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:36 AM on November 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


windbox - There could be a couple of things going on here.

I personally dislike the phone. I either want to text/message or I want to talk in person. When you're in person or on the phone, you need to be attentive and timely with your responses, but on the phone it's weird to me because I'm not there with them. It works talking to my parents to SO but not really with my friends. So if someone wanted to talk to me, I'd prefer an invite over or an invite to get beers. But that's me.

Also, if you asked me to talk by phone, I might think you needed something big and important. In that case I'd be more "what's wrong" than "let's chat next week" but maybe it sounded like something big rather than just a catch-up?
posted by Tehhund at 11:36 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not to pick on you personally, but this is pretty emblematic of the problem single people face when needing to maintain friendships -- you're left feeding on these scraps.

It's nothing to do with my being married. Texting me multiple times every day is way over the line in any context.
posted by octothorpe at 11:42 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Those of us who never manage to pair up probably bear the worst brunt of it - we don't have SOs to help with socialization labor, our friends who are paired up tend to disappear, as men we're not brought up to put in serious effort to maintain friendships, and even if we do put in the effort, it's a two-way street and our friends are also men who were brought up to not put in the effort.
posted by naju at 11:46 AM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


I am so lucky to have a bar/restaurant near my home, which is where I met my last two boyfriends (10 yrs and 7-years-and-counting, respectively). My current boyfriend has made it his stopping spot with or without me, and some of our best friends hand out there. I can stop in any time I want and run into friends and no one give a fuck whether or not I have alcohol while hanging out with them.

Even while making a host of new friends there, my boyfriend has maintained friendships that he has made since 1978, when he moved to the SF Bay Area in a way that I can't even contemplate. Most of these friends he made through work, some through an ex-wife, and some through other friends. He is rich with friends.

I think that part of this has to do with the fact that he is very generous with his time and effort. Not only will he go out of his way to spend time with his friends, but he is also someone they can call on for help in small and large ways, generally logistical and not financial but still!

What I've learned from him is that you get out of friendships what you put into them. I am happy with the drop in friendship, he is happy with the get-out-and-work-at-it friendship. He has more better friends than I do. I have as many friends but not as close. But I have a couple of friends for whom I would take a fall and who would do the same for me. So it's also a matter of personality and who you choose as friends.

Anyway. His life is richer for being the kind of man who does reach out and who does give back.
posted by janey47 at 11:47 AM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


I personally dislike the phone.

Word. I don't even like talking to my wife and child on the phone. I will happily sit and drink a beer with either of them, however.

Not to pick on you personally, but this is pretty emblematic of the problem single people face when needing to maintain friendships -- you're left feeding on these scraps. Perfectly understandable, of course, and it's not that anyone is doing anything wrong -- but how to maintain a friendship when your respective needs become irreconcilable?

What I found, having gotten married and then having a child, is that what broke up the friendships with people who did not get married and/or have a kid was the lack of communication on both sides. My single friends assumed I was married and only wanted to hang out with married people, and I assumed the same for them. My child-less friends assumed I had no time or interest to hang out, and I assumed they didn't want to hang out with me.

Had we kept the communication lines open, we could have maintained the friendships. Sure, I can still hang out, in fact my wife encourages it, but not as much as before because I am trying to build this new thing on to my life. Sure, I can get out of the house now and then even when I have a kid but I'm going to be tired by 9:00 PM so let's make it an early dinner and keep in mind there's always the chance I need to cancel last minute because I'm cleaning poop off the ceiling.

I suppose it sucks to be on the receiving end of that when previously we had all the time in the world but it also sucks when friends aren't accepting that lives change sometimes.

But no, we just all kind of assumed we had nothing in common all of a sudden and the friendship ended.

In short, we men suck at talking about stuff.
posted by bondcliff at 11:48 AM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


I find making friends when you have young kids is both easier and harder. Easier because YES we need play dates. But harder because nobody wants to invite weirdos into their home and I am obviously a weirdo.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:01 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


you're saying the entire next 112 waking hours are completely booked? Someone who pulls this shit, please help me understand your mindset.

To be fair, if he thinks of weeks as starting on Monday, the way many of us do, "next week" on a Sunday afternoon might mean "anytime after right now."
posted by babelfish at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


It feels quite nice when an old friend makes the effort to get back in touch. My best friend from my neighborhood sent a message via Facebook and we had drinks recently after four years or so (we could not quite remember how long it had been since our last get-together which made us both a little sad.) We were very close during high school and college but due to moving and marriage and other life events we did not keep in touch very well. It was great seeing her in person and talking about old times.

It also feels quite nice to reestablish a friendship when you recognize that both friends are now going through the same thing. We realized over the course of the evening that we were both dealing with very similar situations caring for older parents and the health issues of our husbands. None of these situations were readily evident from Facebook posts because it's not easy sharing this type of info in that manner.

Both of us expressed the fact at different points in the discussion that it was great having someone who knows all the people involved. We are both very glad to have our dear friend back in our lives now who we can shorthand the politics and difficulties of managing this point in our lives with our parents, siblings and in-laws.

I am glad she reached out to me. I am glad to have my friend as part of my support system again and to be there for her.
posted by narancia at 12:07 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


you're saying the entire next 112 waking hours are completely booked? Someone who pulls this shit, please help me understand your mindset.

Again, not your friend, but if I know I have a busy (not even necessarily stressful, just busy) work week, I know I'll probably not be a good phone conversationalist at the end of the work day, and I never like talking during lunch (it's when I get paperwork done). Oddly, proposing meeting up for a drink during the week would more likely get a suggested date and time: I just really don't do well on the phone.

Also, he might not literally be thinking next wee, 112 hours from now. My husband spends his commutes catching up with friends, and I could see how if he was running errands on Sunday, he'd toss of a quick text between stops saying "next week" and just mean it in a generic "near future" kind of way. Especially since the coming work week does not start until Monday morning when he gets to the office (on preview, what babelfish said).
posted by ghost phoneme at 12:09 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am 42 and I have many kinds of friends.
I have friends from high school that I talk to every few months and some that I talk to once a week. I have friends from college who I see once a year or once every three and some I see every week. I have friends that I made on my first post-college job that I sometimes see once a month or sometimes once every year or two. I have friends that I make beer with every week; friendships made after I passed my mid-30s. I have friends that are part of my liberal hunting group that meets up once a year but communicates several hundred times a week.
Some of those friendships require effort on my part. Others require effort on the part of my friends. Some of those friendships are shallow and some are deep.
My friends and I will sit around and talk about our feelings and our fears, our marriages and our weaknesses. Sometimes we rib each other but often we console each other. Life is fucking rough and friends are the people that help you through it. But a friendship is not something you create; it's a relationship, a mutual agreement to give a fuck about each other. I don't think I ever put effort into making a friendship, but I sure do put effort into keeping them going. Except, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I let them die. Of my various and overlapping groups of friends, only the hunting group and the beer group are all male, and that is not by design, women have moved into them and not stayed. Maybe that will change at some point. But if it isn't there, if the basic sense of all people wanting to keep something going, it won't happen. Social media is good for maintenance of relationships. I sometimes see friends once a year, but when we pick up where we left off, where we left off was me cooing over their kids pic just last week. Sometimes I see them one year and then I see them two or three years later and we spend time catching up and learning what has happened to each other. Both are good, if you like a person.
But reading these responses makes me feel a little sad and a lot lucky.
When my kid was born, it would have been easy for me and my wife to shut ourselves off and to become insular. But we made a decision not to. Sometimes we are more successful than other times, but we knew we needed to make sure we had time to be with people other than each other.
I tend towards being a hermit. If I had to try TOO hard and if the trying itself wasn't fun, I might not have friends.
But then, who would I complain to about my job, my marriage, my kid, the weather?
Who would go hunting with me on a moments notice? Who would drink beer with me when I just need to do that. Who would take a hike or go camping with me?
Maybe friendships are what develops after you have someone to do things with and you realize that you care about each other.
posted by Seamus at 12:10 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Another, similar thing that bothers me about friendship advice: going out for beers with non-work friends is sometimes seemed as a childish activity. "You have to do more than organize keggers" we're told. "When you get older you can't do that kind of stuff."

Know what? Alcohol can create intimacy. [1] Moreover, "going for beers" is a simple shared experience that takes little effort. If we insist that people do more difficult things just to have friends - join a climbing club! Go camping with people you barely know! Organize an event! etc, etc - we're raising the barrier to entry and that's one reason that someone might not maintain their friendship: it takes so much effort. Let's lower the bar for entry and just let people be friends by doing things they like together, rather than admonishing people for getting together with their friends to do simple things that they enjoy like eating and drinking.

I can dream of a perfect world where we we all form friendships easily without booze, or a world where we all bond over our work volunteering for some greater cause. Or I can live in the real world where people are busy and tired and have commitments and might not want to add things to their plate.

[1] MacLean, Sarah. "Alcohol and the Constitution of Friendship for Young Adults." Sociology (2015): 0038038514557913. http://soc.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/01/21/0038038514557913.abstract
posted by Tehhund at 12:11 PM on November 9, 2015 [23 favorites]


This article terrifies me in a deeply existential way. I've never been great at making friends, so I generally try to be a pretty good friend (not always successful, of course, who is) and I have a few friends that I've collected over the years that have stuck, 1 from high school, 1 from college, 1 from an old job, 1 I met through a friend, etc. Of course, I recently moved across the country and have had to make local friends, and... it's just hard. And takes time.

And, as someone with introverted tendencies, it is frighteningly easy for me to bail on Meetups at the last minute to stay home and play Dark Souls or whatever. And I haven't made any friends that way yet anyway. But it is a social outlet and keeps me from having an itchy brain. Then I overthink asking someone cool to hang out more than once because I don't want to seem needy.

