explorations of mindful fatherhood

I Am Paul Rudd from I Love You Man


iloveyoumanOkay, I realize I’m about 4 years late on this post, because the movie I Love You Man was released in 2009, but I need to explore this again: I am Paul Rudd’s character from that movie.

I saw the movie when it first came out.  It’s about a man named Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) who proposes to his fiancee and finds himself without a best man.  He realizes that his wife is one of his only real friend.  So, when Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) and Peter strike up a conversation at an open house, Peter decides to pursue a friendship.  Sydney is a shoot-from-the-hip, hyper-relaxed guy who does and says what he likes, in stark contrast with Peter’s awkward, somewhat uptight exterior.  The two eventually form a friendship that threatens Peter’s wedding plans.

The most hilarious and uncomfortable scenes of this movie for me are when Peter is first trying to buddy up with Sydney.  Peter longs for a friendship, but has been so involved with his fiancee for years he doesn’t know/remember how to initiate relaxed conversations with another man.  An ongoing joke is that Sydney calls Peter “Pistol Pete” early on in their friendship, and Peter keeps trying to label his new friend with monikers such as “Jobin” or “City Slacker”, each time faltering and sounding awkward.  In this scene, Peter’s trying to be ultra-casual (or he might say “ultz-casz”) with Sidney:

My wife was roaming through channels the other day and stopped on the movie for a while to watch Peter and Sydney hanging out in Sydney’s garage, with Peter tripping over his words in a miserable attempt at appearing cool.  I thought, “Damn, they hit the nail on the head.  That is me.”

Much like Peter’s character, I have always been very invested in the women with whom I was involved.  They were the center of my world, which made break-ups a bitch.  But at least in high school, college, and even grad school, there was usually that group of friends so entwined with my everyday life that I never really lost ties with them.  School always made it easier to find and maintain friends.  But now, I’m in my late 30’s.  I’ve traveled so much for school and work with my wife, that we’ve lived in 3 states and 6 towns in the past 10 years.  With each passing year and each fleeting location, I become more and more inept at finding friends.

Sure, I have some college and grad school friends on facebook or folks who breeze through town every so often, but I don’t have any day-to-day friends.  Many dads are lucky to have lived in the place where they grew up, or at least where they’ve spent a solid chunk of time.  Or, they’re blessed with the social graces to forge new friendships.  Not me.  This may resonate with many dads, but I find that my current friends are family friends or my wife’s friend’s spouses.  This includes a cast of very good guys, but our interactions are always couched in family gatherings and not quite the same.

I don’t have a “grab a beer” sort of friend.  I don’t have a “Hey, let’s go see that shitty sci-fi/action movie that my wife won’t see with me” sort of friend.  I’ve tried.  I’ve hung out with people from work, with my wife’s friend’s husbands, but nothing works.  I inevitably feel like Paul Rudd’s character.  I’m so rusty at male-friendship banter that I think I sound stupid.  I try hard to buddy-up, to get into a rhythm of conversation, but it never flows.  I think that, like Peter in the movie, I’m so rusty that I get nervous, fumble over my words, and then retreat.  I feel stupid.

So now I feel socially-inept and lonely.  Don’t get me wrong, my wife is the most important friend I have on this Earth, and wouldn’t  trade that for anything, but I don’t have any trusted friends outside of my marriage.  And this is the thing that concerns me as I get older: how will my son perceive this?  When I was growing up, my dad had zero friends.  The closest he got was his hunting buddy, my friends’ dad from across the street.  However, their relationship waxed and waned with the hunting season.  They’d ignore each other all spring and summer, and then re-connect in late summer to organize their hunting permits.  We’d all get together a few times in the fall and winter, and then they’d go back to their summer hiatus.  It was a very functional relationship, and I think my dad’s own inabilities to form true friendships really set a poor example for me.

Now, I’m afraid of what my son might see in me.  Luckily, we have family friends who we host for dinner or go over to their houses.  Also, my son sees me out in the community when I volunteer for a local kids’ group that he’s a part of.  So, he sees me engaged and social, for now.  But as time goes by, just like I was able to assess with my own dad, he’s going to notice that dad doesn’t have real friends.  My social limitations are one of my biggest embarrassments, and I’d hate for my son to see them.  I’d hate for him to have a poor model for male friendship, and feel just as inept as I do one day.

I need to keep trying, for both me and my son.  But as a man in his 30’s, it’s hard to know how.  There are very few people I come into contact with outside of work.  Even if I were in contact with new people, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.  Perhaps one day I’ll suffer through those awkward stages of a friendship and, just like Pistol Pete, get a nickname-worthy friend.

