My father was a deer hunter, although now that I think about it, I don’t recall him bringing home much venison.
What I do recall is his excitement about heading up to a couple old trailers parked in the woods near Minong, Wisconsin with six of his buddies. The trailers had bare bulbs in the ceiling, no running water and a kerosene stove for heat. Behind the trailers was the one-hole outhouse. Ah, life didn’t get much better than that; it was male bonding at its best.
Dad still sees a couple of the guys he used to hunt with; in fact he has breakfast with them every Monday at the Downing Cafe. Watching them gossip and needle each other is like turning back the hands of time. These men are clearly comfortable with each other. They’ve been in each other’s lives through the birth of children and the death of spouses.
Geoffrey Greif, a professor at the University of Maryland School for Social Work wrote a book called Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships. He describes the pals men choose as “just”, “must”, “trust” and “rust”.
“Just” friends are people who live together in the dorm, work together, or maybe they’re someone from the community. They are acquaintances. They are someone to hang out with if you’re free but most likely you will not make plans to see them in advance. “Just” friends are the lowest level of friendship.
“Must” is the highest level of friendship; these are the people to call if there is a crisis or if you hit the lottery.
Dad and his cronies are “rust” friends. A “rust” friend is the strongest level of friendship and stands the test of time. According to Greif, “even if “rust” friends don’t see each other for decades, they’ll pick up again like kids.”
The point to this week’s blog is this: our “rust” friends are an important part of who we are. They bring balance to our lives and remind us where we came from. They’ve shared our ups and downs and are the ones we turn to in time of need. If you’re lucky enough to have a “rust” friend, call him – touch base and catch up. “Rust” friends, despite their name are gold.
Note: Men’s and women’s friendships are different. Men socialize by competing in structured activities like sports and paychecks; women compete in less structured ways – appearance, demeanor and warmth (although that is changing somewhat with more women in the workplace). 80% of men interviewed for Greif’s book said they participated in sports with friends; no women gave that answer, although a few said they exercise with friends. Shopping was a more common activity for women – only one man out of the 386 interviewed said he shopped with his friends. Surprised?
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“Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.”
~ Oscar Wilde