Sigh.
posted by Automocar at 12:19 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


You can't just find someone you have a lot in common with and be like, Hey, we're friends now. That does (sometimes) work for dating but not for establishing friendships.

I kinda did exactly this at my last job; saw that a co-worker had written a webcomic I enjoyed. Bumped into him one day and said we should go for mead at a local meadery. We did so and, in the course of our conversation I dropped the N-word in front of a black woman (note: was discussing Huck Finn) and we've been friends ever since. That got me 60% of my local friend group.
posted by caphector at 12:19 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I find making friends when you have young kids is both easier and harder. Easier because YES we need play dates. But harder because nobody wants to invite weirdos into their home and I am obviously a weirdo.

My kid likes to take hikes with me and my friends because we can go out in the greenbelt and take a swim or throw some rocks or hit things with sticks. We can have (some) adult conversations around him. he likes it. He joins it, as much as he can, on the conversation end. Sometimes that means our interpersonal issues and marital discussions get sidetracked into discussions of or compared to Star Wars personality issues, but that works for people of my age group too. When Shorty's friends go with us, they tend to enjoy themselves too. But their parents rarely do. I don't do too well with trying to be friends with parents of my kid's friends. Or I haven't yet.
posted by Seamus at 12:20 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tehhund,

You're completely right, and I think that sort of advice comes from a lack of understanding of what male friendship is like and how it develops. emjaybee, who gave that advice above, is female, for example.

I kind of wish the women of MeFi would tone down their participation in this thread because this is about men and male experiences, in the same way that a man should probably hold back on a discussion of what it's like being a woman or on some issue that affects women.

You can't just take what works for female friendships and just say "do that". It's different and women, having not grown up socialized as men are and not knowing what male friendship is like except by observation, may not get the differences.

I don't mean this to be insulting or that women are incapable of discussing these matters, just that this is specifically about an issue affecting men.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2015 [23 favorites]


Earlier this year, I moved to a new city. As a 36 year old dude who works from home and has two small children, it frankly seems nearly impossible to make new friends. I'm pretty introverted and, of course, my wife is my best friend, so it doesn't really bother me that much, but it does feel a little weird that, having lived here for eight months now, I still don't really know anyone I can go out for a beer with.

On the other hand, I do have several very close friends in other cities with whom hanging out is a joy whenever we visit. I stay in touch with them by email and phone and that provides much of the filial love that I need.
posted by 256 at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am the worst person alive when it comes to the proper care and feeding of friends and relatives. I have a few friends, who were at one time pretty close, but I've let those relationships slide ever since I lost my last job and kind of transitioned into house-husbandry. It's kind of hard to make male friends when you yourself don't have much going on in terms of work or career, or you don't give a shit about sports. It's just much easier and safer to just stay home in my cave.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh man, so I loved working from home but it did a number on me socially.

Doing stuff "after work" sounds more appealing when you work at an office because you go from point A to B to C. When you work from home, someone wants you to get out of your PJs, shower, gird your loins for the world and leave you warm and inviting home.

Also I feel like I lost a lot of my verbal fluidity working from home, just out of not having short normal conversations with people ever. I ended up quieter, more tentative, and maybe less understandable. I found myself reaching for words a lot. I was used to slower paced written conversation.

The problem I mostly have with friends these days is that if there is not an Explicitly Scheduled Event then "meeting up" just doesn't happen. I do have a few friends who are good at that kind of thing, who have game/drinking nights, movie nights, poker, etc. It helps.

I have a lot of superficial friends from my hobbies but mostly not people I'd go out with outside of those hobbies.

(I'm a 38 year old dude)
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:27 PM on November 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I meant to add that I have met people here that I think I would like to be friends with, but making that transition when there's little to nothing that actually brings us together on a regular basis is daunting. It's very easy to say "we should hang out sometime," but surprisingly hard to actually make that happen, especially with kids.

And frankly, when I was living in Toronto, where most of my established social network still is, I felt very little impetus to actually work at building new friendships. I had the three or four close friends I needed, and a dearth of energy for the emotional labour of building a new relationship from scratch. So, I've seen it from the other side as well and know what I'm up against.
posted by 256 at 12:27 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Christ, RustyBrooks, I am moving from part-time at home to full-time at home in the next year and you are making me think my life might become a nightmare "The Machine Stops" scenario after that.
posted by Seamus at 12:31 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hey, you didn't ask for the whole picture, this is just the immediate friend stuff.

I *loved* working from home and wish I still could.

The reluctance to leave home was because being at home was pretty awesome.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:33 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


That is a great point about barrier-raising Tehhund. When you're kids you just invite friends over, you don't worry if the house is a mess or if there's food to serve, etc. and the friends who come over don't care about these things either. But as you get older having people over starts to become more of a production. The house needs to be clean, there ought to be something in the house to eat besides some saltines and milk, etc. Depending on your situation, these can be pretty big asks. If we could be content hanging out at each other's messy houses eating food of dubious quality then we would all hang out more, but because we aren't teenagers/students anymore we demand better of ourselves and friendships suffer as a result.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:38 PM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


I increasingly wish there was some sort of viable men's movement to discuss and work through issues like this, with firm grounding in feminist theory, and without any of the misogynist/MRA/meninist pathology. How to be active, healthy, functioning men in society. A movement to say yes, you need to spend time and energy on your friendships - here is how to grow and maintain that practice into old age, in a way that understands how men peculiarly socialize (and how to combat the fear of appearing needy.) Yes, you need to check the division of emotional labor in your relationships, and correct for it, and here are solid tips for how to do so. Don't have a relationship? Here is how to approach women (in a way that respects their space and treats them like human beings). Etc. As a gender we're kind of just floundering at this moment. Not enough men are teaching other men important things.
posted by naju at 12:38 PM on November 9, 2015 [60 favorites]


I think all us dudes in this thread should go hang out and have a beer and maybe cry with each other and what are you guys doing Saturday I have some shit I gotta move down to my basement.
posted by bondcliff at 12:40 PM on November 9, 2015 [29 favorites]


You can't just find someone you have a lot in common with and be like, Hey, we're friends now.

Add in some generalized suspicion that one party may secretly be a black market organ dealer and this is exactly how my irl mefi friends ensnared me.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:41 PM on November 9, 2015


My best man at my wedding is my best friend. We've known each other since we were four. We've been separated by hundreds of miles since we were nineteen.

He came to LA with his travel nurse wife, his kids, his truck and his RV trailer for twelve weeks. His kids can all take care of themselves, and he's currently unemployed. It's still fucking hard as hell to schedule shit with him, due to his family stuff or my family, home, and work obligations. But the hours we spend together are fantastic, and we both try not to think about how precious they are.

Soon we'll be separated by thousands of miles again, and my wife will huff and puff about his occasional phone calls or past life choices. But when we're all in our sixties, Justin and I will have been close friends for over ninety percent of our lives. I grieve that my wife will never have anyone like that, unless she and I both live into our third century.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:43 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


what male friendship is like and how it develops

I'm reading along for this specific discussion.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:43 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


naju - I increasingly wish there was some sort of viable men's movement to discuss and work through issues like this, with firm grounding in feminist theory, and without any of the misogynist/MRA/meninist pathology. How to be active, healthy, functioning men in society.

Oh god yes. I would love an online feminist men's discussion forum. If you discuss this kind of stuff in your average online forum it gets toxic almost immediately. And showing up to a feminist forum to discuss men's issues is not a great idea. You'd be in real danger of crowding out other voices. However, a forum for men's issues - but one explicitly accepting of or even grounded in feminism - would be really great.
posted by Tehhund at 12:47 PM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


A movement to say yes, you need to spend time and energy on your friendships

I don't like how this is framed (by the article, not just this comment) as "men are too lazy to put in the effort required to maintain friendships" because it ignores the underlying reasons for that behavior.

Men aren't taught growing up to be lazy about friendships. What we're taught is that we should never appear weak or show vulnerability, and that things like opening up and reaching out are weak. The article touches on this:
“You never show people that you want to be wanted,” she says. “Instead, you wait for them to get in touch and, if they don’t, you forget them.”

And there’s more. “You’re terrible at keeping in touch,” she says. “You have no sentimentality. When I talk about how great university was, or express regrets, you say, ‘That’s done. Move on.’
But the article talks about this being "male pride", which I think is wrong. It's about men being taught that showing any emotion is weakness, and so opening up to a potential friend is weak, reaching out too much is weak, etc.

And this isn't just internal pressure, there can be real social consequences from other men if they think you come across as too emotional or "weak". That's why a lot of male friendships involve "busting balls" as someone said above. You want friends but you can't be too openly emotional, so you have to cut at each other to show you don't care.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:50 PM on November 9, 2015 [26 favorites]


Try organizing a 500-person charity dinner, or a parade float, or a toy collection with someone, then you really get to know them (for better or for worse).

Try going backpacking with someone and on the first night they disappear into the cold dark woods in some kind of sleep-walking fugue state where they imagine they are on some kind of a dystopian universe reality TV survival show and are totally frightened and confused when you wake them up after following their tortured yells through the cold, dark, wolf-hiding woods.
Man, you really learn more about a person from that than working with them on planning the elementary school carnival.
Then they apologize for a few hours until you hit the next camping spot and you light a fire and have some whiskey and talk about shit.
Ahhhhhh. Memories.
posted by Seamus at 12:52 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Is it just me, or is this thread kind of oddly assuming that the large majority of men's friendships are with other men? For me it's easier to become close with women, because of various patriarchal shit - the explicitly toxic stuff alluded to above, but also a kind of default feeling of awkwardness that feels like it comes from a mutual-information problem with respect to the worse stuff. I definitely agree that we need a serious consciousness-raising anti-patriarchy movement by men, but it seems kind of weird to paint the issue of a man's friendships as being something women don't know about. Like uh, most of my best friendships are with women.
posted by goodnight to the rock n roll era at 12:52 PM on November 9, 2015 [21 favorites]


But that's kind of the point: why is there such difficulty specifically with male-male friendships? Why do men especially have trouble maintaining friendships with other men?
posted by Sangermaine at 12:54 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm a woman and do not want to interrupt the good stuff going on here.

