As a work-from-home Dad I spend my mornings dropping my oldest son off at preschool. When my wife’s schedule allows she does the honors.
That means 95 percent of the time it’s me on duty. Yet my wife makes the most of that 5 percent. Yesterday, our schedules aligned and we shared pick up duties. We walked toward Elijah’s classroom, and I saw the usual parents seated outside waiting for their wee ones to be released.
Then it started.
My wife proceeded to chat with everyone there as if they were old chums. Mind you, she barely knows them, and I’m the one who sees them essentially every day. In five minutes my wife shared more with our fellow parents than I have in weeks. Maybe months.
They talked about school placement, toddler fashions and older siblings. I just watched, amazed at the warm and winning rapport my wife shared with people whose names I still don’t know (she does, of course).
It all reminded me of how hard it can be for men to meet new friends. My Dad once said if you had one good friend for life you were lucky, one of many Dad-isms I chuckled at softly and ignored. Yet the older I get the more his wisdom speaks to me. My best friend is someone I keep regular contact with despite living thousands of miles apart, but the early stages of our friendship took months to complete. At any point it could have stopped, and my Dad’s talking point would have been off by one.
Men often have their guard up when it comes to potential friendships. Just think of how some male friends employ empty seats between them when they see a movie. Would any woman even think of such a scheme?
Sometimes my wife and I will attend a social gathering and she’ll strike up a fizzy chat with a strange woman. Within minutes they’re plotting a get together of some kind, and even though it doesn’t always materialize there’s nothing unusual about the exchange. If I tried that I might get an odd look – if I was lucky.
Much of this goes back to cultural mores and modeling. Men can bond over sports, not our feelings. If we open up too much to men outside our social circle it can feel awkward, even forced. We could be ostracized for simply describing something that’s been nagging at us for some time.
Stick to SportsCenter highlights, pal.
Social patterns aren’t set in stone, although they can take a good, long while to change. So the next time I pick up Elijah from school I’m going to try to be chattier with my fellow parents – even if it earns me a surprised look or two.