The Sad Truth About Male Friendships

The saying, or at least my Fargo-ish version of it, goes likes this:

A friend won’t rat you out for killing somebody, but a buddy will help you dispose of the body as you feed it through a mulcher.

It’s a saying that usually causes a nod and a knowing smile from anyone who hears it, but most people are quite sure they’ll never have to actually test their friendships using that particular rubric.

I, however, did get to test it.

Before you get all CSI and call the police, let me quickly add that while there was a body of sorts, no actually killing was involved.

Here’s the story:

My in-laws were coming to visit and while I like them, there are certain things I don’t want my in-laws to see, among them the office from which I’m typing this. For the most part, it’s a regular office with chairs, desk, books, and computer, but it’s the décor that I hide from judgmental eyes. It’s a little bit Caligula, a little bit X-rated Comic-Con, and a whole lot of potential embarrassment.

Let me put it this way, during a dinner party a friend’s 13-year-old daughter left the dinner table unnoticed and while wandering around my house stumbled onto my office. She emerged a few minutes later having reached full sexual maturity just by looking at the stuff on the walls. Puberty had accelerated at an incredible rate. While Summer had left the table dressed like she was ready for a touch football game, she returned wearing a tube top, leather skirt, stockings, and 5-inch heels.

I’d always thought girls had to buy those kinds of clothes. Little did I know they just sprung from the epidermis as they hit puberty.

Anyhow, as she approached the dinner table, she lifted her now shapely leg and planted a stiletto heel on a chair, hiked up her skirt and started adjusted her stocking while asking me to make her a gin and tonic with the instructions, “Don’t be stingy, Baby.”

Her parents had to send her away to one of those schools for bad girls where they’re kept away from anything that remotely resembles a penis; even the cafeteria vegetables are sexless — almost all leafy, nothing cucumber-ish or gourd-ish.

The main erotic draw of my office and the one that probably caused little Summer to experience a sudden, Katrina-like hormonal wave is what’s known as a RealDoll. I’ll be blunt. It’s an incredibly realistic, life sized, 110-pound, anatomically correct, multi-orificed silicone love doll. You might have seen one of her sisters on Howard Stern’s old E! Entertainment show or in the Sundance film, Lars and the Real Girl.

For the record, I do not have sex with “Dame Maggie” (I named her after Dame Maggie Smith on the PBS show, Downton Abbey, because my RealDoll is both wise and sassy). I bought her (on discount) after I did a story on the RealDoll factory and attached her, standing up, to the wall with a hardware-store hook and eye and she serves as an interesting and titillating room decoration.

But the stigma of having a love doll is a powerful one – after all, everyone assumes that you’re boning it. As such, you can easily see why I didn’t want my in-laws to know I had one. Now I could easily hide most of the stuff in my office, but Maggie presented a problem. Sure, I could dress her up in a pantsuit and say she’s my copy editor, but some people are undoubtedly smart enough to see through that ruse.

The solution lay in finding a friend in whose house I could store her for the duration of my in-law’s visit.

I know I had two choices: Barry or Kurt. Both would gladly help me out, but each choice presented a problem. For some reason Kurt had a visceral aversion to Maggie and he loathed even seeing her. Barry, however, liked her a bit too much, if you catch my drift. The plain truth is that Barry, that sick bastard, would likely place Maggie’s legs around his neck and furtively fuck her, her silicone butt sliding along the table and acting like a giant eraser and erasing all his wife’s painstakingly drawn fruit images.

The choice was obvious: I went with Kurt. Kurt wouldn’t touch Maggie, let alone defile her, plus he presented an advantage in that he lived next door to me.

But moving Maggie wasn’t easy. She was literally dead weight. Nor did I want my neighbors to espy us from their second-story windows, so we did what anyone who’s disposing of a body does — we folded her arms over her ample silicone chest and threw a sheet over her.

As we stumbled and lurched through our adjoined back yards, Maggie’s right arm dropped heavily out from under the sheet, making it clearly visible to anyone who might be watching and suddenly cursing their bad luck in being cast as a real-life Jimmy Stewart from the Hitchcock movie, Rear Window.

