Dinner Anyone?

Discussion in 'Relationships, Discrimination, and Jealousy' started by dreamer20, Oct 4, 2006.

  1. dreamer20

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    Excerpt from the NYTimes article Apr 10, 2005.
    The Man Date
    By JENNIFER 8. LEE
    NYTimes.com


    Anyone who finds a date with a potential romantic partner to be a minefield of unspoken rules should consider the man date, a rendezvous between two straight men that is even more socially perilous.

    Simply defined a man date is two heterosexual men socializing without the crutch of business or sports. It is two guys meeting for the kind of outing a straight man might reasonably arrange with a woman. Dining together across a table without the aid of a television is a man date; eating at a bar is not. Taking a walk in the park together is a man date; going for a jog is not. Attending the movie "Friday Night Lights" is a man date, but going to see the Jets play is definitely not.

    "Sideways," the Oscar-winning film about two buddies touring the central California wine country on the eve of the wedding of one of them, is one long and boozy man date.

    Although "man date" is a coinage invented for this article, appearing nowhere in the literature of male bonding (or of homosexual panic), the 30 to 40 straight men interviewed, from their 20's to their 50's, living in cities across the country, instantly recognized the peculiar ritual even if they had not consciously examined its dos and don'ts. Depending on the activity and on the two men involved, an undercurrent of homoeroticism that may be present determines what feels comfortable or not on a man date, as Mr. Speiser and Mr. Putman discovered in their squeamishness at the Modern.

    Jim O'Donnell, a professor of business and economics at Huntington University in Indiana, who said his life had been changed by a male friend, urges men to get over their discomfort in socializing one on one because they have much to gain from the emotional support of male friendships. (Women understand this instinctively, which is why there is no female equivalent to the awkward man date; straight women have long met for dinner or a movie without a second thought.)

    "A lot of quality time is lost as we fritter around with minor stuff like the Final Four scores," said Mr. O'Donnell, who was on the verge of divorce in the mid-1980's before a series of conversations over meals and walks with a friend 20 years his senior changed his thinking. "He was instrumental in turning me around in the vulnerability that he showed," said Mr. O'Donnell, who wrote about the friendship in a book, "Walking With Arthur." "I can remember times when he wanted to know why I was going to leave my wife. No guy had ever done that before."

    While some men explicitly seek man dates, and others flatly reject them as pointless, most seem to view them as an unavoidable form of socializing in an age when friends can often catch up only by planning in advance. The ritual comes particularly into play for many men after college, as they adjust to a more structured, less spontaneous social life. "You see kids in college talking to each other, bull sessions," said Peter Nardi, a sociology professor at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., who edited a book called "Men's Friendships." "But the opportunities to get close to another man, to share and talk about their feelings, are not available after a certain age."

    The concern about being perceived as gay is one of the major complications of socializing one on one, many straight men acknowledge. That is what Mr. Speiser, now a graduate student at the University of Virginia, recalled about another man date he set up at a highly praised Italian restaurant in a strip mall in Charlottesville. It seemed a comfortable choice to meet his roommate, Thomas Kim, a lawyer, but no sooner had they walked in than they were confronted by cello music, amber lights, white tablecloths and a wine list.

    The two exchanged a look. "It was funny," Mr. Speiser said. "We just knew we couldn't do it." Within minutes they were eating fried chicken at a "down and dirty" place down the road.

    Mr. Kim, 28, who is now married, was flustered in part because he saw someone he knew at the Italian restaurant. "I was kind of worried that word might get out," he said. "This is weird, and now there is a witness maybe."

    Dinner with a friend has not always been so fraught. Before women were considered men's equals, some gender historians say, men routinely confided in and sought advice from one another in ways they did not do with women, even their wives. Then, these scholars say, two things changed during the last century: an increased public awareness of homosexuality created a stigma around male intimacy, and at the same time women began encroaching on traditionally male spheres, causing men to become more defensive about notions of masculinity.

    "If men become too close to other men, then they are always vulnerable to this accusation of, 'Oh, you must be gay,' " said Gregory Lehne, a medical psychologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who has studied gender issues. At the same time, he added, "When you have women in the same world and seeking equality with men, then all of a sudden issues emerge in the need to maintain the male sex role."

