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GRAY MATTERS: Social Security's Diamond Jubilee

Bill's Dilemma

Throughout my life, I have appreciated women friends greatly. Most are open to talking about everything together no matter how intimate. In fact, that is the life blood of our connections, isn't it. My women friends have never failed to be supportive, funny, understanding – and always there in good times and bad.

At the same time, I have often envied men their kind of relationships, particularly when they are among strangers. No matter how much their cultural, social and economic circumstances differ, they share sports - “How 'bout them Mets” - as a common starting place. You must have noticed this too when, for example, they are stuck at airports, are having an after-work drink together or in the kitchen at a party.

My mistake, I think, has been in assuming that with time, their relationships deepen and become more personal, more like women's.

Earlier this week, I received an email from a 58-year-old, retired freelance consultant and TGB reader who lives in Wisconsin that goes a long way toward confirming my error. The issue is something I've occasionally heard before, but dismissed too easily. Here is part of Bill's email:

“I am a man with an active and inquisitive mind, and don't give a rip about sports, hunting, drinking or being an Elk, Moose, etc. I can talk business and politics but ultimately, it becomes a bunch of men spewing their frustration, dissatisfaction (what goes unsaid is their general helplessness to change things). Aside from reading and caring for the lawn and gardens I've never really had hobbies.

“I'm happily married and envy the wonderful friendships my wife has with women. I've always found women considerably more interesting than men and that doesn't help one find groups of men to get together with.

“It seems socially inappropriate (and not particularly welcome) for me to seek out groups of women.

“I assume there are at least some other men who share the same problem, but no one talks about it.

“Any thoughts on how men can find new groups of friends?”

I wonder if some of the difficulty is generational. Without any proof whatsoever my sense, from personal experience and observation, is that younger men – in their 20s and 30s – more readily reach beyond the superficial with their male friends. But that doesn't help Bill.

By email, I consulted my wise and learned friend in England, Marian Van Eyk McCain of Elderwomanblog. She showed her partner the part of Bill's email I had quoted to her:

"He said, 'That's me!,” wrote Marian. “He struggles with the same problem: how to have the same sort of connections with male friends as I have (and he has) with women friends. We've often talked about it and it is something I've been pondering for years.”

So, Bill, there is one compadre. Too bad he is so far away. Marian continued:

“I'm remembering a conversation I had about this some years ago with a guy in the village. I'd heard someone was trying to start a men's group and I thought he and his pals might like to join. I knew they were very close and did lots of stuff together like going to the movies and to the pub and playing music.

“He asked me how would a 'men's group' be different. And when I said that they could talk about their feelings, maybe help each other with issues, mutual emotional support etc., he said: 'Men don't do it that way. We couldn't. All those things happen, but for us they happen sort of invisibly somehow, as a side effect of doing stuff together. We never actually admit it or talk about it.'"

Well, that friend of Marian's isn't helpful either. I don't believe Bill is talking about full-blown encounter sessions, beating drums in the forest and baring his soul with other men, although when personal issues come up (the kind that go so far to cement women's connections), it would be good to feel comfortable talking about them.

It is so easy for women, in the same conversation, to range among intimacies, debating politics and showing off gorgeous new shoes that I don't know the dynamics of how we do it.

As with all of us, men and women, there are fewer opportunities to meet people following retirement, but women seem to be more adept at finding simpatico friends. As Marian also said, “Yeah, Mars and Venus. Two different planets. Better believe it!!”

So today, I'm calling on the men who read Time Goes By to chime in with your thoughts on Bill's dilemma. Some personal experiences might be useful - if you guys can manage to choke them out (sorry, couldn't resist).

Women may join in too, of course, but we know I didn't need to say that.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Alzheimer's Part 11 – The Early Years: Before Alzheimer's.


I go to a woodcarving class that is mostly male. I am 62 and the youngest person there, many of the men have been in this class for decades. It's a 3-hour class of which almost an hour is taken up with "coffee break". These guys have been meeting once a week for decades, they do stuff they like, woodcarving, together and by themselves in each other's company, and they chat about whatever over coffee. Some of them have found other things in common and so they meet outside of class time to do other things, such as birdwatching.