We redoubled our pace and carried her up the stairs to his house, her loose arm bouncing off each step. We squirreled her away in his spare bedroom, reapplied the sheet, and left her there, where I’m certain she remained untouched and unmolested for the duration of my in-law’s visit.

In helping me “mulch a body,” Kurt had instantly transformed from a friend to a buddy, and despite dictionary definitions, there’s a big difference between the two.

Psychologist Dr. Herb Goldberg has studied male relationships and he’s conceptualized four distinct phases in the development of a “buddyship.” These phases are the manipulative phase, the companionship phase, the friendship phase, and finally, the buddyship phase.

The first phase is one in which, sadly, at least from my experience, 99% of male relationships fester, rot, and then dissolve. This manipulative phase is, in biological terms, symbiotic or even parasitic in that each member feeds, or uses, the other. The men come together because one has a skill, talent, resource, or attribute that the other can use to further himself in business or life. The other partner can even contribute just by being a sycophant, admirer, or having a good sense of humor.

Once there are no more mutual benefits, the friendship dissolves.

The second phase, the companionship phase, is a relationship that revolves around some sort of shared activity, be it golfing, drinking, an appreciation for UFC, or even dancing the Flamenco. It’s simply an excuse for hanging out or talking about their one shared passion, but the relationship is superficial and tenuous because it’s not based on caring.

Sometimes the companionship phase evolves into a true friendship. Competitiveness dies a bit and so does jealousy.  As I wrote about in my book, you can be beaten in some game of skill by your friend and not automatically feel a strong urge to defile his woman and afterwards wipe off your dick using his favorite New York Jet’s jersey.

Secrets and feelings are often shared in this phase, and since the friendship is actually based on mutual caring, it has a decent chance of lasting and becoming meaningful.

The final and oh-so rare phase is the buddyship phase, and it often happens when some mutual crisis has been transcended and deep trust has been formed. You often see it in combat veterans and men who’ve shared the experience of squirreling away a 110-pound RealDoll.

But as I mentioned it’s been my experience that the vast majority of male friendships never push past the manipulative phase. The fact is, making and keeping friends is a lost art, and it’s just another example of why “most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

When most “friends” talk, it’s mostly verbal jousting or bantering, or even just using the other as a sounding board. Neither really hears what the other has to say and is anxious for him to stop his yammering so he can get his turn at being awesomely witty.

Never do they share real experiences or purposes. Neither makes himself emotionally available because neither wants to show that he’s weak. Self absorption rules. No one learns anything real and important about life.

As evidence, I’ve had some “friends” I’ve known for over 10 years and they’ve never asked me a personal question other than, “What’s new?” I’ve even told some of them that I’ve written a book and they haven’t even asked what it’s about. You’d imagine that they’d at least have the wherewithal to fake a caring response, but no, nada, zip.

My amazement is overshadowed by the pity I feel for any women in their lives. I don’t push the issue, though, because I think I’ve started to take a kind of perverse delight in seeing how long I can keep my “emotional no hitter” going.

Having friendships like that makes me feel like Oliver Twist, only emotionally hungry instead of stomach hungry, but unlike Oliver, I lack the courage or energy to ask, “May I please have some more, Sir?”

And you can bet your lonely and puzzled ass that once these types of friendships become inconvenient – meaning one moves farther away than the next block or city – they’ll dissolve, probably without an emotional response from either party.

Other common, artificially constructed, doomed-to-failure relationships include work friendships. Work friendships fall most often into the companionship category as 99% of what’s discussed revolves around the ignominies suffered at the job or what a dick old man Anderson is. As soon as either party quits or leaves, the friendship gets a metaphorical pink slip.

Then there are “couples” friendships, which are most often orchestrated by the wife or girlfriend. They’re the grown-up version of play dates where wifey forces the husband or boyfriend to play in the adult sandbox with her friend’s significant other. This is where so many adult male “friendships” lie. Rarely would you even say hello to the hamster you’re being forced to barbecue with, let alone befriend, yet here you are, forced to spend innumerable free nights listening to this dullard talk about the gas mileage he gets with his new Ford Taurus.

