Tuesday 20 February 2018

Why men are just worse at friendship

Male loneliness is a bigger public health issue than obesity, writes Donal Lynch, so we really should make more of an effort

Bromance: Joey and Chandler from 'Friends'
Bromance: Joey and Chandler from 'Friends'
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

Are men worse at friendship than women? I'd always assumed that the answer was 'yes', but only because I am a man, bad at friendship, and sort of entering that period of life where a lot of the comrades of youth are increasingly Facebook phantoms, if that, and actual socialising frequently feels like a major expending of effort, requiring weeks of notice. Not that it's not pleasurable when it happens, but I find you need less and less of it.

I'm past the age of needing a wingman, and can't handle hangovers any more but what does that leave? There's a whole generation of men in Ireland who are valiantly trying to drink less but seriously can't figure out what the hell to do with each other sober. A coffee sort of feels like a business meeting. The cinema is too much like a date. Perhaps this was why there has never been a male Sex and the City. They'd never actually make it to brunch.

Selfishness is a part of it. Men are notably bad at putting up with the bulls*** of other men. We cannot fake it like women and we do not relish discussing personal problems, like a lot of women do. There is a self-serving pragmatism at play too. According to the Male Deficit Model, the result of a 30-year US study, friendships between men function and falter within strict pragmatic categories: "convenience friends," for example, exchange helpful favours but don't interact much otherwise; "mentor friends," who connect primarily through one man's tutelage of the other; or "activity friends". The study holds that the closer men adhere to traditional male gender roles, like self-reliance and a reluctance to spill their guts, the worse their friendships fare.

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