Men Need Friends, Too: A Guest Essay
The literature on friendships tends to emphasize female friendships; but newly retired, the author realizes the importance of male friendships, too.
It’s true what they say about men: Our circle of friends shrinks as we age.
For a variety of reasons ranging from changes in career and work-related affiliations to death, I have fewer friends now than I did when I was younger.
And I find myself challenged by how to change that.
As a business owner for more than thirty years, much of my social life was centered around my workmates. Unfortunately, not all those friendships had happy endings. Differences in opinions led to estrangement from two close friends I had hired but ultimately had to let go.
Yet other friendships at work were extremely rewarding and special. At the start of my career, two of my mentors became two of my closest friends - and in some cases, those friendships led to relationships that included our spouses. They both lived into their 80s, and it still saddens me that these amazing guys are now gone.
Later in my career, I lost two business-related friends to sudden and early deaths, the most painful losses of all. One was tragically killed in a head-on car crash; the other lost a quick battle with cancer. These were guys with whom I spoke nearly every day, and saw regularly for lunches, dinners, ballgames, and more.
When I retired a few months ago, I lost the intimacy of the day-to-day relationships I enjoyed with my business partners, all of whom were not just business partners, but friends I’d travel and enjoy fun times with. I’m still close with one of them, but the others are rightfully focused on their new chapters. We’re still all friends in the classic sense, but it just isn’t the same.
Where does that leave me? I’m fortunate to have two extremely close friends with whom I can share anything; they know they can share everything with me. Though we don’t see each other that often, when we do, we pick up where we left off.
In an effort to build my friendship “network”, I recently started a local chapter of the ROMEO Club, which stands for Retired Old Men Eating Out.
We just had our third meeting yesterday, and I’m excited to see how well the relationships are beginning to develop. There are ROMEO chapters all over the world, and I encourage all men “of a certain age” to seek out their local chapter or to start one if there is none. It’s a great way to meet new people and have a consistent opportunity to shoot the breeze with a like-minded group of guys.
I don’t spend my days lamenting relationships lost; I’m very happy being by myself and don’t need to be with friends constantly to feel happy and satisfied. That said, I do know that as we age, having strong friendships is one of the keys to good health, which is why I plan on working at being as vigilant about my social health as I am about nutrition and exercise.
When my mother was alive, I’d often take her out for dinner at restaurants near her home in Florida. I was always struck and saddened by how few older men I’d see; instead, it was more common to see groups of women who clearly had lost their husbands. What caused this phenomenon? Was it a lack of friendships and socialization that shortened their life expectancy?
I know that I don’t want to fall prey to that possibility, and I will continue to do what I can to broaden my social circle.
Men can make new friends at any stage of life if they make it a priority.