Even if you have friendships you’d like to cultivate, fat chance that they’ll ever evolve beyond the manipulative phase. Wives determine the social calendar and when they set up events, they invite their friends and their husbands, not your friends and their wives. There just isn’t time for your friends. Besides, one of them has a RealDoll in his office and that’s just a little too weird.

That, sadly, is just the way it is.

Closely related to this are pre-school parent friendships. Your kid is in pre-school or elementary school and he invariably befriends some creepy booger-eating kid and now, because of some sort of American childhood friend entitlement you were never aware of, you have to socialize with the creepy kid’s parents and compare notes about your children’s development.

Better bone up on bedwetting and pee wee soccer because that’s what these “friends” talk about.

As I see it, you’ve got three friendship choices.

You could kill yourself. That’s always an option.

Or, masochist that you are, you could continue to suffer the nursery school parent friends, the insipid friends that are forced on you by your wife, or your work friends and continue to discuss pee wee soccer, radial tires, and all the intricacies of selling extended warranties on in-window air conditioning units at Anderson, Inc.

Or, you could just put a little effort into cultivating a few friendships or even a few buddyships.

It would require proximity and repeated interactions that take place where you can actually have honest and meaningful conversations, not conversations carefully calculated to impress a Hooter’s waitress. Most of all, it takes perseverance and adopting the mindset that friendship – not the manipulative phase or the companionship phases Goldberg wrote about – but true friendship or buddyship, is an actual need, and like any need you must feed it.

There is, undoubtedly, a Butch to or your Sundance, a Spock to your Kirk, or even a Chewbacca to your Hans Solo out there. You just need to direct some energy into finding him.

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11 thoughts on “The Sad Truth About Male Friendships

  1. The need for a buddyship is crucial! Too many men subscribe to the one egg in the basket flaw that bites them hard when their spouse leaves them or she dies and he is left with no back-up means of emotional support. I studied under Dr. Herb Goldberg briefly. He referredto me as a “pioneer in the field of buddyship.” Buddyships have made a big difference in my life. As a tribute to my buddies I have written a book, Buddyship-The Dynamics of male to male friendships. The book is a pathway for success and how to avoid the errors many men make as they attempt to develop a long-lasting friendship. The book is available as an e-book on Amazon or through my web site. Please give it a read and follow through with a blog on my web site.

  2. Joel, is there a story behind your comment? I don’t know about the “stabbing in front” thing. I sometimes prefer that friends have the common decency to talk behind my back.

  3. For most men, a big factor is competition. Sharing anything personal with other men is deemed a weakness. As such, male friendships often remain superficial.

  4. I have seen that doll factory on a TV documentary. Very interesting and very real!

    It is true, I find it easier to have deep friendships (platonic) with women.

    Not sure why?

  5. Sure Larry, it’d be one thing if you showed her a little respect, but I suspect you’d use one of her orifices to hold your beer bottle.

  6. Come on TC, a real buddy woulda strapped that doll on the back of his motorcycle with nothin but a helmet and thong and taken her to the beach for the weekend, show yer buddy’s girl a good time for gods sake

  7. Ashley, if what I’ve observed and wrote about in the article is correct, then pretty much all relationships are manipulative in the beginning. If they don’t move beyond that stage, then we really have to examine what’s going on. Is it that the people you choose as friends are inherently shallow? What is it that draws you to them in the first place?

  8. For me, female friendship doesn’t really work, only with with a very select few. But it is true also about male friendships. It’s sad to see when guys are friends since childhood, and they fall out for good because of stupid prideful reasons. I have noticed how very manipulative male friendships are, which confuses me because I thought the females were the manipulative ones!

  9. They are usually very on the surface, Sammy. It’s true but it’s also kinda sad. I think this is one of the reasons that when a middle-aged or old guy’s wife dies, he kicks off about six months later, while if a woman’s spouse dies, she goes to Europe with her friends and meets a bullfighter.

  10. This topic is a little deep, and admittedly uncomfortable. Male friendships are very “on the surface” and standard mold.

    Great article. Thanks!

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