Guy Friends, friendship, men, aarp, girlfriend, illustration
Joe Waldron
Joe Waldron
Relationships

5 Ways My Buddies and I Are Like Women (And Why I Love It)

It’s certainly preferable to being “those guys.”

I’ve entered my early 40s with the strongest bromances of my life, some of them dating back to junior high. There are eight of these best guy friends. And frankly, I think that’s a high number.

I’m not bragging. I’m surprised. And I’m lucky.

To qualify: These are the guys I’d select to wear cheesy blue tuxedos as groomsmen or with whom I could backpack through India for a month (without wanting to abandon them for being insufferably annoying), or whom I could call in the middle of the night after running out of gas in rural Kansas because I was too cheap to pay an extra 3 cents at the last interstate exit. (Not at ALL based on actual experience.)

These are my brothers — which I’m stating as an only child. Why are these relationships so great?

Because we are like women. And thank goodness.

We connect, we don’t compete
These besties and I do not play comparison games or one-upmanship. Men base their relationships constantly on competition, be it wealth, prowess, intelligence, size — you name it. We compare and compete. The richest/biggest/handsomest man in the room dominates all rivals. I suppose it taps into our Neanderthal brains needing to attract females and pass on genes. But man, oh man (pun intended), do we like to compete.

I can recall those miserable years in middle school when the social hierarchy was entirely dictated by athletic/size/personality prowess. In my loneliness, it seemed I’d never have “true” friends.

I gravitated toward friendships with girls that felt more lasting because we had intellectual discussions (for 13-year-olds, mind you) that were about listening and contemplation, not competition. Contemplating the existence of God (even at 13) was more fulfilling than … I don’t know … discussing the Denver Broncos. Now, these “brothers” of mine and I don’t compare ourselves. When we talk, we want to know how we are doing. We listen, consult, give advice and empathize. We don’t compete. We connect.

Our hang time might as well be “Girls’ Night Out”
There’s no greater pleasure, for me, than to break bread (and drink wine) and discuss our place in the world. Despite being gregarious, for example, for my 40th birthday I just wanted to have dinner with my closest friends. Being able to talk and listen and laugh and debate was more fulfilling than, I dunno, skydiving to commemorate a milestone birthday. It could’ve been just another Friday night dinner party. And it was great, because commemorating the wealth of friendships I already had was that much more meaningful. We discussed our hopes, dreams and worries. And this was with many of my guy friends. (Side note: Ridiculous that I even hesitate to say “boyfriends,” isn’t it?)

We sit face-to-face
They say men’s friendships are shoulder-to-shoulder, while women’s friendships are face-to-face; men experience things together, whereas women talk. Now, I’m all about experiences with friends. I spent a 30th birthday in London with one bestie, road-tripped with three others, and hiked Kilimanjaro with another and umpteen Colorado 14ers with another few.

And that was awesome shoulder-to-shoulder time.

But as we took these adventures, we talked about disappointments, dreams, sex, sexuality, God, place in the world. We laughed, we cried. That was face-to-face while shoulder-to-shoulder.

We’ve gotten over ourselves
We support each other in ways even our partners can’t (and sometimes shouldn’t). We give each other purpose and drive in an intellectual “buddy” system that differs from intimate partnership.

Being able to talk about weaknesses when being unemployed, share secrets about love and sex, and cry on each other’s shoulders when parents died – these are things that aren’t meant to be exclusively shared with partners.

Friends don’t judge in the same way. Their tough love is different. That I’m able to unload in intimate ways with my male friends gives me more strength in the world.

Long ago, when I was being unfaithful with my partner at the time (with my current partner … 14 years and counting), it was my, um, boyfriend who helped me through the moral conundrum to come clean, live truthfully and move on for everyone’s sake … to keep living a more honest and fruitful life.

I needed my boyfriend, in that moment; and not to be a bro, but to be an intimate friend.

We’ve turned down the volume
We don’t boast, we don’t scream, we don’t talk over each other. We listen. And that’s what we’ve always done … unlike the stereotype. I can’t be friends with people who won’t listen, or don’t ask me about myself and my day or my thoughts and goals. And so often — that’s dudes, posturing and competing.

Don’t get me wrong — I love to laugh loudly, scream and (on the rare occasion) hit a crowded dance floor.

But with my buddies, I just want intimacy. I don’t want a noisy bar, I want a quiet Irish pub. I want to cry in my beer, not hardy-har-har about farts and sexual conquests. We aren’t being sarcastic when my friends and I ask, “How do you feel about God these days?” We want to learn from each other’s sense of self. I wouldn’t say my friends and I are like “girlfriends,” but whatever we are, it’s preferable to being “those guys.”

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Guy Friends, friendship, men, aarp, girlfriend, illustration
Joe Waldron