I think we may be at the beginning of a new cultural movement. I’ve noticed that men are now behaving in a new more open and affection manner towards each other.
I began noticing this kind of behavior about six months ago when I started to hear adult American men saying “love ya, man” as they said goodbye to their male peers. For reasons by no means clear, bromances are in and cool is out.
Men have always been quite reluctant to utter the magical word ‘love’ even if they were madly in love with their girlfriend or spouse.
But now the phrase is rolling off of the lips of CEO’s, bankers and many other hale hearty American men. So why is this happening?
The Harvard poet Robert Bly started the men’s movement back in 1990s when he published his remarkable book “Iron John: A book about men” but his Iron John workshops of running through the woods and primal screaming didn’t seem to resonate too well and the movement died out pretty quickly.
The only role modeling of this type of softer male behavior is the 2009 comedy “I love you, man” starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. True it was a funny and profitable film but laughs don’t produce a cultural trend.
Last week I jokingly remarked to a patient that I have begun to hear this phrase between men and he was quick to reply to me “oh yeah, I say it all the time to my male friends.” And a female patient of mine who lives in the south said “Oh, that’s definitely a New York thing. I know a guy from New York who is always saying that.” And it dawned on me what this new trend may be about.
The guys I often hear saying “love ya, man” are men who are extremely wealthy, successful and socially skilled. We all know that success in business is contingent upon networking and social attunement but this takes social mirroring to a whole new level. This is what I call being disarming to the nth degree.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines love as “ the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another as in the fatherly concern of God for humankind.” Now that’s saying something.
Psychological researchers have traditionally described female traits to include nurturance, kindness, flexibility and compliance whereas men have been described as aggressive, competitive and cool.
Terms of affection and endearment between men has a European ring to it and that can’t be a bad thing. I recall Henry Miller saying parents do not say “I love you “ enough to their kids and Lenny Bruce said ‘there will never be enough I Love You’s.’
So let’s hear it for this new kind of alpha, metrosexual successful American male who is unafraid to enter the waters of love, softness and openness and has the amazing audacity to look at his business partner/client/customer in the eye and say boldly and proudly “love ya, man.”
Who would have guessed that the 21st century would bring us not only information overload and media addictions but also usher in a softening of the male psyche to the point where they are no longer afraid to proffer some kindness and affection when they feel like it.
Change is inevitable even when it comes to gender issues. Women have role models like Michelle Wie and Suzanne Pederson both of who are aggressive on the playing field but all sweetness elsewhere. Who can the men use as their new role models of love, openness and kindness?
All I can come up with are The Beatles who were a great force for good during the peace movement of the ’60s. The first nine words in their classic “All you need is love “ were “love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.”
Fashion trends soon followed with bell bottoms, long hair and flower power. But the Haight Ashbury summer of love came to a sudden ending at the Stone’s Altamont concert and with the Charles Mansion killings.
We may not be on the verge of a new love movement but as Lenny Bruce said who among us couldn’t do with a little more love and a little less fighting.
We may never see a time when every CEO in the land enjoys quiche, wears pink and likes Taylor Swift’s latest hit but maybe a few more “love ya, man’s” is a good start.