Hi, I wasn't sure which forum category this should be in. I've been thinking about a couple guys I used to be friends with and the intense anger I realized they held. Trigger warning for eating issues, body image, hypermasculinity, and violent thoughts.
For a long time I was friends with a guy I'll call Gill. Now, for a while Gill has struggled with issues that quite potently include dissatisfaction with with his body image. He's been dieting for a long time so he can stay fit. When he told me about his new lifestyle, I thought it was cool, admirable, and a good way for him to feel more confident. But as the years passed I think it took a toll on him. He'd refuse to eat for almost the entire day. He didn't even want to drink water. He had a fixation on being manly, thin, and muscular. Gill is a good listener and had always supported my issues, but when it came time for me to return the favor, I dropped the ball. Hard. In fact, the last time we hung out, I was terrible. Me me me, I I I. Ugh. I was totally self-absorbed and oblivious to his problems. Not surprisingly, Gill broke off the friendship soon after. He displayed quite a bit of anger towards me, which is understandable, but some of it turned it into rage. It turned out he hadn't enjoyed hanging out with me for years, but didn't explain why. If I knew, I would have tried to fix things or let him go. I still regret not being there for him, but I'm also trying not to blame myself entirely for what went wrong.
The thing is, Gill didn't display his anger to me very often. Gill told me many times in our friendship that he had a tremendous hatred for the world, with me among the few people he didn't hate. I never believed him; he wasn't social, but he had always been nice to me. Going back through our friendship I realize how lost and angry he really is. He's not totally gone, but he does seem to be going down a dark path. I wish I'd communicated with him better so that possibly I could have helped him with the problems he sought my help for (You hear it a lot, but it's true: communication is key). Part of the problem is that I never learned how to talk to a guy about serious topics. I guess I'm still working through guilt along with the turnout that Gill hid a lot from me. I can only hope he has solid friendships with men and women who can help him get on track. Otherwise...well, he does seem to mean it when he says he hates the world.
Now about another guy I befriended. "Ray" crept out a lot of our classmates. It seemed the rare times he smiled tended to be on the topic of destruction, evil, or massive waste. Even hearing about a real person who died could get him to smile wide. Granted, we were in high school, and everyone's mind is full of quagmire then. What gets me now was the intensity
of Ray's obsession with violence. He only talked to me because I entered that school in Gothic fashion. It was like he was always struggling with a tremendous anger that he desperately tried to control. It seemed life to him was school, work, and dark stuff. He was very quiet and serious, in a way occasionally tinged with danger. Even I sometimes got tired of it, and back then I thought he was fine.
Ray felt a lot of pressure to Be a Man. What I once read as stoic, hardworking, quiet, and loyal now feels like the most demanding parts of masculinity twisted into a burden he had to bear. He actually reminds me of the "loner" characters in a high fantasy novel. Brooding, mysterious, dangerous, solitary, devoted to few. That kind of thing. I don't have a problem with violence in fiction or fascination with violence. God knows I can be morbid. I DO think there's something going on with people who can't get away from all the darkness. As we grew older, Ray still felt pressure to be super manly and reliable. He remained obsessed with proving himself in control. He wanted bigger, stronger, scarier, more vicious, more dominating. We stopped hanging out long ago. I don't know what ever happened of Ray, but I also hope he's getting the help he needs.
So now I'm rounding back to what I think Gill and Ray have in common: the pressure from hypermasculinity to be "real men". Gill felt more comfortable talking about his anger and hatred after drinking. Ray was an exaggeration of everything society expected of men. The pressure for men to be the manliest they can be (according to society) just makes them feel insecure when they CAN'T be the man that's impossible to achieve. It's such a dangerous, unstable way to measure yourself. I know I can't help every man see that he doesn't have to look like the guy on American Hunter
, but I do wish people would see how societal issues affect guys.
I'm not sure what my purpose in posting this is. Maybe to get it all out? I'd appreciate your insight on these friendships and the highlighted topics therein. I'm also considering a thread about experiences with men who turned into misogynists. However, I'm not sure whether that would be a rule violation or what forum to post it to, if not.