The “man date”

by Eszter Hargittai on April 12, 2005

If there wasn’t such a stigma attached to being gay for so many, would men really have to be so paranoid about catching up with a male friend? It seems like such an unfortunate waste of energy to tiptoe around these situations. Of course, I understand why I can’t simply say “So what if someone thinks you’re gay even if you are not?” given that it may have implications depending on the circumstances. But that is what’s so unfortunate.

{ 38 comments }

1

George S. 04.12.05 at 11:45 am

Don’t believe everything you read in the New York Times. I asked a bunch of straight guys I knew about this, and no one had heard of anything like this.

2

Jeremy Osner 04.12.05 at 12:07 pm

Gotta say, I have never heard of such a thing. No man of my acquaintance has ever been averse to meeting up for dinner or a movie or whatever. Seems to me like something manufactured for an article, frankly. I mean, what about going to the bar? I expect even the most homophobic guy can go to the bar with a male friend and catch up without fearing how he’ll look to his fellow drinkers.

3

Kieran Healy 04.12.05 at 12:08 pm

This is just a style journalist Making Shit Up.

4

George 04.12.05 at 12:17 pm

A good friend of mine (a guy) used to live in the Castro. We’d meet for a beer or dinner, and wonder whether anyone suspected we were straight.

5

Matt 04.12.05 at 12:20 pm

Jeremy,

Going to a bar is explicitly singled out as “not a man-date”, since it’s good regular behavior for heterosexual males. I agree that the article is weird, and that if people really worry about this they are sad and pathetic, and that I’ve not known people to worry about it, at least much, but since going to a bar is not supposed to be a cause of trouble (since it’s okay for heterosexuals, like going to a ball game) it doesn’t tell against it. I am sympathetic to the idea that it’s just all made up nonsense, though.

6

Ted 04.12.05 at 12:22 pm

Doesn’t ring true to me, and I live in Houston. In New York, it seems even less likely. I’d agree that it’s hard for straight males to make new friends with other straight males. But catching up with old friends is something that everyone does. Isn’t it?

7

Jeremy Osner 04.12.05 at 12:32 pm

OTOH Matt Yglesias seems to have identified with the behavior described in the article so maybe it’s one of these kid things.

8

vanya 04.12.05 at 12:34 pm

Nothing rings true about this article. Especially the rule about it being a “no-no” for two male friends to share a bottle of wine. Maybe it’s because my friends are borderline alcoholics but if I meet up with college buddies for dinner it’s expected we’re going to share a bottle or three at dinner before we go out drinking. Now sharing your dessert, that might be a little gay.

9

Sebastian holsclaw 04.12.05 at 12:47 pm

As a gay man maybe I wouldn’t notice, but I find the story very odd. I never worried about appearing gay by hanging out with male friends when I was afraid of people finding out I was gay, so I would be shocked to find out that actually straight guys are so worried about it when they aren’t gay. But people are weird, so there you go.

10

Eszter 04.12.05 at 12:49 pm

I understand that some of you can’t relate to this situation, but are you also suggesting – as you seem to be – that this wouldn’t ring true for _any_ guys? (I don’t mean a tiny tiny fraction, but a reasonable number.) It doesn’t seem so far-fetched to me. Obviously men in my social environment are not representative of much, but I have plenty of experiences with guys making stupid comments about feeling awkward regarding one action or another, because it may make them seem gay. I find it quite tiresome.

11

aphrael 04.12.05 at 12:56 pm

Everyone i’ve talked to about this article agrees with Kieran. My boyfriend asked the people on his world of warcraft server, and they said everything mentioned in the article as not-ok is fine, as long as it’s not all of them together.

12

Ted 04.12.05 at 1:02 pm

I agree with Matt Yglesias. I don’t mind it when someone thinks I’m gay. But, when I’m with another man and a waitress in a nice restaurant, for instance, thinks we’re a couple, it’s a little strange. Particularly if she says something that assumes you’re a couple; you want to be polite and clear up her confusion but don’t want to appear homophobic. Odd.

13

Eszter 04.12.05 at 1:03 pm

Aphrael – Why not all of them together?

14

Matt McGrattan 04.12.05 at 1:15 pm

I am with Kieran on this one, this is just someone “making shit up”.