    And thus a simple meal turns into social Stratego. Some men avoid dinner altogether unless the friend is coming from out of town or has a specific problem that he wants advice about. Otherwise, grabbing beers at a bar will do just fine, thank you.

    Other men say dinners may be all right, but never brunch, although a post-hangover meal taking place during brunch hours is O.K. "The company at that point is purely secondary," explained Steven Carlson, 29, a public relations executive in Chicago.

    Almost all men agree that beer and hard alcohol are acceptable man date beverages, but wine is risky. And sharing a bottle is out of the question. "If a guy wants to get a glass of wine, that's O.K.," said Rob Discher, 24, who moved to Washington from Dallas and has dinner regularly with his male roommate. "But there is something kind of odd about splitting a bottle of wine with a guy."

    Other restaurant red flags include coat checks, busboys who ask, "Still or sparkling?" and candles, unless there is a power failure. All of those are fine, however, at a steakhouse. "Your one go-to is if you go and get some kind of meat product," explained James Halow, 28, who works for a leveraged buyout firm in San Francisco.

    Cooking for a friend at home violates the man date comfort zone for almost everyone, with a possible exemption for grilling or deep-frying. "The grilling thing would take away the majority of the stigma because there is a masculine overtone to the grill," Mr. Discher said.

    And man dates should always be Dutch treat, men agree. Armen Meyer, 28, a lawyer in New York who is an unabashed man dater, remembers when he tried to pay for dinner for a friend. "I just plopped out the money and didn't even think about it," Mr. Meyer said. "He said, 'What are you doing?' And I'm like: 'I was going to pay. What's the big deal?' And he said something like, 'Guys don't pay for me,' or 'No one pays for me.' There was a certain slight power issue."

    When attending a movie together - preferably with explosions or heavy special effects, never a romantic comedy - guys prefer to put a nice big seat between each other. (This only sounds like an episode of "Seinfeld.") "Going to the movie with one other guy is sort of weird, but you can balance it out by having a seat space between you," explained Ames McArdle, a financial analyst in Washington.

    Men who avoid man dates altogether are often puzzled by the suggestion that they might like to spend time with male friends. "If you're buddies with another guy, there shouldn't be any work involved," Mr. Halow of San Francisco said. Which is why many men say that a successful man dates requires a guy to demonstrate concern for his friend without ever letting on. "The amount of preparation that the other guy is making is directly proportional to how awkward it is," Mr. McArdle of Washington said.

    When man daters socialize with non-man daters, the activities always fall to the lowest common denominator. Mr. Meyer of New York remembers how he would ask his roommate Jonathan Freimann out for dinner by himself. But Mr. Freimann would instinctively pre-empt, by asking other guys along.

    "If I had known he wanted to spend one-on-one time, I would have," Mr. Freimann explained, adding that group dinners had simply seemed "more fun." (The two had dinner in San Diego last week.)

    Jeffrey Toohig, 27, is a more reliable bet for Mr. Meyer. They regularly have dinner together to discuss women, jobs and whatever else is on their minds, because, as Mr. Toohig put it, "the conversation is more in-depth than you can have at a bar." Mr. Toohig, who is looking for a job helping underdeveloped countries, divides his male friends into two groups: "good friends who I go out one on one with, and guys I go out with and we have beers and wings." And, he pointed out, dinner with Mr. Meyer has the advantage of not making his girlfriend jealous, the way dinners with his female friends do.

    All men, however, agree that one rule of guy-meets-guy time is inviolable: if a woman enters the picture, a man can drop his buddies, last minute, no questions asked.

    A romantic date always trumps a man date.


    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/10/fashion/10date.html?pagewanted=1&incamp=article_popular_1
     
  2. dreamer20

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    My, wasn't that long.

    Re: the article: when I was in college in the UK I asked one of my colleagues, who supposedly was a mature student, if he would have dinner with me. He thought that such a thing would be "gay". I was stunned to learn that he was such a bizarre weirdo - I didn't know of the term homophobic at that time. Has anyone else had a similar experience?
     