I like woodcarving, but my main motivation in attending this class is the coffee break, the conversations are fascinating. There is at least one guy in the class who only attends the coffee break, he does his carving at home.

I think the key to men finding other men to socialize with is through activities, but many guys say they are not "joiners". Maybe becoming a "joiner" is what you have to do if you want to meet other guys to socialize with.

My compliments to Bill. I know only one man like he: my tai chi teacher and now friend. The first time it became clear was when he called me up to go for coffee; his main purpose, as he stated, was to check in on our relationship and made sure that it was ok and going satisfactorily for me as well. You could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather.

Good luck, Bill. It's delightful to know you are out there and I do believe there are others of your ilk. Keep looking...and perhaps, look in different places.

It's easier for some people to be friends with the opposite gender. I'm including women, because I know plenty who prefer male company.

I can't tell if I'm one of those people or not. I have many long-time male friends going back to college and my early career. My female friends are from periods of my life when I was single. I forged two close friendships with women after the death of my wife: We went out, the romantic connection wasn't there, but we enjoyed each other's company.

IMHO and without knowing the details of Bill's situation, a happily married person risks something by making a new friendship with the opposite gender, unless they're willing to include their partner (assuming that's something the partner wants).

No one should give up something they already have, but I question the wisdom of seeking out something new. My counsel to Bill is something he doesn't want to hear and may not find: Keep an eye out for a like-minded man.

Annie has a good point. maybe becoming a joiner is what you have to do. Ronni, I'm not sure that young men have any more of a lock on the engaging-friendship-with-meaningful-sharing kind of thing than us older guys. Guys are guys.

I kind of identified with Bill's dilemma and posted about it on my blog. My conclusion there was, I hope Ronni’s friend Bill finds his way toward developing some rewarding mature male friendships. For me, I think it all might start with the command from some internal cop: “Sir. Step away from the keyboard.”


Please skip on over to Frank Paynter's blog to read his longer take on Bill's Dilemma. Excellently thoughtful.

I think it goes back to biology. Men were supposed to be warriors and protectors...so sharing ones most intimate and silly thoughts does not come naturally as it makes the warrior vulnerable. Women had to depend on each other more as animals for survival and sharing comes naturally to us.

Funny, I envy men their easy companionship without having to do all that soul-baring. It's not so much that I'm opposed to baring my soul; it's just that there's not much to bare. No spouse + no kids = not having much to offer except sympathy for the other woman's trials and tribulations.

Sometimes when I'm doing something with another woman, it turns out that what we're doing plays second fiddle to her wanting to tell me about the latest disaster in her life. That's OK, but then, jeeze, let's just go for coffee instead of interrupting a X-country skiing expedition so I can listen to all your boyfriend's sins--while freezing my a** off!

Or maybe I'm just not likable. Maybe being female doesn't guarantee you entree into a world of fun, interesting people.

Thanks for the link, Ronni!

Another guy here who doesn't care about sports, etc. I accept that I'm probably not going to have much in common with a person (M or F) who spends a large part of their time on sports & hunting but there are plenty of guys who, tho they may like those things, have other interests that we can share -- books, music, movies, politics, just talking about what's going on in the world.

In the initial stages of a relationship, men have to get over the homophobia thing. Women don't seem to have that obstacle. Silly as it must sound, we have to make sure that our intentions are clear when we ask a guy if he wants to go have coffee or get together for a beer. And God forbid we go to a concert or a play or a movie together.

This is such a fascinating subject. It reminds me of the book, Self Made Man, by Norah Vincent. She is the journalist who lived undercover as a man for some time in order to discover what it is like to be male in our culture. Much of what she reported back dealt with this very issue. She found that while men have a very real desire to connect with other men on a deep and meaningful level, social and cultural norms make this almost impossible to do. Part of this she attributed to a thoroughly ingrained sense of homophobia among men in our culture (after all, these types of deep and meaningful friendships between gay men are not uncommon), and also to the way men are taught to communicate.

