The World’s Worst Kept Secret: Grown Men Can’t Make New Friends

Film Title: I Love You, Man I drove down to D.C. one weekend last September for a friend’s birthday weekend. He was turning 30. And, since most of his friends were either BBP (Bougie Black People) or BBPFWAH (Bougie Black Person Friendly Whites and Hispanics) his girlfriend—who organized the entire thing—had us all meet at a brunch spot on Saturday to surprise him.

He definitely appreciated the surprise. So much so that after we finished eating, he stood up, went down the line, and gave each of the 30 or so people there an individualized thank you acknowledgement. After the acknowledgements, he said a couple words about how it felt to be 30, and ended with this joke:

“I’m 30 now, which means I’m officially done making new friends.”

Everyone laughed. But, the men laughed a bit harder than the women did. Well, it seemed like we did. Maybe it was all in my head. Perhaps I was just looking for evidence to confirm something I’ve always thought and personally experienced: It is very, very, very rare men to make new friends. 

Now, I realize that my experiences are, well, my experiences. As much as I attempt to, I know I cannot speak for every man. I also can not speak for every (or any) woman. But, it seems like women have a much easier go of it than we do. I know this is anecdotal, but most of the women I know have both “old” girls—childhood, high school, college friends, etc—and “new” girls—work friends, line sisters, women they met after moving to a new city, etc—and both the old and new friends are held in the same esteem.

On the other hand, we seem to have one category for “friends”—with a couple exceptions, this is mostly comprised of people from our childhoods, high schools, and colleges—and another for “n*ggas we’re cool with” (NWCWs)—a category split into two parts:

1. Dudes we met through other people

Every guy who became cool with a dude because his girlfriend and the dude’s girlfriend were good friends is nodding his head.

2. Dudes we met while doing other things

Basically, all the dudes you see on a regular basis while playing basketball or ***insert any other manly activity***

Now, NWCW are cool if you need simple social lubricants like wingmen and people to help you move. These are also the type of people you’d invite to a summer BBQ or attempt to introduce to your girlfriend’s perpetually single homegirl. Most men have at least a somewhat reliable cache of NWCW—some as little as three or four, others as many as 50—and, for an outsider (and by “an outsider” I mean “women”) this cache may make it seem like most men have more friends than we actually do. But, while we may enjoy spending time around these guys and genuinely like them, they very, very, very rarely have their statuses upgraded from NWCW to actual friends.

There are a few possible reasons for this—i.e.: the older you get, the more the need for new friends decreases—but the more I think about it, the more I think it comes down to one simple thing: Men just don’t trust other men.

(Interestingly enough, women are regarded as the ones who have trust issues with other women, but you could argue that men seem to trust each other even less!)

Sure, there is a certain bro/man code that men are supposed to follow, and most men do adhere by this. This does involve a certain level of trust. But, the man code mainly deals with peripheral level shit, and this “trust” is really the knowledge that breaking the code could result in an ass-kicking, not a deeper bromatic connection.

When it comes to serious shit, though—subjects, thoughts, and emotions that men hold dear to them—you find that for most men, the NWCW gaggle is narrowed down to three or four cats. Sometimes even less.

Admittedly, much of this is ego-driven. For instance, I’ve witnessed women meet a new woman while at a happy hour or club and think nothing of exchanging phone numbers or seeing if she wanted to hang out or go to a wrestling match or attend an adult sleepover or whatever. This seems to happen all the f*cking time.

On the other hand, if you were to substitute men for women in that same situation, the following would happen.

Man #1, while standing near the bar and noticing a curvy woman walk past: “Damn!”

Man #2, while standing next to man #1: “I need to start coming to more of these mixers.”

#1: “Haha.”

#2: “Word.”

#2 extends hand: “Hey, what’s your name, man?”

#1: “#1. Yours?”

#2: “#2.”

#1: “Cool.”

***Three minutes pass with no more conversation***

#1: “Aiight man.”

#2: “Peace.”

Now, either man in that situation could have taken the conversation further. I mean, they both were at the same mixer and both shared an appreciation for fat asses, so you know they had some things in common. But, if either man would have pushed the envelope in trying to get to know the other guy better, he probably would have been met by some gentle skepticism. Basically, the other guy would likely think he was (at best) “kinda weird” or (at worse) “possibly gay,” (nttawwt) and both of these thoughts are the result of men just always having our guards up when interacting with other men.

