I was in Soho the other day with my friend and her son who is about a year old. Unprepared for a sudden torrent of rain, we ducked under the awning of a bakery to wait out the weather. Next to us was a little boy, maybe six or seven years old, and his grandmother who had the same idea.
The little boy peered curiously over my friend’s stroller, and found her son. He introduced himself as Mikey. Without a whit of hesitation Mikey reached over and held the toddler’s hand. The two grinned at each other and the little one started blowing kisses at Mikey.
I nearly fell over in shock.
I mean here are two little boys– complete strangers– happily hold hands, laughing and blowing kisses. Hello? Is anyone paying attention? Can you think of anything more sweet and innocent? What a vision of complete trust.
Now take a moment to stop and think about the last time you saw two straight adult men behaving in the same way.
Yeah. Exactly. Never.
When does this stop being acceptable? Men need affection too. And they need it from other men, where there’s no hint, no possibility of a sexual distraction. If the need exists in the child, it exists in the adult. We don’t outgrow the need for love anymore than we outgrow the need for food or water.
But of course we know how and why this ends: fear.
The boy’s grandmother immediately reacted. “Mikey, no, don’t touch him! He might not like that!”
And who can blame her? How many people would allow strangers to touch them or their children? We’re afraid of offending one or hurting one another. Ironically this fear leaves us isolated, which creates the worst pain of all.
“Oh it’s alright! He’s fine,” My friend replied. She intervened only to show her son how to be gentle as opposed to ripping Mikey’s face off with his eager grabbers. Smart lady. That’s the kind of guidance we could all use. Because the little one did try to do exactly that in an overflow of gusto. Mikey flinched back for a second, but in the wonderful spirit of trust that was not yet beaten out of him, Mikey was undeterred.
For ten minutes of an unexpected downpour these little boys just delighted in each other’s company. And one of them doesn’t even know how to speak yet. Let me tell you: it was WAY cool.