Yesterday after lunch I met a friend at a nearby cigar bar. Every so often I crave a cigar and a couple of beers, and fortunately my buddy felt the same way. He suggested a little cigar bar nestled in a strip mall that had somehow eluded me for years.

We walked in around 1pm. The place was small and well-appointed, dimly-lit but friendly. Near the front window six older Men were sitting haphazardly around a large oval table, clearly regulars who knew each other well. One of them had an expensive bottle of whiskey and he was sharing it with the others. They chatted and laughed, barely paying any attention to the football games playing on the multiple televisions around them. Every so often another older Man would enter and join them, while another might leave. Everything was very casual.

My friend and I sat in a row of comfortable chairs with our beers (I was drinking Blue Moon and Guinness Blonde) and enjoyed three hours of laughs while puffing on fat cigars. Finally my friend had to meet up with his wife, so we reluctantly called it an afternoon.

But something struck me about yesterday’s adventure that seems relevant to this blog. I started thinking about how Men need masculinity. There is something comforting to a Man to be around other Men, so much so that Men seek refuge in places like that cigar bar in order to savor masculinity in themselves and each other.

From boyhood on, Men seek spaces for “Boys Only.” Into adulthood Men carve out social and physical spaces for themselves and their Male counterparts, whether it be a cigar bar or sports or fishing trips or any other activity that Men prefer to do with other Men. It has nothing to do with homosexuality or a physical attraction to other Men. Men simply feel relaxed and understood in spaces with other Men, and away from the distractions women bring.

But I think Men seek this association out for more than camaraderie or brotherly affection. Men need the association with other Men to challenge themselves. There is a terrific quote in the Bible: “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” Much more than women, Men feel intense needs to challenge themselves physically and mentally. Some of this is accomplished through associations with other Men, the interactions and jousting becoming part of their Male training.

We all know a guy who tends to stick by his wife all the time. He never goes out with the guys, and is always preoccupied with what his wife is doing and what she thinks about everything. That kind of guy is always weaker, sadder. Over time, he disintegrates into a bland, emotionless ball of goo. That’s the end result of Men who fail to respect the power of masculine relationships.

I realize that is quite a heavy bit of theorizing for an afternoon smoking cigars (and they weren’t the funny kind, either), but I was simply struck by the moment and how important it felt for all of the Men there sharing time together. Men desire connections with each other. Men challenge each other, push each other, and bring peace to each other by being a safe haven of secrets, laughter, and strength.

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