Ronni, you mention that this trend may be different for younger men. I don't know if this is always true. I am thinking of my younger twin brothers, who are in their mid-twenties. Despite the fact that they are both emotionally healthy and sensitive young men...despite the fact that they are twins and have a very close and loving bond...I am still continually amazed by how little they openly communicate with each other about personal and emotional issues. On that level they each usually talk to me, their sister, but even then I am usually the one who has to initiate those type of conversations. And once the conversations are started, my role is often as an emotional guide...giving them leads and nudges to express what they are feeling, but not always skilled at putting into words.

I would love to hear what different men have to say on this subject. It's ironic that the way to change the status quo is often to start communicating openly about the thing that is the problem...but in this case communicating openly is at the very heart of the problem! Kudos to Bill for getting this important conversation started.

Bert - the homophobic connection is what I think keeps most men from truly enjoying male friendship. You guys really have more rules than women when it comes to frienships, or if not rules, then more safety barrels to mark the allowed channels.

Citizen K - you're right about the male/female friending. though your marriage would have to be in trouble for such a friendship to wreck havoc, I've seen more than one marriage break up due to jealousy over close male/female friendships. Tricky waters, and possibly dangerous.

I truly don't have really close in-person female friendships. I have my daughters, and a couple of coworkers I go to lunch with, but no real longtime girlfriend. Now, my best friend is my husband.

My online friends are probably closer to me than my in-person friends.

Could it be that men compete and women cooperate? Years ago I read a book by Deborah Tannen about how people communicate and she found that from an early age these gender traits (competition/cooperation) were obvious. Gladys

Maybe because I grew up with a lot of boy cousins and a brother, I have had and do have some very deep friendships with men where we share the things Bill is looking for in a relationship. I really like getting to know men on that level and having them for friends as it's another perspective than a woman friend would give.

I realize it can be threatening to wives if their husband has a woman friend (and vice verse maybe) but it is possible and without anything untoward going on. I think it's finding other humans who will share their lives and for me that is never in a big circle but always in intimate relationships.

I don't share my inner self in my blog or with a large group of people but it's always been important to me to have a few, one-on-one type relationships. I like being known and knowing another on an intimate level where there is no game playing, but it has to be with someone I trust to not be sharing what I tell them with a ton of other people. I suspect women don't find a lot of those deep connections either in a lifetime and when we do, we treasure them.

Maybe the solution for Bill is to try out a few of his acquaintances, in case he feels women would be a problem, just to see if when he goes to that deeper level, they are glad he did. Not starting right out with huge things but small ones to test the water

My father retire early to his farvourite place earth. He used to hook up on his short wave radio with a few fellows every evening just before the sun set. I remember hearing a thousand conversations of no consequence at all; weather, motor problems, plans to go for a sail, no topic was insignificant enough for these guys. Yet, when he was off on a boat delivery or a long distant sail in far away spots on the oceans, those daily bits of contact meant everything to my father, his family, and the fellows themselves. They were sharing my father's adventures with him from the comfort of their dens. Their conversations were, on the surface, not particularly intimate, but the friendships were deep.

First, why is he retired at such a young age? What did he do that he could not keep doing, as a teacher, mentor. Second, doesn't he read books? Does he go to the library, which could recommend a book club. Why not an investment club? How about going back to school? How about writing? How about getting good on the computer? Bill is a whiner.

I've developed what I considered close friendships with other men a half-dozen times over the years. In every case, the "friend" betrayed me to some extent, and became an ex-friend. In no case did we ever discuss intimate matters, and I know of no men (at least non-gay men) we do that with their friends.

What's the problem? If a man has a burning desire to bare his soul about something he can go to his religious counselor, shrink, wife, or girlfriend.

Finding groups in which to share male companionship is another matter. That is hard to do, but the advice of several who commented is right on--get off your butt and start searching for groups you want to join.

