I’m still gnawing on Clarisse Thorn’s book, and once it’s digested I’ll be producing a book report in a way that’s less disgusting than this whole food analogy would imply.
In any event, I was struck by something while reading it tonight, which is tangential to the point of the book and conveniently serves up a topic for my badly neglected blog. During one of the passages wherein Clarisse discusses an actual relationship she was experiencing while researching the book, she mentions how she uses her social networks for relationship-related support, and also makes a typically empathic comment about how men, or at least men in the USA, aren’t “supposed” to be good at this sort of thing:
Emotional processing is a skill that many USA men miss out on because of our cultural environment. In fairness, I do believe this problem was wors for my father’s generation than mine, the same way many classic feminist problems were worse for my mother’s generation than mine. In the modern world, of newly-flexible gender roles, men are finding more and more ways to be open about their emotions and create their own emotional support networks.i
(Goddamn it, I hate that I can’t copy and paste from a Kindle book. Any typos above are my own)
While reading this, I was doing my usual, internal “haha, dudes are ridiculous about emotions” when it struck me that I don’t have any really close guy friends to talk about this stuff with. I have some reasonably close male friends, some of whom are getting closer, but no one with whom I’d really be comfortable unpacking relationship issues. At least, any more than I do with every person who wanders into my field of vision, because I’m sort of an emotional lawn sprinkler. Still.
In fact, these days I don’t have much a support group at all for this sort of thing. Everyone with whom I regularly talk about relationships is someone I’m sleeping with. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but some platonic perspective would probably be useful on occasion.
Part of my problem is that I’m just less open with guys. I trust them less, I warm up to them more slowly, and I’m much less likely to discuss serious issues with them. Some of this is down to growing up as a boy, because we’re really just horrible to each other for about twenty years before we grow out of it. Some is just personal hangup, and some is a hatred of that sense of competition that I think same-gender folks tend to feel toward each other.
I certainly do have male friends. I have, in the past, had bosom-buddy types with whom I could discuss anything; most of them are now too far away for convenient discussion, even with the internet and the skypes and whatnot. I currently have some friends who probably will be those types at some point, but with whom I just don’t yet have enough mutual exposure to feel that sort of comfort.
This has certainly made things difficult. When I was having trouble dating, it meant there wasn’t really anyone to lean on; discussing dating problems with androsexual female friends (which is the large majority of my friend-group) always felt weird, especially if there was (acknowledged or not) an attraction one way or the other (or both). I’m not unattracted to all men, but I’m just much less likely to be, and because I don’t really ping gaydar I can usually easily maintain a distance with men that has to be consciously policed in some relationships with women. Now that I’m, ah, not having trouble dating, it feels like… bragging, or some sort of a come on, to talk about this sort of thing with women if there’s attraction one way or the other.
Which, hell, I suppose sometimes it is.
I don’t mind being the sort of guy who generally gets along with women. But I think there’s something just a touch unhealthy about not having any let’s-unpack-things same-gender relationship, and it’s probably something that I should work on. Or at least allow to evolve.
Besides. I need to come up with a Best Man.