Men are natural liars. We are crippled in our ability to express
ourselves at an early age (Aw, that couldnt have hurt) and thus
have learned to bury our feelings where no one can find them, including
ourselves. This crushing of the male emotional organs goes far
beyond not being able to say I love you, affecting everything from
how we dance to our ability to say what we really think about a sappy
Recently, I found out that my friend Pauls girlfriend moved back to
Louisiana to be with her family. She went on a trip to visit them
and called a week later to say she wasnt coming back. The thought
of what I would say to my friend paralyzed me. I couldnt even
imagine the impossible task he faced of figuring out what to say to his
As men, we just arent prepared for these kinds of emotional challenges.
The schoolyard taught us humility when we were the last one to be picked
for the team and it taught us to be tough every time the bully beat us up,
but it gave us no training whatsoever for when the words I love you
I think a lot about what Paul must be going through. I want to tell
him that everything will work out. But a part of me, deeply hidden,
is terrified. I want him to find happiness, I truly do, but I
cant help thinking it wont come without personal cost to me. I
really like Paul and its taken four years to start to get to know him.
Now it looks like just when were becoming real friends that he might be
moving away to be with her. The practical side of me is disappointed
that suddenly all of that time spent getting to know him will be for
nothing. The crippled, neglected, undernourished emotional side of
me is thankful for the friendship we have had and is willing and even
grateful to pay that personal cost for his happiness.
So what do I say to him? Men, as a species, have learned that
opening their mouths tends to get them into trouble. Yet, if I
dont say something, then Ive shown that I dont care. As I
dial the phone, I think of all the things I want to say, that my heart is
breaking for him, that Ill miss him when he moves, that I love him.
All stuff I cant say. The phone seems to ring and ring, and then
Lady Luck smiles on me: I get his answering machine. Intimacy between men
is bad enough without it being direct. Beep. I just
heard, I say. Pause. Long pause. Embarrassingly long
pause. I wanted you to know I was thinking of you.
I hang up the phone in a panic. Did I cross the line? Did I go
too far? What if he doesnt understand?
Sometimes I get the feeling that women think being emotionally crippled
means that we men cant have emotions. The truth is that we
couldnt obsess on our feelings with such detail and finesse if we
werent actually hyper-emotional. Sometimes I wish that I could
just come out and cry, putting out all of my feelings like cards on a
table. Instead I have to spend incredible energy and passion
figuring out how to mask my passion.
By the time I see Paul the next day I am a complete wreck. In my
mind I have replayed our conversation the one on the answering machine
over and over again. Does he understand how much Im going to
miss him when he leaves, that I feel like crying about it right now?
I got your message, he says. Pause. Long pause.
He does understand. I smile with pride that once again male
communication has come through with an efficiency that is stunning, that
in less than twenty words we have shared our deepest feelings.