I've begun wondering if I say I love you too much for a guy.
When I write a closing salutation to emails, it's sitting right there: the blinking cursor, waiting for me. Do I enter xo? xx? Love? Warmly? My best?
I'm noticing when I say it, more than negative backlash, is how people lean into my expression of concern, care and mutual affection and appreciation. It happens in person. It happens on instagram. It happens via email and text. More often that not, people reciprocate the expression. In a love-starved society such as ours, it seems people are thirsty for connection, as quoted by the character, Graham, in the movie CRASH, "It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."
This was explained brilliantly in a December article in Time, titled What Boys Want by Rosalind Wiseman. It really got me thinking about this and noticing nuances in my interactions which left me wondering, what the heck would happen if we all started saying "I love you" a bit more? What if men took the fear of the explicit sexual part out of it and really expressed the gratitude, connection, appreciation and affection we feel inside? What ailments would drop away? What issues would be resolved? What would be possible if we expressed this thing many of us seem to feel, this thing that is part of being human?
I consider this in my platonic interactions with women, too. What is appropriate expression compared to inappropriate, given our respective relationship situations? One of the weirdest things I experienced this year, was a woman who had been a friend for some time telling me we could no longer meet up to hang out because her boyfriend wasn't comfortable with it. It occurred to me as so weird, because there was absolutely no expression of anything romantic in our exchanges. We just had 'coffee talk' a few times. Romance wasn't even implied, not even remotely. We had been acquaintances before and had lost touch but then met up a few times to discuss experiences with a former mutual boss as well as current life changes. Then, she dropped off the radar. When I followed up, she announced this news and I was sort of dumbstruck.
In interactions with my female friends, partnered or not, do I need to hold back more? It is ok to tell them how much they mean to me and how awesome they are? Is it uncool or not masculine enough to keep my feelings and thoughts under wraps?
I ask these questions from a philosophical or theoretical perspective, not because I have any intention of changing my behavior anytime soon. I am still going to go with my gut, even if it isn't met with success. When a friend contacted me recently about his experience at the police academy, I offered him the opportunity to talk a bit about it. He replied, "guys don't vent". I wanted to write back, that I was concerned about him and want to hear more about his experience. But I didn't. I just wrote, "ok".
Next time, I won't just write, "ok". I'll write, "ok. Some guys I know do. Good luck and I love you!"
I'm curious what he'd say or do. What experiences have you had with this?
Originally appeared at The Good Men Project
Also read: Should Men Feel All the Feelings?