Sometimes we don’t even actually want the guards to be up. We realize how unnatural it feels to always be so cynical of another man’s motives, but we’ve been doing it for so long that it’s muscle memory.

(These guards don’t apply for our interactions with women, though, which is why—well, one of the reasons why—you’re more likely to see grown men make a new female acquaintance/friend than a male acquaintance/friend.)

Ironically, this 30th birthday party was for a guy who’s one of my few exceptions to this rule. I’ve known him for three or four years—basically, I met him as a grown up—but I thought enough of him to drive four hours to attend his surprise party. I have no doubt he’d do the same for me. Maybe our situation isn’t as rare as I think it is. I mean, although this theory is based on observation, it’s also based on my own experience, and introverts tend to have less close friends than most others.

And, maybe I’m right. And, maybe the only funny part about being 30 and being done making new friends is that this effed up behavior is normal.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Can We Be Best Friends? (Short Answer: Probably Not)

Although I’m aware the unfathomably perfect egg-shaped oval sitting on top of my shoulders holds a brain at least 16% bigger than the average person’s, I know that I don’t know everything. In fact, I don’t know most things. Actually, if you compare “what I do know” with “the amount of things that are possible to be known,” what I know is so insignificant that it basically amounts to not knowing shit.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that I learn new shit in the comments here pretty regularly. And, even if I’m not learning new shit, I often encounter a perspective that forces me to rethink something I previously thought to be true.

This most recently occurred last week, during Panama’s “Things Men Talk About When Women Aren’t Looking.” AmaniKwenu left a comment that, well, let’s just look at it first

I don’t think men and women are truly friends. Especially men and women who are in relationships with each other. That’s not to say that men and women can’t be friends–but its rare. There’s usually–not always, but usually–some form of sexual tension between “platonic” male and female relationships. Before you start to say how you have a platonic male/female friend, remember that such relationships are the exceptions and not the rule. 

I figured this out from watching The Wire. I had never seen so many stories from a completely raw male perspective until I started watching that show. The way the characters were able to open up to themselves and reveal all that was in their hearts was…beautiful. But as I was watching it, I realized that this was a part of themselves that these characters usually wouldn’t reveal to the women on the shows. Just as how real life men don’t usually reveal their true selves to real life women.

I asked myself why. I thought men just have a problem with communication. But that can’t be true if men can communicate among people of their own gender. I thought women would think less of men if they truly opened up. That may be true. But I don’t think that’s the real issue, seeing as how its only a symptom of a larger problem. Men and women aren’t really friends.

When you are friends with someone, you genuinely enjoy their company. You think of them before you think of yourselves. You’re kind and loyal. You’re there when they need you. You’re decent, cordial, polite and respectful of their time, space and person. How often do the men on this blog complain of the behavior of the women in their lives and vice versa? How often does that happen in romantic relationships? How often do people find themselves with people who they ABSOLUTELY WOULD NOT hang around with if they weren’t “seeing” them?

I’ll tell you the answer–way too often. If someone can’t be open and communicate with a person they’re in a relationship with, then are they truly friends with that person? I believe its possible to love someone, to be physically intimate with someone, to be in a relationship with someone, but not truly be friends with that person. That’s why you can date someone, exchange heartfelt I love you’s, have and raise children together, but still feel miles apart.

If men and women were truly friends, women wouldn’t be surprised at the types of conversations that men have among themselves–because they’d be an active part of them

Now, if you’ve been around VSB for a while, you’re probably familiar with my opinion about men, women, and platonic friendships. Basically, because it’s so rare that men and women meet each other under conditions where physical/sexual attraction is a complete non-factor, the term “platonic” just doesn’t fit most of the male/friend friendships that exist. My opinion about this is so strong that I devoted the first chapter in our book to talking about it.

Well, was so strong. Since then, a few relationships in my own life caused my feelings about that subject to evolve. I still thought that the word “platonic” just didn’t fit (more on why in a minute), but came to realize that I cultivated friendships with a couple women that were just as strong as the friendships I have with my closest male friends. In fact, since I interacted with the female friends more often than the male ones, you could argue that, for the time being, they were even stronger.

But, as AmaniKwenu’s comment pointed out, our relationships had limitations. First, any relationship that can only begin and thrive if certain conditions are present is inherently flawed. With each of these female friends, the direction of our friendship was somewhat dependent on our relationship statuses. As anyone who has a “platonic” friend of the opposite sex knows, once someone starts dating someone new (or becomes newly single), things…change. And, if something as arbitrary and tenuous as a new romantic relationship can effect a friendship that quickly and that easily, maybe the friendship wasn’t as strong and steady as you thought it was.

