Men Friends

This week I enjoyed a reunion of sorts. I had dinner with two former colleagues, two lawyers both named Bill. Over many years we spoke often and had developed a level of both trust and admiration for the quality of representation we offered to our clients, but I had not previously known of their close friendship outside of the professional context. It warmed my heart to listen to their banter.

Living alone now after a near lifetime of intimacy with a partner, friendships are my mainstay, and my gratitude for close connections with others soars. Missing Len brings to mind his good fortune to have had male friends, although there were times I secretly denigrated his friendships with men as somehow less significant than mine with women.

My close friends have always been confidantes. His were companions with whom he joyously went fishing or flying or explored the wilderness. Upon his return, if I quizzed him about conversations they’d had or intimacies shared, his answers were brief, relating stories told of other adventures, but little I deemed of substance. They’d said nothing of their marriages, troubled relationships with grown children, or problems at work— the very essence of my exchanges with women friends, offering support, and seeking insights.

Men just talk less to each other. Everyone accepts this reality. Most don’t share feelings with other men, beyond elation or frustration at a good or bad catch. Women smile knowingly, sometimes smugly, and express regret about valued experiences men are missing.

Reasons abound, genetic, hormonal, cultural— likely all three. People near my age, or even most of those much younger, were raised and nurtured by women, so derive comfort from the feminine model for intimacy. Men are more competitive, and from boyhood they are encouraged to be tough and strong. If a man has something to gain in a competitive environment, power or money, he will not reveal weaknesses. He will have no basis for trust unless others show him theirs.

I know I overgeneralize, and some older and many younger men, or perhaps gay partners, may not fit this paradigm today. At least I hope they do not (and I plan to query my sons about this when they visit). I can’t help but wonder if most men are still missing out on the richness that self-disclosure affords, instead of relying on their attachments to women for this reward? It would seem so.

Then why, despite male emotional reserve, was Len so fortunate? For four years, he refused to allow his Parkinson’s to impact his life significantly, but in his final year he had to succumb to the use of a walker and eventually a wheel chair. This meant he had to give up his treasured pilot’s license. Vulnerability that was previously hidden could no longer be denied. His passion for flying and fishing was defeated, beyond reach.

But two of his friends did not let this happen. Alan Wolfson, the man who bought his small plane, called often and suggested Len meet him at the airport and come along on a flight. It was no mean task to hoist his nonresponsive legs into the passenger seat, where dual controls allowed him to actually copilot on their journey.

And Len’s longtime devoted fishing friend, Jim Hoffmeister, remained a constant presence in his life, coming often to pick him up, wheel him to his van, and drive off for an adventure. Usually they returned by nightfall, but just months before Len died, Jim became his caretaker as well as his companion on a trip north to a frozen lake where they fished through the ice for days on end.

Using female standards to appraise male friendships may miss the mark. Do they become known to each other by their shared experiences and so build trust and caring? Len’s friends may have known little of sharing intimacies with words, but of love they knew everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19 thoughts on “Men Friends

  1. Dear Bea, With this, you’ve hit another home run (and on Opening Day)!

    ~~Yours, Chuck Strain      4030 Mt. Carmel-Tobasco Road #103      Cincinnati, Ohio 45255-3454 USA      24-Hour Phone 513-621-2889      Fax 513-828-6652      Email DUIguy1@yahoo.com      Web http://www.DUIguy.us

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  2. I think many of your observances are still true to an extent but I can say that at least in the culture that I’ve chosen to participate in, which is admittedly more emotionally sensitive and aware than the “default” world, many men have very rich and deep emotional connections and conversations. I feel very close to my male friends and our connections provide a great deal of nurturing and perspective. Women still play an important role in my life when it comes to these areas, perhaps still even more significant than men, but I think the cultural needle has moved a great deal over the generations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also, it was so nice to read that part about the end of Grandpa’s life at the end. So sweet to know a bit more about his relationships and experience toward the end of his life.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful, Bea. So true with many men. I have a husband who – for whatever reasons – loves to talk with me about his emotions, past marriage crises, almost breakdown after his ex moved thousands of miles away with his young daughters and how our marriage has helped make him the wonderful person he is today! I think I am really lucky. He has 2 male friends from his days at U of R who share personal experiences also.

    I love reading your blogs…

    Susan

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    1. I always look forward to reading your posts. This one especially made me smile. Most people of our generation has lost a spouse. Mine in February 2017. He was a Real Estate Broker and Appraiser and knew many people, however, one was extra special and he and his wife were good friends with both of us. The other wife and I spent hours laughing at the antics my husband and his friend got into and out of through the years. The friend shared the same profession. He too has passed on. His wife and I still recall the absolutely hysterical things they did, and also the fun times the four of us had together. She was a nurse and I taught Real Estate for the State of Indiana. Sometimes they would bring their antics to the classroom if I would let them. Looking back, I usually did, and everyone enjoyed their expertise and wit. Thank you for letting me remember.
      Leigh Allen

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  4. What a lovely story. Your husband must have been a good friend himself to have such devoted friends. I will keep that in mind the next time I ask Tim what he and his buddies talked about!

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  5. In your quest to understand, one of my father’s warnings to me was to never trust a man whose only friends are women. I also lack the men friends that you speak of for Len. It’s all very perplexing sometimes. I am for all intents and purposes a loner. I confess that I do get lonely sometimes, but I don’t envy Judy’s friendships with women. I’m just relieved when they quit chatting so I can go home 😁. I look back at my father and see that his only escape from the crowd was his life as a mason and music. For many years I felt antipathy towards his constant being in the kitchen playing solitaire. Later I came to realize it was his only way to be alone when the little house was swarming with grandchildren. Just some more insights for your quest.
    Curt

    Sent from my iPhone

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  6. Bea: Thanks so much. Your post will help us remember the moments we shared, not just this week, but for many years. You are a part of that good memory. Bill.

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  7. You’re so sweet, Bea. Thank you for the shout-out! Oh, and btw I’m finally officially on your blog.

    Hoping to chat with you after reading the manuscript.

    [https://www.santenhughes.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/sh-logo-email.png] William A. DeCenso, Esq. 600 Vine Street, Suite 2700 Cincinnati, OH 45202 (513) 721-4450

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  8. Hi Bea,  just wanted to let you know how much my buddies enjoyed your post.  At their encouragement, I posted it on Facebook last night and I’ve already received a very nice reply from our old friend, Jim Rueger.  If you want to follow along, feel free to check out my Facebook page.  I’m sure you know how to do that.  🙂  I’m guessing you just do a search for Ron Major.Ron Major

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