Man enough for bromance
Take your mind back to a simpler time known as 1990. Madonna was stealing dance moves from drag queens, Patrick Swayze would soon be crowned People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, and folk singer Christine Lavin was having a ball making fun of guys who expressed their feelings with a tune called "Sensitive New Age Guys" (sample lyric: "Who likes to cry at weddings?" "Who thinks boxing is upsetting"?). The message was simple: Dudes with feelings and emotions are about as masculine as Richard Simmons at a Tupperware party.
A decade later, Lavin's novelty hit was followed by the birth of the metrosexual: heterosexual men who actually gave a rat's whisker about their appearance. So novel. This was promptly followed by the metrosexual backlash, the rise of male bonding, then the advent of the mancrush. Now, nearly 20 years after the lynching of the sensitive New Age guy, we have entered the age of the bromance. It's a platonic romance between two men. In the old days, we called this friendship.
The tagline of the Paul Rudd film "I Love You, Man," a movie that has become a Holy Grail for bromantics everywhere, is "Are you man enough to say it?" It's a long way from Lavin's vaguely homophobic folk needling. Indeed, the signs of bromance are budding everywhere this spring - including MTV, where our very own Luke Verge from Medford won a spot in Brody Jenner's clique by competing in a reality show against other dudes who also wanted Jenner's hand in, er, friendship. Perhaps years of watching "Entourage" has finally eroded men's resistance to the kind of close friendships that women have enjoyed for decades.
"Enter bromance, arguably the next step in the evolution of the heterosexual male," says Manhattan psychologist Joseph Cilona. "I think bromance will have positive effects for both the relationships of men with each other, and also how heterosexual men and women relate as well."
While the term bromance could be seen as emasculating, much of it is based around the very manly concept of pals before gals. It's part of the reason why 34-year-old Los Angeles-based television producer Kevin Morra, despite pulling in a respectable salary, chooses to live with two roommates. He's the very definition of a bromantic (for the record, he hates the term). He produces shows that star Henry Rollins and Dave Navarro and produced the DIY network show "Man Caves" and, yes, he shares his feelings with friends.
"I look at my guy friends and they always know what I'm thinking and feeling," Morra says. "I can go out with a woman for six or seven months and she still doesn't read me the way that my guy friends can. I think there are a lot of guys who miss out on those friendships. They go full steam into relationships with women and ignore their guy friends."
If all this talk of man-on-man friendship makes you squeamish, go ahead and blame Judd Apatow. His movies are practically love stories between schlubby nerds with women thrown in as unobtainably perfect dolls. Think back to 2007's "Superbad," where the pivotal love scene of the movie took place between Michael Cera and Jonah Hill's characters. After a harrowing night of partying, declarations of love were made, followed by plenty of drunken spooning. It was funny, uncomfortable, and even sweet.
These cinematic bromances can be traced back as far as the Bing Crosby-Bob Hope buddy flicks of the 1940s and the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedies of the 1950s. The difference, however, is that any affection that these gents expressed for one another was in the context of jokes, cross dressing, or was purely accidental. They spent time together, their characters finished each other's sentences, but nary an "I love you, man" would ever be exchanged between them.
But there is a big difference between Hollywood and real life, which I discovered when I decided to see if dudes were in the habit of discussing bromance. You don't need to be the Amazing Kreskin to guess that there were a lot of uncomfortable glances and awkward gaps when I stopped by the Boston Beer Garden in South Boston last week and asked men if they had experienced man crushes, bromance, or ever told a buddy that they loved him.
"I don't know if I've ever told a friend that I love him. Maybe when I was drunk, really drunk," said Evan Sullivan. "I appreciate my friends, but I think things would get weird pretty fast if I went around telling them that I love them."
Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.