It felt like a sacred gift to be invited into a weekend of male bonding. While there had never been a sign hung that had said, "No girls allowed," this year when the seven men gathered for the weekend that is becoming a bit of a tradition-- the wives were invited, too.
One of my husbands best friends, Paul, celebrated a milestone birthday five years ago by inviting this handful of men to join him for a weekend of sharing life. He graciously covers the food and lodging expenses and says, "Your presence is your gift." This year, motivated in part, because one of the men is recovering from a health crisis and needed his wife present, the wives were welcomed into the circle for the birthday weekend. What a privilege.
So for my blog post this weekend, I wanted to share a few of the evident truths, as they were played out in a beautiful house along the Gorge, outside of Portland:
- Men Crave Being Known. Wanting to be seen, known, and accepted is a human experience, not a gender preference. Men want to be witnessed and validated and included as much as any woman I've ever met. Our culture may model it as having to happen around a TV, sport, or activity-- but many a man has confided to me "I wish men could just get together to talk the way women seem able." And this weekend that's just what they did. Every guy was given an hour (an hour!) to share with the group whatever had gone on in their lives since the last time they were together. I've often said that I think the need for meaningful friendship is just as crucial for men, and probably even more important for us to talk about, since our culture has given very little modeling or permission for men to share deeply. But they want to. Yes, they do.
- Men Know How To Process Feelings. In fact, if there is a gap in our society between those who like to share feelings and those who may not want to do it as much-- I don't think it's based on gender as much as it might be based on temperaments, strengths, or personality. These men, shared deeply about how it felt to be aging, how their career changes were impacting their identity, what it felt like to watch their children grow up, and how they wanted to change some of their life values. When given the space-- every single one of them shared life with incredible authenticity.
- Men Don't Need Women Prompting Them. I want it to be clear that while we women were there... we were in the background. Only the men were given an hour. We were witnesses more than participants. You could sense that sometimes when our men were sharing that we wanted to jump in and help tell the story, but to the credit of all the women there: we sat back and let them stay in the leading role. I often watch my friends jump in and "save" their husbands in social settings, or watch as men "lean back" and let their social wives carry the conversations... but sometimes I think that has more to do with habits and roles, than desire. For in this house, the men seemed happy to have us there, but they didn't need us to help bring them together.
- Men Don't Need an Activity or Sport. Some experts have said that men do friendship shoulder-to-shoulder (activity or task-focused), while women do friendship face-to-face (conversation-focused). Again, I think that is more temperament-based than gender-based; but second, even if that's true of more men, in general, I think it should be seen as descriptive rather than prescriptive. In other words, if that's true then it's because we're describing what we are seeing now, not saying that's how it has to be or how they prefer it. I've had as many women tell me that they don't like sitting and talking (Come on! Let's go shopping! Dancing! Hiking! Let's do something!) as I've had men say to me "I only watch football so I can hang out with my friends." This weekend-- these men sat through 7 hours of sharing and when given free time, kept on sharing more. No other activity required.
My husband, Greg, and Paul have been friends for nearly 24 years, most of that time their glue has been a 2-3 hour conversation that they have once a week. Every week. They call and share life together.
Their experience is a bit like what every single man said at the end of the birthday weekend: "I need more of this in my life." Indeed. It's rare and sacred to spend a weekend sharing and being received.
Is it awkward sometimes? Indeed! Women find sharing awkward, too, so I can only imagine how it feels to be a guy who may not have as much practice (and cultural permission) in sharing. But does that make it less needed or desired? Not at all. The need is as high as ever.
Oh how I wish our culture would shine a light on men's friendships in such a way that encouraged and applauded men for initiating time together, for sharing deeply and honestly, and for showing up to really be seen.
Deep and meaningful friendships is DEFINITELY not a girl thing.