Breaking up the Boys’ Club
Welcome to The Baffler’s agony corner, YOUR SORRY ASS, where Amber A’Lee Frost dispenses bossy, judgmental advice on how to live your life fairly, kindly, and with good humor. Send us your rants and pleas, please: [email protected].
Dear Your Sorry Ass,
I am lucky enough to belong to a largeish and extremely close-knit group of friends. The original four of us came together right after college—we all moved to New York City about ten years ago and managed to make friends over a love of the same bands, bars, books, and (of course) politics. As time has gone on, our ranks have grown, and now we’re about a dozen or so of the closest kindred spirits you could imagine. Of course girlfriends have always been around. Some come and go, but there are a plenty of long-term relationships in the group, and a few of us actually got married to really great women that get our whole male-bond thing. We’ve even been each other’s groomsmen! Recently, though, something totally unprecedented has happened.
One of our best buddies has a new girlfriend, and none of us can stand her.
One of our best buddies has a new girlfriend, and all of us—every single one of us—cannot stand her. There have been personality clashes with significant others before, but never has someone been so uniformly disliked. She’s loud—so loud—all of the time, and it’s worse when she drinks. We too drink and get loud, but you can always hear her over us. She’s rude and never wants to participate in activities with the group. If it’s outside, there are too many bugs, or it’s too hot or too cold. If it’s at a bar, it’s too loud, or too dark. If it’s a game night at someone else’s apartment, she’s “not really a game person.” It’s not just that she’s a homebody, she’s generally antisocial. She says she’s an introvert, which I don’t dispute (despite her volume at social functions), but her homebody ways prevent him from hanging out as well. We’d consider doing something she wants to do, but as far as we can tell, the only thing she does like is him! It’s like they’re joined at the hip!
Weirdly enough, our friend is completely smitten with this person, and while he seems to be sort of aware of the fact that she doesn’t really fit in, we’ve never been able to discuss it, partially because he’s never around anymore—he’s always with her! He seems nearly oblivious to his own complete change in habits. We don’t know what to do!
We all want our friend to be happy, and it seems like he really is, but we cannot stand this whiny, rude person he now spends all his time with. Is there a way we can pull him aside and ask him what’s going on?
Grow the fuck up and be happy that your friend is happy.
And maybe do a little self-examination.
Now, your Dirty Dozen is all men. I don’t believe there’s anything inherently sexist about that. Homosocial friend groups are still the dominant norm for nearly every culture on Earth for a reason: it’s easiest to make friends with people with whom you have shared experiences—and gender is a pretty big experience. Nor is affirmative action a policy you should apply to your social groups—no one wants to be your woke window dressing. Still, you say that a few of you are even married, yet you don’t include the women as a part of your “crew.” It sounds as if they’re more “lady auxiliaries.”
It sucks when you don’t bond with a friend’s significant other, but if you can’t look past your own lack of chemistry with this person and recognize that their relationship is a positive development, your “whole male-bond thing” is just a juvenile boys’ club, a clique that thinks women should want to hang out in the clubhouse, even though you’re never going to accept them as full members.
Maybe she makes him laugh. Maybe the sex is great. Who knows? And who really gives a shit?
As for the mysteries of attraction, I suggest you make a sincere effort to get to know this woman, but also go into it with the knowledge that you may never totally understand her appeal to your friend. It could be so many things. Maybe it’s a case of novelty, of opposites being drawn to one another. Or maybe your friend is smitten with this “loud, rude” woman for the same reasons he likes all of you. Or maybe in meeting her, you’ve been confronted with someone who reminds you of yourself, except she’s a woman, and you find your own personal qualities more appropriate for a man. Maybe she makes him laugh. Maybe the sex is great. Who knows? And who really gives a shit? Try to connect with her, speculate privately, enjoy some good-natured gossip and laughs on the subject, but know that you can never fully comprehend what makes people fall in love with one another and that you have no control over the matter. Neither does your friend.
If you want to say anything at all, start by asking him how you can make the group more welcoming to this person who makes him so happy. You say you barely see him now. Have you considered that this might be a honeymoon period, one that will even out after a while? Or maybe he’s changing his priorities because he’s found someone he wants to invest more time in. Also, be honest with yourself. Maybe he wants to “move on” because he feels he’s outgrown your little clubhouse.
And maybe he’s right. You care about your friend, act like it.