How the pandemic is changing male friendships

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/12/11/how-the-pandemic-is-changing-male-friendships.html

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there, fixed that for you

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One thing I’ve noticed, that I find really heartening, is the number of dads I see out with their kids. It’s pretty clear that there’s tag-team parenting hapenning, and my hope is that the experience will actually empower a lot of dads who, until now, on some level felt that this part of parenting wasn’t something that they knew how to do.

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My friends are all gamers, so we all adapted to just doing online games. We do most of our socializing through gaming, not sports, and that worked for us. it helps we are all pretty tech savvy enough to get things up and running despite being late 40s/early 50s.

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Pre-pandemic, my friends already had a weekly co-op gaming session over Discord, which feels far more “present” and engaged with others than watching sports at a bar, which never appealed to me much. Recently our PC gaming has taken a detour into D&D – our second session is this evening – and I’m finding that creating a collaborative narrative together is a great way to bond with the others.

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As I read the WaPo piece, I noticed the frequency of “some” and “many” and “often,” even as I also noticed how little of the descriptions and characterizations applied to me and to my friends who are men. Which makes me wonder about any conversation that amounts to “men/women are like this.” Certainly there’s enough truth in some of the story’s characterizations of male friendship, but I wonder 1) what about men who do not fit that profile and 2) how does that profile compare to the ways that women interact?

Now, I understand that the assignment of traits to any group is a matter of distribution, which suggests that there is a range of associational profiles across the sexes. I can see that range among the social contacts of me and my wife (there’s overlap but not identity, thanks to our differing ranges of activities), and I’m reluctant to characterize any of them in the “men/women are like that” way.

FWIW, my wife, does not do girls’-nights-out or shopping expeditions, and I don’t do sports or cards or hunting or cigars. I play music; she has conversations. We both do dinners-with-friends. It’s been that way for 50 years.

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Only change for me and my male friends is seeing each other less and sitting further apart and not hugging when we do. Seems about right given the circumstances.

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Agreed. When my littles were, well, little, I used to get funny looks when I took them grocery shopping. I’d routinely get asked if I was babysitting to help out my wife. 20 years on it’s a whole different landscape.

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I think that was changing already.

Thirty years ago I spent a lot of time with the daughter of a friend starting when she was one. We went all over the place including a couple of train trips. everyone assumed I was her father, and I was aware of women noticing that it wasn’t an obligation, there was a high level of engagement.

I didn’t see men out with children back then. One time we saw a man with two children and they wanted to hold his hands, and he resisted, wanting to smoke.
In more recent years I see achange. A couple of times I’vemoved out of the way so a man can push the stroller fast (something I remember little Mira wanting thirty years ago). I held the door open for a man pushing a stroller, maybe an obligation there, but then behind him a woman in hijab nods at me, kind of acknowledging “this is how we will fix this”.

The relationship is the teacher.

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The linked Times article was probably the most informative. When I saw then toxic masculinity comment, my first thoughts were, “bullshit! Let me tell you why we don’t have friends”.

  • Being married means that every time you go out with your-friends-not-her-friends, you’re abandonning your wife. That might mean leaving her to the boredom of searching Netflix (but only for one-shot movies she hasn’t cared enough to watch yet, because she doesn’t want to commit to a series that she’ll have to catch you up on later). Or it might mean leaving her to take care of the kids on her own. Sometimes you can schedule things so that she appreciates the alone time or she can see her-friends-who-are-not-your-friends, but it has to be scheduled. That’s the great thing about sports (or in my case, Magic: the Gathering pre-release tournaments): it is a group activity on a date well established before time that will not require you to abandon your spouse for more than 4 hours. I’m sure some guys have the drive to self-schedule fishing weekend or the like without having 5 other guys hemming and hawing about how this or that weekend sucks for them, but I sure don’t.
  • When you go out with your wife, everybody needs to get along. Jerry Seinfeld (on CiCgC) wisely observed that if your have two couples going out, that’s 6 relationships that have to be work. And work well enough to want to do it again, or it’s not a friendship. That’s less likely than you think.
  • You don’t have time. Duh. Obviously, we all have a little time somewhere, but the large chunks of meaningful time all have to be scheduled. At a time where you can’t say, “I’d rather stay home and play with the kids” or “but that leak isn’t going to fix itself”. Usually you can only do this by accomplishing by making time (in the chess sense, by accomplishing two goals with one move). For example, you talk with your couple friends at the school picnic that your kid wants to drag you to anyway.
  • Adult you is boring. You have nothing going on but work, and no one wants to hear work stories. Most of your friends don’t even really understand what you get paid for. You have no time for other things. Your hobby has become sports, because you can schedule sports with your friends. There is just nothing new that can sustain 20 minutes of conversation, day after day. Which matters, because friendships are built on tiny, sustained interaction. If something unpleasant ever does happen to you, at least you get the consolation of a new, five-minute story about how the back yard is infested with some weird fungus, or the rates at daycare are just climbing agan. It’s not interesting, but it’s at least new.
  • And the longer it’s been since the last time you messaged your friends, the less trivial any new message can be. It’s harder and harder to find something noteworthy enough to break into a new conversation. You can’t text a friend you haven’t seen in three years over a soccer point. (“Can you believe that ludicrous display?”) If you were super honest, you could open with, “well, I’ve been kind of self-absorbed for the passt three years. How about you?”
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Username checks out. :wink:

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I lost most of my male friends in a blowup over business a few years ago. Things have settled since then and I could probably be friends with most of them again… but I find that I don’t really want to. Being freed from the responsibility of friendship has been oddly empowering. I know it’s probably not good to isolate myself, but, honestly, other people means other people’s problems and I already have my plate full. Am I happier without friends? No… but I’m not nearly as unhappy as I thought I’d be.

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For sure there are more dads at playgrounds, pushing strollers, etc… but women still seem to vastly outnumber men in these spaces. The change I see is dads taking their kids out for adventures away from the house for activities that most women (and arguably a significant group of men) would find exhausting (like biking 15k with a kid on the back and a trailer with another kid and a kid’s bike strapped on it so that they could all bike together in a park).

Don’t get me wrong, there are women that I see doing this sort of thing too, but the change I see is that dads vastly outnumber the moms, and that it’s clear that this isn’t a full family activity but a dad and kids activity (granting the other parent the freedom to get work done or just maintain adult sanity).

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I’m kinda glad being gay and male and furry and tend to avoid the toxic BS that straight CIS guys go though. I’ve gone to make a bunch of new friends this year and ended up with essentially multiple groups to socialize with in furry VR and have expanded my circle of friends and it’s been amazing. This subculture has always been strong in the gathering in groups which is a bad idea now so gathering in VR has expanded the amount of time I get to essentially go to meets to nightly and it spans the globe while at the same time being way more real than say a discord chat or zoom.

It’s been the high point of this awful year for me.

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Does she not have friends or a desire for alone time? My marriage is built on a compatible need for both and respecting each other’s time.

For a few hours. You can be friends with some and not all.

How onerous. /s

The world is brimful of fascinating things to talk about. Being bored takes effort.

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Real talk, yo; if being married with a family is such a burden, then why even bother?

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quarantine

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Accurate meme is accurate.

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Must convince friends and family that continuing Zoom calls after the pandemic is over would be a good thing… :thinking:

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Obligs:

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