One evening, many years ago, I got a phone call from Ken. An older, distinguished gentleman he knew had gifted him an unworn pair of black silk pajamas. (I assume because he already had sufficient black silk pajamas to meet his silky needs.) Ken graciously accepted the gift, only to discover that the pajamas were too big for him. He was wondering if I would like them. Of course I accepted. I mean, who doesn’t want free black silk pajamas?
Now, I realize that it is not common for 30-something male friends give each other silk sleepwear. A few weeks after receiving the gift, I posted the picture above of me online wearing the pajamas, sitting in an easy chair in front of a fire reading a book. My sister commented, asking where I had gotten such fancy pajamas. I replied, “From my friend Ken, who is an LDS bishop and married and heterosexual and who thinks nothing weird of sharing the gift of comfort and class with a close friend.”
Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of male friends. I wasn’t an athlete. I was bad at sports and had no desire to play them. As an adolescent boy, not playing sports immediately makes you an outcast. Young men’s activities typically consisted of basketball games, so I stopped going. I had great leaders who tried desperately to plan activities that I would come to, and I am grateful to them for that. But I hated feeling like the Quorums’ “project.” When I was a Teacher, I had a conversation with my leader and told him he didn’t need to try so hard to make me feel included. I had a testimony. I was active in the church. And I had a lot of friends. They just all happened to Mia Maids.
As an adolescent, I always found it easier to be friends with women. They were not so flummoxed by my disinterest in sports. There were a lot of guys my age who simply don’t know how to react to that information. I did theater in high school, and there were a lot more girls in that program than guys. And I just felt more comfortable around girls. I didn’t feel like I was competing or not measuring up.
I did have one or two close friends in high school who were guys. And as I moved into college, I suddenly found my people. There were guys who thought and acted like me and had the same interests as mine. Not liking sports stopped being such a big deal. I moved out of the house and had room mates who didn’t care about sports at all! In fact, my roommates and I began to host a weekly “Buffy Night” where we would watch that week’s episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Kids, this was in the days before DVRs when you actually had to watch a show when it was on live.Yes. We were pioneers.) These people were like me! they cared more about whether Buffy was going to find out that Riley was a secret government agent than if Sporty McSportsdude caught the winning ball or some sort in some-sport-or-another sporting event against the team that we HATE for inexplicable reasons.
As I have gotten older all my friendships (but particularly those with other men) have taken on heightened importance in my life. I look to their examples as parents and leaders in the church. I ask their advice about career choices. We commiserate about the struggle of being a loving and a patient father. But mostly we laugh and tell funny stories about our kids and reminisce about when we were more awesome and had more hair. I have wonderful friends who have known me for years. Most of our friendships started in college or before, so we really understand each other, we support one another, and when our busy schedules allow us to do so, we have a great time together, with no pressure and no expectation. It feels like no time has passed, even though sometimes it has been months or even years between visits.
I am lucky to have the friends that I have. I don’t quite know where or how I could make new male friends. The transition from someone you chat with between church meetings to someone you call a close friend is a tough one. I know men at church who inspire me and that teach me great truths about the gospel. I know men who make me laugh and who teach me things about being a father. But I have only ever met one who is comfortable gifting me a set of black silk pajamas. That kind of friendship is rare.