Group finds it's not easy to shed the 'macho' role

Tony Adamopoulos, Bernie Yadoff, and Jim Murphy think men should be able to talk to each other more. But they do not mean the traditional "night with the boys" talk.

"When they are out with the boys, men talk about the Celtics and the Bruins or the Steelers and the Pirates," says Mr. Yadoff. "They don't really communicate their feelings."

Mr. Yadoff and his friends would like to see men more openly supportive, affectionate, and caring for each other and for women.

The trio has formed the North Shore Men's Group in Peabody to offer men the opportunity to break barriers to communication. Similar groups have sprung up throughout the country, includng such cities as Washington and Portland, Ore.

The threesome recently gathered around the dining table in Mr. Adamopoulos's condominium. Mr. Adamopoulos, a lawyer, is feeding his infant daughter. (His wife is out at a meeting.) He, Mr. Yadoff, a psychologist and grandfather, and Mr. Murphy, a family counselor, talk as friends who know one another well, one sometimes clarifying what another says to make sure no one is misunderstood.

In their efforts to be liberated and non- sexist, they are cautious about their progress. Mr. Adamopoulos admits he has a way to go before he will consider himself truly free, and Mr. Murphy says on an "awareness" scale of one to ten, he would only rate a five.

At times the men might even be trying too hard. When one member tells this reporter she has pretty eyes, another stops the interview to make sure the remark isn't construed as sexist.

As the men talk, they choose their words carefully, sprinkling their sentences with trendy phrases. People are said to "plug in," "gain insight," "relate" to themselves and each other, and to become open and aware of feelings. Wives are called partners. Men who come to the meetings aren't uncomfortable, but they may "voice anxiety."

Those who come to the men's group meetings, which have been held in Peabody and at schools and institutions throughout New England, represent a wide cross section. They range in age from 18 to 70 and hold both blue-collar and professional jobs. While most of them are "straight," some homosexuals also attend the meetings and workshops.

The group tackles such topics as how fathers and sons relate to each other, how a man feels about his wife working, and how to deal with stereotypes of men.

The three friends point out that many women feel men are mysterious because they don't often open up and speak their mind. This role of "strong and silent" has been the toughest for men to shed, the men say.

"They have a vested interest," says Mr. Murphy. "The silent image is sensual and powerful, like James Bond.

"It's a power issue," he says. "There are costs in making the investment in change. A man views what he is giving up in his role. On the surface it is a loss of power and control."

But the gain in changing the "macho" role is much greater, Mr. Murphy says. "The energy that goes into power and control is self-limiting and excludes other things. It precludes being able to ask others for help."

These men admire the way women communicate with one another. That's the kind of communication they strive to have. Mr. Adams sees it in the knowing glance and support one woman gives another. He explains further: "Adolescent boys are taught that they should pound each other on the back. They distance themselves from each other.

"Adolescent girls come over to each other's house, giggle, fall on the bed together, and share secrets," he says.

Mr. Adamopoulos points to a difference in style of politicians as an example that men are changing. Richard Nixon would never have displayed affection for another man, he says.

"Now we have Jimmy Carter, who hugged Hubert Humphrey and kissed his vice-president." -- V.I.

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