Also—and I know this is going to sound awful, but I need to say it anyway—AmaniKwenu’s point about (most) men not being completely comfortable opening themselves up to female friends brings up another, less flattering aspect of many male/female friendships: Guys who “hold back” with women hold back because, in their minds, revealing everything increases the possibility that the “I might be able to hit it one day” window completely closes.

Basically, the reason why it’s so difficult for men and women to maintain friendships is because (most) men never lose sight of the fact that the woman is a…woman. And, instead of seeing them as friends who just happen to be women, they’re always women first. If they happen to be friends, fine. Great! But, they’re still women. And, as long as they’re still women, under the right circumstances, they can get f*cked. Not exactly the best foundation for a great, great friendship.

As I stated earlier, though, I don’t know everything. In fact, I don’t know most things. Please remember and refer to me not knowing everything when evaluating the opposite sex friendships in your own lives. I really want someone to prove me wrong, to show me that a man and a woman can be life-long BFF’s without any type of sexual or relationship interference.

But, although I basically don’t know shit, I still do know that’s probably not going to happen.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

My Problem With Prayer

Really? You prayed for me so I can come back to this?

Aside from Tony Soprano, some serial killers and most Deltas, everyone loves their mom. In fact, you can hate any and every thing from kittens to your own kids, but nothing would garner the type of response a person would get when admitting they hate their own mother.

Anyway, everyone loves their mom. But, not everyone has a mom who everyone loves, and I happen to be one of the people who do. I was aware of this even before she first fell ill—I’ve (half)jokingly mentioned many times that my friends like my parents more than they like me—and the avalanche of love and support she’s received has reminded me.

Much of this love and support has come in the form of prayer. People praying for her, praying with her, and even suggesting special prayers for situations like this. In fact, tonight I searched for “mom” in Gmail and looked at emails and Gchats I received around the time people first found out she was ill. Every single person who contacted me mentioned something about prayer.

While this has definitely—definitely—been appreciated by my mother and the rest of my family, this situation has reinforced the disconnect I’ve always had with prayer in general and prayer specifically for ill people in particular.

Now, I’m (obviously) not a theological scholar. But, I do know that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all offer their true believers some form of an afterlife. And, in each case, the afterlife is a much, much, much better version of Earth.

If Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe this to be true, why pray for a sick person’s health to get better? I understand praying for their souls and salvation if they do happen to pass away, but if whatever comes after Earth is an unfathomably awesome version of all the best things we experience here, why would you want someone to get better so that they have to stay on shitty ole Earth a second longer than they have to?

Interestingly enough, this disconnect hasn’t altered my prayers in any way. I’m a Christian, and I believe in Heaven. I also want my mom to get better, and I’ll continue to do what I can to make sure that happens. This includes prayer, which may or may not help—the murky waters of God’s will is another theoretical pickle, but that’s another topic for another day—but what’s the harm in doing it anyway?

But, if I truly believe what I say I believe, wanting my mom to get better is a selfish want. An honorable and socially acceptable want, but selfish nonetheless. Perhaps this is where the disconnect occurs. Maybe I’m missing something, but if Heaven exists and if I believe Heaven exists, all this prayer for my mom is just me, in a roundabout way, praying for me.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Five Things Guys Are Surprisingly Emo About

He will take care of you and shit, right after he checks the scale

Although the common stereotype is that women are the emo-est gender, anyone who’s ever spent any time around any man knows that there are certain common subjects — income, height, sexual prowess, fighting ability (or lack thereof), hair (or lack thereof), favorite sports teams, mamas. etc — that have the potential to turn us into walking, talking, slobbering Drake albums. Smart women do their best to avoid bringing up these potential sore spots, and very smart women use these sore spots to their advantage. (Seriously, I’d wager that at least 87% of all girlfriend/wife to boyfriend/husband digs intentionally meant to push buttons and/or hurt feelings have something to do with one of seven topics listed above. Ya’ll are some cruel motherf*ckers)

Yet, along with the aforementioned seven, there are a few more topics that we’re surprisingly self-conscious about; things that might not get us all emo if you criticize them, but, well, let’s just say they have a tendency to make us do the “Nah, it’s cool. Don’t worry about it” thing when we want you to know it wasn’t cool at all but don’t want to actually say it and have you think we’re all emo (even though we are)

Our weight

***Paraphrased convo between a female friend and I a few months ago***

Friend: “You know what I’ve been noticing lately? Ya’ll act like some teen girls sometimes about your weight. Ya’ll stay making self-depreciating comments about how much you weigh or how out of shape you are just to get us to be like “You look fine.”

