Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a man in his 40s is probably in need of new friends.
This is because a) there’s a friendship attrition rate; and b) men are, by and large, crap at making new friends.
Making friends seems more difficult as you get older.Credit: Getty Images
No one is immune. You had a great group of friends from high school and uni? Good for you. But Jimbo got a job in the mines, Bob had a crisis and is walking from Cairo to Cape Town, and Tom has disappeared into middle management. Others fall by the wayside – lost to child-rearing or middle age. Or they simply drift away. Some might reappear after a divorce, others not.
All of which is to say, you’re probably at some point going to need a fresh infusion.
One thing you notice when you move to cities like Melbourne or Sydney from elsewhere is locals can be a tad clannish. They acquire a group of friends early. Everyone dates everyone within the group to create incestuous levels of drama. Then they stew in the same group for 30 to 40 years, slowly losing people to intrigue, interstate or overseas.
This is possibly why women live longer. If they went first, the world would be a sorry sight – friendless, partnerless men mooching about, wondering how to connect.
Male friendship is often expressed with a sideways glance.Credit: Alamy
So you need a top-up. For men, this is made harder by many things – the protective shield of ego, the possibility of being seen as a loser for not having enough friends, and an inability to relate directly to others unless it’s through a proxy. You never want to look directly at another man. You can only see him with a sideways glance while you both watch footy, cycle long distances in Lycra, or, I dunno, perform in a heavily bearded sea shanty choir.
But there’s another problem for men. Banter. So prodigious is our ability to avoid direct contact with another man that it’s nearly impossible to know if you are actually friends or you simply have known each other for long enough to commence shit-giving. Imagine actually asking something of each other!
This is the male banter doom loop. It riddles old friendships. That’s normal. You can spend hours drinking beer with a couple of friends and have absolutely zero intel on their lives to relay to your partner later.
But when men try to make new friends, the indignity reaches new heights. You obviously need some level of banter as bedrock. But after that, it’s just embarrassment all the way. And when I say men, I’m clearly talking about me and trying to rope everyone else in for moral support. Amirite fellas?
Not long ago, I was trying to work in a cafe. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but it was impossible not to. Four younger men – musicians – on the table next to me were taking turns to praise each other. Your drumming is just superb, Justin! Oh, thank you, Tim. But your song ideas are just so strong.
At first, I thought nothing of it. But then it kept going, and going, and going. I couldn’t work. Was there a hidden camera? An irritating influencer about to leap forth and secure fresh reaction content? Were they doing a bit? Nope. Just four guys who really liked praising each other.
My incredulity mounted. Where was the banter? Why were they so earnest? I felt mildly sick. What had happened to male friendship? Did they even know how to give each other mountains of shit?
Now, it’s customary upon turning 40 to begin heaping shit on the next generation. And that was certainly my first impulse. I grew up in the 1990s, which now seems a different world. It was when young men policed each other’s behaviour to ensure that nobody was too “soft” or “sensitive”. It was suspicious behaviour if you got too close to another man, or showed emotion. You had to develop a protective layer of banter, which insulated you from the risk of getting to know your friends too closely. None of us knew what it meant to be a man, but what not to do was painfully clear.
But these younger men seemed to have grown up without this psychic damage. Here they were, flagrantly enjoying each other’s company, and larding on the earnestness. It was disgusting. It was awesome.
Good for them. The next generation is shaping up to be a good one. Unfortunately, it’s too late for me. I’m stuck in banterland.
Which brings me to my current predicament. I have a friendship prospect. I’ll call him Roger because that’s not his name. Roger and I have daughters who are friends. We have entered the banter doom loop. We message. He gives me shit for having more children than I can handle, or pronounces me cancelled. I heap on the shit about everything else. Looks promising, right?
But when I attempt to convert banter into IRL one-to-one personal enjoyment — or friendship, as some call it — he bails. Deflects. Turns it into banter. If this was dating I’d file it as tediously hard to get, goodbye. But men (OK, fine, just me) can’t be choosy. Gotta keep those friend numbers up. Make up for the losses. Fresh blood.
I told my sorry tale of trying to win Roger’s friendship approval to a gaggle of fellow schoolyard mums. One hoiked an eyebrow and said, “Doug have you thought that perhaps, just perhaps, he doesn’t want to be your friend? And this is him getting out of it?”
Reader, I had not thought that thought. Nor do I want to think that thought. Some say desperation is a stinky cologne. I say you gotta shoot your shot.
So here goes. Roger. Buddy. Pal. Friend. You conniving little man. This is my big gesture. Here it is. Want to go for a beer? With me? In person? (It’s optional but please say yes.)
Doug Hendrie is a Melbourne writer.
The Opinion newsletter is a weekly wrap of views that will challenge, champion and inform your own. Sign up here.
Most Viewed in Lifestyle
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article