  3. Lordpendragon

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    I have dinner out with male friends all the time. The only time that I have ever felt a little odd was a few years ago on Feb 15th and they hadn't taken the Valentines Day decorations down.

    We talk about

    Sex (graphically)
    Women
    Sport
    Work
    Politics
    Culture
    Religion
    Philosophy

    If anyone mentions the housing market - I leave.

    Not always in that order - if you were interested.
     
  4. ManiacalMadMan

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    Since you were the one who posted the article, it would seem to me that you would have known before hand that it was a lengthy piece.


    Moving on to the actual article, it left out one of the situations I have often been in, wherein the gay man (me) is having dinner with a heterosexual man. Strange thing is that in none of those cases has the other man felt it was in any way shape or form sexual. We talk about anything and everything from the condition of the roads to sex to masturbation to sports to politics to the asurdity of bottled water. Of course I get a little suspicious of the other fellow's actual sexuality when he asks for a wedge of lemon in his diet cola...diet cola for crying out loud! That just screams QuEEN another disaster moment can be if they order mashed potatoes. Even I know that straight men only eat fries or baked potatoes...
     
  5. AlteredEgo

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    Much of the conversation that this site (and similar) inspire(s) that goes on in private messages, in phone calls, and in the chats and boards are like man-dating too. Very intimate, revealing, soul-searching and healing. No?
     
  6. dolf250

    dolf250 New Member

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    I really do not understand that. I eat alone, with a male, with a female or in groups without ever having once considered how it “looks.” Even back when i would have been considered homophobic the thought of how it looks did not cross my mind. If I had started caressing my dining partner, holding his hand and looking longingly into his eyes I guess I may have had thoughts about how others perceive me, but just dinner? To damned bad. And really, wine is now unacceptable?
    Having worked in a mining town I can tell you that a “man date” is the most common date in Fort McMurray and that one person paying all the time is not right, but splitting days that you pay is acceptable. I guess I am behind in the times; I refuse to wear make up, will not have a manicure and really don't care what others think of my being on a “date” with a good friend
     
  7. joyboytoy79

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    Great article: but sad that it seems to perpetuate stereotypes. Am I the only one that noticed the tone of the article seemed to hint that it was OK to worry about being percieved as gay? Why are there all these silly rules that men must follow so they can continue to live in their comfortable, sexually repressed, shells? Really! IMHO, the only reason to be concerned that people are percieving you as gay, is if there is some kernal of truth in it. If these guys were truely comfortable in their sexuality, they wouldn't have to worry about keeping up pretenses, as there wouldn't be any pretenses!:soapbox:
     
  8. dreamer20

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    Of course Triple M, and I'm glad to have your comments and the others too.:wink:

    My weirdo classmate, "Chris", could have simply declined my request, but he interpreted going out to dinner as something a couple of gay men would do, before sex I might add. With over 60 persons in my class and many other friends outside of that class to associate with, he was easily avoided. I had meals with these other persons, male or female, and we enjoyed Greek, Indian, Jamaican, Chinese & British cuisine, parties and social outings.
    Has anyone else come across an oddball like Chris?
     
  9. chefman

    chefman Member

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    I am in tthe restaurant business and often have dinner with other men---most times with just another man--most often we share a bottle or two of wine. Maybe I am more gay than I thought:smile:
     
  10. dreamer20

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    Lunch Anyone?:biggrin1:

    http://www.lpsg.org/1197642-post1.html

     
  11. Mr.Grande

    Mr.Grande New Member

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    I have meals alone with male friends all the time. I think there is nothing wrong with it. I think that it is sad that some men will not spend time investing in their friendships for fear of being labeled "gay". I think these kind of men are not comfortable enough in their sexuality to live their lives how they want. The idea that two men getting together is a "man date" is really absurd. I know who I am and do whatever I want in my life without fear of other people's hangups. These guys need to grow a pair. Being a man is about standing strong in your beliefs, not being afraid of others. I am straight. If other people want to say that getting together with male friends is "gay" then they can go eat alone.
     
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