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”)