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Mandate for a Man Date

Last weekend, I read a perplexing piece in the New York Times about how straight guys seem to be so insecure when they go out to dinner or to a movie together. The piece, "The Man Date," written by Jennifer 8. Lee, was amusing only because it struck me as such a caricature. I had even thought about blogging on the topic, but just couldn't believe that American straight men were typically twisting themselves into pretzels just to share a bottle of wine over dinner. I mean: This is the 21st century. What gives?

Well, apparently, most of the readers of the "Sunday Styles" section ask the same question. Take a look at a series of interesting letters, starting here.

Comments welcome.


If the men were anticipating meeting available, straight women at the function, then separating--even being concerned with how they might just appear to such women--seems a perfectly valid concern. However, neither man reported this or seems to have anticipated this. For all we know, they may have both been in secure relationships.

This is where pure 'social metaphysics' has kicked in: both men knew that they were straight--both knew it of the other--and, without any concern about getting future dates for themselves, they are still obsessed with how OTHERS will perceive them, with the implicit idea that it would be "bad" to be seen as being gay--even by total strangers!!

This is very sad as it appears to have limited the scope of their male-male friendships, a real value.

Agreed, Jim.

I think that a few of the letters give voice to the issue of being secure in one's sexuality: People who are self-secure and who think in a "first-handed" manner won't give "a second thought" to what others might think. For the less-than-secure, just trying to figure out "what others might think" is something that can become a full-time preoccupation!

I recently had occasion to get together with a bunch of dear old mates, most of whom I hadn't seen in at least twenty years. The occasion was the reunion of a heavy-metal band that we all knew or worked for back in the day: road brothers. Right in front of everyone in the place (mostly youngsters), as I laid eyes on my friends one by one, I would walk up and shake a hand that invariably closed to embrace, and I kissed them on the cheek, usually with a whisper in the ear (the place was loud) of something like, "It's bloody good to see you, man."

Know what? There are guys in this circle who aren't here any more. Dead guys.

Here's the thing:

I miss those guys, and I determined to let all the survivors know just exactly how I feel about them while I still can. And; not a homosexual in the crowd, I could tell that this was unusual behavior to them, but not one of them flinched, and I'm certain that they each understood me.

I'm pretty sure I'm hanging with the right crowd, although it has never occurred to me to wonder about it in the terms in which the NYT article is couched.

It strikes me as really sad to live like that.

Chris, as many blog-comments (as well as the NYT letters) show, this seems to be a case of a Style Section "reporter" making up a story. Maybe, just maybe, at the Olive Garden in Des Moines or wherever, there are some straight single guys obsessing over this, but in NYC? Please. Straight single guys in NYC do this all the time, and twas ever thus. When I was a younger man it was known as "hanging out with your friends," but no one from the NYT ever thought it was interesting, and for good reason.

Billy, Aeon... your experiences fully confirm my own and those of people (straight and gay) that I know, especially here in New York (as Aeon suggests).

And let me add: If you live in Brooklyn, especially among all the Southern Mediterranean immigrants and their children and their children's children (read: Italian, Greek, etc.)... this story makes ~no~ sense at all.

Guys around here go to dinner with one another; they greet each other with hugs, and kisses, and when they go out to a dance club, it's not unusual to find a group of guys dancing together. We're not talking "Dirty Dancing"---just hanging out and having fun in a club, especially if you happen to be single and just love to "boogie."

I hope you'll indulge me one UN-PC moment. This is a long-running joke (or "jab," as the case may be) meant to poke fun at the many manifestations of physical affection shown among "paisans" in Brooklyn:

Q: "In Brooklyn, what separates a straight Italian guy from a gay Italian guy?"

A: "Two drinks."


In any event, that's why I read this piece and was so utterly perplexed.

Are there people who are insecure? Sure. And that insecurity manifests itself among people of different sexual orientations. But so much of this is culturally influenced, and the article seems to obscure that dimension completely.

Not only that, Chris, but I also think that it's just false that there's a real "trend" here. My take is that there just isn't that much insecurity about this, not in NYC anyway. That's why that episode of Seinfeld where the reporter thinks George and Jerry are gay (not that there's anything wrong with that!) is so funny.


And Seinfeld made a real laugher out of so many similar situations: from "The Note" ("it moved" http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheNote.html ) to that classic one you allude to (I even stole that line you mention for my monograph on "Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation").

So, Aeon: Are we just a bunch of elitist New Yorkers talking, who could not care less about all this? :)

We may well be jaded New Yorkers, but surely some large percentage of the NYT's Style Section readers are also. What constitutes "slow news day" at the Style Section? Gimme a break.

I'm not from NY, but speaking as a heterosexual male I have no problem whatsoever eating out with and/or hugging friends of *either* sex. Sometimes though, THEY seem a little uncomfortable with the latter. Some have even asked me if I'm bi. Maybe I should move across the pond :-)


I would comment on this myself but I see that there are men in the room. However, the "making up a story" angle sounds promising.