Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Male Friends as an Oxymoron

The Old Gang (Photo by Jerry Hoffman)

My wife has a theory, in fact, many of them. I think it’s indicative of that species that they somehow believe women have cornered the market on all the great wisdom of the world and are more than happy to share it with their hapless other half.

Army Foot Locker


“Men don’t have friends.” Sharon claims. “They have business associates, contacts, pals, acquaintances, fishing buddies and other males who share similar interests. But friends, true friends who would drop anything at a moment’s notice at help you…that’s something else entirely” …she claims.

She believes men aren’t programmed for such intimacy, such sharing and revealing, such openness. That, in turn, leaves us vulnerable (in our golden years) to reveal in fantasies of past accomplishments, old school glories and tempting reflections back on old relationships.

At first, I was offended by her seemingly casual yet caustic remark. But the more I thought about it the more it burrowed under my skin like an irritating itch that I couldn’t ignore. I came to the rather painful conclusion that she might be on to something there.

(Photo by Jerry Hoffman)

Reflecting on a lifetime of relationships, casual friendships, intimate feelings, and deep connections (or so I thought) there haven’t been many if any male friends that went the distance. It was probably my fault more than theirs. But I’m guessing that neither one of us was any the wiser about it…or because of it.

Micky and I (Photo by Jerry Hoffman)

I had a friend in grade school. We shared a lot, talked a lot and waxed philosophically about the future (high school and beyond.) Yet by high school we had both moved on to new friends, activities and interests. I lost track of him for a while, made contact again after college then lost it for good.

Joel, Peter, and I at prom

I had great friends in high school. We shared all the drama, trauma, first inkling of love, rejection, self-doubt and grand hopes for the future as all teen-agers do. Graduation severed those ties until years later (fifty to be exact) when we had matured to that stage of reminiscing and wondering what ever happened to?

There were buddies in the service. Casual, surface, momentary, tepid and vapid friends who vanished just as soon as their transfer papers arrived or they got discharged. There is nothing as anxious as a man whose time is nearly up in the service. Nothing and I mean nothing is more important than their return to ‘normal living.’ All the wonderful things shared in the service disappear with that plane ticket home.

When I was living in Europe my friendships were brief, intense, wonderful, and about as vapid as morning mist. It might be a weekend in Berlin or camping on the west coast of Denmark that brought us together but Monday morning that made it vanish in a flash. Of course, we promised to write and stay in touch. Of course, we never did.

Farewell party at Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting

KTCA television

By the time it came around to making friends in the business of television, film, and video, I was a married man and busy with my other life.

This inability to build up a portfolio of friendships during our working careers only increases with the demise of real work and what to do afterwards in retirement.

Let’s face it, friendship is hard work. Anyone who is in a marriage, committed relationship or shared space knows what it takes to make it tolerable, enjoyable, believable and rewarding. It is a daily challenge.

That aforementioned sooth sayer would say that men aren’t willing to do the hard work that it takes to create and keep a friendship. Who knows, she may have a point. I’m just trying to keep my head above water with a coffee or luncheon get-together whenever I can.