But I'd like to say that all women should understand that it is necessary to give space to your men having friends. I've always been suspicious if men I dated didn't have friends.
My granddad, my dad, and my brothers all had/have close friends for life, and I've grown up seeing how that formed their personalities in a good way. Those friends have become part of my life, and I love them. Yes, sometimes they get drunk or get lost together or just fail in strange ways. Whatever.
posted by mumimor at 12:55 PM on November 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Is it just me, or is this thread kind of oddly assuming that the large majority of men's friendships are with other men?

I don't know if the thread is assuming that.
But in the States, we surely are pressured to not be friends with women other than our wives. Not all of us are lucky enough to be able to have female friends.
posted by Seamus at 12:56 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


what male friendship is like and how it develops

Frankly, I think that among well-socialized emotionally-mature men, there is not so terribly much different between male-male friendships and female-female friendships (I say, obviously, as only an observer of the latter.

None of my close friendships revolve around sports or other stereotypically male interests (though they mostly do involve rather a lot of drinking). One of my close friendships does involve quite a lot of the good-natured verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse mentioned upthread, but the others do not and it wouldn't feel natural to force it.

Thinking about it further, one of my very closest friends is a woman and, aside an increased level of flirtation, there is very little difference between that friendship and my close friendships with men. The one thing that does seem relevant though is that she is the only one of my close friends to ever broach an "I need more of X and less of Y from our relationship" conversation with me. That might be quite important.
posted by 256 at 12:57 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is it just me, or is this thread kind of oddly assuming that the large majority of men's friendships should be with other men?

Good point. As a guy, my friends are primarily male. I have quite a few female friends, but to me they feel like the exception instead of the rule. But that makes no sense at all - shouldn't they all just be "my friends"? Yet for the most part I'm able to open up to other men than to women. I'm sure there's a tremendous amount of socialization to unpack here, but I don't have much insight into why men are my "default" friends other than to say "I'm a guy", which is a complete non-answer.
posted by Tehhund at 12:57 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


"just fail in strange ways"

Is this not true. Hopefully we are learning from them.
I don't think that many of my male friends (or myself) would have been able to discuss ou emotions if we hadn't seen how awfully destructive the ball-busting model can be, often through being part of it.
posted by Seamus at 12:59 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most of my friends who are men like hugs and emotional discourse - a fact for which I am grateful. I am also grateful that my wife is supportive of my friendships with other women. I've always been an extremely emotional person, though, so I learned to choose my friends wisely from the get go.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:01 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


But in the States, we surely are pressured to not be friends with women other than our wives.

Wait, what?? I am from the States, and to me this sounds totally bizarre and not something I have heard at all. And like, I'm familiar with most forms of patriarchal shit, but this just doesn't ring true.

Like, 'men will be men' and the idea that men have default-better friendships with other men is def A Thing, but I have not heard of men being pressured to have no female friends whatsoever . At the very least, what about your male friends' partners and your partner's female friends?
posted by goodnight to the rock n roll era at 1:04 PM on November 9, 2015


See, it encourages me that ya'll are saying "Do you mind, we would like to work this out ourselves!" That's excellent, carry on. I'll just hang out and listen.
posted by emjaybee at 1:06 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've definitely felt pressure not to have female friends. Honestly I don't think any of it comes from my wife, or at least an imperceptible amount. It's the mass of media that tells everyone that guys are trying to screw anything that moves, and that if your SO has an opposite-sex friend they're in real danger of cheating. We hear it over and over as a plot point. There's a ton of it going the other way too (women discouraged to have close male friends). I think it's just gotten embedded in our collective psyche and plays on humans' jealousy / possessiveness.
posted by Tehhund at 1:08 PM on November 9, 2015 [18 favorites]


Well, my own wife is perfectly happy for me to have female friends, even those who are not spouses of friends. In TX and in GA, where I have lived, this is far from the norm. It has even been openly stated to me, by women, that they would never let their men have female friends.
I live in a bastion of liberalism in this state and I see it even here. Outside Austin, it's super strong and explicit.

If you ever read any of the "Can men and women ever be friends" type crap that comes across the intertubes, the general idea is that no we cannot.

I don't believe this, but my idea that we can be friends with people of different genders is not something I see reinforced in American society in general. I would love to be wrong about this.
posted by Seamus at 1:09 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wow--I am really loving this discussion.
Male friendships are important, but often difficult, because many men have no expectation or training that these relationships, like all relationships, take effort unless circumstances support them (work, hobby, family).
I'm very fortunate all around--I still see (male) friends from grade school, but this is because 1) we have a shared hobby, and 2) one of us--ONE--is the sort who remembers birthdays, organizes gatherings, etc--he does the emotional work and makes the effort.
I also have a wonderful partner who is very good at this.
I would be very much impoverished without all these relationships and I have others to thank for a great deal of the richness of my friendships. I'm stepping away to contact all of them to thank them.
posted by librosegretti at 1:10 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just typed "can men a" into google and it auto-filled for me "and women be friends".
*shudder*
posted by Seamus at 1:11 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


As a single straight man, I have wonderful friendships with women! But if they're in relationships, I feel an obligation to keep a bit of distance out of respect for that relationship. Or they might feel an obligation to include the SO to show nothing weird is going on, so it becomes a 2-people-meeting-1-person thing on the regular. If they're similarly single, there might be some tension that adds a different element to things. It's just a different dynamic, I guess. But I'm incredibly grateful for the friendships that do just work with nothing else happening or no unspoken rules/obligations/subtext hovering over our heads!
posted by naju at 1:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm stepping away to contact all of them to thank them.

Yeah, since starting this thread, I stepped away to converse with a buddy who I spent Friday night with because he's having a hard time. I told him when we parted how much I love and appreciate him, but I felt the need to reiterate it.
posted by Seamus at 1:14 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is part of why I'm worried about moving out of NYC. I've got friends here, I've got friends I hang out with to do stuff and friends I hang out with just to drink and chat. I didn't really make any friends at my new job, although I get along with everyone. I've never really made friends to the point that we hang out outside of work at a job. If my SO finishes her PhD, then we'll be looking for somewhere for her to teach. I know how to make new friends, kind of, but it's hard.

Most of my closest friends are female. One of my requirements for a serious relationship has always been "is cool with me hanging out with female friends."
posted by Hactar at 1:15 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't think anyone does it deliberately, but things just...slip away.

Last weekend I was talking with my wife -- OK, actually, we went on a one-mile walk without the kids, which is like the only way to get time to talk -- and I said that I can't figure out how people have time to go to the gym, much less have friends. She said that you get up early (but I already get up at 5:40!) or go on your lunch hour (but I go grocery shopping or do other errands from noon to 1:00!)…you know, make an effort.

Now, we have four kids, age 7 to 16, and I am involved in their activities as best I can: helping at Boy Scout meetings, cheering at cross-country meets, coming to guitar lessons, etc. -- but not in an over-scheduled way, just a bunch of stuff in a big family. The house needs work, I call my far-away family once a week or so, and I have to make the TV work with the DVR now that stupid Cox Cable forced this adapter box thing on us….

Look, if I can't find time to maintain my physical health, how will I find time to maintain my emotional health?
posted by wenestvedt at 1:17 PM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm chiming in partially to nod along with a lot of what's being said here (it's hard, I've never been great at either the making nor the care/feeding), but mostly so I get invited to the pub with the rest of you guys.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:19 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was a guy heading in this direction in my mid 30's, but then the 7-year relationship that I was in had ended, and I was also facing possible loss of immigration status in 2 years, and both of those factors were a good kick in the pants to reinvest in my friendships.

A few things that I did:

* I moved somewhere that was closer to where other friends lived, so that it was easier for us to make plans without making excuses about how "getting to that suburb is SOOOO hard."

* Conversely, I also made myself get better at emotional labor about replying promptly to email messages or FB messages ... esp, from friends who weren't physically proximate to me. I also made an extra effort to setup plans with married friends with kids, and being especially generous with timelines for when we'd get together, because I realized that they were juggling several priorities.

* I set up a series of bi-weekly/monthly dinner swap nights. Like, every two weeks you come over to my place and I make you dinner, and you can pay me back by doing my dishes, then I can go over to your place and do your dishes in exchange for dinner. I don't care what you make, or even if you ask to order out. I just care that we hang out. That was a good way to rotate through a renewal of various friendships that had atrophied when I was being a bit of an absent friend.

* I stopped playing videogames. Or, basically, I told myself that I could play all of the videogames that I could want after I was deported, but I'd kick myself if I didn't spend this time with friends whom I would miss. As an introvert, I didn't spend all of that videogame time socializing ... that would've been terrifying, but I did spend more time going on walks, reading books in pubs, answering emails more promptly, just generally being more engaged with the outside world instead of being a shut-in.

Now the immigration threat isn't as acute, and I'm in a happy relationship that's diverted me from some of my marginal friendships, but my partner knows and appreciates that I have a bi-weekly rock climbing + TV night with this one female friend that she's totally welcome to join in or opt out whenever we have it, and I have this other bi-weekly game night with a mixed group, and I have a sort of monthly dinner thing with two other friends, and it's all great. If anything, she really likes knowing that there's structured time for us to be independent with each other, where she can make her own plans on a semi-regular basis.
posted by bl1nk at 1:20 PM on November 9, 2015 [22 favorites]


some guys in a couple of bands i play with, the usual workplace people, but really only one true friend. guy i have known since high school. these days he lives in new hampshire and i'm in michigan but we "talk" every day via IM.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:21 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Look, if I can't find time to maintain my physical health, how will I find time to maintain my emotional health?
I had to make space in the garage for a work-out space and a brewing space.
For others it might be a work-out space and a fly-tying bench.
I have no idea how people go to the gym. My hunting group is only partially that. The rest of the time, we make fart and bowel movement jokes and comments, exchange recipes and, more frequently now that we are older, encourage each other in our chosen exercise regimens. If I didn't have a set up in my garage for exercise and hanging out, it would be much harder to make those things happen.
posted by Seamus at 1:22 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'd like to jump back to this if we can:

what male friendship is like and how it develops

I'm reading along for this specific discussion.


