I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately, specifically male friendships. Honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot about masculinity, male relationships, family, and life past the age of thirty. I came across this article the other day The Legion Lonely by Stephen Thomas and it hit really close to home. With the exception of being married, I’m just like the author, a 34-year-old man without any friends. Even sadder is that with a quick online search I came across other recent articles on the same topic. For example this Boston Globe piece.
The scary thing is that I’m not some maladjusted shy basement dweller. As far back as I can remember I have always been an extroverted outgoing guy. As a matter of fact, I’ve always been at the center of my social circle. A decade ago weekend events with friends were scheduled weeks in advance. Almost every night I would get a call from a friend wanting to hang out, even if it was just to a late night dinner or coffee.
So what happened? I got happily married, move away, got a time-consuming career. My friends got happily married, had children, moved away, committed to careers. We all keep in touch, Facebook every now and then, but our relationship is no different than one between any acquaintance on social media. Not enough time. Too much distance. Too much effort.
Now, to be honest I’m perfectly happy. My wife is amazing. We have the best conversation and I love spending time with her. But, I’m also a little bit jealous. She has friends. Girlfriends that she goes hiking with, girlfriends that she goes out of her way to spend time with over lunch. My entire social circle has become her friends and the associated husbands.
It doesn’t help that my hobbies and interests tend to be solitary in nature. It’s hard to make friends when I’m spending hours writing or sitting in a chair reading. Writing fiction in itself is a really strange and lonely endeavor. It requires one to be emotionally extroverted, brave with a hint of narcissism, yet requires hours upon hours of basement dwelling alone time.
The truth is that friendships require effort. I can spend all day making excuses about not having enough time, being tired from work, needing to spend time with the family, on and on, but in the end, I’m in control of the situation.
So with the above in mind, I’ve decided to make an effort to connect with people and rekindle my interests. I grew up gaming, everything from tabletop RPGs to hex wargames. Right now, being away from my old group, my only game partner is my wife. I gave it some thought and decided that I’m going to make an effort to find others that share my interest or are interested in learning. Interestingly enough last week two different guys at work came up to me and struck up conversations about tabletop games out of the blue.
I’ve decided that I’m not going to wait around for a group to find me. Instead, I’m going to take the lead and set up regular game nights. Invite people that show interest and hopefully create a group of like-minded guys that can share my interest in gaming. When I was young I discovered pen and paper RPGs and became the perpetual DM who always ran games for all my friends, might as well continue to take the lead.
Last week I did just that. I invited a coworker for some gaming and I busted out Sekigahara. I had a great time playing against a new opponent and already other coworkers want to get some gaming on. Sekigahara is a fantastic game but runs a bit long, so I ordered Command & Colors: Napoleonics. A game I can hopefully teach really fast and use as an introduction to tabletop wargaming.
I’m going to make a serious effort to break out of my comfort zone and become more receptive to embracing new hobbies and new opportunities. Becoming a wild-haired, bearded madman recluse isn’t very appealing.