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Guys’ Night Out

[ 0 ] July 2, 2011 |

Chapter 2 of 32 in A Father’s Journal
By Forrest Seymour
Originally published in August, 1994

Me and the guys, we go out for a couple of beers every now and again. We’re a motley crew, drawn together by past political campaigns, past glories, and don’t see much of each other now-a-days, except for our nights out at the local pub. Most of our time is taken up with jobs, or job searches, girlfriends, kids, school. We just don’t seem to make the kind of time to see each other that we might.

And you know, sometimes this is OK with me.

Male friendships in the ’90s are fraught with problems, and often I’d just as soon drink a beer at home, with some simplistic but satisfying buddy movie, then try to have real buddies of my own.

Me and the guys, we are all well meaning, we’re all gentlemen. We avoid sexist generalizations, racist remarks, and stereotypical sports trivia chatter. As one might guess, our nights out are rife with long pauses in the conversation. We try to fill these pauses with meaningful comments about our fathers, about relationships, about politics, we try to share a bit, but often it all falls flat.

There are at least two conflicting images within our culture of how men might be. On the one hand you’ve got the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover bonded men with a mission image, guys who’d risk their lives for each other, and prove it. They don’t talk much about their feelings, but you know they’ve got them somewhere deep down. And when they touch, even by accident, they gotta make such a joke of it. Must make them nervous, I’d guess.

On the other hand is the Robert Bly drum-circle image, guys holding hands, sharing, crying, hugging, breaking down the barriers it’s taken generations to construct. A dizzying task; more power to them.

Me and the guys, I don’t think we’re real comfortable with either of these options. The Hollywood buddy thing is seductive, simplistic and ridiculous. And Robert Bly (who I deeply respect as a poet and folklorist) has had his writings distorted to such a degree, by both supporters and detractors, that the drumming guy image is unfortunately left seeming shallow and laughable.

What’s a guy to do?

There was a period where the guys and I played a little basketball, ran around together, twisted a few ankles. It was a lot of fun, until winter set in. It seems like sports are the fall-back activity for guys looking for friendship. And if you’re not much of a sportsman, as we guys aren’t, you’re left a little in the dust.

What guys appear to often seek in friendships is the safety of structure. So long as we fit into some familiar image, play by the rules, do our jobs together, we feel secure. But once we enter into some unknown territory, up go those age old defenses.

I suppose that a lot of our fear of intimacy results from some kind of often sub-conscious homophobia. Call it primitive, call it unenlightened, call it Freudian, but I guess we have to call it something, ’cause it’s there. Where it came from, I don’t know. A synthesis of subtle and not so subtle cultural messages, I’d conjecture. Whatever its roots, this subtle homophobia is very destructive to male friendships. When faced with uncharted emotional situations, we often end up feeling mistrustful of our fellow man, constructing barriers of humor or macho posturing.

Of course, a lot of guys don’t see it this way, and I can really only speak for myself. But I believe that there are a lot of us who struggle with deep and embarrassing fears about our own potential homosexuality. Who hasn’t once or twice asked themselves, “Am I gay?” when some unfamiliar sense of intimacy or attraction sweeps through us, and then done all we could to avoid having to face this little quandary. Most of the time we are probably fairly secure in our lifestyle, whether it be gay, straight or whatever. But when those little doubts spring out from behind the bushes, we usually long to run the other way.

And how do we avoid these doubts? We make sexist or racist jokes. We talk sports. We dash into anything that has clear rules. We do what guys usually do when they go our for a few beers.

The cliché, that it is easier for guys to talk with women about their feelings than it is for them to talk to other guys, seems often to be sad but true. Paradoxically, it may be just these guys, the ones who wish most to tend to their feelings, who become the most self conscious about expressing them to other guys. It’s all that new, mushy emotional territory that we’re exploring, all those unexplored recesses of feeling about ourselves and men in general that confuse us so. Relationships with women become simple, or at least clearer, by comparison. Sometimes women turn out to be better buddies, than do other guys.

But you know, I do, on balance, enjoy going out with the guys. It’s a little awkward, unfamiliar, embarrassing at times. Sometimes it makes me long for the easy world of movies and books. But occasionally we get it right. We can, if we try, talk about fathers and family, make a few mildly dirty jokes, even talk a little sports, and still give each other a good hug when we’re done. It’s a little tricky, weaving blind through this new territory of the 90’s, looking for new answers, looking for new questions. But here we are, making the best of it, struggling to be nice guys, while still being true to our primordial guyhood.

By Forrest Seymour
Originally published in August, 1994, in the Valley Times Journal, Walpole, NH.


Category: Father's Journal

About Forrest Seymour: See my LinkedIn Profile Forrest Seymour is a social worker, psychotherapist and violence prevention consultant.  He has worked in community based programs, hospitals, schools and colleges supporting individual and institutional efforts to prevent sexual violence and promote emotional and community health since the mid-‘70s.  He has consulted with State Department International Visitor Groups and serves on the Cheshire County (NH) Domestic Violence Council, the New Hampshire Violence Against Women Campus Consortium and the steering committee of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Outreach.  Since 2006, Forrest has been at the Keene State College Counseling Center where he is a Counselor and the Coordinator of Sexual Violence Prevention & Education.  He counts amongst his inspirations the many men he has collaborated with locally, nationally and internationally who seek in so many creative ways to end men’s violence, but most especially, the male and female students at Keene State College who step up as Mentors in Violence Prevention peer educators, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march organizers, Shout Out Against Sexual Assault speakers and witnesses, Take Back the Night marchers, “Vagina Monologues” and “No Zebras, No Excuses” performers,  and as violence prevention activists in countless large and small ways every year and every day.  These students are victims, survivors, allies and active-bystanders; they are leaders, role models and inspirations for their peers, for their faculty and staff, and for Forrest. View author profile.