To get some perspective, I put the question to my 75-year-old father and three of his buddies. I asked their opinion of the male deficit model and discovered that they thought I had a male deficit all my own, just for entertaining such paleo-feminist horseshit. Two of these guys, Merv and Denis, had no memory of a single friendless year, nor of losing a friend for any reason other than abject betrayal – like the time one guy bedded another guy's live-in girlfriend.
Of course, it wasn't all Butch and Sundance. A public-interest lawyer named Steve described waking up at age 45 and saying, "Hey, what happened to all my friends?" My father escaped that fate only because Denis showed up twice a week at his office, dragging him off to the gym to lift weights.
"I had to go right into your dad's office and just sit and wait," Denis told me. "At 5-of-5 his phone would ring again and I'd yell, 'Don't answer!' "
Several of these men said they continue to meet weekly for lunch. Which brings up a rival theory of male friendship – the alternate paths model. According to this line of thinking, the male deficit model is a historical aberration brought on by two unrelated cultural developments. The first is the rise of contemporary homosexual identity, which had the effect of pushing straight male intimacy into a closet of its own. At the same time, a wave of feminist sociologists and psychologists began describing female friendship, with all its confessional talk, as the optimal model.
Many feminist thinkers now see those views as overly simplistic. And as recent news about gay marriage shows, America is growing more comfortable with homosexuality.
Still others argue that in an era of dual-income households, the very idea of friendship is changing. "Fifty years ago, you wouldn't know the other dads from childcare or school drop-off," says Jon Miller, director of the Longitudinal Survey of American Youth, a vast survey of Generation-X lifestyle habits. "I'm not sure this whole logic that men and women have to have separate friendships makes sense anymore," Miller told me. "Ozzie and Harriet went away. We don't do it that way anymore."