Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Dilemma of the Lonely Christian Man Part III - The Fear of Effeminatecy

Yes, I know there is no such word of Effeminatecy but it is one that I invented to express the fear of intimacy--because of the fear of appearing effeminate (which is broader then just appearing gay).

Now, if what comes to mind, when I mention this topic, is that Christian men should have the freedom to lay around in their Speedos rubbing suntan lotion on each other . . . good heavens, that's not what I mean at all.

But I sincerely believe that virtually all straight men have this deep fear of looking effeminate. But what's considered effeminate includes things like; 1) talking about feelings (with one exception . . . men can say that something pisses them off), 2) visiting each other for no other reason but to visit, 3) spending time together . . . unless there is an external locus of focus (which I will talk about later), 4) appearing that they don't know all the answers all the time and there's more.

Here is how some of this problem plays out in the real world. I can not call any man in the church and say, “Let’s go out for coffee, or a beer.” Immediately, they would think that I was either; a) a freak, b) in love with them and a latent homosexual, c) selling Amway, d) need to borrow some money, e) raising support for some Christian cause . . . or who knows what. I’m sure that 99% of the time they would make up a lie as why it wouldn’t work out, like, “Oh I really can’t. That’s the night I must take out my furnace filters and clean them.”

One of my closes friends at church (although there are days I say things thing disgust him, like--what I mentioned in the previous post--“Cancer Sucks.” I know that this guy is hurting right now because his son has an addiction problem. I know this because his wife told my wife. I would love to say, “Let’s go out for a beer and talk about it.” However, he doesn’t’ want to talk about it. We have to pretend that it’s not happening. This goes back to the pretending that we, men, are all perfect and have perfect children. So we have to hide all our flaws.

Us who are married have some advantage. Our wives can easily call the other man’s wife and set up a dinner or going out just to talk. They then drag their husbands along. Then once the woman breaks the ice, by talking about emotional things, the men can have some engagement in conversation.

So men usually use the mechanism of what I call the external locus of focus to have any relationship with other men. We can’t get together just because we want a friendship (too gay), but we can share a common interest outside of ourselves. That is one reason that I think the NFL is so popular. It is okay to go over to a guy’s house to watch football, or to build RC airplanes, geo-caching . . . oh yeah, fishing of course. Fishing is the best because you either sit and a boat or stand on a bank and do nothing . . . but if you stand there long enough you can start to ask personal questions. “How’s working going? How’s your marriage (woops that sounds too effeminate), uh how’s your dog?”

I’ve never been skilled at building friendships with Christian men by using this eternal locus of focus. I’ve gone fishing with Christian men a few times. But I’ve observed that most men, whom you would meet in a church, do not want to “hang out” with other men from church. Part of that reason is that most of us want to let our hair down when we hang out. I’ve watch other men (and I’m sure I’ve been guilty) go through a strange transformation when they are hanging out with work buddies and a fellow-church man comes by. The guard goes up and the “Promise Keeper” fa├žade is unrolled.

I’ve also tried to build enduring friendships (using the external locus of focus) with non-Christian men as well, and I’ve failed at it too. I know at least part of the problem must be me.

I once joined a big sea-kayaking group when we lived up on Lake Superior. I did several fun trips with as many as 300 men (and some women). But several problems came up. First, my wife really didn’t like it when I would be gone (our kids were all young at the time). So, the once a quarter weekend trips always seemed to cause us trouble.

But then, like seed falling on shallow soil, the friendships didn’t seem to deepen over time. Part of the problem with this kind of group (and subsequent groups I’ve tried to join like a mountaineer group) is the alpha male syndrome. Men, as I’ve said before, tend to be very insecure. To cover from this insecurity (and I’m talking about all men here) is to be competitive . . . very competitive. To be cutthroat men must always push others down and inflate their own egos. This in turn is not very conducive for deep friendships to develop.

