GENDER TALK: Why are men friendships so hard to maintain?

Sunday November 10 2019


By Mariga Thoithi

“I love him, no I am not a homo. And he is straight,” says a straight man talking about his other straight male friend.

It’s a bit ridiculous, isn’t? Why should a statement on love be followed by a disclaimer that it holds no romantic inclinations? I remember feeling the need to put a disclaimer when complimenting another guy so that it doesn’t get weird but it seemed silly when I thought about it.

A friend asked me a few months ago who my boys were and I couldn’t give a straight answer because I didn’t have any. I did have the occasional friend but I’m terrible at keeping friendships, particularly with men. We meet when we meet and it just flows like the old days.

There’s no need to call each other up every other week to find out how the other is doing. Seeing them online or on social media is enough to know that they’re alive. That’s good enough, right?

Am I alone though? I went online in search of answers and I was surprised that I am one of the many citizens who do not have many solid male relationships.

Relationships aren’t supposed to be standard or equal, but one has to put on the basics of communication and vulnerability for it to work and many men just don’t have the time for it. I remember the fire that lit the internet a few months back when the mighty Bob Collymore passed away.


Bob and his cohort of one-percenters had created our perfect image of what a boy’s club ought to look like, more specifically the aspirational boys club.

They’re the kind of men I wanted me and my friends to be. The kind that flies from the different countries that they are in to attend my funeral. The kind who inspire each other to fly planes.

Money even changes the language used to refer to you. Strip away the money, fame, and power and the principle remains. Every man needs bromance with a group of men that you can have conversations about life with. No bragging, no begging, just talk among men as equals on life and its tragicomedy. But it isn’t that easy, is it?

No amount of good intentions can suddenly change the fact that we meet every other week for drinks and still fail to decipher our friends.

You don’t know that a ‘brother’s’ mother is suffering through late-stage Parkinson’s and that’s why he has changed. Or that he has been rethinking his whole career and life and wondering what he’s doing. Or that he misses his ex-wife and it keeps him up some nights. An aunt of mine, a lecturer, asked students in her class to list five people they would call when shit hit the fan.


Apart from the outlier who listed Jesus, many of the young men were unable to put more than one name — the one name being their mothers’.

These are men who spend every day together between classes and hang out as 10 pals in a 10 by 4 feet hostel room. What would happen when they weren’t in proximity as they are at this particular time? What would happen when they had jobs with less time and more responsibilities?

Maybe they’d end up like the rest of us who describe two particular moments of friendship with nostalgia — high school and university. The friendship bonds seem to get hazy right after that and seem to get better the closer you get to the grave.

It doesn’t have to reach that far but the fear of death certainly does work like a great bonding gel as ominous as it may sound. It explains our grandfathers and their sudden close friendships later on in their lives.

Dear gentlemen, how are your relationships with each other?