by: David Sheldon

GUYS! You’ll relate far better to women

if you first develop closer relationships with other men.

 I PROBABLY KNOW AS MUCH ABOUT MEN AS FISH KNOW ABOUT BASEBALL. Even after my experiences with a father and brother-and through marriage divorce, dating and 20 years in the workplace-men remain a mystery. And for a long time, that was O.K. When author John Gray explained that men are from Mars and women from Venus, that relieved me, and other women, from having to under-stand men fully, because if you believe that men and women are essentially different, one gender doesn’t really have to empathize with the other; we just have to read each other’s signals, acknowledge our differences and retreat to our corners.

Now, however, comes Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say, by another student of the sexes, Warren Farrell. He argues that women and men may be more alike than we realize, but after 30 years of the women’s movement, it is now men who are in crisis. Both genders are angry and in pain, Farrell says, but only women’s pain receives public sympathy, while the news and entertainment media perpetuate negative images of maleness. For years men, especially fathers, have been portrayed, especially on TV sitcoms, as jerks, incompetents and fools. I have often wondered why this “man bashing” is considered acceptable, while the reverse is offensive.

Farrell suggests that men’s infamous “fear of intimacy” is really a fear of rejection and that the way through it is for men to learn to talk about their lives openly, as women have learned to do. Farrell, like other relationship therapists, offers sug- gestions on how men and women can better talk with each other. But I feel that before men can change the way they relate to women, it will help for them to develop their own friendships with other men

Just as women had to learn mentoring and networking skills when they joined the workforce a generation ago, men today need to pick up some personal skills if they want to develop their emotional lives fully. Women have learned the value of intimate friendship and the relief that comes from talking things out. Websites, professional women’s organizations, book groups and even the car-pool line at school provide opportunities for women to meet. Men would benefit from the same support, but it can be harder to find.

Kirk Read, father of two and a professor at Bates College in Maine, was “looking for some male companionship that didn’t involve guns, sports or six packs. I really felt a lack of male friends I could talk with about my life,” he said. Read started a fiction book group of five men that meets each month. He says that their discussions sometimes lead the group to “get emotional issues out on the table. The books we read get us talking about being sons and fathers-about personal issues that otherwise wouldn’t be expressed. It just doesn’t happen in other settings.”

Many religious organizations encourage men’s discussion groups, and the Web provides links to special-interest groups. Warren Farrell says that when men get together to talk, one thing they learn is that some of the qualities that make them successful at the workplace act as barriers to a successful family life. Yet men with fully developed emotional lives will be better husbands, fathers and friends-while hopefully remaining just Martian enough to keep things interesting.

Please see Time'sWeb site for more on men friendships.

OR, You can e-mail Amy Dickinson at


TIME Magazine

 January 17, 2000, (pg. 105.)

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