I just love Saul's post...I even asked my husband if he wanted to join the Council on Aging Mens Club...he said not interested in that kind of stuff. He likes his cpu and painting and has the "remote" of his own. I think at age nearly 71 - he has earned the right to do what he wants...my mouth is shut on friends.

My experience with girl friends has not been too good. Maybe I am happier being with me - then putting up with the back stabbing etc. nonsense of women.

OR MAYBE IT IS HURTS THAT DON'T GO AWAY.... even after many many year.

I don't know but I am glad to have my own "remote" - piano - cpu - imagination - books.

Here's a perspective I see is not here already (and I didn't expect it to be). I'm 64. I spent my working life at the Peace Corps, by and large the most progressive--and non-sexist--environment you'll find among the federal agencies in Washington. I'm also a gay man, partnered for 32 years.

A year ago, we picked up roots from our lifelong home in Arlington, Virginia, and moved to rural Northeastern North Carolina. We're in an enclave of self-constructed waterfront homes. Our new neighbors are as nice as the day is long and have welcomed my partner and me unconditionally, with open arms. They are mostly of our age and financial situation (but it is not a "retirement community").

Being social with this group turned out to be the first time since we were in high school that we encountered this strict male-female division of which you speak. When we get together, the husbands amble off to one corner, the wives to another, and they spend their time at a party separated from each other. We were floored. Speaking for myself, having spent my working life in an atmosphere where people simply got along irrespective of gender, and my social life either among other gay men or like-minded and similarly socialized straights, I am still feeling my way, learning how best to interact in this "new normal." My partner is a real handyman and does more "man" things than I do, so hanging out with the guys comes more naturally to him. I can do some of those things, too, but am learning that I'm more attuned to what I've learned are "womanly" pursuits--talking about things other than construction techniques and machines. (Thought I admit getting too far down in the weeds about relationships can start to feel icky.)

Just by being here, we are teaching our neighbors new ways of interacting, as they are us. We think our way is much better--we like all of them, all mixed up together. Who knows? We may get the guys here to graduate from high school yet!

When I was a young woman and the women gathered in the kitchen and the men in the living room I always wanted to be with the men because their conversation was more interesting. I was more interested in world events than in how to prepare an artichoke.

I once read that the trouble with male/female friendships is that there is always that underlying sexual current. And that is why wives are jealous of their husbands having female friends and vice verse.

I have one male friend, George, who some of you may remember as the one who notified you of my broken hip. Our friendship is of long standing going back to when we were couples that socialized with each other. My husband died and George got divorced. After a few years we started seeing each other. In the beginning there was a bit of sexual tension, but nothing came of it and it is completely lacking now.

George has an active social life with 5 or 6 women friends and has very few male friends. He does not care much for sports, but does enjoy a basketball or baseball game if his lady friend is a fan. He loves movies and reads constantly (mostly mysteries). He has been a very good friend to me, but I discovered early that for me to divulge too much information of an intimate nature becomes very uncomfortable for him.

George's feminine side is well developed. He cooks, is almost Felix Unger in keeping his apartment clean, and does tailoring. Yet he does not possess the sensitivity to my needs that a woman friend would. As an example, yesterday he took me shopping and I have a bum knee that sometimes makes it painful to walk. We had parked at one end of Home Depot and the place I needed to go was at the other end. My knee was killing me by the time I walked the length of the store. After my transaction was completed I had to walk the length back again. I thought that a woman would have offered to get the car and meet me at the nearest door. It just didn't occur to him. (I could have asked him to do so, but when someone is being kind and taking you to run errands you hate to impose further.)

He gets angry and threatens to leave if I am feeling down and having a pity party. A woman would listen and sympathize or offer constructive criticism.

In all honesty, I find him to be an enigma. I keep the conversation light and we discuss our granddaughters (we both have two close to the same age) and travel.

I guess what I am trying to say is that having a close male friend is just different than having a close female friend. While we are good friends, it is not as warm or close a relationship as I have with my women friends.

