Monday, July 21, 2008

Men, Part 1: You Decide

The Libertines--"The Man Who Would Be King" (mp3)

Fine Young Cannibals--"Don't Ask Me To Choose" (mp3)

This isn’t about all men. Maybe it isn’t about you or a man you know. But it is about me and many of the men I hang out with. Something has happened to us. Let me explain.

Here’s a standard trip out to lunch:

(C is an unnamed friend; M is me.)

C: Where do you want to go, Bobby? We could go Chili’s. We could go Longhorn. We could go Ankar’s. You decide.
M: I don’t care. You pick.
C: I think I chose last time.
M: Well, you’re driving. It’s your call.
C: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I’m not taking that heat. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to just keep driving down Brainerd Road until you tell me to turn in.
M: Arby’s.
C: You don’t want to go to Arby’s.
M: You’re right. So pick someplace else.

The same thing happens in New Orleans, Louisiana or in Itaewon, Korea. We meander around hemming and hawing about what we do or don’t want to do, about who decided last time, and, ultimately, about one of us accusing the others about not making up their minds. But we’re all guilty.

If one of us is foolish enough to “lock in” to a coherent plan, the rest of us will start chipping away at that with a variety of alternatives, serious or otherwise, until our decisive group member is second-guessing himself.

I’ll offer three theories to explain this phenomenon:

Theory A: The “No-one-wants-to-be-a-dick-anymore” theory. I say that like it’s a bad thing, and maybe it is. In this day and age, especially in the context of a family, if you are too forceful about what you want to do, without considering the common good, you are likely to be branded an asshole, a dick, or worse. What self-respecting dad says, "Listen, family, I'm going to go to the Outback Steakhouse for supper, and if you all want to come along, that's fine, even though I know two of you are vegans and the other one doesn't really like red meat, but, listen, I think you all can get by on the Awesome Blossom, though, frankly, you're going to cost me a lot of money, and I'd really rather go alone, but come along if you want." Dick. So it spreads to those times when you're out with the guys alone, which leads to the second theory:

Theory B: The “Men-don’t-want-conflicts-in-their-male-relationships” theory. Time spent with male friends has become sacred and hard to come by (there's bound to be a trade-off or quid pro quo of some kind), and no one wants to fuck it up by creating conflict. So, the modus operandus tends to be a waffling on what you'd like to do or where you want to go, even though you've looked forward to these times and these places for a long, long, time; at best, it's a kind of gentle haggling. At worst, it's a compromise-fest that ends up leaving no one satisfied. Think about it--if you choose the restaurant that will satisfy your gourmet pal, your chicken-wing aficiando bud, and your cheapass, lovable buddy who only really wants to drink, where are you going to end up? Some kind of pale-imitation of someone's real thing.

Theory C: The “Men-don’t-want-to-get-grief-for-insignificant-responsibilities” theory. Which leaves us with the position of not wanting to get too worked up over what isn't that important. I mean, if you end up eating some great nachos when you were really in the mood for a decent French place and a couple of glasses of wine, does it really matter? No, of course, it doesn't. But if you never get your way, if you never direct your crowd to even a slightly-different place, then all of you will end up recycling the same three or four places for everything. I know that isn't a tragedy, but maybe, ultimately, drifting only a few waves in either direction of the same straight boat course is the greatest tragedy of all. Maybe the best things in life are a bit more off-course than that.

The discerning among you may see all three of these as the same theory. That's fine. If they aren't, then at least they may be stops farther and farther down the same path.

I don't have a solution. But I think I'd like to be either the person who says, "I'm going to do X, and if any of you want to do the same, that's fine, and if not, then fuck off back to your little corners of the world." Or, at least I'd like to be in hearing distance of the kind of dick that would say something like that. Just to try to talk him out of it.

The Libertines and the Fine Young Cannibals are both available at Itunes.


Anonymous said...

As one of the offenders in this post, I'll admit to the crime. (Before I launch into self loathing, I have to say that anyone who isn't living in Montana is seriously deprived of the most beautiful state in America. We looked for all manner of excuses to stay in the state today, visiting both universities in Missoula and Bozeman (Bozeman is way cooler...their University has a profound dinosaur museum across the street from their football stadium--go Bobcats!--and we saw two of the 4 in tact T-Rex examples on the (surface of the) face of the planet, today. Tomorrow is Yellowstone and Grand Teton and the Badlands. But to return to this blog...travelling with girls means never having to say you're sorry..or rather, it means that you're blessed with amiable companions who are good to go, no matter what the destination. As far as lunching with B and company, all I can say is that the 3 Taco Roc coupons in my wallet are adding to that leather's girth in ways that are making my spine unaligned so my call is Lee Highway soon...

Bob said...

Agreed; if I had it all to do again, I'd go to Montana to school.

Daytimerush said...

Sounds wonderful! I am jealous of you guys and your summer travels. I get to go to Canada next week for the family vacation. We are taking a couple of days to venture farther north to camp, fish, and canoe on a clean lake. One where you can actually see your feet while swimming. Maybe next year I will venture to Korea or Montana!

Billy Bob said...

My grandparents had a cabin north of Toronto that they foolishly sold. Canada is beautiful; I'm sorry the dollar isn't stronger or Canada would also be an incredible bargain.

Jason said...

Bob, I think you might be an expert on Theory B:)

Ah yes, Canada, for all its ribbing and joking, certainly has a lot of beautiful places, interesting people, and a serious lack of guns. Maybe I should start creating tourism brochures now.

Bob said...

I'm unfortunately an expert on all three theories.