I just opened an e-mail from Joe, my dear high-school chum who used to play devil to my advocate every time I hopped on a soapbox. Joe's an accomplished businessman who actually acts his age, unlike me. He and his second wife, Melissa, just had a baby, his third child. He's a devoted father who loves his children with every cell in his body.

Joe, or Joey as I will forever call him to his chagrin, is thrilled about this latest baby; his other two are adolescents by now. In addition to his e-mails that take my writing to task -- he's still razzing my bleeding heart, 20-plus years later -- Joe uses e-mail to keep me abreast of how his life is progressing. When he married Melissa, I got wedding pictures. When they bought a house in North Carolina, he showed it to me. Then in March of this year, I got the sonograms, attached as j-pegs.

The normal sonogram probably went to the stodgier family members. The other, however, was my favorite: "alien sono," it was called. On it, Joey had added red arrows pointing to "the eyes," "the chin" and the "telepathic destructor array." He reasoned: "My wife was the first to say that the baby looked like an alien ... so don't blame me!"

Many of my women friends complain about being the de facto "social directors" in their partners' lives, reminding them to call their moms on Mother's Day and send flowers on birthdays. Todd, my amazing sig-other, even needs the occasional nudge: His family's big dates are programmed into my Excite reminders, although he's the one designing a Web site with digital photos from his brother's wedding. So it evens out.

Joey's not my only male friend who sends his very best online. Chris, a talented photographer I used to work with, found my e-mail address recently using a search engine. Turns out, he's now "Mr. Mom" (his words) in New Jersey, raising his two kids and taking photos while his wife continues her high-powered career outside the home. He recently sent a photo of him and his wife, Jeanie, kissing little Mikaela on both cheeks. She's trying to squeeze out from between them with a look of feigned desperation on her face. And, like many men, Chris keeps a Web site to keep loved ones up to date on the family.

Another e-mail contained a wonderful photo collage of the sons of my friends Susan and Michael Schenk, assembled by Michael, of course. And my friend Paul in upstate New York has kept me abreast of his and Francesca's upcoming wedding plans (and their new sailboat) for the last year. Honestly, more of my male friends communicate with me online -- and proudly disseminate their love for their families -- than women, who probably take greater offense at my slow response times. My male correspondents almost make up for all the hate mail I get from male readers telling me, in effect, that I'm too stupid to write about technology. Sorry, boys, to butt into sacred territory.

I'm thrilled that more men are using the Internet to become more social beings, demonstrating there is more to computing than network Doom. Maybe it's just a sign that the modern times are allowing men to appear a little soft, while women learn it's cool to harden a bit. There's a wonderful, balanced middle we can all meet in, if we try. And it's great to take different routes to get there.

Today, I got the latest round of photos from my pal Joey. His daughter, Natalie, was just born several weeks early, by C-section. In one of the photos, his hand nearly covers her miniscule 2-pound-12.5-ounce body. "Attached are pictures of baby and mommy. Don't let her skinny condition and all those tubes scare you. She is doing very well," he assured in the e-mail. I bet she is, with a daddy like Joey. Happy Father's Day, big guy.

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