My friend, Aruna, is so upset. “He doesn’t want to talk to me anymore. He doesn’t want to be with me.” Her son is 15. And, just like that, he stops communicating.
Feels like a limb cut off.
“Did he talk a lot - I mean - before 15??” I want to know.
“Well,” she laughs, “maybe not - but he would be seen with me!! Spend time with me!!”
“It’s just 15,” I tell her. “He will come back.”
But, I wonder, do boys/men really talk? I grew up with three and live around four now. My survey says: No. Guys don’t talk.
I remember when the kids were 15, I had to find keys to open them up. Music or sports. Looking in the the same direction and having no eye contact was always a plus. Car rides or walking dogs optimal.
I remember taking each of my guys on their driver’s permit hours. Once, Shane and I were at a four way stop and he looked straight ahead, then took off.
“Shane! You gotta look BOTH ways!”
“I used peripheral vision, Mom. Our teacher said to drive with it.”
“Well!” I said. “He didn’t mean at a four way stop!”
“He said ‘always’.” Shane shot back with the tone -you idiot- underlying every word.
This is the thing about boys/men - they don’t talk much but when they do - they use finality statements. End of discussion statements.
I just went silent. Gripped the side arm of the car door for the rest of the ride.
This is another thing about boys/men; silence does not bother them. It’s actually their Go To. Go silent in a car with girls and they will fill it up like an empty vase - shoving in as much color and variety as they can.
I took Dillon to the Lake Forest graveyard to practice driving. You could go round and round there and not see a soul.
“I wonder,” I said “why none of these graves have epithets on them? Just huge lettered names and dates.” I read them as we passed, a bit over the speed limit, Fields, Swift, Armour…..
“Why should they say anything?” Dillon said. Which is another boy/man thought.
When Rory was a freshman, he lost a friend to suicide. Our hearts were broken and I feared for Rory - how he would handle this loss. This unimaginable.
Rory barely speaks. And this seems to be a good Man Thing. We name men like this as if with a badge of honor:
-He is a Man of Few Words.
-When He Speaks - We Listen (alluding to the fact that it is rare - and therefore profound - when he speaks). Or
-the Strong, Silent Type.
When my kids were fifteen and I asked how they were feeling about something that obviously bothered them; there were two replies: I’m ok! Or; I don’t know. These phrases are Man Code for: I have absolutely no idea how to put into words how I feel. Leave me alone.
Rory was a consummate I’m OK! guy.
My soul sister, Jill, had a girl Rory’s age and she called the day we lost Rory’s friend. She said to send Rory over, that there were about six girls at her house all talking about it. I sent Rory over and I doubt he said a word. But he was with those girls and that made me feel better.
I tell Aruna to befriend a girl mom. To get a dog. To Drive, drive, drive. I tell her that boys will try to knock down a brick wall all by themselves. Where girls will call friends. So call his friends over even if he says “I don’t know” when you ask if he wants buddies over.
I say, you will get that limb back, and when you do - you will feel like the Bionic Woman.
Having a dog IN the car is even MORE optimal for spurring on conversation!!