Machismo

A recent newspaper article proposed the idea that something about the machismo in teenage boys prevented them from being able to form close relationships with other teenage boys. I didn’t stop to read the article that day, and by the time I thought about getting back to it the paper had already been recycled.

That didn’t keep me from thinking about the premise, though. I’ve thought a good deal about it since then, and I think our need to be macho does us a great disservice, and the effects are lifelong.

My wife has a number of close relationships with girlfriends she’s known since high school—some even since elementary school. Other than renewing acquaintances at periodic high school class reunions, I have no contact with childhood friends.

Until I saw this article, I always assumed the difference was that she went to college locally, while I went 1500 miles away, and that she always lived in the same part of town where she grew up, while I didn’t. Now I think there’s something more fundamental than just geography involved here.

As a teen, I couldn’t possibly allow anyone to think I was anything less than perfectly happy and well-adjusted. I think this is a normal part of the male need to be macho, but it robs boys—and men as they grow up—of the ability to be vulnerable.

Unfortunately, close relationships demand a certain level of vulnerability. You can’t get close to me unless I let you get past the facade I hide behind.

This is where the gals have a huge advantage over us guys. Where we could never let another guy see us crying, for instance, that’s no problem for them. They not only don’t mind letting a girlfriend see them cry, they strengthen their relationships when they do.

It’s sad that we guys are so pig-headed we value our macho image more than we value relationships. This behavior pattern we form as teens generally stays with us the rest of our lives. It followed me into adulthood and deprived me of countless relationships through the years.

Somewhere in my fifties—maybe even my sixties—I began to relax this wall I’ve always used to keep everyone out. I think I’ve only been able to do that because of writing. I began to let people see my babies—my pathetic early attempts to write novels. When people who read these things managed to accept me anyhow, I think I concluded subconsciously that it was okay to let people peek through the fence now and then.

As a result, I’ve managed to develop some pretty good relationships with other writers. Even now, I’m not sure how close a lot of these are. They’re mostly cyberfriends whom I’ve either never met or else see once or twice a year at writers’ conferences. And most of these friends are women. I don’t know whether I just don’t have that many opportunities to make male friends or whether I still have trouble letting men past the gate.

In any case, I’m grateful for the writer friends I do have, while at the same time I rue the loss of so many relationships through the years. Why do we guys have to worry so much about not letting anyone see any weakness in us?

How do your experiences stack up in this area? Those of you raising boys, what do you tell them to help them through the murk of teenage machismo?

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WANA: We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

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For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.

For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.

Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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12 Responses to Machismo

  1. David – I love it when a blogger opens up and honestly tells their story to their readers. You become more real to me, more personable in many ways. Being around the military for so many years and having a career wherein I was normally the so-called enemy, didn’t do much to facilitate strong friendships. It takes a lot of work to become a good friend and even more work to continue on the same path. My best friend and I met in graduate school and when we aren’t living close to each other, we have endless conversations by phone.
    Like you, most of my local friends I know because I’ve met them in some context of writing or voluntering. I talk frequently with a few of the individuals that were on my team when I worked for the government and we keep up with each other’s lives.
    All the years I worked for the government, I didn’t make close friends, even of the non-military type. I was moved around so much, it didn’t seem worth the effort.
    Tom keeps up with a few friends he knew from his military days and a few friends from his days as a working artist. However, this is the first time we’ve lived long enough at any one place to cultivate long term friendships.
    You’ve brought up an interesting sociological question. Good job!

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    • Thanks, Sheri. Not having close friends in the past must have been extra tough for you with all you’ve had to go through. Hopefully there are those in your life now that you can let your hair down and be real with.

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  2. Jane Merrick says:

    Good article, David. Thank you for being so transparent that is hard to do. I guess I had never thought about you keeping people at a distance because you have always been open and loving to me and it has been easy to have a relationship with you. However, I do appreciate your honesty writing this article. Sharon has told me how well you are doing from your surgery and I’am so glad to hear this. Love you, Jane

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    • Thanks, Jane. Transparency has always been a little easier with family, but even so, it has been an outgrowth of Christian walk the last 30 years or so. Hasn’t always been that way.

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  3. Barb Estinson says:

    Wow, David, I love this honest and insightful post, I agree that society’s expectations of young boys are tough. It seems to me that in our culture, boys aren’t allowed to feel fear, hurt, and genuine joy Girls aren’t allowed to feel anger or confidence. These limitations have hurt so many of us Thanks for a wonderful blog!

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  4. Carole McKee says:

    While this posting is very insightful, it’s not necessarily the case with everybody. I think it has more to do with what people have in common. Teenage boys all think alike: hot girls, hot girls’ boobs, scoring with hot girls, sports, scoring with any girl. Then they grow up. Teenage girls, on the other hand, seem to have more than just boys in their heads. Well, maybe not all of them, I guess. But as they mature, their thoughts change, and they tend to stick with friends who have the same interests or lifestyle.

    In my own personal experience, I can say that I have never kept in touch with anyone, male or female, from high school. My brother, on the other hand, has managed to keep a 50-year friendship going with one of his buddies. My longest friendship is with a girl I worked with. I met her at my first job when I got out of high school. My son was a friend keeper. Up until he died, he kept in touch with every person he had ever known, while my daughter did not. I guess it really can be either way.

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    • Thanks, Carole. I failed to mention that there are exceptions on both sides here, but I still believe we guys are generally our own worst enemies when it comes to forming relationships.

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  5. June Chapman says:

    What extremely important subject this is. I am very glad you brought this up.

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  6. Sharon Walker says:

    I think there’s a lot of truth in what you’ve written. Men need friends just like women do because friends enrich our lives.

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