From the daily archives:

Friday, August 20, 2024

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  • In the company of men

    August 20, 2024

    There’s a post today at Time Goes By that
    hits me where I live. A reader named Bill writes asking: “Any thoughts on how men can find new groups of friends?”

    Like Bill, I’m an older guy, comfortable in the company of women and generally uneasy with the superficial bullshit that seems to color men’s relationships. My social life these days has narrowed to occasional gatherings with my wife and her friends (“the ladies who lunch”), a little jibber-jabber at the Saturday farmers market, and infrequent chats with the few neighbors we have on this thinly settled stretch of country road, conversations that center on the weather, or the merits of concrete versus asphalt, or perhaps the irony of herbicide use in prairie restoration. Like Bill, the man who inspired Ronni’s post, “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….” Ultimately, what? God save me from one more fantasy football general manager’s lame observation about Brent Favray or the Green Bay Pigskins. Ultimately there must be something meaningful nearby, but I guess I won’t find it if I don’t start looking.

    My problem is complicated by my alienation. My patriotism isn’t of the common type. I see America’s class structure as an impediment to resolving some of the most horrible problems mankind has ever faced. A handful of mellow guys drinking a few beers wouldn’t necessarily welcome a strident SOB like me into their company, nor would I likely be comfortable among them. I’m not a fisherman or a bowler. I find most religion appalling at best, often a refuge of emotional cripples and existential cowards, and always a tool for creating division and invidious distinctions. (How about New York’s bishop Dolan’s unctuously prayerful posturing around helping the muslim community find a way to compromise their plans for construction in lower Manhattan? What a tea bagger. Maybe they could move the community center out to White Plains? Arrogant jerk. A real crusader. Well, as they say, opinions are like anal sphincters. Even the bishop has one.)

    You see my problem.

    The other day I was waiting for Beth to retrieve some books on hold at the library. I parked at an angle across three parking spaces in front of the local senior center, trying to find notice of the hours it’s open (and indeed the info wasn’t posted anywhere). Am I a senior center kind of guy? A buddhist nun with a shaved head and a great tan on her bare arms smiled at me from behind the steering wheel of her Toyota. I thought maybe a diet of brown rice and vegetables would take a few pounds off and restore me to a more youthful look. Maybe I could augment that organic diet with a quiet afternoon of bridge every week or two. Do they do that at the senior center? Maybe there are some guys who would be into that. Or euchre. We’re big on alternative card games here in Wisconsin. Sheepshead. I haven’t played sheepshead for a long time. Maybe poker?

    Maybe I could find one guy who plays chess as poorly as Don Harvey, someone I could beat about half the the time. We have a nice little coffee shop downtown, perfect for sucking down a latte and talking smart.

    Or maybe it’s time for me to crank up the engagement level and hang out with my peeps again, the socialists and greens and pacifists. More pragmatically maybe I should put some energy into assuring Senator Feingold’s re-election and lending a hand to the Tom Barrett campaign while I’m at it. None of these things is happening in my life right now, but I’m sure there are some men around here who share my interests and concerns. How about a woodworking class at some adult education venue? You’re never too old to amputate a thumb with a power tool.

    The online world is wonderfully seductive. I can spend a lot of time virtually adjacent to guys I enjoy, guys who make me laugh and guys who catalyze the flames of righteous anger in opposition to the egregious nonsense that passes for politics these days. But there’s something missing in the virtual connection, something that cyber-singularity enthusiast and champion of immortality Ray Kurzweil denies. The nuances of facial expression, the spontaneity of laughter… these and so many other gestures are missing from cyberspace and the single-minded dedication to life extension, hell they’re missing from Facebook and twitter and the single-minded dedication to wasting time. 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.”

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