The Friendship Gap

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I’ve had to face the harsh reality that no one wants to see when they’re thirty. I have zero male friends. The reason most guys my age don’t have male friends is because they’re married and the old ball and chain won’t let them go out for guy’s night (I just love the phrase “old ball and chain.”) But, what about us single guys out there? Single ladies know that all their problems can be solved by putting a ring on it because they have Beyonce. But, what about us guys who don’t have a Beyonce-figure in our lives? It’s like we’re destined to live the childhood life of Steve Martin in “The Jerk.” We’re all living the life of a poor black child with no positive male role models in our lives. I know a lot of people use services like Meetup to meet people with similar interests, but I’m a full time student, I run my own business, I’m trying to make sure everything is lined up for graduation in December and I’m applying to grad schools. My life is a little hectic. Some have said that my life is too hectic for friends and let me tell you that such sentiments are dead wrong. It is because my life is chaotic that I need friends more than ever. Friends help you decompress after a tough day and when you run your own business every day is a tough day.

The male need for a bromance goes all the way back to Shakespeare. The idea of the homosocial plays a big role in many of Shakespeare’s biggest plays. Homosocial behavior is the idea that men and women compete for a man’s attention. In drama this plays itself out when the protagonist must balance his feelings for his female love interest with his obligations and sense of comradarie with his friends. In Romeo & Juliet for example Mercutio constantly calls out Romeo for being so serious all the time. Mercutio is best friends with Romeo and if he understood that he were taking part in a tragedy he would in all likelihood understand that given the parameters of the play he is the one character who essentially has to die. One could deduce that such an end would have to befall Mercutio simply by the way he is introduced because in drama an author will often introduce a character in the exact opposite situation as the character will wind up in. Mercutio enters in Act one, scene four saying: “Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance” (1.4.13.) Mercutio is trying to cheer Romeo up and he is, throughout the play, a happy guy who seems to enjoy picking on Romeo. When Benvolio is excited that Romeo has appeared in Act Two, scene three Mercutio replies in jest: “without his roe, like a dried herring. O flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified!” (2.3.33-34.) Mercutio goes on to make fun of Romeo further and even goes after the Nurse later on getting in the zinger: “Good Peter, to hide her face, for her fan’s the fairer face” (2.3.94-95.) Mercutio’s character is built on wit and sarcasm, but also on being the more sensible among the Montagues.

When Benvolio and Mercutio enter in Act three, scene one Benvolio lays out exactly what will happen and yet Mercutio does not seem to see what is right in front of him. Benvolio says: “the day is hot, the Capels are abroad, and if we meet we shall not scape a brawl” (3.1.2-3.) Mercutio could not have a clearer statement uttered to him yet he continues to ignore the fact that fate has it out for him. Instead, Mercutio argues that: “thou wilt quarrel with a man for cracking nuts, having no other reason but because thou has hazel eyes. What eye but such an eye would spy out such a quarrel?” (3.1.17-20.) If Mercutio understood his own words it would seem obvious that some kind of fight was about to ensue. We, the audience, know that Tybalt has been itching for a fight since the ball where he basically wanted to kill Romeo on the spot, yet Mercutio seems either oblivious to the rancor that exists at this point in time or resigned to it. It may very well be that Mercutio has simply become so used to the fighting that he doesn’t think anything of it anymore. When Benvolio says: “by my head, here comes the Capulets” (3.1.2) Mercutio answers by saying simply: “by my heel, I care not” (3.1.3.) Indeed, Mercutio responds to Romeo’s plea: “gentle Mercutio, put they rapier up” (3.1.78) by saying: “come sir, your passado” (3.1.79.) It is not possible for Mercutio to have a more careless response at this point in time than telling Tybalt to give him his forward thrust.

Mercutio insists on blaming the two families for his demise when it could be easily said that Mercutio brought on his own demise by insisting they go to the party, by inciting Tybalt to fight and then refusing to put down his sword when asked to by Romeo. This is what happens when one side does not understand the underlying concept behind “bros before hoes.” The real lesson here that Shakespeare is commenting on is of course that Romeo is consumed by love whereas everyone else understands that friendship – at this point in their lives – should be most important. Now, back to my question about why it’s so hard for men to find friends at this age I think it’s because we’re halfway in between Romeo’s world and Mercutio’s. We know that society expects us to pretty much be married by the time we’re thirty, so if we’re not we’re treated like social outcasts (which is exactly how Romeo is treated by everyone but Juliet throughout the play.)

What can we do about this four hundred year old problem? I’m the wrong person to be looking to for an answer to this question. I’m an introverted writer with Asperger’s and Social Anxiety Disorder. I do hope that men smarter in the ways of friendship than I can come up with a solution though because as men we often devote way too much time to something like our jobs and not nearly enough time to hanging out with the guys and having fun in life. I know that right now in my life there is a huge problem when it comes to work/life balance. I work so hard because I’m terrified of having free time mainly because I don’t have people to spend it with. We’re all supposed to have that one hobby or one activity that we can engage in with other people to de-stress, but what happens when you’ve outgrown all the people you used to do that stuff with? I leave it to you, my audience, to answer this critical life question.

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2 thoughts on “The Friendship Gap

  1. Transitional times in life take their toll on friendships, and you have some genuine roadblocks to re-establishing social connections (as do I, and although they’re somewhat different, they’re probably “weighted” the same). I’ve struggled with this to different degrees my whole life, and I wish I had a solution for you, but I don’t. But you are far from alone. The problem is, there’s little way of knowing that, given the nature of the situation. It gets better. When things are at their worst, or sometimes even long before they get that way, it can seem as though there is no possibility for change. But there is, the opportunities do present themselves. Good luck. You have a wonderful blog. It always challenges my thinking, even if I find myself agreeing with most of what you say. That’s a gift.

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