This past week The Boston Globe had an interesting article that I had missed but my friend Dan had read and forward to me. The gist of the article written by Billy Baker is that many middle aged American men unconsciously are isolating themselves and over time, this is resulting in many feeling alone.
As the title of the article says, “The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.” Baker writes that after he spent time thinking about who he interacted with regularly he realized that he had been making work, his wife, family (even “me time” as he puts it) a priority, but over the years as family and job commitments increased, slowly but surely it was his “friends time” that had been pushed aside.While many gay men are having families and the pressure to be there for their spouse and children is very real, I would like to think that our friendships for most gay men take on an added importance. However, when I look at my own life, I can honestly say that more than half the time I’m connecting with a friend the initial discussion goes something like this.
Me: Hi. How are you? I feel like its been ages. What’s new with you?
Friend: Life is good. I’ve been busy with work…. blah, blah, blah…
I get a lot of satisfaction from my work and it affords me a lifestyle that I really like, but I’d hate to think that I would value or put time at work ahead of time with friends. Staring at a phone or computer is a poor substitute for the connection one feels when you are with a friend nor are the memories going to resonate quite the same, so maybe we all need to evaluate how we are interacting with those closest to us. Are we defaulting to leaving a 5 word note on Facebook to wish a friend well on their birthday or are we picking up the phone, having a conversation to wish them the best and make plans to see each other? It’s really that simple.
Baker suggests regularly scheduling time with friends; either agreeing to a particular routine where you can meet or relying on clubs, sports, etc… that have a schedule you can commit to and be a part of to avoid letting long stretches of time pass before you see each other. If you’d like to read more you can check out the full article here.