One of my biggest fears as a man :: Male bonding

A road trip with my Slovak father = the trigger behind this post.

Am preparing for a shit storm, feeling that lots of political incorrectness -and hopefully also lots of authenticity, may be bubbling up. This should be somewhat interesting for psychologists, if for no one else.

I feel a lot more comfortable around women, than I do around men, at least once I get a conversation going with them, because I get very nervous when I’m alone with a lady I don’t know in a waiting room or a train compartment for example. But once the conversation gets flowing? Fun! Heaven! (I can only speak for myself of course)

This is a huge overgeneralization of course, but here are ten random reasons from the top of my head:

  1. Unlike men, women rarely if ever try to force their point of view on me. I find them less dogmatic. My wife’s battle to make me put out the trash on a daily basis is an exception to this rule.
  2. I find it easier to keep a conversation going with them.
  3. They are far more attuned to moods than men are.
  4. They usually tend to explore many different points of view.
  5. Though I know some to be extremely, exasperatingly rigid in their jobs, I find them on the whole more open to changes and less egotistical
  6. They usually don’t turn discussions into some weird form of intellectualized proxy war to see whose penis is bigger
  7. They share more personal stories
  8. Though they often don’t like to be in a work place with only female co-workers and no men (come on, admit it) studies have shown that bonding with women makes you less lonely, whether you are a woman or a man
  9. They are often just as competitive as men, but they are rarely sore losers
  10. Last but not least, they smell a hell of lot better

Don’t get me wrong, I outright love my male friends. I won’t name any names, because I don’t want to associate them with this embarassing post that for some reason I need to get off my chest, but I love them. There, I said it. They are kind, passionate about knowledge, can on occasion admit mistakes, are rarely arrogant, and very forgiven and not vindictive (or they would have stopped being my friend plus they would have burned some of my stuff).

As any person is a onion you can somehow keep peeling, never truly reaching a distinct core, I can name several reasons why I usually walk on eggs with men.

  1. It has to start with my father. Ah, how predictable. My father was not predictable though. In fact he was only predictable in his attractive sort of instability. He had a way of agreeing with you today and disagreeing with you tomorrow, never revealing what he actually thought and mainly just for the fun of driving you crazy. He thought that was funny, and it was, so you couldn’t get mad at him.
  2. Apart from my father their were no strong male rolemodels around, so my father pretty much is my ideal of manhood. You could even go so far as to say that I practically deified the guy
  3. From step 3 I have to conclude that no man can ever get the demi-god like status my father had, men I meet are always judged by that behind the curtains voice: Well, he’s a good guy, but he ain’t your father, mate!
  4. My parents often ridiculed other men, my father mainly historical figures and politicians, my mum local men. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were awfully nice people with the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen, but they also had a wonderful sarcastic sense of humor. I think sarcasm and cynicism are the only things that keep particuarly nice people from going mad, that and religion, but they weren’t that religious.
  5. Apart from an obsession with war, certain political topics and strategy, and the fact that I never experience a sense of beauty unless I happen to be looking at my type of woman, (ok, I find the beach quite nice to look at too, but other than that I use my eyes only to read and not bumb into things) I have pitifully few typical male interests. I seriously want to wreck the TV-set when the tour de france is on. I don’t give a shit about cars, as long as they have four wheels. More is also fine. Halftracks are also fine, as long as they get me from point A to B. And so on. I don’t even know what other typical male interests could be. Karate???
  6. In general I think they will be will refuse to change their opinion on anything so as not to lose face, even if they feel they are wrong. Are these just prejudices? Perhaps, I meet some exceptions.
  7. In my book they are stingy with compliments towards other men, but I confess my book is wrong about this.
  8. Well, violence. There are examples of sadistic women, but rape, cutting off of limbs, burning people alive (happening right now somewhere in the world, you can count on that) selling daughters for a goat and a sack of rice is usually the work of men. Usually, not always.

I know these are prejudices and I’ve come to see that this bias is wrong, of course, of course, of course. Especially in working with clients, being a therapist, I come across lots of men who are very multi-layered. So perhaps there’s still something in this society that makes it hard for men to disclose themselves. Honest self-disclosure is the way in which guys can make me welcome them into my world. Men who are not afraid to be vulnerable, we are best buds immediately.

In bonding with my Slovak father I’ve come to see that unknowingly he has had to fight himself through my prejudices, defense mechanisms, reflexes, whatever you may call it. I totally love the guy, he’s great. And still I walk on eggs. This is part due to the obvious fact that we are in a vertical relationship. I’m sleeping with his daughter. I often find that my respect towards him stops me from speaking my mind on several different issues. He’s religious, I’m not, at least not in any traditional sense. I’m very liberal, he’s moderately liberal (he’s surprisingly liberal in fact, but not as: do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone else, like I am, which could in fact be too liberal somehow, as I feel like I have any belief I claim to have.

In keeping with this Authenticity Project I’ve been pushing myself to be more open towards him and to indicate more often when I don’t agree with something. I also bring up topics that I would normally steer clear off. If those topics happen to be at play in the life of Zuzi and I or in the news, I don’t dig up topics just to make him uncomfortable or something.

On the whole I’ve been communicating a lot more smoothly with men for a year or two now. I find I can’t be a credible therapist if I don’t embrace self-exploration on a daily basis. Not that I keep a log of every little thought I have during a day -no, I’m really not that controlfreakish-, but I want to be open as to reasons behind my actions, behavior and emotions.

There, I’ve written a completely un-share-able blog post, but I want to write y’all about this.

In part because as a therapist I notice that self-disclosure leads to self-disclosure in others. Or at least self-exploration in the case of a self-exploring blog posts.

So, we’re off for 15 hours or more of car ride. We both like to talk, we both love to discuss politics, history, etc, but there are some topics that are sensitive. I trust that at no point will I be thrown out of the car, but it will be a learning moment for both of us on many levels, I’m sure. Oh, and he’s studying to be a psychologist, plus he’s earned a coaching degree this year. The amount of topics to talk about seems inexhaustible.

But I am afraid to talk entirely openly about a topic such as euthanasia.

I could go on and on with this post, if I also went into the fact that we both have lots of empathy and on top of carefully picking our words, we also practically hear what the other is thinking.

If I ever get a stroke of wisdom and the gift of lots of patience and got practical about writing, I have the material for a truly fantastic subtle dialogue driven road movie.

I don’t have that patience and I’m one of the least practical people I know, so I thought I’d just throw the tip of the male bonding iceberg on this blog.

Thanks for reading all the way through this,

Live an authentic day!

PS Yes, in the picture you see me and my dad on the beach in Bredene, Belgium, some time anno 1985.