I am a man.
I have two sons.
I love them dearly.
You know that, I gush about them here often.
I tell them all the time I love them. Several times a day in fact.
At 15&18 they still drop the random unprompted ‘I love you’ here and there.
And it’s not even followed by ‘and because I know you love me can you spot me a $20?’
I mean they are beyond that and it’s the iPhone age, if they need money the send me a Venmo request. I actually think its so funny that I fall for it.
I have a brother.
I love him. I tell him every time I talk to him on the phone.
It wasn’t always that way. We weren’t ‘best friends’ close growing up, not like my two boys, and that’s ok. We were how we were. And we did love each other we just didn’t say it. Not until I almost lost him from a gunshot wound, see my blog That’s a Mighty Big Gun You Got There, Mister to read more on that situation. While he was in the hospital recovering I told him I loved him. And he replied the same. Then when I came out, he told me he loved me, I said thanks and replied the same. Then every time after that when we chatted I made a point to say it. I know he knows but you never know what could happen, ya know? And I want him to always know.
You know I love him if you read my second blog Our Fathers, Our Selves containing the letter I wrote to him after he died.
Great man, I love him.
I also have lots of male friends whom I love deeply.
My best friends from Vermont Dave, Bill, Don and our late and amazing friend Jacob. My best friend in Boston Josh, and my other friends here,in New York and beyond Kenny, Adam, Rob, Jeremy, Chris, Steven, Brian, Art, Luke and a few others, including David, the man I love, and Ladd the love I lost.
I have some female friends too and you know how great Krissie is but this one is for the men in my life.
I love them. I tell them.
Why is it so hard for men to do this?
Sounds like a tough question to answer but it’s not so tough.
That whole bit about Toxic Masculinity that we read about here and other places. Part of that is this stoic, stern, show-no-emotion, men-don’t-cry bullshit. A glance and a nod and a raise a glass of fine whiskey and the other guy should just ‘know’. Right? I mean yeah I’m a guy and of course whiskey means love no doubt, but that’s not really the same. Okay last time my bestie in Vermont brought some Jack Daniels I did say “awww I love you too!” and handed him some craft beer that is only local to Boston.
When friends share booze, that’s love.
I was going to go all “or anything else you know your friends love, but fuck political correctness and pour me a shot of The Knob. And if you don’t drink that's cool I’ll buy you Diet Pepsi. Probably caffeine free.
But really, while libations are great, nothing is stronger than the actual words.
I’ve said it before and it is this cold Elizabethan-era stoicism, this tough-guy attitude we see in the movies and the fact that earlier generations where the women stayed home and the men simply weren’t around as much to even see or interact with their kids that gave way to some of these ‘masc as fuck’ traits that don’t do anything to help men express what other men mean to each other.
I saw an article recently called ‘Telling Male Friends ‘I Love You’ Is a Muscle Guys Need to Flex Every Day”, and in this article was some very good points, mirrored here, accompanied by research I already knew.
Guys who tell their guy friends that they love them have better friendships than with those guys they don’t say I love you to. Say that five times fast.
Never mind I’ll repeat it because it bears repeating:
Guys, who tell their guy friends ‘I love you’, have better, deeper friendships than guys that don’t.
I mean that makes so much sense I could stop right here.
But I won’t.
I moved to Boston in 1994 and left my best friend there. It was weird and I came back a lot and I loved him but I really didn’t know how much until I missed him. The everyday things that likely annoyed each other. The just hanging out and doing nothing. I missed that, I loved that. I loved it because I loved his company whether we were barhopping, falling down a flight of stairs together with a coat rack (true story) or just watching football or Red Dwarf. And I loved his company because…yup, I loved him.
I said so eventually but it was years after I moved and lives had paused and restarted and I had come out and at one point over drinks I just said it and he said the same and the conversation went on with an ‘okay now pass the guacamole’. But it was said and we knew it. Our friendship was deeper after that. Because we had actually said it. We confirmed what we knew, but it was in words, actual words. Said out loud, right to the person.
And guess what? Neither of us questioned our masculinity over that. It didn’t even occur to us. And if he had said something like "Dude, that's so gay!" I would have said "I know right? be right back i'm gonna give that cute waiter my number!"
I didn’t have a chance to see my friend Jacob for some time before he died but I had talked to him on the phone a few times in the year before. And I told him I loved him. We told each other. It meant something. It meant something to each of the male friends I’ve told it to.
I also have to mention my best friend in Boston Josh, I’ve mentioned him before in The Millennial Factor, he’s incredible and we shared I love you’s from the start of our friendship. This is one of the deepest friendships I’ve ever had because of that. It makes a difference.
So men, you must actually love your best friend, that one guy, (or maybe two or three. You can have more than one best friend), that ride-or-die guy. That call-you-to-bail-me-out-of-jail-at-3am guy, or in my case the ‘Hey, I’m in Montreal…bring rope’ guy. Yeah that actually happened, Dave and I spotted a Dunky’s when we first got there. We stopped. It was worth the trip.
So if you love him, why don’t you tell him? You tell your girlfriend? Your wife? Your mom? Right? I mean I know you tell your mom and if you don’t, dude, what the fuck?! Call your mom and tell her you love her already.
Hard eye roll.
Granted there is a difference between my gay friends and my straight friends. Because in the gay world ‘I love you’ gets thrown around and only means as much as ‘Let’s hang out, I’ll call you during the week!’ which really means ‘I’d like to end this conversation now and just walk away, so yeah…’
But like Josh and a few truly dear others, the ‘I Love Yous’ are said, not thrown. That’s true no matter if my friends are gay or straight.
I’ve stopped trying to contain my feelings around my friends.
I stopped before I lost Jacob.
I stopped before I lost my Dad.
I stopped when I almost lost my brother.
Because when you almost lose someone you realize you may actually lose them without them knowing how you feel.
That’s the worst case scenario right there.
The men in my life know how I feel about them. I’m not letting some stupid, out-dated, never-was-a-good-idea example of how men are supposed to act dictate how I act. I am a better man for it. And my relationships with these men are stronger. Plain and simple.
And my kids are better young men for it too. They never question whether or not I love them even when I’m angry. They know how I feel because I tell them. And I show them. And I show them it’s okay to express any emotion. If you keep up with my blogs you’ve heard me share stories on just this topic. It’s not just okay to tell your male friends you love them, it’s necessary. I tell my kids to do this too. It’s a bit more difficult with teens but they are secure with themselves and their friendships are solid. They do it, I’m proud of that. I’m proud of them. They have cemented these friendships and will keep them forever.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to raise boys to be the best men they can be and holding back emotion is only going to backfire and thwart that plan completely.
Bottom line, I love all my friends and I tell them.
Except you Mike, we only mildly tolerate you. Just kidding, I love you too.
I know my friends love me to, because they tell me. And because they are always throwing me shade!
For more articles on masculinity, being a man, and how to deal with life in general visit my page and read on! https://www.fiftyshadesofmasculinity.com/blog