This is beginning to sound like Men are from Mars Women from Venus with the men heading to their cave and the women to their circle. It seems to me that what we need is what we should seek out. Men who don't need a circle, shouldn't feel compelled to find one; but those who do want one, can realize there are men out there like themselves where they want to discuss things beyond the weather and how many fish they caught. It's not wrong to want to talk with others about issues beyond the football scores-- nor is it wrong to find that is all you want.

When I was in the local, country church, I ran into the above mentioned division of the sexes and my problem was I preferred the conversation of the men which leaned toward politics or spiritual arguments in that particular church. The women talked crafts and since I was not a craft type person, I only could listen without really having much to contribute. It was though a social environment and nobody was going to get into something too deep.

There are probably a number of good ways for Bill to go about making friendships with other men. Saul and other posters have some great ideas on how to do so. But is seems like the more pertinent issue here is how Bill, and men in general, can develop male friendships that allow for more depth and freedom of expression than most typically have. After all, even if Bill makes friends he can talk to about business and politics…that’s not very different from talking about sports and hunting in the larger scheme of things.

I have been following this blog religiously for at least half a year (and have spent countless hours poring over the archives to catch up on what I missed) and cannot begin to express how grateful I am to Ronni, TGB contributors and other readers for so many years of sincere, thoughtful discussions on the realities of growing old. I think one such reality, evidenced by Bill’s Dilemma, is the willingness and maturity to examine complex, even difficult, subjects such as this one.

In any relationship, there is a certain level of risk involved if we truly want to know another and be known. For men who want meaningful relationships with other men (and I don’t believe there is a man who doesn’t), I think the risks are infinitely higher due to social and cultural norms surrounding what is acceptable in the eyes of mainstream society. I admire Bill for his candor.

I have always believed that one of the advantages to growing old is the opportunity to develop the wisdom and fortitude to speak honestly about the things in life that matter. Relationships based on true caring and connection with others — regardless of a person’s gender — is one of those things that matters. Maybe what Bill is looking for isn’t so easy to find. Maybe he will have to make himself vulnerable in order to begin such a search. It is my sincere hope that he will take that risk. And that this caring community of thoughtful elders will support him, and each other, in growing toward a deeper understanding of what it means to be fully human.

I think Bill is aspiring to the unachievable: male friendships just don't develop that way. We don't open up to another man unless he's a health or religious professional of some sort. It comes from our upbringing: displaying one's feelings or emotions is somehow "unmanly," if not a sign of latent gayness. Women, on the other hand, are not only encouraged in their femininity, they seem to appreciate it more as they mature, both in themselves and in their friends. I often see older women out together, happily chattering about this and that and obviously enjoying each other's company, while many men of that age (if they're out at all) seem to sit around looking bored or grumpy, trying at best to make small talk, if anything. I realize young girls do not have an easy time of it as they are growing up; but Venus seems to be a much nicer place later on, while Mars is definitely No Country For Old Men.

Bill has a major problem, which he should not ignore, but it is resolvable: he doesn't seem to have many strong interests, and that makes him uninteresting. He may be a very nice person, but he doesn't sound like somone most guys would seek out as a friend. What would they have in common? But as others have noted, he has to take control of his own life by using what interests he has to meet people. A book club was suggested. How about a gardening club? he might consider politics: not running for office, but doing volunteer work of some sort for a party or candidate he agrees with. I have worked in several campaigns, and met quite a few interesting people of both sexes, young and old.

But deep relationships are not likely to develop in any case: it's just not in the nature of the male beast.

First...Saul doesn't know what he's talking about. (Sorry Saul, I had to say it) Different personalities have a different perspective on life. We can't all be like Saul. Anyway, I do know of what Bill is talking about. I hate sports. Don't drink. I happen to be an introvert (and I'm quite willing to forgive those who are extroverts...they can't help themselves.) and have always found it hard to find like minded individuals. What has solved that problem for me now is my interest in art and the fact that I joined a group of painters that get together once a week for 3 hours. No instructor and I'm the second man in a group of 11 painters. Perfect! Will it work for Bill?

