In my novel, The Cost of Weather, there is a scene where the protagonist and his closest friend are having coffee in a cafe. Simon, the protagonist, has asked his friend to meet him, having reached a crisis point and in need of advice.
When this scene was read at retreat last summer, the two men in the group were quick to point out that “real men” didn’t hang out in cafes with other men. They didn’t meet for coffee. Really? I thought. How strange.
The advice sought in this particular scene is what to do about women always wanting to talk, especially about feelings. Simon has lost not just his daughter, but also the potential love of a very juicy woman, and he has begun to realize that perhaps his reluctance to step up emotionally may be at the heart of these losses. But he is, in fact, lost when it comes to how to proceed.
When I wrote the scene, there was consideration on how to get these guys together for this particular conversation. I would speculate that instinctively I knew this was an unusual situation for men to be in together. So when it came to light at the retreat just how odd it was, it made me consider the implications.
Women have coffee, lunch, dinner together, they go for walks, take care of each other’s kids, go to movies, take yoga together, go on retreat or even a vacation together, and so on. They cook together, cry together, lean on each other…and men? Not so much, on observation, do they buddy up. If they are sporty, they might fish or play hockey, or watch the game in a bar with some beer. They might golf or play tennis, but I am hard pressed to think of what two straight men might do together alone. They just don’t. I think that’s sad.
Last summer, I was involved in a conversation with two old friends – men in their sixties – about why there are so many more mature single women than there are men. I was shocked and delighted to hear them agree that it was because women didn’t need men in the same way that men needed women. One put forth that women know how to take care of themselves, how to have fun, and… they hang out with each other, whereas men struggle with being on their own and… don’t hang out with each other.
I speculate that it is part acculturationn, part hard-wiring and part anxiety around homosexuality that keeps men from having intimate platonic relationships. I still think it’s sad.
Women rock. We have fun together. We hold each other up. We champion each other, cheer each other on, give each other the truth, grab an arm if the other is about to step in front of a train…
I may be out of line, but I’m keeping the scene in the book. Simon’s friend tells him to suck it up; that it’s the price you pay for what you get in return. Maybe I’ll take the part about him hearing the Bach Cello Suites on the sound system and wanting to put his head on the table and weep, but frankly, I have no doubt that a man would feel this way if he’d lost his daughter, even if he wouldn’t admit it to his friend, or even to his lover.