Dear Very Smart Brotha,
I don’t have a specific issue per se but a general question about the behavioral physiology of men. I gotta know, where do men go to vent and talk about their issues??
My ex-boyfriend told me that we women talk too much. And when I thought about it, it is true. I am no holds barred when it comes to talking about relationships with my girlfriends and vice versa. Isn’t that what friends are for? I noticed that many of my guy friends are mum when it comes to discussing their personal issues with their friends. So what do men bond over? And who are they supposed to talk to when it comes to their issues in relationships and in life (if they don’t have a girlfriend at the time)? Is this healthy? I’m only worried because it seems like men like my ex have no one turn to when they’re not in a relationship…and I’m a bit nosy when it comes to how men work. Please give me some insight!
I’ve been doing this “Ask A Very Smart Brotha” column for about a year and a half now. That’s 70 to 80 weeks worth of questions. Some good, some bad, some making me reconsider my citizenship. Anyway, I’m bringing this up because your question just now may be the most important one I’ve ever been asked here. Not necessarily the best, but the most important.
This — the fact that many men are either unable or unwilling to discuss whatever relationship issues they’re having — is a root for many of the communication breakdowns between the sexes. We’ve been socialized to keep certain things in (feeling, pain, empathy, etc), leaving many of us unequipped to handle the types of emotions synonymous with serious relationships. This is why you see many of us either completely shut down or supernova when forced to face them.
This socialization is large part due to the fact that men, “manly men,” are supposed to be strong, stoic, and unflappable. These are the types of men we (rightly) assume women are most attracted to and other men admire and wish to follow, so many of us do what it takes to become that type of man. Part of that process is the suppression of things that make us, well, human. We still feel the same things, but may be scared to express them because we don’t want to come off as less manly and jeopardize our status with women and other men. This is especially true with Black men. For many of us, there is really no other way to be than this hyper-hetero, uber masculine human-less cipher, and that has grave effects on how we communicate. I mean, there’s a reason why the life expectancy for Black men is like 43. All those years of holding everything in rots your insides.
Obviously, not all men are like this. There are many who are perfectly ok with expressing themselves and allowing themselves to be “open.” Many of us have friends, fathers, ex-coaches, and even barbers we’re able to bond with. But, as long as “sensitive” continues to be thought of as a feminine trait, we’re going to continue to create dangerously vent-less men.