Distilling what "male friendship" is, and whether it's really unique, is going to be tough. As with most things, different people have different experiences and different opinions. And so much of this is tied up in social messages about what men should be and how our friendships should be. I’m trying to write up some thoughts on it, but I’ve been doing so for half an hour and I keep giving up, so I’d like to hear anyone else’s thoughts.

I would posit that man-man friendships are more similar than different from woman-woman, and any differences have more to do with the expectations society places on each sex. Men are told not to be too emotional, not to be vulnerable, and not to need other people too much. We also get away with avoiding emotional labor in a lot of cases. So when it comes to friendship, which requires emotional labor and some vulnerability and sharing, we often don’t approach it very well. But that's awfully general and may not represent other guys' experiences.
posted by Tehhund at 1:24 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I stopped playing videogames. Or, basically, I told myself that I could play all of the videogames that I could want after I was deported, but I'd kick myself if I didn't spend this time with friends whom I would miss.

This is an area where I think The Old Days are superior because online gaming has made gaming so isolating.

It used to be that playing video games meant hanging out with friends. We would get together and play GoldenEye or Smash Bros. or something at someone's place, and shoot the shit and talk while waiting turns. It was a good excuse to get the gang together.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:25 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


the tl;dr of things that worked for me (and this mostly works when one has a few friendships that are on life-support but not totally dead yet) --

be mindful of how you already spend your time and think about solitary activities that you wouldn't mind turning down a bit in order to open up time to maintain and revive friendships

do your own labor with keeping up your end of making plans but also be generous to friends who are legitimately more burdened than you

try as much as possible to make things a regular, recurring event and just know that this is going to be an event that you do with someone every two weeks or every month and setup your plans around that.
posted by bl1nk at 1:26 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I keep seeing kids being mentioned. People, both with and without, without kids seeing them as an impediment to seeing their en-child-ed friends.
Childless people can hang out with people with kids. Emotional connections can happen between kissing mild abrasions and diaper changes when they are babies, random Star Wars conversations when they are a little older and sullen outbursts during teenage angst times.
posted by Seamus at 1:27 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


"just fail in strange ways" - sorry, I meant to say that I'm impressed how my brothers are loyal to friends and keep in touch regardless of how society might perceive these friends (of all genders).

As an old person, I'd like to add: its amazing how you can reconnect with your friends when all that children and career stuff is over. Don't give up, and send out messages as soon as you have the time. I'm even planning to invite one of my dad's friends for coffee - I know he'd love it.
posted by mumimor at 1:29 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


You definitely have to have a certain talent for friendship, and some just don't.

I wish I loved the human race
I wish I liked its silly face
And when I'm introduced to one
I wish I thought
"What jolly fun!"
posted by jfuller at 1:29 PM on November 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I was sick for a long time when I didn't know I had celiac disease, and tried to stay in touch with my (2500 miles away) friends every few months because I valued those people and wanted to keep them as friends.

Between my not having much to say about non-health issues and their busy lives (school, children, relationships) I gradually stopped reaching out to my friends, because it clearly became more burdensome than interesting for them to talk to me. Now I have my disease under control but these friendships, many of which I had for over half my life, have withered to the point that they seem like strangers now.

I try to act open and friendly to most people I interact with but the people I meet seem to be uninterested in anything other what I can do for them. It's probably me, I usually conclude, but this discussion makes me wonder if it could be different.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 1:32 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tehhund, I don't know if I can explain or define male friendship. I do know that my successful friendships with other men have, in general, been exceedingly different from the image of male friendship portrayed in most media and different than the friendships I see in my peer group in this town. I think you are correct in that (in the US) we are socialized to be less emotive, to not express our needs and desires. If I hadn't found and collected the people I have over the years, I might only have the bro-tastic friendships I see around me. But what do I know about those people's friendships? What one relationship looks like on it's face to others says nothing about what it is in reality. My Wednesday night beer group looks like a bunch of poorly dressed, social misfits sitting in a garage, listening to loud music and making some steaming pot of weirdness. What most people don't see is what we do after the work is done, when the music is shifted to quieter bands and we sit in the dark, staring at the sky, talking about life or going on night hikes to sing back and forth with the resident great horned owl. It looks, from the outside, like stereotyped masculinity but sure as hell doesn't feel like it.

When I look at my wife's friendships, I don't think they are that different. They engage in different activities, but her friends give her something similar to what my friends give me.
posted by Seamus at 1:40 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]



emjaybee: but just getting together to drink is really not enough


...but it totally is if it's scheduled. My friends have met every second Thursday at the same bar for more than ten years. Wives, as they appeared, have been absorbed, similarly children. Returning expats who hadn't met half of the group (*cough*) have been absorbed, and random passers-by.

The key has always been the scheduling...you don't have to make time to have awkward phone calls if you'll see each other on Thursday. Haven't spoken to anyone in weeks? Thursday. Need to discuss something less superficial? Stay later on Thursday.
posted by Kreiger at 1:41 PM on November 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


...but it totally is if it's scheduled. My friends have met every second Thursday at the same bar for more than ten years. Wives, as they appeared, have been absorbed, similarly children. Returning expats who hadn't met half of the group (*cough*) have been absorbed, and random passers-by.

Are you sure your friends aren't the Borg?
posted by Sangermaine at 1:52 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


as far as the "what male friendship is and how it develops" here's a few examples that I can offer that may either be snowflake-y or useful, but, as always, YMMV.

1. I have a friend who is married with kids and we get together about once a month or so, and sometimes it's with his wife, and sometimes it's just two guys. He and I were roommates before he was married, and our engagement has waxed and waned over the last couple of decades, and it's stronger now but weaker than at its height. When we get together, we talk about work, I let him live vicariously on my tales of an unfettered child free life, but I also love hanging out with kids and treating them like nephews and nieces, and giving what little relevant advice I can about being a kind and patient person. His wife actually revived our friendship because there was a stressful episode where they were juggling a house and career move, and she needed to get him to take a break from it all. She has her own girlfriends who can let her stop being a mom for a couple of hours while he takes care of the kids, and I am his similar pressure valve for when he'd just like to have a dinner where he doesn't need to negotiate with a child about their picky appetite.

2. I have a friend who is a veteran and dealing with depression. He also has very intense periods of engagement, and we've gotten into a lot of adventures together. When he's on, he's 110% ON, and then he goes and hermits for a while. He's had a lot of life turmoil and it's probably been at least a year since we talked, but I send a ping once every three or four months just to say that I thought of him for some random reason and hoped he was well. Sometimes we make plans and sometimes he flakes, but I just say I understand and tell him my door's open whenever he's ready to make plans. We're finally getting dinner this weekend, but I have no expectations.

3. I have another male friend who I do semi-regular rock climbing nights with. He's happy and go lucky, but never gets too deep about any one topic. He holds a lot of people at arm's length and has a skill at deflecting a conversation before it gets into particularly intimate territory, but after a while, I realized that the constancy of his friendship was his way of Giving A Shit. He never flakes. He's also one of the first individuals to do a nice gesture for someone in trouble or at loss. But for a long time our friendship was a sequence of a hundred small acts of shared delight that weren't burdensome or intimate or high maintenance, but as a result became easy to maintain over the long run and thus long lived in its own way.

4. Contrast to another male friend who I will only talk to once every rare few months and also flakes, but when we do, we talk about everything. Careers, parents, women, insecurities, disappointments, wishes, dreams. It's all on the table, but it only happens rarely, because we're busy and I think that we both know that we can take each other a little for granted since our ability to startup again is so effortless.

5. I have another male friend who I used to meet for drinks at a bar once a month. We alternate who pays the tab, and we've kind of forgotten who paid it first, so we always believe that we owe the other another night of drinks. He likes being a devil's advocate and invites me to the do the same. There's a lot of time where he tries to press certain buttons that I don't want him to press, but he's respectful of my boundaries when I declare them, but it's taken a while for us to get there, but he's my #1 reality check friend because at least he's willing to push the buttons, and he likes me because I will call him an asshole when I think he's being one.

Many formats and flavors, many reasons why it can be valuable, and many of the models vary according to the people involved.

It's also easy to imagine how this can work with a male/female friendship, and I sort of do have similar analogues with my female friends, but the conversational matter, especially when it delves into ideas of masculinity and expectations placed on men, and how we try to navigate them, is something that, I'd argue, can only happen when it's dudes talking to dudes.
posted by bl1nk at 1:55 PM on November 9, 2015 [18 favorites]


This is an area where I think The Old Days are superior because online gaming has made gaming so isolating.

It used to be that playing video games meant hanging out with friends. We would get together and play GoldenEye or Smash Bros. or something at someone's place, and shoot the shit and talk while waiting turns. It was a good excuse to get the gang together.


So, this is one thing which I'm kinda surprised by, but it makes sense that it doesn't work all that well for others. I actually didn't like playing most video games with other people in person--there are only a few controllers, most of those games are intensely competitive, and well, you might not like most of those people anyway.

Online gaming, however, I would say, was critical to maintaining a couple of my friendships over the years, especially after a few moved away. I'm shit at this emotional labor stuff, because I tend to unconsciously be like Data and Captain Holt in a lot of things--so if my friends aren't on the same channels I'm on, it's very easy for us to not talk as often. I forget how many games we rotated through, but they included Borderlands 2, WildStar, LoL, WoW, and many others, all of which we generally scheduled on a Thursday evening, with voice chat running and so on. We could all have beers and get hammered without worrying about getting home, we could burp without having to be polite (I mean, with push-to-talk nobody would hear), and so on.

