What ever happened to “man-friends”?

In a post on men, the “Why I am Catholic blog” asks a good question and makes an observation:

Question: Has an open discussion of homosexuality made it easier or more difficult for heterosexual men to talk intimately? Here’s a provocative statement on the matter:

I think the whole gay discussion has been a huge detriment to men (not bashing homosexual men, just noticing how it affects everyone). A couple decades ago, nobody cared, but now we have to almost prove we’re not gay. We can’t even say homosexual, we have to say gay. Why?…

My answer: Our culture is so over-sexed that society has come to view all relationships through a sexual lens.

I recently saw the movie Old Dogs starring John Travolta and Robin Williams. I remember thinking how unusual the movie was because the plot centered on the relationship between the two main characters who had been friends since high-school. A joke used a few times in the movie was that other characters would look at the two friends as if they were homosexual lovers while the friends seemed oblivious to the suggestion.

There was no sexual tension between the men. They were entirely heterosexual men, each pursuing a woman he desired. Each man had strengths that complimented their friendship and made them successful business partners. Each knew the other’s hopes and fears.

I admit I do not have that type of friendship now. I did have that once with a friend I met while I was in elementary school. Darin and I were especially close throughout high school and into college. People saw us as a duo “Jason and Darin.” I still know him, but I now live in another state and distance has created, well, distance. When we get together, we can take up right where we left off but it isn’t quite the same only because we do not have the opportunity to see each other often.

There are guys who I enjoy spending time with but I wouldn’t say that I’m especially close with them. I thought it was family life, work, and (before last May) grad school that kept me from being better friends. I’m not so sure now. So yes, I think the “gay” issue has made it a problem for men to be close friends.

To be sure, that is not the only problem. My friendship with Darin was built on years of shared experiences. Our transient culture – where people frequently change jobs, find new churches, or move to different states – means that we do not get the years needed to build those relationships.

Between not getting enough time to build friendships and viewing close friendships with other men as being inappropriate, we find ourselves without the friendships that all people benefit from having. And we are worse off for it.