Friday, October 1, 2010

My Failure as a Man

It's time to report one of my few failures. The last time was a few years ago when I failed as a homeowner. This time, I failed at being a man. Or at being manly. Or at being a stereotypical man. Whatever your view of being a man and/or manly is.

The block I grew up on, where my parents still live, threw a block party a couple weeks ago. As the families trickled in, there was the usual separation - the husbands positioned themselves near the food and discussed manly things and the wives went off to gossip, or whatever it is wives do. Thinking only of the food, I found myself stuck with the men, in unfamiliar territory.

You see, there was frequent talk of that manliest of manly sports: football. "Did you see the K-State game yesterday?" "That was an awesome game!" "I can't believe the Chiefs won!" "[Some guy] did [some play]!" And as each new husband arrived, it started again: "Boy, that was some game!" Players were gradually substituted, and the same verbal plays were repeated over and over. There was no defense in this conversation, so the plays worked every time.

They had a common language; a common experience on which to base their communication. I knew what they were talking about, generally, but I didn't see either game - or know they were on - and I didn't know what each of the exciting things they were talking about were, specifically. I could have parroted some of the more common phrases, but that wouldn't necessarily be intelligible.

There was nothing I could do but stay quiet and hope no one noticed my lack of knowledge. Thankfully, there seems to be an almost-universal rule of not engaging others in conversation. Except that the football conversation started somehow.... Perhaps I didn't have the right stance? Or maybe I wasn't making strong eye contact like manly football watchers do? Did I make too much eye contact? I was probably expected to have grunted or something. Or maybe my soft hands and pale skin gives me away as someone who sits in front of their computer all day. I suppose it's most likely that I didn't show the proper appreciation for the insightful commentary on why the local team won.

There are other topics of conversation that men have, but they don't seem to be nearly as universal as football. For example, I've been known to make the occasional Star Trek reference (see previous two links) among friends, or discuss video games and the like. But, those aren't reliable topics of conversation when it comes to gatherings of pseudorandom males (i.e., casual acquaintances). I even suck at the video game talk. I don't keep up with the latest games, usually, and I've never owned a console. I didn't even play the classic games, for the most part. I don't often get the references to awesome character X, or video game series Y. I'm afraid I fail again.


Paul David Benedict said...

I think this may be an issue of dominant culture vs. subculture rather than manly vs. un-manly.

No doubt that football is the most frequent headliner topic of male discussion. It is a manly sport (by popular definition), but certainly not the manly-est. I think the world (of popular definitions) would agree that extreme rock climbing, hunting, and mixed martial arts all surpass football in raw manly-ness score. However, football remains the de-facto man-conversation (manversation?) because of one key attribute: it's easy to talk about.

Gather a group of male strangers together in a setting where conversation is expected, and they will immediately gravitate toward the easiest topic. Nerds: technology. Politicos: politics. Businessmen: business. One thing is for certain, we won't talk about anything difficult like feelings or our personal lives (ha!).

The frequency with which guys like us find ourselves out of the manversation has more to do with our cultural affiliation and preferences than anything else (do you ever like what you hear on top 40 radio?)

One final thought: Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel.

mustard seed said...

There's got to be American answer to this concept:

's all you need.
: )