In the company of men

  • el
  • pt
  • 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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    1. Posted August 20, 2024 at 7:49 | Permalink


      Wonderfully thought out and stated. I’m posting a link on my story.

    2. Posted August 20, 2024 at 8:59 | Permalink


      Just a question, but I wonder, do men who have brother(s) share a better male friendship bonding? That’s not really true with my husband who has nothing much beyond a mother in terms of commonality with his two older brothers. They used to be closer in their youth, but as they’ve become husbands and fathers, that gap is Grand Canyon big these days. (They did NOT have a nurturing father, in fact, he was an abusive SOB that drank and I wonder if that had a factor in the sons not being able to form good male bonds.)

      My husband and I have tried to socialize with other couple friends, but no one couple seems to “fit”. Either they live too far away, or our interests don’t compliment well enough to make a foursome fun. We would enjoy the friendship of another couple to say, go hike in the Big Bend, or go camping, but I also realize we’ve gotten spoiled to not having to accomodate or compromise in what we enjoy doing in our leisure time.

      When I think of male bonding now, I always get a mental picture of the Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau (John Gustafson and Max Goldman) as Grumpy Old Men. Probably typifies the older man’s friendships, I am guessing.

    3. Posted August 20, 2024 at 9:39 | Permalink

      Pattie, i don’t know if i can generalize but I can say that I have a brother four years younger than me who seems better at the male bonding stuff than I ever was. My twin sons, thirty now, were close before high school and sort of went their separate ways then. Maybe what they learned early carried forward because, while they are different as can be, they both have the knack of forming lasting male friendships.

      My wife and I are each other’s best friends, and we’ve never had that other couple to do things with, nor have we missed the experience. I’m not sure we’d be happy with the compromises of traveling with someone else. We belonged to a couples card club some years ago and we enjoyed that. I never quite got the hang of abandoning the women in the kitchen while talking sports with the men in the living room though.

      But, I might be willing to take up ice fishing if I had someone like Jack Lemmon to irritate with my crotchedyness.

    4. Posted August 20, 2024 at 12:39 | Permalink

      Great post…
      It’s just a darn shame you don’t live down the road from me. I would definitely enjoy talking to you. But I’m in California and you are in someplace cold. We’re not going to meet.

    5. Posted August 20, 2024 at 2:08 | Permalink

      Steven, I’m glad to make your acquaintance here. I have family and friends up and down California, so you never know. We might run into each other. Glad you liked the post!

    6. Posted August 20, 2024 at 3:04 | Permalink

      Frank, I really enjoyed your post today. I wish I had some great pointers but I’m sorry to say I don’t. Yours about stepping away from the keyboard cracked me up. I am just glad to know that some men think about these things and want to have more meaningful friendships with other men.

    7. Posted August 20, 2024 at 3:39 | Permalink

      Hi Gaea, thank you for dropping in. I just read your “84 things” post and feel like our paths have crossed again and again. Not that we’ve ever met, you understand.

    8. Posted August 20, 2024 at 6:16 | Permalink

      At least for now, you’re right that your best bet is Democratic Party Headquarters. Or your local Green Party Hdqtrs. They both need all the help they can get and it’s time well-spent even if you don’t meet any male peers to relate to.

    9. Don Harvey
      Posted August 22, 2024 at 5:55 | Permalink

      Once again, I wish I had time to craft a worthy response but it’s tall ships weekend in Port Washington and I’ve got to run down to watch the “Bounty” sail out of our harbor. So, a couple of quick observations.
      First, search away buddy boy. You’ll never find anyone who plays chess as poorly as I.
      Second, the more I read your posts the more I’m amazed at how often I find myself in agreement with your point of view. Either I’ve made significant progress over these past many years or, more likely, you’re finally catching up.
      Third, I just returned from a small picnic on the south side of Milwaukee with Russ Feingold but I don’t feel I really bonded with the guy.
      And finally, “here’s to the ladies who lunch…I’ll drink to that.”
      Ooops, gotta go……..

    10. Posted August 30, 2024 at 11:34 | Permalink

      Cut the BS and buy a motorcycle like the rest of us ;-)

    11. Posted September 10, 2024 at 7:11 | Permalink

      That assumes that one *has* peers. Or at any rate, that they are as thick on the ground as they seem to be here, in … cyberspace? The big BBS in the sky?