The XX Factor

The Upside of Bromance

Apparently Jeffrey Zaslow doesn’t have the greatest friends. Or so it would seem from his article in the Wall Street Journal on the predictable differences between male and female friendships. Women, you see, like to sit face-to-face and share secrets, sometimes even tears. (That is, if it’s an especially fun girls’ night out!) Men, on the other hand, like to do things : play poker, go camping. Zaslow confesses that he doubts his poker buddies would even know his kids’ names. And if a friend’s wife had just walked out on him, the poker table’s reaction would be, “Want us to deal you out of this hand?” I mean, call me just another ole emotive female, but in my book a response like that means your friend is kind of a dick.

It could well be a generational difference, but none of the males I know-friends in their 20s and 30s-would ever react that way to another guy in need. For the past five years the evolution of male-male friendships has become a cultural trope. Bromance : mayhaps you’ve heard of it? If Jason Segel can successfully make a career weeping in every Apatow movie, then I think we can safely assume we’re at a place where Draper-esque masculinity is not the cultural norm. To bastardize the feminist idiom, bromance is the radical notion that men are people. They have emotions and the desire for close relationships, even when it comes to their same-sex friendships. And it’s kind of about time. I’m serious!

Of course, as has oft been written about , in the movies that have earned the label “Bromance” there’s been a real marginalization of female characters.  But I do think Bromances are generally good for straight male sociability, if only because they self-consciously carve a place for openly compassionate male-male friendship. The first season of MTV’s Bromance had Brody Jenner repeatedly using the line, “You’re just not being real” to kick off potential brofriends. The dudes whom he couldn’t connect with on a personal level, mostly the dudes who didn’t tearfully confess some family trauma during the one-on-one sessions and subsequently binge-drank were the ones eliminated first. Oh and the elimination round was always in a hot tub, natch. As Anna astutely points out over on Jezebel : “Being a guy’s only emotional confidante can be difficult, and I wondered if Shulsinger’s wife kind of wished he would bring up his insecurities with his bros.” I’m sure the answer is yes. And I’m also sure that in a decade or so when the men of my generation are playing poker, there will be plenty of accessible feelings on deck, if needed.

Photograph of men by Taxi/Getty Images.