I'm inclined to think that the Mars/Venus thing is overrated. I think it has more to do with individual differences: introvert/extrovert, self-confidence, charisma, and shared *something*, whether it's a past (small p!), kids, parents, neighborhood, politics, whatever. I see men who are close to other men; they just don't Talk About Their Feelings. But they're there for each other, even if the "there" is a night shooting pool instead of offering sympathy. I don't see why the definition of warm & intimate friendship has to be "talks about everything."

An 81 year old friend of mine pictured here lost his wife a year ago. One of his responses (among many including a lot of feeling lost and crying) was to start a grief group for bereaved men. At the same running event where I took his photo, a medical technician who was standing by told us "he's an angel" -- because of all the work he does for others. Sam is surrounded by friends because he gets out of himself.

All that gregariousness probably isn't for everyone, but it sure works for this guy.

You and Bill have unleashed lots of opinions and interesting experiences..what could be a better use of our connection to the web? Thanks to both of you. Gladys

I'm really glad nobody mentioned drumming.

Places where guys talk, as reported by my husband, who says he has personally experienced only a couple of these:

Golf courses
Fishing or hunting trips
Bowling alleys

It seems that their emails tend toward dates, times, and flight numbers or dopey jokes and pictures of people and animals looking foolish.

I wish I could give tons of anecdotal evidence to disprove the Mars/Venus thing, because it was perpetrated by a Moonie pseudo-scientific pseudo-professional, but my in-house expert is not doing much to further that goal. But, then, he wouldn't, would he?

Maybe I'm lucky but I have deep friendships with many male friends some of whom are married. Originally we bonded over books or movies but that deepened into discussions about relationships and our often troublesome relationships with our adult children.
We've shared personal writings, photography, etc., and worked our way through life dilemmas and trepidations about aging.
I hsve enormous difficulty with stereotyping of males as being unable to bond in so-called "females only" friendship. My experience has been so opposite.
And yes, I have cherished female friends also.

Ronni, I can relate to Bill's problem. My best friend and I rarely see each other these days because we no longer work together and we no longer play golf together. For many men in their 50s, 60s and 70s the golf course and it's related society is a last bastion of male companionship. You get to know someone pretty well after many hours on the links over the years.

Now that neither of us play or work together our meetings are far and few between. I just recently found out he had been gravely ill for a month and was only notified after the fact.

I think Bill's plight is the norm and not the exception.

This to my mind is just another symptom of the change in culture and its effects on our generation.


I have found this thread extremely interesting. I'm with the behavior "type" camp. Extroverts have no idea what they are asking when they suggest a reflective person should join a club or a group. Introverts invent, discover and cultivate places that later become clubs that extroverts can join.

Good luck, Bill. I, too, appreciate your candor. Please keep us posted. Whatever you discover on your journey with this subject is sure to be interesting and enlightening for us all!

A number of women here have mentioned having good friendships with men, and that's just fine. I have those too and I treasure them. Although there are some men who are not able to reveal their more personal thoughts and feelings to any woman, even to their wives, I believe that the majority can and do, albeit with a little cajoling at times. (Especially if the women in their lives understand and respect that Martian need to duck into the cave when necessary.)
But Bill's whole point, surely, is how can men find other men to do this with, especially if they are introverts and not interested in all those 'male' pursuits?
As a psychotherapist (now retired) who heard this plea from many, many men over the years, I can assure you that it is an iceberg-shaped issue with a lot of hidden pain and longing. Our Western culture, especially in the US, is very hard for introverts of both sexes but hardest of all for men and boys.
I actually think the challenge we are speaking of here is part of an important step in evolution that Homo sapiens is currently on the threshold of, but that's another subject for another day...

Hi Ronni and friends :-)

Thanks for this interesting thread!

Friendships (both making them and keeping them) are complicated. There are distinct differences in the way males and females bond and yes, friendships between men and women are even more complicated than same sex friendships for obvious reasons.