Author: CJ Nigh

I am an East Coast writer with a Midwestern soul. Undead Dad is a blog about mindful fatherhood in the deadening age of hyper-technology and over-work. I also write science fiction for young adults.

37 thoughts on “I Am Paul Rudd from I Love You Man

  1. Know the feeling. Wait til you get into your 40s.

  2. You make me want to see this movie. I love your writing style!

  3. Very similar here. I am 40 and fond of saying that I don’t have any friends. I’m not in touch with high school or college friends any more (no Facebook either). I feel very close to the group of people that I practice with at the Zen Temple, but I wouldn’t ask any of them out to a movie…I’m not even in touch with my best man any more, and he was a very, very good friend at one point.

    And you know what? I am okay with it. Between my wife, my kids, my work, my religious practice, and trying to write…that’s all there is. Maybe I’ll wake up one day and realize I missed something, but it all feels fine for now.

    Thanks for writing this – its given me something to think about this Sunday morning.

    • Buddokuseki, thanks so much for the reply. There is certainly a “striving” for friendship that I’m uncomfortable with, because it distracts me from those in my life, in front of me right now. Thanks for the comments, as always!

  4. Thank you for writing this. I’ve always been in wonder how my dad never has anyone come over at the house or go anywhere. Like you, my mom is his only confidant.
    And I used to, and still do, get mad at him a lot for not having a social circle. It bothered me how he can just stay home doing nothing but tv on weekends and slave away at work for the rest of the week.
    Reading your post gave me a chance to see his outlook. I had never considered the troubles 40+ man would faces. It’s great that you are trying to set a better example for your son! More than that, I hope you show him this post. I wish my dad had written something like this for me – it would certainly save the nuances of resentment on both our parts.

    • Thanks Mac Leinn. Yes, my dad, now in his 70s, has a very fruitless life. I think depression has set in, since his day-to-day existence is so solitary. I think in many ways I’m afraid of heading down that road.

  5. This is not just a guy thing. Most of the people I know that I would consider my friends are virtual friends. I can’t go to a movie with them but I can connect. It’s not all that bad…my husband was once a virtual friend. 🙂 We both relocated, away from the towns we grew up in and the friends that we felt comfortable enough to visit are too far away…and have become virtual.

    My opinion is that it is less important for your son to see you with “friends” than it is for him to experience the love and connection that you have for him and his mom. Be involved in his life and continue to do what you are doing. My dad was very social, we had dinner parties, etc. but these really were more a acquaintances than friends. I never put that together until I was in my forties. Share your connections with other people…he’ll get it. Besides, more people are connecting virtually, you won’t stand out as inept or inadequate.

    • Mrs. P, Yes! That’s very true. Similar to my comment to bussokuseki, I do have to focus on the love and friendship I have right in front of me in my own family. That’s the best gift/connection of all.

  6. It’s so refreshing to find a blog written by a Dad, in a sea of mommy-bloggers (I am one).

    Your parenthood posts are so interesting and enlightening as well. So glad I stumbled upon your blog. All the best – D.

  7. Moms too. I totally relate. It’s hard to forge friendships with other moms in my 3rd grader’s class. I work full time and most of the otheroms dont. I’ve tried, but come off ridiculously awkward and short of measuring up. Which is bad, because although they love my 3rd grader, he never gets invited over for play dates. It’s affecting his social acceptance and he feels lonely and left out.

    It’s a tough problem.

    • Yes, compound that with the fact that some of my best friends growing up were women! It’s not like I can saddle up to some mom at my son’s school and ask her to hang out. It’s all so tricky!

  8. My husband does not have a friend to hang out with. Brad and have been married for 37 1/2 years and our family and his work are his biggest interest. Now, he does have some friends formed within specific interests, such as his “caving-buddies” but they just get together when they are caving.

    He has friends based on an interest rather than just a “hang-out” buddy. I think that is perfectly normal and probably quite common. Between a man’s wife, children, home, work, etc., he doesn’t necessarily need the pressure of an added friendship to maintain. Maintaining a true friendship takes time, which is what many married men are short on.

    I think men’s friendships are more “interest” specific, like playing poker, softball league, caving, etc. You can always go grab a beer after the adventure together and then you all have something to talk about, without sounding stupid, because of your common interest. Your son will understand that!

    • True, at least some “hang-out”, “interest” buddies would be a start. I just find that once that interest/ability for that dies out, so do the friends. In the past, I was able to devote the time to cultivating friendship, but don’t have it anymore, with is sad. I hope that maybe I can start with some interest buddies, and find some true, deep friendships along the way.

