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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

3 Terrible Two-Guy Times

With all due respect to James Brown, the last time it was truly a “Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” may have actually been the 1960’s. For the world to get any more emasculating, everything would have to be painted a fine shade of pink. Honestly, there are more women than men in college, business and law schools - and political correctness has become so ubiquitous that it hardly even requires specific training anymore. We have compartmentalized and contained masculinity to places where it can be regulated, controlled, and guaranteed not to hurt anyone - and even there it’s hardly left to run free. And while most modern men have found a way to brave this new world of hearts and flowers (with much of our dignity still intact) the one thing we haven’t yet mastered is doing it in front of one another. Because, deep down, our masculinity is tied to a competitive order of sorts that really only matters with respect to other men, and in a world where the struggle to maintain any semblance of manhood is a daily one - the last thing we like to do is let a brother-in-arms see us so challenged. And so, in the interests of helping one another avoid these challenging situations, here are 3 awkward situations for men to see one another:

1. The Other Urinal Rule. It’s hardly a secret that the washroom for men is a profoundly less social experience than it is for women. In fact, there are a few unspoken rules regarding bathroom conduct that are almost universal. First, the urinal spacing rule - which is so well-covered as to actually inspire its own web-based quiz game ( Second, and far less well-known is the invisible boundary between the “business” area and “washing” area, across the threshold of which, a no-talking-to-one-another rule is strictly enforced. You are almost obligated to engage in some faux misogyny while washing your hands and fixing your hair, if for no other reason than to distract from the primping that you’re doing in the mirror. But once the threshold to the actual “facilities” is crossed, talking must cease. What’s more, all eye contact must also cease because there is no place where the awkwardness between men is more profound than the function area of the mens room. No matter what horrible and unspeakable things happen there (and trust me, horrors abound therein), one does not speak of them until across the barrier - if at all. It’s the closest thing to a P.O.W. camp that one can come across in everyday life, and, as you might expect, there is a similarly strong urge to get the hell out the moment you get in.

2. Manly Pedi. The modern man is the groomed man. Hey, I didn’t say everything about the feminization of society was so bad. And I have to admit, the fact that everyone is a little cleaner is a good thing. Of course, one of the lesser-known grooming standards that has resulted from this trend is that of the male pedicure. Personally, it took me years to be ok with this. I just didn’t see what big deal was about having pristine feet, and I certainly didn’t like the idea of sitting in a nail salon. But, as I got a little older I realized that whatever you could do to make yourself look better naked was a good thing (especially if you were expecting to see anyone else naked) and women pay attention to stuff like how your toes look when deciding whether they’ll ever sleep with you (a decision most of them make in the first 30 seconds - according to studies, and no matter what they tell you). I walked by my first nail salon dozens of times before actually walking in, including having to be coached by phone on my first ingress. I’m not sure what I was afraid of. I suppose it was a mix of (a) being whisked in for a simple toe cleaning and ending up, unwittingly, walking out in full drag, and (b) having all the men I have ever respected in the world walk by the window of the place while I was getting serviced and abandon any shred of hope they ever had for me. As it turns out, neither happened, but the only saving grace was that I was only guy in there (not counting employees). Because as soon as another guy shows up, you are obligated to act as though the entire sublime process is in no way enjoyable and you’re only in there because your girlfriend/wife made you. You will also need to immediately drop the People Magazine you definitely picked up accidentally thinking it was Maxim.

3. Stop, Shop and Roll. Okay, so retail therapy isn’t just for women anymore. Of course, for most men, our particular form of retail therapy is usually satiated by much larger ticket items and gadgetry, and so our therapy sessions are often much fewer and farther between. But on the rare occasion where you do need to shop for anything decidedly less manly, that’s the last place you’ll want to see any other guys. If you keep a close watch on men in a shopping mall, they are either (a) decidedly trailing in the wake of female companion who is leading the expedition (usually with a defeated malaise or minimum-wage stare), or (b) moving with a raptured purpose normally reserved for assassin humanoid robots from the future. In either case, they don’t stop to socialize - and on the rare occasion where their female companion stops to socialize with another accompanied female, they’ll avoid eye contact like junior high-school slow dancing partners. And heaven help you be caught with shopping bags by another man you already know - which is akin to having him catch you in women’s underwear while singing showtunes (which may otherwise explain our purposeful gait if unaccompanied). Honestly, unless it’s the week before Xmas, you’d have an easier time explaining a Miley Cyrus discography and My Pretty Pony collection than a handful of clothing bags on a solo trip to the mall. Trust us, our aversion to going shopping with you has nothing to do with you - we just want to make sure the only guy we recognize there is the one in the dressing room mirror.

* * *Align Center

In general, the interactions between men are far less nuanced and dramatic than those between women. We require no intricate recollections, no noticing of new haircuts or weight loss, and no obligatory questioning about our spouses, children, extended family or mutual friends. No, we normally just strike each other a couple of times, say something horribly insulting and try to find a TV showing the game and a cold drink. And so, on the precious few occasions where we lose this simple privilege, its worth taking notice. Ladies, if you're spending time with a man and you notice he’s keeping to himself, take note. Despite what you may think, we are social creatures, who enjoy running with a pack far more than your kind ever will. And in the instance where you see men not talking to each other and looking aimlessly into the distance, you’re probably better off getting him out of there as soon as you can, or at the very least helping him find the game on TV and something cold to drink.


Jen and Tonic said...

Sometimes I think it's a good thing I'm a girl because I'd be a total douche if I was a guy. I've always thought that I'd use the urinal right next to someone even though there are dozens of open ones. Then I'd pee while staring at him just to see what happened.

Oh, and I love watching men in the shopping mall. They have the same look Palin has when people ask her questions about US history.

OZ101 said...

Good call on the urinal etiquette. The only time you are allowed to talk is when you are really drunk and you know the person. But then you still leave the middle urinal open and make sure to comment frequently on the female bartenders gigantic breasts and how you would love to stick your face into the middle of them and blow a raspberry. After that you have to make sure and blow a big fart and comment on how you've been holding it in for a while.

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