June 29, 2012


The Silent Friendships of Men (ROGER ROSENBLATT, 12/07/1998, TIME)

The silence of men in general is over-talked about and overcriticized. To be sure, men never open up as much as women want them to, but there is a wordless understanding in which we function fairly well--especially in friendships. There are a dozen guys whom I count as friends and who do the same with me, yet months pass without our speaking, and even when we do, we don't.

Old story: two women approach Calvin Coolidge. One says to the close-mouthed President, "Mr. Coolidge, I just bet my friend that I could get you to say three words." Says Coolidge: "You lose."

I believe, in fact, that most women would prefer a man to be glumly uncommunicative than to spill his guts at the drop of a hat. [...]

The push for men to express their feelings presumes that we have feelings, and we do have a few, but they remain submerged, and the airing of them often violates their authenticity. [...]

There's a deep, basically serene well of silence in most men, which, for better and worse, is where we live. I do not mean to start claptrapping myself, but I often think that all our acts of aggression and wanna-fight posturing arise from that well as forms of overcompensation or panic. Unlike women, men are not social creatures, not born administrators. It's nicely P.C. to think of God as female, but no woman would have thrown Lucifer out of heaven; she would have offered him a desk job. Had Lucifer been a woman, she would have dropped all that "myself am hell" business and taken it.

I would go so far as to argue that men were programmed to be isolated from one another and that aloneness is our natural state. Silence in male friendships is our way of being alone with each other. Once men have established a friendship, that itself is the word. The affection is obvious, at least to us. A main component of our silence is an appreciation of the obvious.

Posted by at June 29, 2012 6:46 AM

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