Okay, so hear me out.
I did a phone interview with Darren Major, a student at Carleton University for an radio piece he was doing re: male friends saying ‘I Love You’ to one another.
*I’ll give some of you men a moment to look around and see if it’s safe to keep reading*
He conducted a little social experiment, calling some of his buddies, and ending the call by saying “I love you”.
Wait WAIT! Hold on! Darren and I really had a good, honest discussion about it.
In his book ‘True Love’ Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of ‘The ability to Love’. See, just because a man loves someone, it doesn’t mean he knows HOW to love someone. How do I know if the way I love someone is causing them harm instead of good? If I haven’t been shown how to love myself, how can I love anyone else? After talking with Darren, I thought about how we need to have a day where men learn more about love: how to love ourselves and how to love one another as men.
We need a Malentine’s Day.
We talked about how, for far too many guys, the ‘formula for manhood’ is to prove you are not a woman. how we as men devalue and fear anything we label ‘feminine’ such as vulnerability. Society reinforces messages that men are of more value when they deny or suppress emotion. We talked about our internalized homophobia as men, how as Dr. Gary Brooks said “men are subject to homophobic panic whenever they experience affection or emotional intimacy.”
…how men do not have enough (or any) male role models or examples of how to express platonic love to other men. How many of us lack father figures or emotionally-present male role models.
…how some hetero men sometimes open up in the hope (or expectation) of romantic or sexual connection with women, coded to expect a ‘reward’ for being vulnerable. So many of us as men don’t explore our emotions simply for personal growth, healing and male friendship-bonding. Christine Walker wrote a must-read piece for men on this (buckle up and lean into the discomfort reading this one fellas).
…or how we don’t open up and express emotions among other men, because of the fear of losing social status or respect due to these fragile ideas of manhood. So that task of ‘real conversations’ is left for the women in our lives to handle. So that means talking to Dad briefly about the game, then nonchalantly asking him to hand the phone over to Mom to then discreetly talk about how you are feeling low or stressed. Or that means calling on the other ‘mothers’ in our lives: our female friends, for one-sided conversations.
…and how this can be about having the privilege to even access these conversations due to socio-economic status. Imagine that stereotype-riddled row of construction workers, reinforcing a code with each other of stone-cold masculinity. (#SocioEcoNoHomo) Oh, and yes, you can find so-called ‘progressive’ or ‘enlightened’ men who are also emotionally-stunted adult boys. Our warped ideas of self-worth and value as men can be solely tied to how much power we hold and demonstrate, and how everything then becomes a conflicted struggle to obtain power. So, a lack of power or privilege in society can leave some men of colour, for example, turning towards performing an exaggerated, hyper-masculinity to balance the scales and climb that ‘Ladder of Manhood’.
Now, having said all that:
I was thinking about how some women and people of other genders, will soon celebrate Galentine’s Day to express love for one another. Meanwhile, there are a number of men who would run in fear over the idea of expressing their love for fellow male friends and companions (if it’s not marinated and camouflaged in bonding over sports, laughing off awkward discomfort with terms like ‘bromance’).
My friend Rory reflected on this, saying how “straight men could probably work on separating vulnerability and sexual attraction by being more vulnerable with other straight men.”
Don’t stress. This conversation isn’t the end of all things, but hopefully the beginning of new things! Think of how deep this really goes, for if there are many men don’t know how to truly love themselves, and in turn the men in their lives, how can they then really say they have the blueprints to truly love anyone?
We need to learn to nurture and develop healthy and positive male friendships, investing in them. Christine Walker also wrote another piece on how “Men who want to deepen their friendships need to be as intentional about their platonic relationships as they are about their romantic relationships.”
So how did Darren’s experiment of saying ‘I Love You’ to male friends go? The results were very interesting. Take a listen to the results for yourself!
Guys, let’s start finding the courage to learn to truly love one another, and express that love. So I say unto you with good cheer and *gulp* love…
HAPPY MALENTINE’S DAY!!!!!