In Praise of the Man-Date
Guys (well, straight guys), why are we so afraid of having quiet nights out one-on-one with other guys?
Why can women have nice, quiet nights alone with their female friends while men feel this de-facto obligation to pull all their bros together for a non-sexual orgy of yelling, high-fiving, and blue cheese?
Forgive the flagrant appropriation of the word "date," but it’s high time that men put aside their inherent qualms and go to nice restaurants together alone. I’m not talking about a "boys night out" or the our-girlfriends-are-both-sick excuse; I’m talking about a scenario in which two male friends make the effort to spend a few hours alone with each other without romantic pretense.
One might say, this is your mandate to go on a man-date.
Who should you man-date?
I recall a night during college, after I had made friends with a sprightly young chap on the floor above me, when we wanted to go out and eat with a group of dudes from our school. We had a lot in common and felt a natural (albeit platonic) draw to each other which resulted in making plans together. We went back and forth trying to think up a bar that didn’t card with a few other mutual friends, but were constantly derailed by the “too many cooks” scenario of everyone giving their input on where to go.
"Leave your partner at home and make it a twosome."
Eventually, I gave up and said it: “Hey man, how about you and me just get dinner instead?” He laughed and said: “What, like a date?” I laughed too -- trying to dispel the air of awkwardness -- then I told him yes.
“Yeah, let’s go on a date, dude. You and me for dinner, and we can meet our idiot friends after.”
So it happened. And you know what? It was really, really nice. We went to an Italian place in Boston’s historic North End. He got the pasta, I ordered lasagna (so... also pasta!) and we split the bill. It was a pleasant, quiet evening of quality conversation. I couldn’t recommend it more.
Ask your best friend! Ask your good friend because your best friend had a dumb kid (just kidding she's adorable) and probably isn't going out for a few months. Ask that guy who dates one of your girlfriend's friends who you always get along with and feel like you two could be better friends but you never would ask to hang out just the two of you because society has decided that'd be a strange thing to do. Converse about things profoundly important and hilariously trivial. Eat, drink, and be merry. And if you're having such a merry time that some people in there think it's a "date" date? Who gives a shit? It's 2016. Leave your partner at home and make it a twosome.
Teddy Roosevelt probably went on man-dates
"Much of male friendship is about coalition building. In this, we are very similar to bonobos and chimps," says Tamas David-Barrett, author of a study titled “Women Favour Dyadic Relationships, but Men Prefer Clubs: Cross-Cultural Evidence from Social Networking.” The fact is, male bonding is a natural thing that has only been derailed through a century or two of homophobia.
In fact, it used to be perfectly natural to be affectionate with male friends. There's a plethora of photographic evidence of burly 19th-century men platonically hanging all over each other. It was actually completely normal for boys and men to hug, drape their arms over each other, and hold hands. Even Theodore Roosevelt wrote heartfelt letters to his bros (or was it "brahs" back then?) that just oozed fluffy sentiments. Teddy Roosevelt! That guy even finished a public speech after being shot. With a bullet in his body. It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.
No one's saying you have to hold hands, although the fact that even the suggestion probably makes you chuckle a bit inside speaks to lingering, outdated, homophobic tendencies. There is progress to be made! Let’s bring men -- all men -- closer. If not with physical affection, then with the tasteful appropriation of emotionally intimate dinners.
Why does this sound like an odd suggestion?
Society is a cruel mistress that keeps men from acting in ways they’d like and forces them to negatively comment on social situations out of pure obligation. For example, why should it be “awkward” or “funny” for two well-dressed men to eat dinner alone in a low-lit fancy Italian restaurant?
"Forget everything you've ever been taught by TV shows like Friends and Frasier and embrace spending time alone with another man."
How come we have to continually talk about how our girlfriends aren’t around and act like we’re being held at gunpoint while peering across the table at our bro?
Why is it that if two men do, for some CRAZY reason, happen to find themselves needing to grab dinner together, the first restaurants that come to mind are ones that serve burger-stuffed tacos with at least three dozen TV screens on the walls?
Forget everything you’ve ever been taught by TV shows like Friends and Frasier and embrace spending time alone with another man. Embrace the man-date and end the inherent fear guys feel when left alone with one another. Bring back the trends from the 19th century (but not all of them, remember slavery...) and put your arm around your best friend. Get brunch or dinner or go anywhere quiet -- hell, maybe there’s even an artisanal Buffalo chicken place that sports a customer base of quiet intellectuals. And hell, if the two of you are more Buffalo Wild Wings types, nothing wrong with that either -- there are so many sauce options! The point is, you should be somewhere you both want to go and talk about anything you want to talk about.
"Wherever you go, leave your inhibitions at the door and bring a piping-hot seed of conversation."
What people should avoid is going out under the pretense that you’re being forced to spend time with one another and thus choosing to spend the entire time pounding domestics and eyeing the room around you to ensure no one gets "the wrong idea."
It's time to date your bro, bro
Wherever you go, leave your inhibitions at the door and bring a piping-hot seed of conversation. Don’t be afraid of talking about important topics, don’t be afraid to show affection, and don’t act like there’s a gun at your temple the entire time.
Friendships can be just as intimate and in need of attention and care as relationships with women (or men, of course) where sex is involved,. Let's treat them as such! Friends are hard to come by, and the root of friendship is a mutual interest in an broad array of topics.
Explore those topics and date your bro, bro.
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Jeremy Glass is a writer for Thrillist and loves him some piping-hot man-dates.