There’s a curious thing that happens when men get acquainted for the first time. There’s a sizing up, a probing if you will. Wait, wait…settle down. For those of you snickering in the back row, let me say up front that this is an asexual phenomenon and has nothing to do with Gaydar or the size of anyone’s dong. It’s innocent really, when guys manalyze each other. There is a tacit, nearly subconscious assessment that happens, as each man checks off the attributes they may find interesting and noteworthy. If everything goes OK and readings are positive, then those guys can hang out together without any awkwardness. You see this a lot when female coworkers or old girlfriends try to get together and decide to bring their husbands or boyfriends along. The first time the guys meet, there’s a manalysis to make sure they are compatible enough to socialize—at least enough to excavate a variety of guy-friendly discussion topics—enabling everyone to survive a double-date or a dinner party. These events always make me nervous because most traditional male topics bore or confuse me. I have absolutely nothing to add to a conversation about college football, NASCAR’s point race, or how to fix a faucet.
My wife and I recently went to a birthday dinner for one of her friends from work. I’ve spent a lot of time with this friend (Georgeanna) and her husband (Jeff) and I like them both a great deal—fortunately, Jeff and I performed our initial manalysis a few years back, so now we have an easy rapport. What benefited me even more is the fact that Jeff is a lunatic sports fan and the most skilled woodworker I know. I can ask Jeff about his Fantasy Football team and his cabinet making and just let him run with it. If other people at the table overhear chatter about wood screws and I’m nodding along, then I’m golden. I’m manly by association.
You also get this during large family gatherings when all of the male family members end up in the garage or den or backyard and they pass around the guy chit-chat like a bottle of high dollar bourbon. We had a party recently for my son’s birthday and several male in-laws attended. My father-in-law, brother-in-law, and my wife’s cousins and uncles are all manly men. So before the party, as we tidied the house for our guests, I made sure to open the dartboard to show use and lifted the lid to my tool box to prove without question that the compartments still held actual tools and not a dainty button collection or something. And these guys are family now! What is my deal? Why even go through the trouble of coating one’s life in a virile veneer that other men will find acceptable? I seriously doubt they are sprucing up for me when I come over!
I realize this makes me sound like a squirrelly, self-conscious poseur weirdo, someone obsessed with acceptance and gender stereotypes and other nonsense like that. But it’s all about first impressions and what people absorb the first time they meet you. I’m stuck on this: if you’re going to assault strangers—especially he-strangers—with babble about books and crossword puzzles and your bout of the artsy-fartsies, you may as well tell them your bra size and favorite brand of lip gloss. I hate to say it, but it just seems so sissy as an opener. So I tell myself to filter. Don’t rush it. The truth will come out. If new acquaintances are to spend any future time with me, they will come to know that I prefer a pen to a screwdriver and can sing most every song on the soft rock station. And that’s ok. And if it’s not ok, please know that I watch SportsCenter every morning and am filing away stats for future use.