I buy this. I do think I came of age in a uniquely dumb time for male friendship, when we were all so freaked-out about seeming gay that we'd leave an empty seat between us at the movies. I'm also open to Miller's idea that social life is changing, and not necessarily for the worse.
But I think men really do suck at friendship. So I decided to make a conscious effort to fix things with Matt. Not that I did a great job. My way of telling him I was angry was to ignore a couple of his emails. Then I ignored a couple of his voice mails. Finally, when I did answer the phone, he said, "Dude, are you boycotting me?"
"No. Why?" (Go ahead, judge me. It worked.)
"Come on, man. I can't take it," he said. "You're, like, my best friend."
"Look," I said, "you are my best friend. So I'm hurt! I mean, two weekends and no coffee? No beer?"
Matt apologized and said he felt terrible about the whole thing. And just like that, our friendship was back on track. Christmas came, and Jodi surprised Matt with the Baja trip. He was psyched, and I decided to go for it, too. The surf wasn't all-time, but it was shoulder-high and plenty of fun. In the evenings, we'd retire to a little desert town for dinner and beers. We chattered about waves and kids. It felt great and energizing.
But then Matt flew back to Seattle and I flew back to San Francisco and we settled back into pretty much never calling each other, and I found myself in the same place I was when he moved, with my wife as my sole, genuine confidante. But this time, I decided to get proactive. I started with an old climbing buddy and two people I knew through married-couple get-togethers. To all three, and mostly through a lack of imagination, I suggested dinner minus the wives. All three said more or less the same thing — "Hell yes, when?" — which confirmed that I wasn't the only middle-aged guy looking for a buddy. In all three cases, the pattern was the same: first, a few pleasant meals together, followed by a sense that dinner wasn't exactly our proper form, and then the acknowledgment that we needed an activity. But that hardly adds up to a male deficit.
I solved the problem easily enough with the dinner-party husbands by inviting them over a little before the wives and kids, so we could shoot the breeze while cooking a meat-centric meal together. My old climbing partner and I began trading emails about adventures we could have together. He voted for a big alpine climb; I proposed a triathlon; and we settled on cycling. We agreed on a 100-mile race a couple months away, signing up online. He sent me an email saying, "Might as well bang out some training rides together, huh? Just to beat the boredom?"
One morning, I got home from a long training ride with him just as Liz returned from dropping the kids at school. She said, "How was biking, honey?"
"Awesome. Gorgeous morning."
"What do you got for me? Any dish?"
"Ummm . . ."
"Oh, God," she said. "Forget I asked."