“As soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground before Jonathan. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more. ” 1st Samuel 20:41
High-five. Nod. Fist bump. A quick side hug. A slap on the back. Maybe a slap on the ass if during an athletic event.
We are supposed to be strong, independent, isolated, and unemotional. Wanting affection, showing affection is viewed as weakness at best and as feminine at worst. (The sexism and mysoginy of this is obvious.) It’s definitely connected to a fear of being viewed as gay, but in no way are gay men immune to this societally enforced deadening of our affection.
For whatever measure of acceptance our “toughness” gains us, we lose so much more. We substitute sexual activity for affection and intimacy. Our relationships, romantic partners, and dating behaviors all reflect our disconnect with affection. We withhold affection, passion, hurt, anger, and a world of other emotions from those we love, pretending that we are a stoic fortress of strength. The people in our lives really miss out. Especially the men and boys in our lives. They miss out on getting to know and experience who we really are. And then our “toughness” disorder gets spread to other families and other generations.
It’s time to set ourselves free of the fear of affection. Maybe that isn’t what toughness is after all.
Maybe true toughness is the courage to be authentic. To laugh when we are happy and to cry when we are sad. To fiercely embrace our friends, our fathers, our brothers, and our sons. To walk arm in arm, hand in hand with those our soul has drawn close to us.
Maybe it’s tough to say we love when we love. Maybe it’s tough to say we are lonely when we are lonely. Maybe it’s tough to ask for more affection from those around us, especially the men.
And, just maybe, it’s tough to jump in the arms of our swimming buddy when we’ve won a race at the Olympics.