15

SunnyD 04.12.05 at 1:23 pm

i agree with eszter…to the extent that such “man-dates” actually occur and straight men worry about looking gay, it is pretty stupid. although i suppose homophobia among straight guys is nothing new, and it’s always been pretty stupid…

16

Paul 04.12.05 at 1:31 pm

are you also suggesting – as you seem to be – that this wouldn’t ring true for any guys?

No, not at all. No doubt some straight guys feel this way. But I suspect that straight men who call each other to visit art museums (or, even the sorts of straight men the Times usually concerns itself with) are probably least likely to feel this way. I call BS on this article, too.

“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 9th grader currently working as–ed) a financial analyst in Washington.

17

Paul 04.12.05 at 1:32 pm

are you also suggesting – as you seem to be – that this wouldn’t ring true for any guys?

No, not at all. No doubt some straight guys feel this way. But I suspect that straight men who call each other to visit art museums (or, even the sorts of straight men the Times usually concerns itself with) are probably least likely to feel this way. I call BS on this article, too.

“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 9th grader currently working as–ed) a financial analyst in Washington.

18

Paul 04.12.05 at 1:33 pm

are you also suggesting – as you seem to be – that this wouldn’t ring true for any guys?

No, not at all. No doubt some straight guys feel this way. But I suspect that straight men who call each other to visit art museums (or, even the sorts of straight men the Times usually concerns itself with) are probably least likely to feel this way. I call BS on this article, too.

“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, (ed–a 9th grader currently working as) a financial analyst in Washington.

19

Paul 04.12.05 at 1:36 pm

I am a bimbo, though, what do I know. Sorry ’bout the triple post.

20

Keven Lofty 04.12.05 at 2:46 pm

““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, (ed—a 9th grader currently working as) a financial analyst in Washington.”

This bit was funny enough to post three times.

21

JoeO 04.12.05 at 3:01 pm

The author made up the stupid term “man date”. I think she wants to add to any stigma. If she would have used another term, no one would have paid attention.

22

Edward 04.12.05 at 3:06 pm

I dunno…

I’m gay and I go through a very similar thing with some of my straight friends. Both of us trying to ensure everyone we’re not on a “date.” This rings very true from my experience.

23

jet 04.12.05 at 3:06 pm

I grew up in rural shit-kicker america, and I often find myself worried if people think I’m gay when I’m with a friend. For instance, if I’m meeting a friend for diner, we’ll sit in the bar. Or if we’re going to a movie, it will be something with action and explosions. Or if we’re going to a park, we’ll make sure it is a state park and it is hunting season.

The things I do to keep people from thinking I’m gay, whew.

[satire alert for those with broken funny bones]

24

Keven Lofty 04.12.05 at 3:21 pm

Surely this would be the same thing with a woman? If I were to go out with a woman who I’m not on a ‘date’ with, I wouldn’t do ‘date’ things with her. If I went to a movie or to a posh restaurant for dinner with just me and her people would assume we were on a date. That’s a regular assumption. If I actively didn’t want it to look like a date I’d do something else.

25

Carlos 04.12.05 at 3:45 pm

My reaction was also, WTF? Making shit up, or possibly selection effect — how did she find these guys? An ad in the back of the Village Voice? “Are you a man who feels insecure being social with other men on a one-to-one basis? If so, call 1-555-MIDDLE-8 for a confidential interview.”

Next story: how many couples avoid doing unromantic things because they don’t want other people to assume they’re not sleeping together.

26

John Quiggin 04.12.05 at 3:53 pm

Speaking as an Australian, I have to say the line about it being a “no-no” to share a bottle of wine rang true.

A bottle each and a bottle for the table is the rule for a big night out.

27

Vache Folle 04.12.05 at 4:00 pm

I never worry about this. I am overweight and dress badly such that noone would ever mistake me for a gay man or even for anyone whom anyone, gay or straight, would “date”.

28

Bernard Yomtov 04.12.05 at 4:33 pm

The whole thing is idiotic. Just someone looking for a “trend.” The advantage to the reporter is that in six months she’ll be able to write another article talking about how these fears are dying away. Two for the price of one.

29

Uncle Kvetch 04.12.05 at 6:17 pm

“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”

Given that the “straight male friends who are absolutely terrified of being tagged as gay” has become a recurrent trope in TV & movie comedy on a par with classics like the nagging, shrewish mother-in-law, I have to wonder whether it isn’t turning into a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. If there’s one thing that Joey and Chandler taught us, after all, is that the kind of emotionally stunted thinking exhibited in the quote above is positively adorable, not to mention hilarious.