For example, the kayaking group was actually started by a man (my age) who had won a silver metal at a summer Olympics in white water kayaking (for another country). Any time we when out for a leisurely paddle out on Lake Superior, it would turn into a race. It was a race for speed, but also a race for who knew the most about kayaking.

I was scolded once for holding my paddle wrong, or for making too many waves or for not having a $500, marine GPS on my kayak etc (the kind you would need if you were trying to navigate the NW passage in your kayak, alone . . . in the dark . . . and in the fog). Then the kayaks themselves became competitive. Many had homemade carbon fiber racing machines . . . or the purist would actually travel to Greenland and work with Eskimos in building a skin kayak. In their eyes, anyone who didn’t have an official Greenland kayak were inferior.

I confess that I also built two kayaks myself during this phase. But I would go on these trips, and come home feeling like an outsider. I was raising 5 kids and could not afford putting 5-10K into a kayak. But these relationships seemed dead ends and I dropped out after a couple of years. The only way to keep up was to earn a PhD in kayakology and to invest more in the sport than I had invested in my house (or kids college).



Much more to come . . .

5 comments:

provender said...

Maybe it's the spelling. It's that "t" that is the problem. Effeminacy? Effemininecy? Effem...No. It's just not going to work, no matter how you spell it. Nongirliness? Maybe just plain intimacy.

MJ said...

I've been reading James Joyce lately. Man, he really knew how to invent words at will, so I guess you and I can spell it anyway we want.

Anonymous said...

I can not call any man in the church and say, “Let’s go out for coffee, or a beer.” Immediately, they would think that I was either; a) a freak, b) in love with them and a latent homosexual, c) selling Amway, d) need to borrow some money, e) raising support for some Christian cause . . . or who knows what.Not just the church, JMJ.

Up until I turned 20 and got into SF fandom (and D&D), I could count all the close friends I had on the fingers of one hand with some fingers left over.

After making my first adult friends (including my DM) at my first SF con, I used to hang out with my DM a lot. (For years afterwards, my D&D group and campus SF clubs were my only social circles.) And we got a lot of assumption of (b). (We didn't know of this until later -- we were both ex-kid-geniuses and Uber-Geeks (see a), and cluelessness-to-the-point-of-Aspergers comes with the territory.)

However, I can tell you after 30+ years in various fandoms, you cannot escape (d). Lotsa mooch-and-sucker shows out there in general.

And just what is the difference between (c) and (e), if any? And are not both variations on (d)?

I know that this guy is hurting right now because his son has an addiction problem. I know this because his wife told my wife. I would love to say, “Let’s go out for a beer and talk about it.” However, he doesn’t’ want to talk about it. We have to pretend that it’s not happening. This goes back to the pretending that we, men, are all perfect and have perfect children. So we have to hide all our flaws.All Shiny Happy Christians with their Happy Clappy Joy Joy Joy, and Don't You Dare Rock The Boat.

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. There's a reason why I ditched anything to do with Christians for years after discovering D&D. D&D geeks were REAL, not Phony. (For that matter, ex-kid-genius geeks are usually messed up and obvious about it.) And outside the Dungeon-crawl du Jour, you didn't always have to edit everything you said or did for fear of The Purple Thumb O'God coming down on you.

Headless Unicorn Guy

PS/JMJ: Sometimes I'd like to talk to you more directly than through comments in your public blog, but I don't see any contact addy in your blog.

MJ said...

HUG Astute observation about c = e and both = d. That's how George Carlton would explain it (and he lived near the bottom floor).

Regarding communicating with me directly, what's the matter . . . are you nuts, gay, looking for money? Ha! No, you can try labrianacortes@comcast.net

Anonymous said...

I read this and felt sorry for the people trapped in this rednecky conservative bubble. You people need to get out. And for Unicorn Guy... you sound like you've swallowed some BS. Your D&D days sound like the truly honest time in your life. The people who thought untrue things about you and your friends were the "clueless" ones. You were far more aware than they were. I hope all of you someday discover the power of objective thinking.