But before we begin, to the Anonymous reader who commented on the Viagra post (that last one) about the reaction of a patient to a religious symbol, a cross he wore to work, sorry I missed that! Just read it and replied in the comments section.
|Tom Hanks, Geena Davis in A League of Their Own|
But what really had me assuming I understood men was my belief that as your everyday, nonthreatening, female therapist, males of all ages, not merely canine males, but humans, have shown me their soft side, the vulnerable side. It is exactly like ours, the female soft side, but men are a little more embarrassed to show it.
My hypothesis, and many would agree, is that if we look at men and male bonding, communing within the male biological sex, we will probably find: Men bond best when bonding over . . .
Not only baseball, of course, but whatever sport is seasonal. Hockey, football, basketball, soccer, golf. Any sport will do, either to play or spectator or speculate about. Any sport is safe for males to discuss together, mull over, grieve, gamble, theorize, philosophize, or celebrate.
Not that some men don't bond this way, even lunch, too. Some of us are finding in our practices that male patients do talk about their troubles with other men, not just their therapists. But my hypothesis is that 80-90% are more likely to bond at the water cooler at the office about a catch, a throw, a kick or a putt.
And brothers will call each other or text about sports, whereas they will not do that about anything else, and the conversation will go something like this: Did you see that tackle! Do you believe that! I know! End of conversation. Hang up.
Not that this is bad! Being fanatical about sports beats getting all excited over drag racing or bullying or dog-fighting. Nevertheless, for years, mea culpa, I mistakenly believed female bonding to be deeper, more intimate, better. Superior. Because it strengthens our understanding of one another, ties relationship knots tighter. Emotional intimacy trumped recreational intimacy! Or so I thought. Not that recreational intimacy isn't wonderful, it surely is. Indeed, in relationship therapy we shoot to increase every type of intimacy.
But that’s not the point here. The point is that for most of my professional life, and that's a lot of years, and certainly for years prior to that, I held a bias about men and sports, considered the entire phenomenon, being glued to the screen especially, bizarre. So much emotion, so much money, so much time and effort on a game. And most of the time those invested aren't even playing the game, they are merely admiring amazing athleticism. But doesn't it get old? Apparently not, no more so than Dancing with the Stars or the Olympics gets old.
Women like me watch a game every once in a while, suffer through every Cubs season, whether we truly follow or not, as do most die-hard northside Chicago Cubs fans. (This is our year, by the way). Maybe that's why some of us can't relate to bonding over sports. Cub fans generally just sigh, won't talk about the game. Not that sighing together isn't intimate.
That said, relating to sports obsessions is still hard for me, the idea that men connect socially primarily over sports. My usual empathy goes AWOL on this topic, or it did until I finally saw A League of Their Own.
Warning, SPOILERS coming right up, if you haven't seen it.
The film is a decidedly women's film, full of relationship pathos, so women love it. But because women play amazing baseball, men love it, too. Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks at his best) manages a team in the AAGPBL All Girls Professional Baseball League, one of several to replace men's baseball during World War II. Soom after the men returned from battle, the AAGPBL died a natural death. The players went their separate ways.
Some thirty years later, a Hall of Fame is dedicated to the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. (The biographies have to be good reading). Jimmy Dugan's team meets at the opening. So happy to see one another after so many years, the bond of female friendship and admiration is palpable, the expression of affection and intimacy, heart-warming. These women know one another and feel free, because they are women, to merely let it go, express the happiness, the love. Playing together, working together, their lovers and fiance's overseas, they had something very special, a temporary group commune of sorts, with a common goal.
Maybe male athletes do it too, behave bonded, share the love at reunions. Maybe they even keep up with one another years after having retired their numbers, hanging their uniforms in plastic. Maybe they have lunch or go for drinks, reminisce about younger days.I'll have to watch more baseball movies to find out. All I know is that we see genuine emotional intimacy at its finest in this film, as the women who played ball in their young adulthood come together as almost seniors to celebrate their past trials and tribulations.
Perhaps this happens at your average high school reunion, too. That's the idea, isn't it? Such would be another example of how one type of intimacy, recreational or academic/work intimacy contributes to and enhances another, emotional intimacy.
The film brought me back to my years as a pre-teen, a child playing baseball at the park after school, and made me wish the games had never ended, that sports for girls hadn't somehow become uncool. The denouement, the ending, that reunion at the museum, simply capped the loss, the missed nostalgia. We could have had that, had we simply dropped the mystique of being female and Played Ball!
No, we took up tennis.
Thank G-d, it is finally warm enough to take out my mitt from that bottom drawer, grab a grandchild, see if he wants to play the oldest game ever. Catch.
Just one more observation with therapeutic import, maybe. We'll throw in that Jimmy Dugan is influenced by his female team members to give up the sauce.Most of the time I fall asleep watching TV. It's one way to wind down, for those of us who have trouble turning off our thoughts, our fears. Worries come naturally before bed. So if you are me, you watch movies on television in pajamas, on a small screen on a dresser only a foot away from the bed. It isn't all that comfortable. You have to crick your neck a bit to see, but in twenty minutes your eyelids droop, retinas burn. Before long you have lost the plot, are asleep no matter how good the film, the Modern Family or Madmen. An old Sopranos is better than Ambien.
But I stayed up for Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Megan Cavanagh, Rosie O'Donnell, Madonna and the rest of the team. Why?
Probably because No crying in baseball had me in tears, naturally.
Team manager Jimmy Dugan is a little rough on his right fielder (Evelyn Gardner, played by Bitty Schram), after Evelyn throws wild to home, when she should have thrown to the shortstop. Dugan screams at Evelyn at the top of his lungs, glares at her bug-eyed. He probably reeks of liquor. She cries. He's incredulous. You're crying? No crying in baseball! he shouts.
She cries even more, and from this incredible scene that exemplifies the most obvious difference between the sexes (and genders), we learn the now famous mantra: No crying in baseball! There is no crying in baseball!
Geena Davis, playing Dottie Hinson, the star of the league, Dugan's most talented player, chastises him, both about his delivery (Why don't you give her a break, Jimmy) and that he drinks too much. Smitten by the tall, wry, reserved, mysterious catcher, Dugan works on all of it.
And later in the film, Hanks has us in hysterics again. Tested once more by a terrible throw to what was supposed to be shortstop, as soon as the side is retired Dugan confronts his right fielder. But this time he desperately tries to control his anger. He literally stutters and shakes with rage, but holds it in. He's calm compared to the last time, even if he is physically trembling with emotion to contain his rage and what comes out of his mouth. He tells Evelyn to keep working on that throw to the infield.
That's all. Just the facts, assertive.
Brilliant, classic anger management, so brilliant that now I have to buy A League of Their Own (unless one of my kids wants to give it to me for Mother's Day), so that I can show it at the office, thus deducting whatever equipment is necessary to do that.