I can see how it doesn't work for everyone, but I wouldn't say it's ineffective.

It's just like how these days I totally understand how friends can hang out without any pre-planned activity. A while before, it made no sense to me, but now? Sometimes it's just the company that's desired.

I still don't get some of my straight dude friends' relationships, though; watching it on the outside, there's a lot of ballbusting which almost seems mean, but apparently it's not?
posted by qcubed at 1:57 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I still don't get some of my straight dude friends' relationships, though; watching it on the outside, there's a lot of ballbusting which almost seems mean, but apparently it's not?

Maybe it's not, maybe it is. I think it's a weird mush of things: different people are different, so some people just genuinely enjoy I guess a kind of busting-your-chops thing as part of their social dynamic, but also there's just...sometimes you're friends with someone who is kind of a dick. And balancing friendships is weird and people prioritize how they will.

I mostly can't stand that shit myself and so I never ended up in any serious friendships (or even, really, casual ones) with people who thought that Ha Ha Just Kiddin' jerkassery was a good time, but that's just me and who I am. Doesn't make it fundamentally a bad thing, but it's also definitely not a universal thing either.
posted by cortex at 2:03 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Are you sure your friends aren't the Borg?
Lots of us are bald and pasty, and there's a lot of technology around...

Re: online gaming, it's the opposite of isolating, in my experience. I've probably spoken more to my brother and my best friend via Mass Effect and CoD than any other mechanism. I know that's true for my quite a few of my friends as well.
posted by Kreiger at 2:06 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I still don't get some of my straight dude friends' relationships, though; watching it on the outside, there's a lot of ballbusting which almost seems mean, but apparently it's not?


Straight dude here and I've never really done that with male friends. I always thought of that kind of behavior as a TV/movie cliche that doesn't really happen much in real life.
posted by octothorpe at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


In college there was a hell of a lot of ball-busting going on, and I didn't take to it very well. At one point someone set me aside and straight-up told me that it's really nothing personal, that this is how we bond with each other and develop friendships, and that I need to develop a thicker skin and learn how to bust chops right back. I mean, I get his point. He wasn't wrong, and him setting me aside was in itself an act of support and help. But my friendships since then have been genuinely kind and supportive, and have never needed to resort to that stuff. And I really prefer the latter. I think that sort of interaction comes from men wanting to hide their vulnerabilities, and I have no interest in hiding my vulnerabilities. I've generally been a cold robot of a person in the past, and part of growing up is learning that I have to embrace my vulnerability if I want to be a better human.
posted by naju at 2:18 PM on November 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Yeah, some guys really bond over the ball-busting, but I think it's largely counter-productive. For me it peaked in early high school, and has slowly gone away with each year. I don't know if my friends got older and more mature, or if I just stopped hanging out with the kind of person who feels the need to insult their friends. I do sometimes bust my friends' balls (man that feels weird to type out), but I always know that I'm poking fun at them, do it carefully, know that it's a risk, and understand that I need to be careful because if I hut their feelings or make them feel bad then that's my fault and I need to apologize.

I don't think you can't ever poke fun at friends, but using it as a primary way of interacting with people is really pathological. I also think it's an unfortunate thing we learn to do to establish a social hierarchy.
posted by Tehhund at 2:32 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I also think it's an unfortunate thing we learn to do to establish a social hierarchy.

Oh yeah, absolutely. And I just have no need for hierarchies in my friendships at this point. There's enough of that bullshit to navigate at work. Who has time for it when you're supposed to be having fun, seriously.
posted by naju at 2:37 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


For me, the friendships I made "ball-busting" (including a female friend!) were unhealthy and eventually all ended.
posted by Automocar at 2:50 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm in this scenario pretty hard right now, having moved from a small city with a broad and interconnected social group (university friends and others) to a place where I knew nobody, and where my typical recreational activities don't really exist. I leaned heavily on the social circles of women I was dating at first, but when my best friend here became my SO, we kind of stopped socializing with others. Partly because Honolulu is a nightlife-culture place and we both get up way too early for work.

There are the folks I sail with, and we have a very occasional potluck club, but that's about it. Mostly it's us and the dogs hiking or going to the beach.

I have a few best friends (male and female) who are scattered around the US and Europe so we keep in touch however we can across time zones, but I haven't seen some of my best friends in two years or more. It's actually harder to stay current with my Richmond friends because they're all local to one another, so they hang out all the time.

On busting balls: there's ballbusting because you need to give a buddy tough love about something, and there's being comically masculine. I've definitely said "I'm going to bust your balls on this" usually in preamble to a DTMFA conversation, but in my experience men who overdo the sarcasm, bro thing do it to maintain distance from uncomfortable topics or to dissemble any vulnerability. And mutual vulnerability is central to friendship closeness.
posted by a halcyon day at 2:53 PM on November 9, 2015


Oh god yes. I would love an online feminist men's discussion forum. If you discuss this kind of stuff in your average online forum it gets toxic almost immediately. And showing up to a feminist forum to discuss men's issues is not a great idea. You'd be in real danger of crowding out other voices. However, a forum for men's issues - but one explicitly accepting of or even grounded in feminism - would be really great.

There apparently is a Crone Island Slack that grew out of the Emotional Labor thread. Maybe someone who like, knows and groks Slack could set up a Man Talk thing? I do not have the mental space to do the emotional labor of figuring out how to set one up myself right now, but we've got to have a few Slack dudes here, right?
posted by Rock Steady at 2:54 PM on November 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I still don't get some of my straight dude friends' relationships, though; watching it on the outside, there's a lot of ballbusting which almost seems mean, but apparently it's not?

This, and a lot of other toxic ideas about masculinity, and me just being an asshole cost me a good portion of my friends when I was in my 20s.

One friendship that survived those years happened when we one day reached The No-Mom's Accord of 2002. Prior to the agreement we would do the insulting of each other and whatnot, which included pretty typical and typically juvenile 'your mom' jokes. I'm not even sure how it came up or who started that overture, but one day we decided we were just not going to say stupid things about each other's mothers anymore. Handshake, done, just like that. It was like this accidental moment of maturity, and he's now the person I've known the longest in the area.

The not-caring posture is something you have to get over before you can really get into intimacy. Some friendships get there in spite of that phase, a lot don't survive, and some luck out into never having to do it in the first place. I think that's my biggest regret of my 20s, is holding on very tightly, defensively, to projecting an attitude of not-caring.
posted by danny the boy at 3:00 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this happens.

I don't even know how to be friends anymore. Like, I make plans and we sometimes follow through. But no one really keeps up, and we put our heads down and before you'll know it, you're really old.

How did I make it to almost 50? Not by skill, I'll tell you that.
posted by clvrmnky at 3:01 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I could, what do you want to call it? The Slack thing I mean.
posted by qcubed at 3:02 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huglife.slack.com
posted by bl1nk at 3:08 PM on November 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


...I kinda love that.

huglife.slack.com it is.
posted by qcubed at 3:11 PM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm in for huglife.slack.com! I'll PM you.
posted by Tehhund at 3:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I still don't get some of my straight dude friends' relationships, though; watching it on the outside, there's a lot of ballbusting which almost seems mean, but apparently it's not?

This is something I've had to examine in my own life over the last few months, because some new friends of mine have not taken kindly to what I consider light teasing at best. I've had to learn how to dial it back and figure out who's down and who's not. To be clear, this is a good thing that I'm glad I'm learning. Among my friends who do get after each other, and I have this strong sense of my friends with East Coast roots being more playful in this way than others, it does just feel like playing. I guess I think of it as, like, cubs mock-fighting or something. It's more about being quick and being funny than it is about insulting someone; in fact, it's not about insulting someone at all. It only really works when you know, unconditionally, that the other person loves you and would lie down in traffic for you. But I also think it's a lot less mean now that I'm in my 30s than when I was a teenager or young adult.

So I read this:

Now, not all men make friends this way. But enough of them do that it becomes a minefield— you aren’t real friends until you are verbally berating each other. But verbally berate someone too early, and you’ll never get the chance again!

and yeah, obviously this also happens. I think that there's a big difference between insulting people to prove that you're friends or to become friends, and joking around with people once you've become friends, as an outgrowth of that dynamic. There are definitely people who rate people's worth or the value of their friendship on their ability to throw shade and take shit, and that's no good.

When I think of the people with whom I'm the most likely to engage in this behavior, I immediately think of people whom I hug on meeting and parting, whom I tell I love constantly and who tell me the same. I think of people who are family to me. I think it's a misconception to say "oh, you're insulting each other because you can't talk about how you feel." We do talk about how we feel, all the time. This is fun. If it's not fun for you, that's cool, there are lots of other ways to relate. But it's not, like, "I don't know my friend loves me until he insults me." It's not an insult. It's a game, and the goal isn't to get hurt the least or hurt the other person the most, it's to make the other person laugh. If you don't get it, that's ok, and if you don't want to play, that should be ok too and it sucks that it isn't sometimes.

I just think it's really trivializing to presume that people who participate in this stuff have no emotional depth or are participating in toxic masculinity by default. Those things can be true, sure, and I've seen them myself. But they're not givens, and I'd like us to consider the notion that this isn't some less evolved form of bonding. Some of the richest friendships in my life don't include this kind of play, but some do, and they're only more rewarding for it.
posted by Errant at 3:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


But they're not givens, and I'd like us to consider the notion that this isn't some less evolved form of bonding. Some of the richest friendships in my life don't include this kind of play, but some do, and they're only more rewarding for it.

Sure. I think knowing how to joke with someone comes from intimacy, and certainly can be an expression of intimacy. I also know that once my buddy and I stopped making fun of each other's moms, it allowed us to actually ask sincerely about how our mothers were doing.