That said, making friends is more a matter of circumstances than of age, per se. When we retire, move, divorce, or lose a spouse, we've severed some of the vital social ties we once had---at least to some degree. However, if we remain actively engaged in life and follow our own interests, we are likely to find people (older, younger or peers) who are looking for friends just as we are.

There is also the matter of personality which is of no small consequence. Some of us, like me, are naturally shy and have to totally work against our natural inclinations to put on a smile, to initiate conversation, and to work at building a relationship with someone new. This can be difficult.

Also, as we age we become more self-confident and discerning (if we are lucky). We may be less willing to waste time and tolerate unsatisfying or ambivalent friendships than when we were young.

Finally, friendships aren't naturally self-sustaining. We have to work at them and make them a priority in our lives to keep them. Contrary to the myth, friendships---even very close ones---aren't forever, so they need to be replenished. Research suggests that just like the carton of milk in your refrigerator, close friendships have expiration dates too; they tend to peter out after about 7 years.

Getting back to Bill's dilemma, it sounds like his problem is more than friendship. It sounds like he hasn't quite rooted himself in his new life and found his way. I would guess he has too much spare time on his hands too.

Yes, I could write a book about this friendship stuff and I'm working on my second :-).

One way to find friends of any gender is to join a Learning in Retirement group. Frequently affiliated with a college or university, some are simply peer groups who share knowledge and interests. The one I am involved with, Center for Learning in Retirement (San Francisco) is a lively group composed of people who read, study, and enjoy others who also have inquiring minds. A recent newsletter
will give you examples of what interests such groups. (Truth in advertising, I am the volunteer who, with others, compiles and edits The CLIR Voice)

A Google search for "Learning in Retirement" will give you leads on such groups in areas around the USA.

I have thoroughly enjoyed having friends of both (all) sexes ... and have always chosen them for their minds and their personalitie. It all depends on how compatible we are. Of course it always helps that I find interest in a wide range of subjects.

Found very early in life that it is better to ignore age, race, color, creed and sex when associating with people. And have found some very pleasant surprises within that nice wide range of humanity.

Hi Ronnie,
It is pleasant to remember our last visit.

Part 1
I've been thinking about what I could say about Bill's posting. Yes, I do relate to his comment and generally agree. Mary Jamison mentioned a few individual differences.
I've always been a loner, perhaps partly because my father died when I was five. I've had serious, and somewhat prevailing, problems getting in touch with my feelings and especially found difficulty expressing my feelings in words. I've tried to turn my aggressiveness and buried anger into assertiveness and have made significant steps, largely due to the love, acceptance and guidance of my loving wife.

What can I say on this subject? I have to deal with it obliquely because my wife meets almost all of my intimacy needs. Perhaps typically, I have very few close male friends and there is only one other male in my life that I can talk about deep feelings and that I can say what I feel without embarrassment. We don't talk often, but we both really enjoy the sharing and "catching up" with each other about where we are emotionally, what has captured our interest recently and our changing feelings about ourselves and how we relate to the world. We don't meet regularly and it is usually I who make the contact. That's the way my friend wants it and I accept.

What works for me? Well, there are two situations that I can relate. One, I play euchre in a euchre league. There are mostly men and over the last 11 years, I see them as acquaintances but note that there are some intimate conversations, not often, but there from time to time with others who have know each other all their lives. Our games are competitive, but balanced in that it is considered inexcusable for anyone to have hard feelings when they lose. It is a very safe outlet for aggression. We talk about the lay of the cards similarly to those who would talk about "the Mets"

Two, I play and rehearse twice a week in a local brass band. There is something very intimate about playing music with others, both males and females. I can't explain it in words, but I feel intimate with the males that I rehearse and do performances with. And, I do feel the intimacy is reciprocal. I think that we do share our feelings when we play together. I am also of the opinion that artistic expression is a clearer channel for emotional expression. We talk, talk, talk and often words just cannot capture a lot of what we want to express.

