book EXCERPT
498. Tell the people you love that you love them. Say it aloud. And, yes, men, say it to other men.
Colorful Days Diary
I don’t remember exactly when my brother and I started concluding nearly all our phone calls with “I love you,” but it’s become a natural declaration.
Because I do love him. Since the sandbox, he’s always been a sort of hero to me. He’s one of those great big brothers that never minded when I tagged along. I remember being the batboy for his sandlot championship baseball team.
When he left home to attend Ohio University, he shepherded me along on getaway weekends where I had the kind of fun that ensured I’d go there, too. It was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.
After I graduated from OU, I went to visit him in Nashville where he was working and I landed a job at the newspaper there. We became roommates. I’ll never forget the two of us sitting on the little back porch drinking beers and watching the big jets glide in over Old Hickory Lake.
I think after our father died in 2004, we began to appreciate a special closeness, having been sons to a man so fun and rare.
None of that’s really surprising. Sure, many siblings war throughout their lives and cause wicked tension at the family get-togethers, but the reverse is also true. Many enjoy the warm closeness that my brother and I have always felt.
What’s unusual is that I’m beginning to feel strange urgings to tell other male friends that, yes, I love them, too.
Not in the way I love my brother, but I have many close male friends, three in particular, I love deeply, and I’m struggling with how to share this forbidden emotion.
Like most guys, I am emotionally repressed in how I deal with my dear male friends. I certainly feel a deep love for them, but I wrestle with how I should express those feelings.
I was thinking of this while I was listening to Kieran Kane’s lovely rendition of the Louie Armstrong classic, “What a Wonderful World.”
I see friends shaking hands, saying, “How do you do?”
What they’re really saying is, “I love you.”
Why is it so wrong for me to tell my male friends that I love them? Can’t I, for the love of God, unshackle the societal constraints and convey what goes on in my heart to the men that matter most to me?
What would happen if instead of our standard buddy-buddy sign off—“Hey, man, you take it easy … Go, Steelers!”—I took a different approach? What if instead of that breezy happy-hour send-off, I looked soulfully into Frank’s cappuccino-colored eyes and said, “Frank, I love you … Go, Steelers!”
I know exactly what would happen. Frank’s bushy mustache would start to twitch the way it does when the bartender says he’s shut off. Why, he’d be outraged. He doesn’t want my love (even though I suspect he’s always loved me, too). An awkward silence would descend on the bar. I’d be an instant pariah. Then all the cruel Brokeback Mountain jokes would start.
It’s a strange fact of life in my still-redneck corner of the world that I could lose a friend because I dared to reveal how much he means to me.
It’s not like I’m going to leave my wife and two kids for Frank. But guys like us are so emotionally remote that we have a difficult time acknowledging the genuine love we feel for—and this is even difficult to type—our “boy” friends.
Not anymore.
As of today, I’ll no longer deny the urges that are becoming too momentous to ignore.
I’m going to freely expose myself to the risks that will come with saying without reserve, “Hey, I love you,” to other men.
I’m going to start right here by telling the whole world of my earnest feelings for three darling buddies who’ve always touched me deepest in my soul.
Here goes …
I love you, Moe!
I love you, Larry!
And I love you, Curly!
That wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.
Nyuk, nyuk.