  9. I feel the same way… I teach middle school and it is a female dominated world – I am one of two men at seventh grade of fifteen teachers and a minority in the school district where 80% of the teachers are women.. it is so much easier to talk with my co-teacher (a woman) than it is to reach out and bond with the PE teachers… but we do play fantasy football and that’s a hoot. As a guy in his early 50s I am following the same path, but I don’t think we’re alone we just think about it. Today, I’m solo dad, mom’s at home – working and I’m at a ski lodge holding down the fort and checking up on blogs while the kids ski and I should be grading papers. Thanks for being honest and sharing. hope you have a great day – make it count!

    • Clay, love your response! I too work in a women-dominated profession, which makes it even harder Plus, I’m a supervisor/manager, which further cuts down my ability to make friends at work. Thanks for sharing your experience too,and thanks for reading!

  10. Wow. Completely could have been written by me.

  11. I’ve never seen the movie, but I am a fan of Paul Rudd. My dad is over 60 and doesn’t have many friends. It was the same before my mum passed away 10 years ago. He’s always been very independent and also more of a loner. Even with one long time close friend, he usually spends his weekends at home. I also think though, he’s used to being alone.

    • Same with my dad, although divorced and in his 70s, he spends weekends alone. I just don’t think he really knows how to be around people. I just can’t imagine it for myself, and it makes me sad.

  12. another nice post. It doesn’t get easier as responsibilities and age set in. My husband and I are transplants (him from France and me from another state, and we moved around a lot before settling where we are) to a small new england town where a *really* surprising number of people have lived her a *really* long time. So we’ve managed to make a few friendly acquaintances with other folks that are transplants – through the kids. It’s hard work to make and keep those local friends, and any upset in the kids friendship of course puts those ties on the rocks. or squashes them altogether. If I may, I would won’t worry so much about what your kids will think about how many guy friends you have. They’ll remember your time with them, not measure your time with other people.

    • Thanks for the post! We too find it difficult to make friends in New England, among so many born-and-bred townies surrounding us. Some towns are more welcoming than others, but the geography doesn’t help my situation.

  13. You’ve struck a chord with many of us – and so engagingly written, too. I’m a few years further along the parenthood path and have a prediction: you will begin to make close friendships with men who are fathers of your son’s friends. It will, however, become clear quickly that those boys aren’t going to be your son’s enduring friends!

    I can’t resist being opportunistic. You write about social awkwardness. I wonder how much stems from the way boys communicate. Listening to my older son (11) and his friends, I hear a oneupmanship contest, which is how I remember so-called conversation. I’ve blogged about it here: http://wp.me/p2OBe6-16

    Look forward to reading more about a very mindful Dad.

    • I certainly hope so. But there have been some bummers among that crowd over the past few years. I’ll keep trying though. Will definitely try out your blog! Thanks for the comments chrisps!

  14. in terms of social relationships, whenever you become worried or let a tension build-up things become even harder. i think you should know that the way your living your life might be the right way of living for you and your family. maybe the strong bond between you and your wife is what your children see and makes them into good partners in their future life.

  15. This is something that my husband can totally relate to, as I’m sure many others do, too. I’ve shared this with him, and he absolutely agrees that modeling healthy friendships for our son is critical. Thanks for saying this “out loud.”

  16. You are certainly not alone, and it isn’t just men who find themselves in this spot. I think it’s hard to get around the idea that you’re going to have to “date” potential friends- ask someone out, spend time, see how it goes, make a real concerted effort. But it’s worth it. It’s good for you and for your relationship with your wife to have friends. Go get your awkward on!

    • Thanks sometimesisleep. I was never good at romantic dating, so friendship dating is almost worse! At least with romantic dating, the goal of relationship is fairly well-defined. With platonic friendship, the dating has been certainly awkward, but I’ll keep trying! Thanks for the comments and for checking out the blog!

  17. Wonderful post. Love the movie. “Laters on the menjay”.

    I’m struggling within my own circle of friends as we grow apart; looking for new people to spend time with. It takes time and sacrificing an evening here and there to see if you’re compatible with someone else. But, it will happen for you, boss. I’m sure.

    Your son will have the example he needs in no time. Just stay true to yourself in these social situations and it’ll fall into place.

    Best of luck!

    • Thanks DIHMK! Yes, I’ve had many friendship circles that have split as kids enter the picture, and I’m actually reconnecting with a few now, which is nice to see that these friendships can ebb and flow just like anything else. Thanks for the comments!

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