Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tom Matlack - Male Bonding

This is an interesting post from Tom Matlack and the Good Men Project Magazine - on male bonding, from a variety of different perspectives, all of which appear to be white, upper middle class - not a lot of diversity.

In some respects it reveals how hard it is for men to talk to each other - and that most men seem to just accept that as how it is - why? Why should men only be able to bond through sports, or drinking? Why can't we just talk to each other? And why should we just accept that limited way of sharing?

Male Bonding

Tom Matlack asked guys what makes them feel connected to other men. The good news? Not a single man said “chest bumps.”

One of the reasons we started The Good Men Project was to help guys talk about the things they don’t normally talk about. In that pursuit, here are men talking (in print, for the world to see) about what makes them feel most connected to other men. Guys, there may be hope for us yet…

Nude yoga.
Daniel, writer

Men prefer not to call it “male bonding.” We can’t call it “man time,” either, because that just sounds… questionable. Either way, it’s usually something involving little-to-no speech and a good amount of physical exertion. Your mind might immediately go to sports, but I’d say lumberjacking or drinking. Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder. Oddly enough, the guy friends I still have today are the ones I used to go behind my house with so we could shoot each other with airsoft pistols at close range. The friends that bleed together stay together.
Seth Palmer, television producer

I’ve read so many stories about men who could only communicate with their fathers when the subject of conversation was baseball (or football, or basketball, or golf), and it’s gotten to the point where these stories make me sad. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with talking to one’s father or to other men about sports. At best, our games give us glimpses of perfection and provide great entertainment. But these guys for whom games and the discussion of them are all—even when they maintain that when they’re talking about sports, they’re really talking about matters more profound and significant—these guys ought to get out more… which probably means they should more frequently walk away from their television sets.
Bill Littlefield, Host ofOnly A Game”

I choose to bond with men when there is a vehicle and a long road trip ahead. Guys are most comfortable speaking when they’re looking straight ahead (not at each other) and don’t really have an excuse to escape. My most serious conversations with all men—my Dad being the most influential—happen in the car. It’s partly why I think guys like cars so fucking much.
Dylan Leonard Brown, executive assistant

Matt Villano, writer.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but back in the days of communal life at school, “poo dollar” was a game played by adolescent males, where a dollar bill is smeared with excrement and placed on the sidewalk for an unfortunate person to pick up. I got to admit that I’ve never laughed so hard with friends in my entire life. And I’d love to think that I’ve outgrown such humor, but 20-plus years later a friend emailed me, knowing that I’m working in London for a month, to find out if the kids here “poo pound.” We still found it incredibly funny.
Joe Schrank, interventionist and sobriety coach

As a gay man, I’ve had the best bonding experiences of my life in electronic superstores. No matter what you are—gay, straight, bi, transgendered—most guys love electronics. Stick a bunch of men in an electronic superstore and the discussions and debates about plasma vs. LCD vs. 1080P vs. 1080i vs. Sony vs. Samsung vs. 7.1 surround sound vs. 5.1 surround sound vs. Blu-ray vs. 3-D is truly extraordinary. It always brings a smile to my face when a bunch of guys (gay and straight) can literally bond over a piece of electronic machinery.

Stafford Arima, theater director

Primal screaming. My best friend from middle school and I have seen each other through the last 20 years—all the ups, downs and sideways that adolescence, high school, college and our 20s brought us. We have reinforced our closeness in many ways over the years, but none in as memorably exhilarating a way as primal screaming. I was visiting him at his then-new house out in the woods. The neighbors are distant, and on this particular night his wife was out with friends. We were hammered, mixing yet another round of gin and tonics in pint glasses from the rapidly dwindling handle of Bombay Dry in the kitchen. I don’t remember how it started, but we began to yell, tentatively at first, amazed and somewhat unsettled at the noise we could generate, but soon increased in volume and gusto. We took turns, trying to outdo each other, but then began to overlap; one drunken, screaming, rope-necked 30-year-old gasping for a breath while the other continuing to scream, mouth open with drool stringing toward the floor, until the other could begin and spell the first. For some ten minutes solid we yelled into the quiet of his night kitchen, our bellows echoing around the house, until our heads were light and our throats hoarse. When we stopped, we laughed at ourselves in the uncanny silence, both swaying drunk but conscious of the catharsis of the moment and strange intimacy of knowing that there was no one else in the world but each other with whom that rawness would have been possible.
Drew DeVoogd, attorney

My roommate and I used to try to figure out what soccer team was better looking. That’s men’s soccer team. We’re both straight.
Ryan O’Hanlon, Good Men Project Magazine staff writer and former collegiate soccer player at Holy Cross

I don’t do anything different with my guy friends than I do with my female friends. Generally the best place to bond is an area with a creative energy, good conversation, and an adequate amount of coffee and cigarettes.
Eli Cadwallader, college student

Rafting down the twin fork of the Salmon River in Idaho with my business partners. I learned how smart my friends were playing hearts, how their minds really worked, and saw how they handled camping and the challenges of a foreign environment. Some guys I liked less, and many I liked a lot more.
Todd Dagres, venture capitalist

The bond that comes from playing competitive sport on a team is analogous to the bond that is created on the battlefield in war. Athletes will tell you that their bond to teammates can be stronger than any other in their life, including the bond they have with their wife and children. Something special occurs between men when they are in battle on the playing field-it could be the hormones that flow or simply the highly competitive situation-that leaves a lasting impression like no other.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg, professor of sport psychology at Austin Peay State University and the author of Full Throttle

Biking with my older son. Boys and men communicate better while doing things. Good luck sitting a boy down across from you and saying, “Okay, let’s talk.” My wife recently thanked me for not sharing with her the more intimate details of what we talk about on our biking excursions, because ignorance is bliss!
Geordie Mitchell, educator

The first hour you wake up, hungover as hell, after an absolute ripshit night of going out somewhere with your friends. Half your buddies aren’t there, the other half is scrambled around on couches, stretched out on pillows or right on the hardwood floor, or on top of (insert random potentially soft, or seemed soft at 4 a.m., object here). This first hour when everyone wakes up feeling awful, not drunk but clearly not sober, and recounts the events of the previous night. The stories you hear are likely the funniest they will ever sound. Whatever happened, happened, and it doesn’t matter who hears it or who thinks what, because you’re likely surrounded by a good group of men that you’d trust with anything.
PW, medical researcher

Read the whole collection.

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