The fragility of men

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Among my many divorced friends, all in various states of happiness about that, only one busted loose and got married again. And it was a guy.

Some of us were surprised — he'd only been divorced a year! — but not his former wife. "He never could be alone," she said.

I guess we all know people like that, but most people view that as a gal thing. I didn't realize that it's that way for so many men, too.

Many experts and studies say men, who often don't have the social networks that women do, suffer more post-divorce. So many look to find a woman as soon as possible, like the newly remarried (to former model Carla Bruni, no less!) Nicolas Sarkozy.

The French president gets a once-over in an "impressionistic sketch" by Yasmina Reza, the famed French playwright whose novel, "L'Aube le Soir ou la Nuit" ("Dusk, Dawn or Night"), has just been translated and published here. But I had to pause when I read an interview with her in the International Herald Tribune:

In her plays Reza often dwells on the fragility of men, their insecurities, their need for affection; in the book she sees Sarkozy as close to the characters she creates onstage. "He’s the kind of man who is incapable of being alone,” she said. “I don’t think he can spend a night alone, an evening alone. There may be passing affairs, but he needs someone real. So quickly someone serious entered his life."

Men's friendships, she says, are "terribly rigid."

I'm not so sure women often are aware of — and thus, hold tenderly —men's fragilities, how they have to navigate a world that wants and expects them to be manly (whatever the heck that is, but we probably know in our own heads what it looks like) and yet be sensitive at the same time.

I can see it in The Kid sometimes, how easily he can get hurt and yet keeps it to himself. The days of crying for him seem to be over — not by anything I say, but by a world that tells him to "suck it up" and "be a man," by a world that allows boys few emotions beyond anger.

I want to tell him — show that fragility. Let someone see that that's a part of you, and let that part of you be embraced.

Yet I, too, have often sometimes misread a man's fragility, not understanding that his aloofness or sharp words had more to do with hurt feelings than with anger.

But maybe people don't want to see men that way. Certainly not other men, according to "Agnostic" in the blog Gene Expressions, who writes in "Emotional fragility as a sexually selected trait": In males, the attractiveness of fragility is conditional. If he can honestly signal manliness in dominating other males (however he does that), then emotional fragility around women may convince them that he's the best of both worlds. But if he lacks drive or ambition, then fragility will only make him appear needy and pathetic."

How have you experienced a man's fragility?

As a man, how are you able to express your "insecurities" and "need for affection"?

And if Carla Bruni wanted you, would you marry her in a hurry, too?

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