Ask the Experts

Bonding with the Bros

I’m a guy, but I’m not a “guy’s guy.” I’m more interested in novels than in action movies, I like the theater better than I like sports, and I drink more red wine than beer. That’s never really been a problem for me, because I just steer clear of the “bros” and make friends that share my interests. But I’ve started dating a girl pretty seriously, and that means I need to get along with her family–and her family is full of bros!

These are some serious bros, too. They love fantasy football, but don’t play other types of games–they have no interest in board games or card games, and they only play sports video games. One of her cousins told me he’s “not into art”–as if there weren’t a ton of different types of art to try. They love working on cars and driving cars and talking about cars. Short of becoming a huge fan of cars and sports, what can I do to make my relationship with these guys as good as possible?

Not everyone can share the same interests, but it’s important to try to get along with the family members of the ones we love. It’s good that you recognize this and are willing to make an effort. Of course, you like what you like, and it’s no fun to feel attacked for your unique interests.

With that said, nothing in your letter says you have been attacked for your interests. In fact, it seems as if you may be judging your girlfriend’s “bro” family more harshly than they’ve been judging you. You complain that they dismiss art out of hand, but you do the same with sports, cars, and other broad areas of interest. Just as art includes everything from graphic novels to abstract impressionism, so sports includes a huge range of wildly different interests, from floor routines in gymnastics to motor sports. Are you being as open-minded about the diversity of things to examine in sports as you wish they were about the diversity of possible interests within art or music?

It’s not just bros that like fantasy sports, by the way. The pros at Fantasy Champs, who deal in fantasy football trophies and other fantasy-related merchandise, say their customers come from all walks of life. From die-hard super-fans to casual members of office leagues, fantasy football fans come in all shapes and sizes. More than a third (34 percent) of them are women, despite your presumption of “bro”-ness. Perhaps you, too, would enjoy joining a casual league. It’s one thing if your girlfriend’s family members want only highly dedicated and knowledgeable fans in their fantasy league. But are you sure they wouldn’t have room for a casual player?

Similarly, cars are not a strictly male interest, either. The auto experts at Wheel Area say their Jeep Guide is popular among men and women alike. A quick Google search proves that women have a Jeep subculture all their own, and there are plenty of female fans of other types of cars, too. Women who love cars and sports have made NASCAR’s audience 37 percent female.

You don’t have to become a fan of anything you see as traditionally “male” just because you are a man, but you also should not write off those interests–not the least because doing so ignores the many passionate female fans that are interested in these things. Speaking of which: are you sure that your girlfriend doesn’t share some of these “bro” interests you disdain? Perhaps you should check.

It’s absolutely possible for you to be friends with your girlfriend’s family. To pull it off, though, you and they will need to have a mutual respect and an understanding of each other’s passions. Right now, it’s not clear that you are holding up your end of the bargain.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.” — Isaac Asimov

Martin J. Young is a former correspondent of Asia Times.