Fifteen-year-old Sebastian describes the heartbreak he feels after losing the closeness he used to have with his best friend. He leads a discussion on intimate friendships between boys, why they matter and what we can do to support them. Joined by Niobe Way, author of Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection, and Jermal Alleyne, Program Director of Next Gen Men.
Sebastian’s voice is captivating because its weight shifts dramatically. For part of his story, he maintains a sort of matter-of-fact nonchalance. “Yeah,” he starts out, “I had a very close friend, and we had been friends for like, our whole lives.” This lightness follows his memories of their earliest times together, how they grew closer and closer until they became inseparable.
After about ten minutes, however, Sebastian begins describing the crisis point where things between them changed. His voice catches as he says, “I went to the court, and it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.” His voice breaks. “I knew that wasn’t him.”
Then, with wet eyelashes, he shares his emotions. The loss. The loneliness. The yearning. His voice still flits back and forth, but it becomes heavier.
He was like one of those necklaces that are engraved with ‘best friend’ and marketed at preteen girls, where each pendant on its own is just an incomplete phrase and a broken heart.
It’s a fitting comparison. Primarily because it really does do justice to Sebastian’s feelings, but also because it illuminates the gender bias within our cultural expectations about friendship. There are no ‘best friend’ necklaces for teenage boys. We don’t have conversations with them about platonic trust and intimacy. We don’t help them resist the ways that homophobia limits their relationships. We don’t support them in maintaining those relationships through their adolescence.
We don’t expect boys to have emotionally intimate male friendships. Boys have them anyway.
Continue reading on Medium
William Pollack, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood →
Niobe Way, Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection →
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Thanks to Michael Aisner. Audio excerpt from 91.5 KRCC. Supported by Next Gen Men.