Get Your Bro On: The Trouble With Making New Guy Friends After College
I arrived in Vegas early Saturday morning. My best friend of nearly 20 years met me in the lobby of the Luxor, and he followed along as I bought a gin and tonic and an energy drink. I had to catch up fast; the rest of the entourage had already been there for 24 hours.
I stormed into the bachelor’s hotel room and began jumping on his bed. “Wake the f*ck up, buddy! You're getting married!” His hungover groans only made me to bounce harder.
This was another friend I had known for nearly 15 years, and he had certainly inflicted far worse damage on me over that period of time. A little shakey-wakey was fair.
I located the best man’s suite and pounded with SWAT force-vigor on the door. Chris ambled toward me in boxers, grabbed my hand and pulled me in for a hug. Chris and I worked together for nearly a decade at the same job where the bachelor and my best friend had also worked.
As I entered the room, Andy, a high school classmate of ours, lifted his head from his pillow and mumbled tiredly, “Hey, Lacy” before abruptly plopping his head back down.
I surveyed the wreckage: clothes strewn across the floor, emptied beer bottles stacked on all available surfaces, unlit cigars, flasks, money clips and an inflatable blow-up doll named Patty. But, most notably, it was a room full of good friends, reunited in chaos. I sensed nostalgia and vomit.
An unfamiliar face emerged from one of the beds. He introduced himself simply as “Ken.” I inquired as to how he knew the bachelor.
“We met at the dog park,” Ken answered nonchalantly.
Wait, what!? The dog park? Here I was at my friend’s bachelor party, a long overdue reunion of kindred troublemakers, and I was already encountering the tighty-whities of a complete stranger.
It turns out Ken and Greg had bonded over the former’s husky and the latter’s French bulldog. The canines’ breeds are almost as different as their human owners’ personalities. Greg is a big guy with a penchant for beer and guns, and Ken is a NASA engineer who, I sh*t you not, helps drive one of the Mars’ rovers.
Others have written about how difficult it is to make new friends after college. Most recently, Elite Daily contributor Cazey Williams published a great piece with the straight-to-the-point title, “#NoNewFriends: Why It’s So Hard To Make Good Friends After College.”
Fair point, Williams. But, I’d like to take a moment to expand on some of the challenges unique to making new male friends in our post-college lives.
I’m confident women have their own unique set of challenges to making new friends after undergrad, and I’d love to hear about some of them. But I can only speak to what I know, which is the fact that making new guy friends is an entire song and dance of “faux bro-ness.”
Unless you meet a new guy friend through a friend of a friend in more organic circumstances, as I did with Ken, there’s this strange interchange that occurs where both parties remain a bit guarded. Even when we’re really hitting it off with someone (as I often do at the dog park or at a happy hour with a coworker’s significant other), we’re not our sincere selves.
We find ourselves changing our tone (to sound more masculine), our topics of discussion (find the common ground in some shared sport whenever possible) and even our mannerisms (firm handshakes and backslaps). If we have a significant other, we make sure to bring that up.
Quite recently, I connected with a high school classmate on Facebook. We hadn’t known each other as teens, but in the present, we discovered we actually had a lot in common (both married, both proud doggy parents and both aligned politically).
We messaged each other a few times, just shooting the sh*t, and then one day he responded with a lengthier, more personal note. He had gone through quite a bit over the past few years, and he was reaching out to me, another guy, to share that very private information.
I was quite busy the day his message came in, and I didn’t have a chance to reply. The next day, I received a quick follow-up message from him, wherein he apologized for potentially “weirding me out.”
I went back and read his original message. I was touched by the level of trust he had placed in me by so vulnerably sharing some of his struggles and anxiety.
I also recognized in his apology an anxiety I have felt all too often: the anxiety of overstepping a budding bro-relationship. It's the fear you’re going to “scare a guy off,” even when your intentions are as platonic as they can possibly get.
Even though I was in a hurry to get to work, I rushed to send out a lengthy response. I assured him he hadn’t “weirded me out in the slightest,” and I was grateful he’d disclosed to me so genuinely. And I meant it.
We made plans for a double date for when I next visit my hometown, and I intend to keep those plans.
Guys, let’s all agree to drop the act. If we’re getting along, let’s just hang out. And it doesn’t have to be over steaks, football and beers, either. If we’re both sci-fi fans, let’s geek out together. If we both enjoy the great outdoors, let’s bond over some hiking.
Because I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stop making sincere male friendships just because I’ve left the safety net of college.
Plus, you never know when you’ll meet that rare friend who drives rovers across the surface of a Martian planet. And it doesn’t get much more badass than that.