Making friends is hard. Making close friendships among men is even harder… and yet as we get older, it’s something we need more of. As we get older, men tend to have fewer and fewer close male friendships, even as we crave it more. While it’s taboo to say out loud – it tends too close to being femme for toxic masculinity – men want the same emotional intimacy, support and and closeness from masculine friendships that women have with their friends.
Ironically, we don’t have this problem when we’re younger; making friends, even close friends, comes more naturally to us when we’re kids. But as we get older, we tend to have that skill drilled out of us.
As friends drift away or lives change as we get older, we’re left with a growing emotional void. It’s one of the perversities of getting older for men that our need for emotional intimacy doesn’t change but the outlets we have for that intimacy shrink. Because we fear the consequences of being open and vulnerable to others, we tend to rely on our romantic partners for emotional needs. Intimacy becomes something shared between lovers, not between friends and so closeness between men takes on romantic overtones.
We joke about “bromances” between two close male friends, with the teasing undertones of “there must be something there even if you won’t admit it.” Even when the social condemnation – the implicit “no homo” – is taken out, audiences still tend to interpret close friendships between men1 as being romantic.
Needless to say: people worry that in trying to make friends, they’ll be seen as trying to make a move instead. And so the skill – and opportunities to exercise it – wither away.
And so we end up alone in crowds; dozens or even hundreds of connections on social media but nobody to prop us up when disaster strikes.
So how do men relearn how to find and foster closer, more emotional friendships with other men?
- To be sure: part of this is because there’s a distinct lack of partnered homosexual main characters in genre fiction, which means that there’s a hunger to see such relationships portrayed… and the issues brought up by the overlap between the two would make an article all on its own [↩]