(As it turned out, not always great, and I was glad we could talk to each other about it.)
posted by danny the boy at 3:22 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think it's a misconception to say "oh, you're insulting each other because you can't talk about how you feel."

I'll agree that this seems like a misconception. People like to project and assume that because we enjoy things that they don't enjoy, we must be broken in some way. Maybe people just like other things.

I just think it's really trivializing to presume that people who participate in this stuff have no emotional depth or are participating in toxic masculinity by default.

I'm going to disagree with this statement just a bit, because you're equating "have no emotional depth" with "participating in toxic masculinity". Toxic masculinity pervades our culture and it's not really something that we can opt out of on an individual basis. Lots of wonderful, intelligent people with lots of emotional depth still participate in toxic masculinity because it's what has been presented to us as "right" or even as the only option. I do it, lots of other people do it. So just because we have had a few positive experiences with ball busting in our lives doesn't mean that on average it's totally fine. I think we need to consider that while it might work for us and our friends, it might on average not work.

Also, if we're real ball-busters, how may of our friends would feel comfortable saying "Hey, never bust my balls again. Ever." And would we be able to fully welcome their friendship on the new terms? I think a friend who had to make that request would find the dynamic change significantly. We're not psychic, we may have friends who really want us to cut it out but are afraid it would ruin the friendship dynamic. I can see how it can bring people closer, but it also creates a bit of a minefield.

Thinking about it more deeply - is it possible that ball-busting brings people "closer" by making others get in line with our norms? Maybe sometimes it's bonding, and sometimes it's clamping down on individuality? Even when I do it, I feel like it's the latter much more often than the former.
posted by Tehhund at 3:29 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


+1 for Huglife Slack! I'd love to see this expand well. The thread/topic itself also resonates rather hugely for me as well, though I should circle back to this after work to put together more :words: on it.

That said, a couple of Slacks have become hugely important for me in this way.
posted by CrystalDave at 3:41 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I made a friend about a year ago! He worked at a coffee shop i frequented, and then went to a graduate program where some friends of mine were attending also, so we saw each other a few times.

I remembered some advice - The best way to make friends is to treat someone like they are already your friend. So I did, i included him in a few social events, got some drinks when we were both downtown, you know, stuff like that. He became one of my closest friends.

And now, I've moved away. and that sucks. But, that experience gives me hope - if I can make a friend out of a complete stranger, without work or school putting us together, maybe it can happen again.
posted by rebent at 3:55 PM on November 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


I am trying to imagine what my life would be like if I wasn't living in my hometown. Like if I got my present job and moved to a new city and you know what, between work and family it would be really hard to muster up the energy to try to make new close friends. Through work I have met tons of new people and I am friendly with them, and have even gone to a couple of their weddings, but they are not close friends at all.

In contrast my wife made a ton of close friends when we moved to Winnipeg for my school (I made some too, but she is still in constant contact with hers), and made a ton more since moving to Toronto. It helps that she has significantly more free time than me, and that all of her friends are in similar situations to her (ie recent immigrants from her home country), but even still, it is quite impressive.

I think a lot of it is that I don't prioritize making friends in the same way. I know they are important, but at the same time I know I already have a lot of lifelong friends so why bother with new people?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:03 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would join the proposed slack thing if I knew how to do that.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:12 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Is this Slack thing a thing I would have to have Slack to understand?
posted by Aznable at 4:18 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Slack is basically chat, but searchable and the history is available forever. There are more features but that's the gist. Send a message to qcubed with your email address if you want to join. Of you can use a chat program you can use Slack.
posted by Tehhund at 4:27 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't need many friends, but I'm loosing one of my best friends to a move in the nearby future, and I'm really at a loss to replace them. I just don't go to that many things where I have a chance to meet new people. Like, my other good friends are either people I met through music or relatives, and I don't have the time to take on another music project and pretty much have all the relatives I'm going to for the foreseeable future.

It's worrisome.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:35 PM on November 9, 2015


I have no idea how these people got their slack wedged into their hugs, or why
posted by bitteroldman at 5:09 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I remembered some advice - The best way to make friends is to treat someone like they are already your friend.

"Hey man, you're going to be able to help me move this weekend, right?"

"What? No."

"I can't believe this! I thought we were bros!"

"...I just met you."

"Okay, alright. But can you come walk my dog tomorrow? I have a date and I don't think I'll be coming home if you know what I mean!"

"Please leave me alone. I just make the coffee."
posted by Sangermaine at 5:19 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm going to disagree with this statement just a bit, because you're equating "have no emotional depth" with "participating in toxic masculinity". Toxic masculinity pervades our culture and it's not really something that we can opt out of on an individual basis. Lots of wonderful, intelligent people with lots of emotional depth still participate in toxic masculinity because it's what has been presented to us as "right" or even as the only option. I do it, lots of other people do it. So just because we have had a few positive experiences with ball busting in our lives doesn't mean that on average it's totally fine. I think we need to consider that while it might work for us and our friends, it might on average not work.

Well, I said "or", not "and", but ok. I agree, and stated fairly clearly, that the expectation of what you're calling "ball-busting" is not good and the attendant derision for not participating is also not good. The toxic masculinity comes into play when "ball-busting" is used to criticize any display of emotion as weakness and to define the more sensitive as less masculine. There's a structural element to all of that. All of that stuff is bad. But let's not act as though that's all men are doing when they're teasing each other. Let's not act as though men are incapable of refuting toxic structures in their own lives. Friendly teasing might work for us and our friends because we're aware of and resist these pressures, and it might not work when we don't.

Also, if we're real ball-busters, how may of our friends would feel comfortable saying "Hey, never bust my balls again. Ever." And would we be able to fully welcome their friendship on the new terms? I think a friend who had to make that request would find the dynamic change significantly. We're not psychic, we may have friends who really want us to cut it out but are afraid it would ruin the friendship dynamic.

I don't know about your friends, but people have said this to me, including one of my best friends. I have said this to my friends about certain topics. The dynamic of course changes significantly at that point, because there is a request to change the dynamic. It does not, in my experience, necessarily weaken the dynamic. It might do, but it's not axiomatic. Often it makes the dynamic stronger, because hey, you stopped doing a thing that hurt, that's good. This is sort of what I mean when I say that we're acting as though people who do the one thing are unlikely to engage intimately in other ways. I've had all these conversations, and will have them all again with new friends and old ones. I've talked to my friends about the ways we talk to each other, and there are things I do with some friends that I don't do with others on account of those conversations.

Thinking about it more deeply - is it possible that ball-busting brings people "closer" by making others get in line with our norms? Maybe sometimes it's bonding, and sometimes it's clamping down on individuality? Even when I do it, I feel like it's the latter much more often than the former.

Then it seems like you should do it less, maybe? I know I do it less as I've developed other methods for relating to people, so that it's not my only or automatic go-to. But when we're talking about the work that men do in their friendships, this is a way that men reaffirm connection with each other (and with women too, but staying on topic), and it's not just because they have no other emotional tools at their disposal.
posted by Errant at 5:29 PM on November 9, 2015


I am presently available on Thursdays. Memail me. I am sincerely offering for those who say, " if someone would just say OK."
posted by jadepearl at 5:31 PM on November 9, 2015


I'll send out more invites when I get home. Went to try a new restaurant.

At least I have chicken.
posted by qcubed at 5:38 PM on November 9, 2015


I would potentially join a slack thingy if I can install slack at work. I really don't know much about it.
posted by bondcliff at 5:49 PM on November 9, 2015


Slack's not too shabby to get set up--It's largely free to use, and it works in the browser, or with native Windows/OSX desktop apps, and even iOS/Android ones. I don't know about Windows Phone, but it wouldn't surprise me. It's what Wave wishes it could have been; an IRC with permanence.
posted by qcubed at 5:52 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I definitely find this male friendship thing pretty strange. I was thinking about it a while back, looking at other guys I know who seem to have active, male social circles, and realizing that not only do I not have any close male friends, I have never really had any. Polite acquaintances who I can share a beer with, yes, but friends... no.

My wife is very definitely my best friend - 42 years and counting - and everyone else I count as close is female. I've learned to live comfortably with it, *and* it means I don't have to discuss sport.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 6:02 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I increasingly wish there was some sort of viable men's movement to discuss and work through issues like this

Mens Sheds might be worth thinking about.

A men's shed guy who's name escapes me said "Men don't talk face-to-face, they talk shoulder-to-shoulder". What he's getting at there, I think is that getting a few guys together in some sort of unstructured format and expecting them to form any sort of bond is going to be an uphill battle. Get them together for something with a bit more purpose, where they can do things together, will be more successful.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:17 PM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


The mock teasing thing interests me as a woman because I have noticed over the years that a) I default to mock teasing much faster with my male friends than female friends, but also b) I am more, not less, likely to hurt my male friends' feelings with too much mock teasing than my female friends. Like, I have more male friends who I had to learn to ease off the teasing and be very careful about it because they'd take bits of it to heart than I have had female friends object to it.

Could just be the kind of guys I tend to make friends with, could be the kinds of women I make friends with, but it's an interesting tendency that I've learned to watch out for and check myself on when building friendship. (Of course, this varies person to person--one of my best male friends, we wind each other up all the time--but it's very dependent on being sensitive to the other person's comfort levels, and it is so easy to accidentally hurt someone's feelings when you don't mean to that way unless you are very clear that you don't mean it. At least, coming from a woman; it might be different when it comes from dudes.)

I have, btw, appreciated the focus of this conversation on men. As Sangermaine mentioned upthread, it's really important to have designated spaces that are centered on men and male experiences, and I have found reading this discussion really interesting. I'm really hoping that Hug Life takes off and turns into a strong community!
posted by sciatrix at 6:17 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


I am glad for this thread.