Champ: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You need to stop dating dudes who drink pink Fanta and listen to old Tweet albums at night”

***Three weeks later with different friend***

Friend: “Why did you change shirts? I liked the other shirt.”

Champ: “I don’t know. I think it makes me look fat.”

Our sense of humor (or lack thereof)

The more I think about it, the more I think that our “funny” = women’s “unique.” Think about it: Just how ***gross generalization alert*** every woman thinks they’re the most unique, interesting, and uniquely interesting broad on the planet, we (men) all seem to think that we’re Richard f*cking Jeni. And yes, this includes me. You wouldn’t believe how many knock down, drag out debates I’ve had with girlfriends, dates, f*ck buddies, and sort-of, kind-of concubines about how funny I am.

The argument usually goes something like this:

Champ: “You claim I’m not as funny as I think I am, but I always make you laugh!!! Look, you’re even smiling right now!

Concubine: “I’m smiling because you’re a lame”

Champ: “Tomato, tomahto”

You know, I actually have a theory about this. I think that women think we’re funny if we’re just cool with or dating them, but once you’re in an actual relationship, it goes from “Haha. You crazy” to “You are so damn corny. The only women who laugh at your jokes are the ones who want to sleep with you. You put the N-O in Not Funny.”

Obviously, this theory can be interpreted as “women who like you and/or are interested in you will continue to laugh at your stupid-ass jokes and soothe your fragile ego until it’s established that you like them too and they don’t have to pretend that you’re funny anymore,” but if you dare interpret it that way, I’m banning you from VSB.

Our fashion sense

***Every woman who has ever received serious passive-aggressive emo-pushback when trying to convince her man that the velvet wifebeater and pinstriped blazer look wasn’t a good one is nodding her head in solemn agreement***

Our taste in music

***Every woman who has ever received serious passive-aggressive emo-pushback when telling her man that she thinks Wu-Tang is kind of stupid is nodding her head in solemn agreement***

Our friends

You know how ***gross generalization alert*** most women have frenemies — women they’re “cool” with but secretly hate with the heat of a thousand pairs of Delta thongs — and will spend a good amount of time ragging to you about everything from “that bitch’s pauperized weave” to “that bitch’s lame-ass status messages?” Of course you do, because ***gross generalization alert*** every. woman. does. this.

Thing is, the ubiquity of the frenemy makes them assume that we also have frenemies, and we’re also cool when they talk shit about our “triflin-ass friends.” Well, we don’t, and we’re not. Lemme put it this way: If a Black man is lucky enough to make it to three decades on Earth, he definitely doesn’t have any frenemies. Why? Because all the n*ggas with frenemies die before they’re 24!

Anyway, people of VSB: Can you think of any other subjects that we (men) are surprisingly emo about? Also, fellas, don’t let the ladies off the hook. Name some things you never thought they’d be self-conscious about even though they actually kind of are.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

***Please bookmark your calenders for “Myth or Maybe” — a panel moderated by Panama and the homie Rahiel from Urban Cusp, taking place July 26th at the Washington Post building***

Oh No Booboo, You Did Not Just Call Me That!

My buddy! Where ever I go!

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

You may have heard that somewhere. It’s popular on schoolyards everywhere as future millionaires fend off the numerous taunts of usually bigger, cooler, or more assholish kids who make fun of each other during Act One of the omnipresent stage play, Life.

I know I’ve said it before to somebody. Probably to some girl who called me a name when I was six or seven. I’m guessing it was my best rebuttal. Either that or the similarly popular, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.” It’s funny how ridiculously ridiculous these statements are but how clear they are to children. I swear, there isn’t a kid alive who doesn’t know how to turn that statement around on another kid.

The main notion behind these statements is that words are just that, words. That they don’t necessarily hold much Oprah sometimes, and that short of being bludgeoned with a Louisville Slugger, for the most part, you can just get up and move on past something someone has just said that you don’t necessarily agree with.

Well, me…I’m calling bullsh*t, especially the older you get. I don’t know which is a bigger lie: actions speak louder than words or Kim Kardashian loved Kris Humphries.

And for the record, I do think actions speak loud. But I think that words carry just as much weight.

Now, I won’t be focusing on that “actions speak louder than words” segment, but more on how certain words really can get you in an assblender of trouble.

