The Man Date
THE delicate posturing began with the phone call.
The proposal was that two buddies back in New York City for a holiday break in December meet to visit the Museum of Modern Art after its major renovation.
两个在去年12月的假期回到纽约的朋友，决定约着一起去全面装修后重新开门的现代艺术博物馆(Museum of Modern Art)看看。
"He explicitly said, 'I know this is kind of weird, but we should probably go,"' said Matthew Speiser, 25, recalling his conversation with John Putman, 28, a former classmate from Williams College.
“他也说了，‘我知道这有点怪怪的，但是我们应该去看看，’”25岁的马修·斯潘塞(Matthew Speiser)谈到当时与28岁的约翰·普特曼(John Putman)通话时说道。两人在威廉姆斯大学(Williams College)念书的时候是同班同学。
The weirdness was apparent once they reached the museum, where they semi-avoided each other as they made their way through the galleries and eschewed any public displays of connoisseurship. "We definitely went out of our way to look at things separately," recalled Mr. Speiser, who has had art-history classes in his time.
"We shuffled. We probably both pretended to know less about the art than we did."
Eager to cut the tension following what they perceived to be a slightly unmanly excursion -- two guys looking at art together -- they headed directly to a bar. "We couldn't stop talking about the fact that it was ridiculous we had spent the whole day together one on one," said Mr. Speiser, who is straight, as is Mr. Putman. "We were purging ourselves of insecurity."
Anyone who finds a date with a potential romantic partner to be a minefield of unspoken rules should consider the man date, a rendezvous between two straight men that is even more socially perilous.
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. Attending the movie "Friday Night Lights" is a man date, but going to see the Jets play is definitely not.
你可以把男男约会简单地定义为两个异性恋男子，进行与生意和体育无关的社交活动。两个男性一起出去玩，做一些放到男女之间恐怕就显得合情合理的事情。比如在同一张桌子上面对面地吃饭，但又没有在看电视，这就是男男约会；在酒吧吃饭就不是。一起在公园里散步是男男约会；慢跑不是。去看电影《胜利之光》(Friday Night Lights)是，而一起去看航空展肯定不是。
"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.
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. Depending on the activity and on the two men involved, an undercurrent of homoeroticism that may be present determines what feels comfortable or not on a man date, as Mr. Speiser and Mr. Putman discovered in their squeamishness at the Modern.
Jim O'Donnell, a professor of business and economics at Huntington University in Indiana, who said his life had been changed by a male friend, urges men to get over their discomfort in socializing one on one because they have much to gain from the emotional support of male friendships. (Women understand this instinctively, which is why there is no female equivalent to the awkward man date; straight women have long met for dinner or a movie without a second thought.)
印第安纳州亨廷顿大学(Huntington University)商科和经济学教授吉姆·奥唐奈(Jim O'Donnell)说，一个男性友人改变了他的生活，他极力主张男人应该克服在一对一社交活动中产生的不适感，因为男性友谊所能带来的情感支持会让他们获益良多。（女人生来就明白这一点，因此女女约会从来都没有男男约会的那种尴尬；直女们总是不假思索地相约共进晚餐或者看电影。）
"A lot of quality time is lost as we fritter around with minor stuff like the Final Four scores," said Mr. O'Donnell, who was on the verge of divorce in the mid-1980's before a series of conversations over meals and walks with a friend 20 years his senior changed his thinking. "He was instrumental in turning me around in the vulnerability that he showed," said Mr. O'Donnell, who wrote about the friendship in a book, "Walking With Arthur." "I can remember times when he wanted to know why I was going to leave my wife. No guy had ever done that before."
“当我们把时间耗在四强赛分数等小事上的时候，大把一起相处的宝贵时光一去不返，”奥唐奈说。上世纪80年代中期，他处于离婚边缘，却在和一位比他年长20岁的友人多次进餐散步后改变了主意，当时二人聊了很多东西。“他向我袒露了自己的脆弱之处，帮助我改变了想法，”在《和亚瑟一起散步》(Walking With Arthur)一书中描写了这段友谊的奥唐奈说。“我记得当时他想要了解，为什么我打算离开我妻子。此前从没有男性朋友像他那样做。”
While some men explicitly seek man dates, and others flatly reject them as pointless, most seem to view them as an unavoidable form of socializing in an age when friends can often catch up only by planning in advance. The ritual comes particularly into play for many men after college, as they adjust to a more structured, less spontaneous social life. "You see kids in college talking to each other, bull sessions," said Peter Nardi, a sociology professor at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., who edited a book called "Men's Friendships." "But the opportunities to get close to another man, to share and talk about their feelings, are not available after a certain age."
尽管有些男人会毫不掩饰地寻求男男约会，有些则认为这毫无意义，会断然拒绝，但大多数人都觉得，在一个通常只有事先安排好，朋友们才会小聚一番的时代，男男约会是一种不可避免的社交形式。对许多从大学毕业后，学着适应更有规律、随意性更小的社会生活的男性而言，这种约会尤其难以避免。“你看大学里的年轻人会相互交谈，侃大山，”加利福尼亚州克莱蒙特市匹兹学院(Pitzer College)社会学教授、《兄弟情谊》(Men's Friendships)一书的编辑彼得·纳迪(Peter Nardi)说。“但到了一定年龄之后，就不太有机会与另一个男人亲近，分享和讨论各自的感受了。”
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, now a graduate student at the University of Virginia, 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.