I increasingly wish there was some sort of viable men's movement to discuss and work through issues like this, with firm grounding in feminist theory, and without any of the misogynist/MRA/meninist pathology. How to be active, healthy, functioning men in society.

I'm definitely on board.

On ball-busting-as-bonding: I've done my share of this, and it's often been enjoyable and effective as a bonding technique. As I've gotten older, though, I've tired of it a bit. It has limits as a vehicle for real intimacy; it's too often tied up with misogyny and homophobia; its most fully realized form is part of a certain macho model of masculinity that I've never cared for or been good at; it just feels a bit juvenile for a guy pushing 40. I'm not condemning it, and I'm not saying it no longer has any role in my life. But I'd really like to see a few more tools added to the standard toolbox of male homosociality.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:31 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, w/r/t huglife, I'm not sure how Crone Island does it, but if the latter allows anyone to sign up, I don't mind providing a symmetric policy--while yes, the focus is probably going to be about Guy Love (Scrubs), anyone's welcome.
posted by qcubed at 6:32 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


wrt Crone Island: We actually do things very similarly over at Crone Island, because it felt weirder to moderate participation based on gender identity than it did to just emphasize, mmm, what experiences were centered on Crone Island. We have a couple of very active male participants and mods there, but the bulk of the membership is female and the discussion is often focused that way. I'm really happy, as I said, to see a male-focused space going up!
posted by sciatrix at 6:38 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is a great thread.

I've mentioned this here before (I have no association with this project or the person who runs it), but for people who use facebook, there are a few pages that I follow with interest because the guy who runs them posts great articles about gender and masculinity. There is very limited discussion on these pages, with most of it being started by a handful of women (I would love to see men's viewpoints). Talk Like A Man page and the Talk Like A Man private group/community.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:12 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


But in the States, we surely are pressured to not be friends with women other than our wives.

I don't know that there is "pressure" per se, but it is definitely looked askance in many parts of the country, especially when the parties involved are in relationships/married.

For my part, I've had two close female friendships ended at the behest of the other spouse.

So I'm a little gun-shy now making friends with women, which as a SAHD makes life a little harder, since 99% of the people you interact with on a daily basis are women.
posted by madajb at 7:29 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm a woman and I'm shutting up and listening, but what I would like to know, if anyone cares to discuss it, is what, if anything, you think that your partners could do to support you in making or maintaining friendships.

Also I would like to mention to those of you with kids that many of us without kids (okay, not all, but many!) would LOVE to be included in your family activities. It would mean so much to us. Seriously. Invite us to come along to the beach, the zoo, the school play. I think this might be the easiest, most symbiotic type of relationship to start as an adult and it makes me sad that both groups think the other is not interested in them.
posted by HotToddy at 8:08 PM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


what, if anything, you think that your partners could do to support you in making or maintaining friendships.

For a long time I had the feeling that when I wasn't at work, I was expected to be at home with my family - that if I spent time with my friends I was somehow letting my family down. My wife had to get almost insistent that seeing my friends from time to time was "OK".

Over the years the number of my friends dwindled away - people move, and some died. I tended to take the path of least resistance and rely on my wife's friends [and spouses thereof] for my social life, because like a lot of guys I seemed to have lost the knack of making friends.

So, my advice is, sure a family and a career can be a big time sink, but partners need to recognise that everyone needs a support network, and guys need time to maintain friendships. In the future, your kids will be grown, perhaps moved away, you career, and sadly your partner won't last forever, and its a lot harder to start looking around for some friends if you find yourself alone in later life.

And if you see your partners friends dwindling away, and no new friends being made, give them a serious nudge & make sure they're not just socialising with your friends.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:28 PM on November 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


A really revelatory thing my aunt told me is that not every friendship is going to be deep and intimate and last forever.

I mean, it seems that that's what we're talking about here, the carry-your-coffin kind of friends. But it's entirely reasonable to have only a few of those. And the shallow friendships still have their value; they still make life more pleasant, exchanging smiles, exchanging favors. (especially at work, omigod) And it's okay to leave those friendships behind, and cultivate new ones.

The funny thing is, I get the feeling that (like me) my aunt doesn't actually like many people, because people are annoying and loud, and she cultivates these working friendships anyway.

(story time: When I worked as a waitress, I'd always share my fries with people when I ate lunch. That's guaranteed friendship right there. It paid off, too - there's a whole political economy going on in the back of a restaurant, and servers are caught square in the middle - but mostly it made me smile.)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 9:01 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know that there is "pressure" per se, but it is definitely looked askance in many parts of the country, especially when the parties involved are in relationships/married.

This is interesting to me, because in my experience, cross sex friendships are actually strongest when one or both parties are in a relationship, because it helps kill any sexual tension from the start. Especially if you are also friends with their partner, or vice versa.

I'm a woman and I'm shutting up and listening, but what I would like to know, if anyone cares to discuss it, is what, if anything, you think that your partners could do to support you in making or maintaining friendships.

As a man, while I am definitely in favor of having spaces primarily for men to talk about this stuff, I am a tiny bit uncomfortable with the idea that women should be 'shutting up' in this conversation, because it can sometimes give men a pass on admitting to oppressive behavior.

So like in this case, the idea that women need to be doing more to support and help their male partners make friends feels a little like asking for more emotional labor from women in this issue. Where from my point of view - echoed by others in this thread - the issue is that men often kind of abdicate friendship responsibility to their female partners and rely on their emotional labor to carry them socially.

This doesn't mean it's not very important to talk about all this with your partner and explore his feelings, but I think this will ultimately have to consist of men stepping up to do the necessary internal and external work.
posted by goodnight to the rock n roll era at 9:08 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Sure it does! You say, "Hey, you seem wonderful! We should hang out sometime!" And then they look mildly bewildered and then you get their contact info before they have a chance to realize what's happening"

I wish this worked, but somehow after getting phone numbers and walking away, you realize that calling someone who's a near stranger up out of the blue and...what do you say? Uh.... yeah, I'm trying to say this never pays off. I don't call them and they don't call me because our lives don't overlap beyond the one time we met at a con/faire/whatever one off event, and thus we're never going to become friends even if we think the other one is cool because we live in different towns and "online friends" require social media, which I avoid, so...

Yeah, I know, "Facebook friends," but I just don't want to touch that site for any reason. Which is my own fault.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:25 PM on November 9, 2015


This is interesting to me, because in my experience, cross sex friendships are actually strongest when one or both parties are in a relationship, because it helps kill any sexual tension from the start. Especially if you are also friends with their partner, or vice versa.

Sure, sure, there are plenty of folks that have lifelong, close friends of the opposite sex.

But I was thinking more of how the peer group views the relationship.
I know I had many people make implications (both subtle and not so subtle) about the closeness of my friendships with women.
posted by madajb at 10:26 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm good.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:36 AM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


My friends have always been around art and hobbies and similar art/design education. Groups like Burning Man gave me a sense of hope for adult friendship experiences. Unfortunately, BM can be very expensive, and since my career has not made me a dot-f millionaire, I lost touch.

My local library has been a source of friendships in the same way a neighborhood bar makes friends of anyone who shows up with the right attitude.

Volunteering some of my time has also made friends for me. While these friends are not the, let's get a beer after work kind, they are nonetheless responsive to my communications.

While I too lament the one size fits all friends of my youth, I have come to accept the burden to make friends where I can (I have friends on the bus to work). I find this general friendliness to be a good gateway for the few fun friend-experiences I manage to have these days.

In sum I hope these experiences make me the person others can ask for help, or someone to chat with social media. It does take relentless effort to assert your 'friendliness'. And a willingness to accept the same from others (but be warned there are crocodiles here!)

Having taken care of a grandparent into her 90s, I can say the prospects are bleak for good friends at that age, so make the most of what you have, while you can, etc. etc. results may vary.
posted by xtian at 3:26 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Sure it does! You say, "Hey, you seem wonderful! We should hang out sometime!" And then they look mildly bewildered and then you get their contact info before they have a chance to realize what's happening"

I wish this worked, but somehow after getting phone numbers and walking away, you realize that calling someone who's a near stranger up out of the blue and...what do you say?
There are a few tactics for getting to know someone better. My mom's best advice to me when I was growing up was that the best compliment that you can pay to a new acquaintance is to actually remember them. Like, at least remember their name the next time you see them before you make it into exchanging phone numbers territory. But even after that, when you do exchange phone numbers because you've established some sort of rapport -- think about and try to bring specific things that you remember about the conversation up at a later time. "Oh, hey, Joe, the last time we met, I remember you talking about PG Wodehouse, and while I've heard he's awesome, I don't know where to start." I used to be crap at this sort of thing, and I definitely continue to fail on remembering names (especially as I get older), but it does pay off if you work at it

Also, I'm sure this won't solve every situation, but I find that if one isn't particularly adept at chatting up relative strangers or remembering factoids, then this also another realm where the way that Facebook, Twitter or other social media can allow you to maintain a very low ambient presence in each other's lives is -super- helpful. One of the male friends that I listed above was someone that I knew peripherally through a local bike forum for years, and we'd traded quips and advice often, but we never became friends until after he bought a bike from me that I was listing on Craigslist, and we found that we actually got along in realtime. He took that bike on a two week tour down the Eastern Seaboard that he posted about on the forum, and after he got back, I invited him over to hangout on my back porch and finish off the better half of a bottle of whisky while regaling me with stories about hobo camping in baseball fields in Georgia.

There is no way that we would've established that friendship if we didn't meet in person and didn't establish this connection over me selling him the bike that made his trip, and there's similarly no way that I would've invited him to hangout if I wasn't on that forum and didn't have a couple of years of shared online experience to use as a foundation.

Social media probably isn't going to make all of us intimates of each other, but it makes fewer of us complete strangers to each other.
posted by bl1nk at 4:41 AM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


This is interesting to me, because in my experience, cross sex friendships are actually strongest when one or both parties are in a relationship, because it helps kill any sexual tension from the start. Especially if you are also friends with their partner, or vice versa.

