Bryan Caplan  

Modeling the Man Date

The College Choice... Defending Desert...

I just got back from a conference with Will Wilkinson where he mentioned that the New York Times had canonized the "man date":

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...

"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.

Even today, it seems that the main obstacle to massive man dating is the fear of being misperceived as gay - by anyone from your waiter to your man date himself:

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... 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.

Too bad the NYT didn't interview Rick Harbaugh for this story; I'm not sure which of his clever signaling models applies, but the parallels are uncanny.

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COMMENTS (8 to date)
Robert Schwartz writes:

Just saw "Friends Without Money." Frances McDormand's husband is a man who everyone assumes is gay, gays are always trying to pick him up. He meets another man who everyone assumes is gay, but they are both straight and married.

I don't understand why American culture is so homosexuality-conscious. I think that the entire point of the civil rights movements should be to get society to a place when you don't care, rather than to a place when everyone is actively worrying about homosexuality-related issue. The same with race.

The more "cerebral" people, as far as I know, don't worry about this because they have always man-dated. If you go out to discuss Ayn Rand, anarchy vs. minarchism or economics or whatnot, you're going to stay away from football games, TVs and other such icons of butch masculinity.

Jody writes:

If you go out to discuss Ayn Rand, anarchy vs. minarchism or economics or whatnot, you're going to stay away from football games, TVs and other such icons of butch masculinity.

Personally, I do have those conversations over beer, wings, and football (or NBA playoff basketball at this time). But I was/am an athletic nerd as are several of my friends.

Barely related aside: Am I the only one who thinks that lots of major sports stars are exemplifying both the good and bad of the Randian protangonist? (Less you think I'm completely off in left field, see this article.)

Glen writes:

I'd say most of my conversations over such topics as economics, Ayn Rand or whatnot, take place while I'm watching sports, especially baseball.

KipEsquire writes:

As a gay man myself, I must say that the last thing on earth I would want to do with my straight male friends is go out on a "man date."

We are strictly pub-grub eating, loud bar drinking, action flick watching, video game playing kind of guys.

And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Bob Lawson writes:

This reminds me of a story...I once went on a "man date" with an old college buddy when I was visiting D.C. and we ended up at a nice quiet romantic Italian restaurant in Crystal City. At one point it dawned on me that we looked pretty darned gay (Seinfeld moment: not that there's anything wrong with that!) so I managed to ask him somewhat too loudly "So John how's your wife?" just as the waiter came by to pour some more wine. He said he was about to do the same thing!

giovanni writes:

For adult males, human interaction is typically oriented around family, business, hobby, or a romantic/sexual relationship. To a lesser extent, there is some gossip and catching up with old friends. But that's it. Typically only females and youth are really group oriented.

In the small doses I experience it, I find gossip with other hetero males very enjoyable. "Man date" sounds really horrible though, although I guess that's a fair categorization.

Paul N writes:

I admit I am uncomfortable doing "man dates" but it has nothing to do with being perceived as gay (I could care less). I'm not sure exactly what makes me uneasy - I guess I worry that I'm not interesting enough. I don't usually feel the same pressure around women. On some level it must have to do with sex.

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