许多直男承认，担心被当成同性恋，是他们对一对一社交感到纠结的一个重要原因。目前在弗吉尼亚大学(University of Virginia)读研的斯潘塞记得，他在夏洛茨维尔某单排商业区内一家口碑极好意大利餐厅安排的另一场男男约会，就让他有这种担心。他约的是自己的室友、身为律师的托马斯·金(Thomas Kim)，在那里见面本来看似会是一个舒适的选择。但他们刚走进餐厅，面对的便是以大提琴演奏的音乐、琥珀色的灯光、雪白的桌布以及一份酒单。
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.
Mr. Kim, 28, who is now married, was flustered in part because he saw someone he knew at the Italian restaurant. "I was kind of worried that word might get out," he said. "This is weird, and now there is a witness maybe."
Dinner with a friend has not always been so fraught. Before women were considered men's equals, some gender historians say, men routinely confided in and sought advice from one another in ways they did not do with women, even their wives. Then, these scholars say, two things changed during the last century: an increased public awareness of homosexuality created a stigma around male intimacy, and at the same time women began encroaching on traditionally male spheres, causing men to become more defensive about notions of masculinity.
"If men become too close to other men, then they are always vulnerable to this accusation of, 'Oh, you must be gay,"' said Gregory Lehne, a medical psychologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who has studied gender issues. At the same time, he added, "When you have women in the same world and seeking equality with men, then all of a sudden issues emerge in the need to maintain the male sex role."
“如果男人和其他男人太过亲密，那他们常常很容易受到这样的指责：‘哦，你一定是同性恋，’”约翰·霍普金斯医学院(Johns Hopkins School of Medicine)研究性别问题的医学心理学家格雷戈里·莱内(Gregory Lehne)说。他还表示，同时，“在和你身处同一个世界的女人寻求男女平等之际，突然间就出现了需要维护男性性别角色的问题。”
And thus a simple meal turns into social Stratego. Some men avoid dinner altogether unless the friend is coming from out of town or has a specific problem that he wants advice about. Otherwise, grabbing beers at a bar will do just fine, thank you.
Other men say dinners may be all right, but never brunch, although a post-hangover meal taking place during brunch hours is O.K. "The company at that point is purely secondary," explained Steven Carlson, 29, a public relations executive in Chicago.
Almost all men agree that beer and hard alcohol are acceptable man date beverages, but wine is risky. And sharing a bottle is out of the question. "If a guy wants to get a glass of wine, that's O.K.," said Rob Discher, 24, who moved to Washington from Dallas and has dinner regularly with his male roommate. "But there is something kind of odd about splitting a bottle of wine with a guy."
Other restaurant red flags include coat checks, busboys who ask, "Still or sparkling?" and candles, unless there is a power failure. All of those are fine, however, at a steakhouse. "Your one go-to is if you go and get some kind of meat product," explained James Halow, 28, who works for a leveraged buyout firm in San Francisco.
Cooking for a friend at home violates the man date comfort zone for almost everyone, with a possible exemption for grilling or deep-frying. "The grilling thing would take away the majority of the stigma because there is a masculine overtone to the grill," Mr. Discher said.
And man dates should always be Dutch treat, men agree. Armen Myers, 28, a lawyer in New York who is an unabashed man dater, remembers when he tried to pay for dinner for a friend. "I just plopped out the money and didn't even think about it," Mr. Myers said. "He said, 'What are you doing?' And I'm like: 'I was going to pay. What's the big deal?' And he said something like, 'Guys don't pay for me,' or 'No one pays for me.' There was a certain slight power issue."
When attending a movie together -- preferably with explosions or heavy special effects, never a romantic comedy -- guys prefer to put a nice big seat between each other. (This only sounds like an episode of "Seinfeld.") "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 financial analyst in Washington.
Men who avoid man dates altogether are often puzzled by the suggestion that they might like to spend time with male friends. "If you're buddies with another guy, there shouldn't be any work involved," Mr. Halow of San Francisco said. Which is why many men say that a successful man dates requires a guy to demonstrate concern for his friend without ever letting on. "The amount of preparation that the other guy is making is directly proportional to how awkward it is," Mr. McArdle of Washington said.
When man daters socialize with non-man daters, the activities always fall to the lowest common denominator. Mr. Myers of New York remembers how he would ask his roommate Jonathan Freimann out for dinner by himself. But Mr. Freimann would instinctively pre-empt, by asking other guys along.
"If I had known he wanted to spend one-on-one time, I would have," Mr. Freimann explained, adding that group dinners had simply seemed "more fun." (The two had dinner in San Diego last week.)
Jeffrey Toohig, 27, is a more reliable bet for Mr. Myers. They regularly have dinner together to discuss women, jobs and whatever else is on their minds, because, as Mr. Toohig put it, "the conversation is more in-depth than you can have at a bar." Mr. Toohig, who is looking for a job helping underdeveloped countries, divides his male friends into two groups: "good friends who I go out one on one with, and guys I go out with and we have beers and wings." And, he pointed out, dinner with Mr. Myers has the advantage of not making his girlfriend jealous, the way dinners with his female friends do.
All men, however, agree that one rule of guy-meets-guy time is inviolable: if a woman enters the picture, a man can drop his buddies, last minute, no questions asked.
A romantic date always trumps a man date.