What does intimacy look like between men who are friends? Does it look any different between a straight man and a gay man?
Both are very complicated questions that have the same simple answer: no, It shouldn’t. Now, some may disagree. Some may believe there are distinct differences. But at the heart of both questions lies something deeper and worth pondering: what do men consider intimate, and informs that definition?
As The Nightingale shows us, in order to discuss intimacy among men, we must first acknowledge the personal stories and backgrounds that each man brings to the table. Because that is what serves as the foundation.
The hardest thing I’ve struggled with in being a man is learning how to love. I don’t know how if it is directly related to masculinity–although it seems to be a problem for a lot of men–it’s really difficult for me. I wasn’t shown how to love by my father, and I didn’t see it in a lot of other men growing up: how to express affection, show intimacy, and be loving and compassionate.
I didn’t spend much time with other boys, so sometimes I feel like I don’t even know what’s an appropriate display of love and affection to male friends. And even when it comes to dating men, I have this free and liberal idea of what it means to be masculine, but I think I’ve still internalized those restrictive ideas of masculinity, which make it difficult for me to love, freely. So, I continue to wonder: how do I show love for other men, platonically?
I get a glimpse of what it means to love, when I interact with children. It’s easy for them because they are accepting and open to receiving it. And that’s what I struggle with.
For so many children, life hasn’t taught them to question love or who it comes from. But I’m always reminded of what I’ve lost, or what I never had. Love for me is no longer genuine and innocent. I really want to be able to connect and share love and intimacy when forming friendships, specifically with men, but I just don’t know how to.
I wasn’t shown how to love by my father, and I didn’t see it in a lot of other men growing up: how to express affection, show intimacy, and be loving and compassionate.
What’s so ironic is that, while I say that men should be secure in who they are and their sexuality, when I encounter men who are overly affectionate or their eyes linger or they smile or they approach me in a certain way, I assume they are gay.
I never think that he’s just nice and secure in who he is to not feel compelled to treat me differently just because I’m gay. And most guys who seem masculine, they are always so insecure and try to avoid you or keep their distance, as a means to protecting their reputation as straight men.
For me, I’ve always seen intimacy as vulnerability, openness. It is taking a chance, and it requires a certain level of trust. Trust that when I open myself up to you, that you won’t take advantage of that or manipulate my feelings in a way that wouldn’t be beneficial for me or us. Usually, I think of that in the context of romance.
But I’m beginning to realize that it has its own place in building friendships as well. So I’m doing everything I can to learn how to be more open and connect deeply with others. It’s hard, awkward, and I don’t always feel like I know how to do it. But I’m trying.