Washington Post Magazine Story Looks at Love and Masculinity

My new feature for The Washington Post Magazine explores a subject that guys rarely discuss: Why is it so hard for heterosexual men to tell their buddies, “I love you?”

The piece, titled “Why Can’t More Straight Men Say ‘I Love You’ to Each Other?,” focuses on my 35-year relationship with Todd, a close friend and former college roommate. For years, the huggy, outgoing Todd told me “I love you” — and I never once said it back. The story has generated an intriguing discussion on social media. Here are some comments from the Post web site:

“When my dad dropped me off at college my first semester, I shied away from a goodbye kiss in the dorm lobby. I immediately saw the hurt in his eyes and vowed never to be embarrassed about saying ‘I love you’ or kissing my dad again. It is liberating indeed.”

“I’m 65 years young. When I was in my 30’s, I heard my older brother tell our dad he loved him. I was taken aback. That was not something I ever thought any of us siblings would ever say to dad. See, dad was a good man but emotionally distant for all 10 of us siblings. So I thought, ‘Hey, if he can say it so can I.’  So I started hugging my Dad and telling him I loved him. Then one day he said, ‘I love you too.’ That changed everything between us… Men who are unable to tell another male that they are close to I love you are wasting their life on a fairy tale of manhood.”

“In our culture, men aren’t supposed to show a full range of feelings. Furthermore, they’re taught at a  young age to abhor all that is ‘feminine,’ i.e., emotional — so the repression begins. Yet it’s much more serious than that. It creates hatred and a lack of respect for women. This false feeling of the power of stoicism is reinforced by sexist, economic disparity and by the lack of family leave legislation, which all too often leaves women as the caretakers of the family.”

“Great piece. It was a shared tragedy of a loss of a close friend in our twenties that fixed this dynamic in my close friend group of three. After that, we were and are very free and easy with each other on this side, but it took a major emotional event to get us to that point. I know the dynamic well and this was an excellent explanation of it.”

“I have said I love you to my best friend on occasion. While shirking most male-oriented rules, I still find it difficult, but I think that’s because I know he won’t say it. However, when I made the decision a few years back to say it to him, I also decided it was time to say it to anyone who I consider a very close friend (which would include three others) regardless of their sex. I find it liberating and this article has reaffirmed my belief I’m doing the right thing.”

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