by steven ing



t is a violation of zoo protocols around the civilized world to put a monkey in a cage. Why? Because monkeys are social animals and having just one in a cage, even a really nice cage called a habitat, is cruel. It is cruelty at the genetic level because the monkey cannot decide one day to say, “Screw the

other monkeys, I want to be my own monkey for a change.” What’s super weird is that we humans, apes that we are, do this to ourselves all the time. When we isolate like this, we become cruel to our own nature, that is, our social nature. Over the years of working with men, I have found that virtually all of the men

who come to my office have no friends. Oh, they sometimes say, “Sure, I have lots of friends.” But, what they mean when they say this is usually that they have people in their lives with whom they work and that they sometimes go out with them, or have one another over to barbecue. But usually, when the job ends or someone is let go, the friendship disappears. This is not friendship. Some men go out for drinks, and their drinking buddies are their friends. They

think. But when there’s no drinking or the drugs are gone, these friends often disappear as well. This is not friendship. Once married, gay and straight men sometimes disappear into matrimony. Their old friends from before? They often don’t have much in common anymore so the friendship ends shortly after the marriage begins. The problem with isolated, lonely monkeys, or men for that matter, is that

they become emotionally unbalanced, increasingly needy and insufferably socially awkward. Their isolation hurts their marriages because, although their spouse might be great ... as a spouse, no one individual can be an entire social support network. And that is what we need. The poet Walt Whitman taught us that we contain multitudes and like some (absolutely gorgeous) stars from old

Hollywood, we do best with a supporting cast of thousands. Well, maybe not thousands but more than just one person, right? Problem is, most people don’t know what friendship is. So here it is, you lonely monkey: The core essence of friendship is a platonic love free of the animal passions. Simple. But not easy. “No, no, he’s just a friend.” As a counselor I hear this all the time. What this usually means is that the person in question hasn’t been a sexual partner yet, or that they are a former partner. So, in this case, “platonic” means we’re not having sex right now. We need to know that our friends love us without them getting swept away

in the pesky animal passions of lust and romance. The level of caring is more altruistic, more ... detached. There’s less of that hungry look in the eye that makes them look like they’re waiting around for scraps to fall off the table of our lives. If you’re honest with yourself and you have a bit of an attraction for the other guy or you’re pretty sure that he has it bad for you, that’s not platonic friendship. Please. Be open to getting a straight friend, even a straight friend like me. I’ll

be happy for you when you get laid. I’ll be happy for you when you fall in love. I’ll be happy just to see you around or at our weekly lunch. But, I’ll also confront you when you’re caving into fear, when you’re acting like a wimp with your abusers, when you need to get off your ass and take care of your business and I’ll do it all without once wanting a single scrap, not even a single crumb to fall off of the table. I’ll do all this because we have a deep and, wait for it, platonic love for one another.

Steven Ing is a psychotherapist, author and TEDx presenter. As a sexuality expert, he teaches how we can manage our sexuality with reason and love.


RAGE monthly | December 2019

photo by nicholas santasier

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