Male Relationships: a hard pair of nuts to crack
There's a coffee shop around the corner from where I work that looks onto Canada Line construction. I go there every day to sit at the window and measure the progress of one of Granville Street's greatest concrete chasms.
If there's one thing I've learned from the view, it's that men love holes.
Without fail men are gathered around the perimeter in twos and threes, their faces pressed against the chain link fence, talking to one another about reinforced concrete and the politics of mass transportation.
I've been thinking about why.
I believe it's because for many men it's easier to talk about facts than feelings. Things that are physical, in the world and outside of ourselves, are therefore natural conversation topics. Over there, it's a hole, let's talk about it.
Speaking from my own experience, male relationships are a difficult pair of nuts to crack. There are all sorts of hierarchy, respect and boundary issues that complicate what really should be as simple as two guys sitting on a bench chewing gum. This is why we fish, watch sports, and gravitate to holes -- these seemingly brainless activities are great equalizers, where class, status and power relationships have no bearing.
For example, a work acquaintance recently asked me if it would be rushing our male relationship to watch hockey and drink beer together.
What he really meant was, "we're the same, you and me; let's talk about life in a setting that transcends the false hierarchy imposed by the company that feeds us."
Nary a word did he mention of his feelings -- like a conversation beside a hole, it was all code.
Because, as we all know, mannish activities that involve talking about stuff outside ourselves make talking about stuff inside ourselves redundant.
Listen to a guy talk about his hockey heroes, for example, and you'll learn a lot about his relationship with his father.
All this talking-by-not-talking might seem a little repressed, but I think a lot of guys will know what I'm talking about.
It's like in the schoolyard when we were kids. Boys ran around in roving packs, digging in the sand, wrestling in the mud, smoking each other in the face with dodgeballs.
I don't remember what the girls were doing, but I'm pretty sure they weren't beating the crap out of each other in the same way. Their beat-downs were more of a verbal flogging, and praise went much the same way.
In any case, at least they were talking to each other. You can see why the need to talk about inanimate objects never really developed.
To relate like men you've got to think like the Canada Line construction enthusiasts I watch every day: Over there, it's a hole, let's talk about it.