[Another aside: This post has nothing to do with the posts from last week. While I still have a lot to say about the fallout from my vantage, today I’m not going to address it.]

One specific word actually.

Question, question: what’s the worst word you can call a woman who’s got any sort of interest in you?

Or a man for that matter?

Buddy.

Yes. It’s buddy.

(You thought it was going to be b*tch didn’t you?)

Oh, you don’t believe me? You can case study this sh*t if you want to. Allow me to offer a situation from my own life as fodder for discussion.

Once upon a blue moon, I was a lovestruck idiot in college. I’d managed to find a woman who for whatever reason got me all in a tizzy. Now, despite my constant attempts to woo this woman, she managed to fend off my advances like she was practicing for the National DisANinja Time Trials. But she didn’t exactly want me to not continue to woo her since my woo-age was neither stalkerish nor annoying. My woo-age included flowers, poetry, and trips to cheap dinners. Basically, I had your all around being a nice guy who really likes a girl thing going on. I’d do dumb sh*t hoping she’d take notice despite the fact that she’d made it clear she wasn’t really trying to be with me, though clearly she was interested but it might have just been in the way I treated her.

Figure out if she’s worth it, then treat her like a Queen. I had that little equation backwards.

But one fine day, as we were on the phone, me in my nonchalant manner innocently said to her, “hey buddy…”

STOP.

Have you seen I’m Gonna Get You Sucka? Do you remember the part where the mother who is on her period turns into the monsterish thing who is doing back flips and sh*t when folks come into her house looking for Jack Spade? Yeah, that was this chick.

I felt like I had just shot her grandmother with a rusty barnacle. She went off on me. Now remember, this was a chick who didn’t want to be with me, but apparently she for damn sure didn’t like the connotation that comes along with being called a buddy.

“I am NOT your buddy.”

Sheesh.

I left that alone after that and had learned my lesson.

That was until the next time I used that term and the exact same thing occurred.

And you know what, I didn’t get it at first. Why would these women who seemingly don’t want to be with me get so offended at the use of the term “buddy”. Then it dawned on me.

Women f*cking HATE that word because it makes them feel less special. “No he didn’t call me his buddy. What I look like? His boy Jim that he plays ball with!!! Shiiiiiiiiiiiiit…he better had get right in his mind!”

And in some ways I can kind of understand. Maybe its unintentionally intentional, but words like “buddy” tend to pop up when people are dating and they’re in that limbo, where-are-we-going stage. Maybe we’re all just playing mind games with one another.

The dude is thinking that if he calls her buddy and he gets a reaction then he knows she’s feeling him definitely. Kind of like forcing the green light. On that stupid a** Love Jones sh*t.

I need to say this here…I f*ckin’ HATE when people try to passively aggressively bait me into stuff. I know some folks who go out of their way to force an issue by total beat-around-the bushage. I want those people to get hit by lightning.

Most people I know hate passive-agressive bastards too. It’s one thing if two dating people are passive-aggressively feeling each other out in hopes of, you know, feeling each other out later. It’s something altogether different when people say this:

“We might need to talk about something later on.”

Umm…the f*ck does that mean? What do you mean might? If we might need to talk about it later on then we probably DO need to talk about it now.

What was I talking about?

Ah yes, women hate feeling less than special. Especially if they like you. Even more especially than the past especially if questions are lingering about the direction two people are heading.

Which is why a term like “buddy” is so loaded.

In some ways I don’t even think its deeper than that. An interested woman wants to know that you feel that she’s more special than other random folks in your life, whether its true or not. Even if she’s not interested.

Which makes total sense to at least 90 percent of the women reading this right now.

Got it, buddy?

Good.

Ladies, how do you feel about being called his “buddy”? And what words send men over the edge? Fellas, what say you? You ever referred to a woman in a friendship manner only to get your head chopped off?

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. B.U.D.D.Y. aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

For the DC heads, its time again for another edition of REMINISCE! at Liv Nightclub this Saturday, February 4th, 2012 from 930pm til 3am. It’s all 90s everything and anybody who has been will tell you this party is a motherf*cking monster. It’s FREE BEFORE 11PM WITH RSVP ($10 after) (click the link to RSVP), OPEN BAR FROM 930-1030PM (doors open earlier b/c people keep showing up MAD early) and no dress code. Supa Qool DJ Quartermaine on the 1s and 2s. Come on out and we’ll see you on Saturday night! Peep the FB event here!