Men, who, unbeknownst to me, are apparently known for having no friends, are learning to feel and share in the name of platonic camaraderie as we move into what is presumably not just the winter of our discontent but also the winter of our covid.
According to the Washington Post, men (straight cis men, that is) have either been lonelier than or just as lonely as the rest of us throughout the pandemic. This is perhaps because their interactions are “shoulder-to-shoulder,” according to the Post and involve pointing eyeballs at sports matches unlike the “face-to-face” engagements of other humans, which involve wine or hiking or, in the case of my roommate and I, making meaningful eye contact every time that woman from Real Housewives of Salt Lake City mentions her grandpa husband. Since the pandemic has taken away the opportunity to rub shoulders without talking, many men are left no option beyond actual conversation. For example, one man featured in the Post found the courage to tell his mates why he and his girlfriend broke up, and though he expected ridicule, he was embraced by benevolence—metaphorically, not physically, but still:
“On Saturday, when a couple of friends came over to help him set up his PC, Argueta expected them to roast him for looking like a “broke college student” in his new studio, where he has barely put anything on the walls and he has cords all over his desk. But instead, the two friends asked him to talk about what led up to his breakup, and how he was handling the past few months.”
Other men report newly instated weekly hikes with buddies, group chats where they vent their feelings, and socially distanced yard hangs full of booze and bitching—all stuff that I had no idea that men didn’t do. I now feel both awful for these lonely men and glad that they heretofore know the mingled joy and tedium of texting a group chat of people from grad school something along the lines of “Listen, am I overreacting?” and kicking off a three-hour war room analysis every single word uttered during a conversation with an ex. Historically these men have reported deriving “more of their emotional intimacy from the women in their lives,” with many more married men than married women (in straight relationships I’m assuming) claiming that their spouse is their best friend. So this is also a nice break for those women who serve as their husbands’ best friends while also juggling relationships with their actual best friends. Congratulations to those women.
One reason for this emotional isolation, the Post reports, is, of course, a culture that closely equates emotional availability with femininity and labels loneliness a lady feeling. Who can tell if the pandemic has shut down that particular brand of bullshit, or if men will go back to worrying that friendship might turn them gay with the advent of a vaccine. But the lesson here is probably the same as that of classic man’s movie Jerimiah Johnson—if I recall correctly, and trust me, I don’t—the journey is about all the friends we made along the way.