Sure, sure, there are plenty of folks that have lifelong, close friends of the opposite sex.

But I was thinking more of how the peer group views the relationship.
I know I had many people make implications (both subtle and not so subtle) about the closeness of my friendships with women.
I don't believe that there's anyway that you can effectively reduce or manage these sorts of aspersions. People will think what they'll want to think, and that sometimes results in them making assumptions, but that's all about them. You should not let that affect your friendships with either gender. There are also possibly a whole lot of other people who think your friendships are totally healthy and great, but they won't tell you that because we aren't predisposed to just saying those things. You'll only hear from the nosy ones because they're being nosy and shitty.
posted by bl1nk at 4:47 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am really, really enjoying this thread.
posted by box at 5:48 AM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I just re-skimmed the thread and realized that I sort of skipped over jenfullmoon's point that she consciously avoids social media before I went into how social media is great. Sorry about that! I really did have it in mind, but sort of lost that particular thread while I was writing. Anyway, the thing that I was going to say is that if part of what one resists about social media is the way that the algorithms are so finely tuned to be addictive and manipulative, then one possible workaround is to focus online socializing on old school fora like Metafilter or listservs. Depending on the size of your city, it may certainly be tougher to find connections with local friends, but you may be surprised. The friend that I mentioned above doesn't do twitter or FB, and the forum that we converse on is on a relatively ancient web platform that runs on PHP.

I would also add, on the pressures of male/female friendships, that I have also known men and women who have flat out said, "when I get married, I don't want my spouse to have any opposite sex friends", so I acknowledge that it's a legit thing; but I do interpret it more as a regressive example of that person's views on gender and less about me transgressing some boundary between the sexes.

Do male/female friendships sometimes generate sexual tension? Sure, sometimes. But my friends and I have a term: "shelf-stable chemistry" where both friends are able to recognize that the chemistry that's going on between them IS friendship and isn't sexual attraction. Sometimes it comes from a brief and respectful period of exploring a proto-relationship that's quickly broken off before feelings get hurt. And you can say to each other, ok, well now we know that about each other and we can go back to being friends. Sometimes it 's because one or both of the parties tends to be partnered off for long enough that the concept of a relationship just gets permanently shelved. Sometimes, you just know. We're all adults, and managing and identifying emotions is part of successful adulting.

I still tend to look at stable and healthy cross-gender friendships as a good thing for everyone, and if you have a peer group that normalizes that, then I also think that's a pretty healthy and mature social circle. But, you know, you do you. Just be happy.
posted by bl1nk at 6:11 AM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wish this worked, but somehow after getting phone numbers and walking away, you realize that calling someone who's a near stranger up out of the blue and...what do you say?

"I have a plan to try to make cheese blintzes at home tomorrow night. I've never made them before. What would you say to the idea of having some beers and helping me figure out how to make cheese blintzes"
posted by Greg Nog at 7:29 AM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I hate calling people I know, there's not a chance in hell that I'd ever be able to call someone that I've just met.
posted by octothorpe at 7:33 AM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't believe that there's anyway that you can effectively reduce or manage these sorts of aspersions. People will think what they'll want to think, and that sometimes results in them making assumptions, but that's all about them

Of course.
But part of maintaining a friendship is integrating that friendship into the rest of your life.
Hell, "My wife doesn't like my old college room mate" is practically a cliche.

A close, platonic male/female friendship, while it can be very rewarding, can come with baggage that isn't present in male/male friendships and may take more work to maintain.
posted by madajb at 9:02 AM on November 10, 2015


One of my closest friends from my Winnipeg years was someone who pretty much just asked me in the entrance to our building if I wanted to hang out (we had been briefly introduced by the super when I was looking at the place). So it definitely does work.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:56 AM on November 10, 2015


I'm not really someone who does the whole friends thing. I have one or two friends, but not super-close, BFF type friends. I made plans today to see the person I'm closest to on Thursday, and it's been 3-4 months since we last saw one another to put that into perspective. I'm not good at doing the legwork of opening to to another, or indeed doing the whole speaking/communicating thing at all, but I do seem to be able to do the other legwork of getting people to open up to me. Or maybe I'm just bad at knowing when to walk away.

Anyway. My current job involves going to various locations to do [activity]. In one location, I've gotten reasonably chummy with one of the security guards there. I have a little downtime while I'm doing [activity] and we generally strike up a conversation. It started off with really generic things like "terrible weather, isn't it?" but over the past few months, we've talked about his mom being quite ill, meditation, familial obligations, his relationship with his son, interior design, reincarnation, the work his father did in his workshop & in building railways in Africa and sky burials. I don't actually know this guy's name and it's gotten to the point now that I can't ask because we've been chatting so long it's going to look weird. Friendship can arise in some pretty unexpected places. I just went to the site to do my job there, and I wound up meeting someone who has some pretty interesting stories to tell, who is interested in my stories and who also is seemingly unafraid to be vulnerable and say "my son and I aren't as close as I'd like and I don't know what to do about that". I think a lot of guys are looking, perhaps more in a passive than an active way, for that kind of connection with another man, and just being willing to listen and ask questions can pay huge dividends. I don't even know this guy's name, but we still have a connection, even if it's tenuous.

I'm reminded of another guy I used to work in retail with when I was about nineteen, called John. I don't know his exact age, but he son's are older than I am. John was a really easygoing, friendly guy who didn't so much as twitch when he figured out I'm gay. I sort of looked up to him, in the sense that he possessed a few qualities that I (at the time) felt I was lacking. He could talk to people with ease, he knew lots of funny jokes and one-liners and he could get along with everyone. I still don't possess those qualities, but as I've gotten older, I've figured that I should play to my strengths more. Anyway, I was working with John one day when I noticed a bruise all the way up his forearm. I figured that he'd fallen down the stairs or something, but it turned out that his wife bit him. He was driving and they were having an argument when she started hitting him. He put his arm up to defend himself, so she grabbed hold of it and bit it. I didn't know what to say. A few months later, John left the store I was in for a different branch. He came into my store one day, and I was really pleased to see him so I went over to see how he was. Not well, it turned out. He'd gotten divorced and had to move in with his son, and was understandably pretty depressed. Seeing the change in him from the chap who would sing rude* rhymes to the chap who stood in front of me was jarring. I wanted to give him a hug, but I didn't. I don't know if he would have appreciated it, whether he was OK with The Gay as long as it didn't get into his personal space, or whether it would have made things worse. I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to interpersonal type stuff, which isn't always the best policy. But nobody teaches you this stuff. Nobody says when a hug is OK. And if you do hug another man, you have to cause them physical pain while doing so. It's all very messed up.

The friendships I've had with women have been really polarising, in that they've either been long lasting and mutually rewarding, or they've been complete mind-fucks. The friend I made plans for coffee with today is an old work colleague and we get along really really well. We have our own insider jokes, our own little rituals and it's just nice to sit and giggle about some random thing. On the other end of the scale, I've had two friendships with women where they put me into the middle of Lets You And Him Fight. One even went so far as to tell her partner that she and I were having sex (totally weren't!) and describe it in fairly graphic terms. She didn't really understand why it was a problem, even when he partner waited for me outside of my workplace to threaten me. Said friend would also out me to random people on the street, because that's totally a safe thing to do. /sarcasm

So yeah, making and keeping friendships can be hard work, but I think sometimes it can be easy, too. When both parties are putting the effort into paddling the friendship canoe, you can go in a straight line instead of in circles. Finding someone who will pick up an oar can be difficult, but the alternative is a huge pile of no fun. Men are conditioned to have their own personal forcefield set to 100% at all times, and sometimes that can be useful. There are people, men and women, who will attack if they sense vulnerability, or maybe just because it's much easier to throw a rock than to stop one with your head. But I think there are a lot of guys out there who really want to lower that forcefield but are scared to do so in case they get hit, and a good way to show them it's safe to drop the shields is to drop your own first. Which is really scary but sometimes really rewarding, too. Even just 1% can make a difference - lots of guys are looking really desperately, and when they see that opening, they'll drop their shields too.

* I don't recall the exact rhyme, but it went something like:

"Roll up, roll up,
[something something something]
Come and see how many spots the leopard's got on his-
Cock your eyes over here, missus!"
posted by Solomon at 9:57 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]




" I sort of skipped over jenfullmoon's point that she consciously avoids social media before I went into how social media is great. Sorry about that!"

Hahahaha, no, I figured that would happen. I am a very rare person in not liking social media*. However, we will all be forced to love it and in a year or two I will be forced to whore it up on Facebook and tweet like the loudest bird outside your window at 3 a.m. because being forced to love it is how the world is going.

* this boils down to (a) hating to read short update formats and finding it really boring, and (b) it's super easy to attract creepy stalker harassment if you use it and I am not okay with running that risk.

Anyway, my friends pretty much come from classes I took, NaNoWriMo, and my volunteering job--i.e. all places where we hung around in the same space on a weekly basis and got to know each other enough to want to hang around outside of the classes. (I suppose the same could have been said for my online friends back in the day, because we all hung around the same websites, but social media's pretty much ruined those.) I think I just need some kind of regular exposure to someone to become friends with them, and I cannot do that with someone I meet in a one-off context when we live in different areas and don't overlap in our lives. Sad but true.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:49 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the Guardian, You don’t have to be old to be lonely: "Like smoke or water, it gets in through the cracks in our lives when we haven’t been paying attention, loneliness, and we drown in it. ... And make that much lonelier, I think, because there is no way to say the words. ... The chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation says it can be both a cause and effect of mental health problems. There is also evidence, says Acevo’s literature review, that lonely, socially excluded young people are more likely to engage in aggressive behaviour, being drawn into gangs or extremism. It’s in everybody’s interest to prevent loneliness before the isolation starts to suffocate."
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:01 AM on November 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


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