30

David Sucher 04.12.05 at 7:33 pm

George S is correct. It’s totally a media issue. I hope. I went out for dinner a few nights ago with THREE other guys and none of us worried that the people in the pizza place might think we were on our way to/from an orgy.

31

denny 04.12.05 at 9:10 pm

Well the article does say:

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.

Sounds like they found the kind of guys who’d fit in something they had neatly given a label to, and that is how a new social trend is ‘discovered’. Keyword “undercurrent of homoeroticism”. Any male to male relationship can be made to fit into that. Everything has an undercurrent of eroticism if you want to look for it.

I’m sure there are men who really are that sad and homophobic, but the attempt to turn it into some previously untapped phenomenon is a bit too transparent.

(A while ago it was metrosexuals. As if straight men who cared about their looks and style and taste had never, ever existed before on the planet, as if there wasn’t a tv show to push. Two years ago, straight men loved to be mistaken for gay men, now they are terrified. All or nothing. Trends are like this; when a new one is discovered, the previous ones disappear.)

32

denny 04.12.05 at 9:15 pm

What’s interesting is they almost make it sound like it’s the fault of the “higher exposure of homosexuality” if these poor things can’t enjoy a meal without getting that paranoid. Oh, and the usual stuff about how men are more on the defensive about their masculinity because of… women who are “stepping into male areas”. Right. The gay man and the ‘non-womanly’ woman, needlessly complicating the lives of nice, simple, helpless straight men. Please pass the kleenex…

If there’s one thing that rings true, it’s that adult friendships can be a lot less informal and spontaneous than in teenage or college years. But that’s hardly new information.

33

Matt 04.12.05 at 9:34 pm

As someone mentioned briefly above, much the same worry (perhaps more) happens in opposite sex situations, too. It doesn’t seem too hard to me to plan an outing w/ another man. But, it can be much more tricky to plan a non-date outing with a woman one doesn’t know well, if what one wants isn’t a date, meaning something that might lead to romance or sex, but, a shared trip to the museum or the movies. It can take a special sort of care to make sure it’s know that something like this isn’t a date, but not becuase you don’t think the person is undateable or the like. This sort of thing can make it hard to form different-sex friendships, I think, in a way that comes up less (at least for me and the people I’m friendly with) than in same-sex friendships.

34

carla 04.12.05 at 9:44 pm

Perhaps I’m the only woman commenting on this post so maybe I’m out of my element.

I asked several of my straight male friends (I’m 40 and most of my male friends are about that age) about this…they said it was BS.

But even if it isn’t…why would anyone care what a bunch of strangers think? Have I forgotten what it’s like to be young and insecure?

35

dsquared 04.13.05 at 7:22 am

I think that the author might actually be on to something, because as I struggled through the article, I ended up concluding that most of those guys were, in fact, gay, and in some pretty serious denial about it.

36

david tiley 04.13.05 at 10:30 am

The next article is about people of opposite sexes going out with each other when they are both involved in relationships and a) how they establish with their partners that this is a not-date thing and b) how they behave when they meet people who might conceivably think they are playing around and c) how they deal with going out together but in a not dating way, except that they are so comfortable with each other that if they were not previously partnered they would be an item.

37

The Navigator 04.13.05 at 12:31 pm

Best…. comment…. ever:
“My boyfriend asked the people on his world of warcraft server, and they said everything mentioned in the article as not-ok is fine, as long as it’s not all of them together.”

Oh yeah? Well, I asked the people on my Dungeons & Dragons server, and they all said “girls are gross anyway, who’d go out with them?”

If I may paraphrase Larry Groznic, When you are prepared to have a serious discussion of man dates in world of warcraft, you have my email address.

Oh, and as to the merits of the article: People. Please. This woman’s middle name is 8, and she has obviously drawn from her own social circle. Nuff said.

38

david hume 04.14.05 at 10:52 pm

This Lee story is getting major play around the world now, appearing in translation in Japan, Taiwan, France, Germany and Spain, among other places where the NY Times news service is synidcated by newspapers there.

So this new term is not going to die out. Give it a wide berth!

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