Now, do we talk about our feelings in either of those situations, generally no.
As a loner and with my wife as lover, mentor and soul mate, as I said above, I just don't feel the need for male intimate relationships.

Actually, I often just do express my feelings in words to my acquaintances and don't mind when they don't respond. Now, this may be quite narcissistic. Be that as it may.

Part 2
Lastly, my opinions are that most of our male inhibitions are culturally derived. Homophobia is prominent, we are brought up to be competitive - I learned in grade school to compete with grades. We are bombarded with male aggression continuously over the TV. Our young soldiers are conditioned to act tough in order to be accepted by their peers. Where can that aggression be channelled when they return from the fighting?

So, I expect most of us in this discussion can agree about the causes of our dilemma. What to do about it? Seek out like-minded people. Actively engage with the problem, observe those around you and be available for opportunities when they arrive. We do all actually get what we really want, you know. (another subject entirely) If you believe that you can't get what you want, then of course, you won't, full stop!

In Deborah Tannen's book about conversation differences between men and women, this passage stuck with me: "Women communicate for connection. men communicate for level." So, competition between men is usually there and often a hindrance. Plus, we men have been socialized to do or fix stuff and the conversational pattern (habit) from teenage years focused on that.

As I have gotten older (I am 55), I worry less about the gender of my friends; and focus more on the quality of my friendships. Knuckleheads are knuckleheads, regardless of the gender.

Life is too short to be unhappy. Play the hand you are dealt. Be friends with those you have met, trust, share interest, and who make the effort to return the friendship. A few high-quality friendships regardless of gender is more satisfying than trying to force friendships with men.


I highly recommend the book Just Friends - The Role of Friendship in our Lives by Lillian B Rubin.
Chapter 4 is titled Men. Eomen and Friends: The Differences Between Us. Which discusses much of what this post and the comments have discussed. It has some great insights

Jesus! What a long list! I only read about a fourth of it.

I worked for 40 years with just men, some of the same guys. Hardly any women in Engineering. We retired and have kept in touch only briefly. Now all I am exposed to is women. My wife, daughter, doctor, dentist, yoga teacher, yada-yada-yada, they all are women. It's nice.

The only thing I miss about working with and being around men all day is being accused of having a small penis.

Playing tennis I met a good bunch of guys and some women. I broke my foot, don't play anymore, and lost that bunch of good guys. My B-inLaw played golf for years with the same bunch of men, and when he died his wife wondered why the men didn't call anymore? Seems natural to me. No harm No foul.

How do guys bond? Here's my experience: We bond with lust, lust for women that is. I have never been with a man more than 15 minutes where he didn't comment on some passing female's physical attributes. This is universal because it's also true in Europe where I have worked and also in Japan where I have lived.

Also, American men bond with, uh, off-color? jokes. Sadly, many of which would be offensive to women, rightly so. I ain't makin' any judgments here. It's just the way it is. It's also true no matter how old we are, i.e., we still have the software for this bonding even tho' the hardware may not work the way it used to.

And, yes, even the born again Christians participate. Mormons too!

Vernon Jordan when asked what he and Bill Clinton talked about, he answered truthfully, "Pussy." I'll bet that got him more votes than the women votes he lost.

I had a friend in HS that after HS we went really different paths. We reunited after a 50 year hiatus, and had a great friendship for the next 12 years or so being in some sort of contact every week when he died suddenly. I miss him every day and he has been gone about a year. I think I will miss him forever.

I call that "life happening." I work on trying to get used to it.

I heard in a movie once, paraphrasing,
"Life is filled with many moments of joy and a few of unbearable sadness. It's probably best not to tell the children that."

Semper Fi!


After brooding on this issue since it was first posted, I composed a comment that morphed into a whole post http://ashleighburroughs.blogspot.com/2010/08/wheres-bromance.html

Like Miki, I think you have to look beyond the obvious. Introverts can still enjoy listening to conversation and being in the presence of like minded others, as SFAlice notes. But Bill has to remember that, as most of your comments remind him, it takes a lot of work to find someone to REALLY talk to.

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