Ryan Adams--"Boys" (mp3)
David Bowie--"Boys Keep Swinging" (mp3)
Yesterday, here at school, was a day of boys. Our annual "day off for fun and games in the spring" was a coed event for the first time (girls arrived in the afternoon), but it was still a day of boys. It was a day of:
In short, a boy day.
Overseeing this day of fun were a group of (primarily) gentler (primarily) men. Even during this day of spring frenzy, we expect our guys to be somewhat gentlemanly. We expect them to respect guidelines, stay in boundaries, look out for those around them, adjust their competitive spirits to accomodate those girls, be gracious hosts to those girls, share in chivalrous ways, etc. We expect a lot. Example: as the day was winding down, I called out to some guys in the sno-cone line, "Hey, could you let the girls go ahead of you? They need to leave soon." One of them looked at me and replied, "They can leave now." He was half-kidding; I was half-shocked. But, he didn't let anyone ahead of him. And I didn't make him.
And then, alas, my mind takes me back just a couple of weeks to a "Guy Trip," a "Mancation," a bachannalian frenzy of a visit to New Orleans that I was a part of with a group of (primarily) gentler men. And, of course, it got me thinking. If you've never been on one of these "guy trips," first of all, you're missing out because, first, they are very fun, but, second of all, seen from a distance, these trips follow a fairly predictable schedule of:
seeking out good food,
insulting each other's sports teams,
eating junk food,
making gay jokes about each other,
making bathroom jokes about each other,
making "that's what she said" jokes about each other,
trying to get each other to pay for drinks,
making jokes about each other's musical tastes,
playing quasi-sports like Golden Tee and Air Hockey,
talking about what women do when they're together,
In short, a guy trip.
Most of all, though, a guy trip is about sheer camaraderie (unless, of course, one of your pals is spending all of his time chasing bachelorette parties). You talk about things you wouldn't talk about around the lunch table. You learn things you might not want to know. You confront real fears and weaknesses. The facades come down, the daily issues that clog intimacy are not present, the need to impress in any way except the most ironic, self-depracatory way is pretty much gone. If anything gets too close, you resort to insults and put-downs.
Let's face it, whether or not we are all alpha males in the strictest sense, we are all alpha males in our own homes, we are all kings of our own castles, and so the managing of egos and desires on a "guy trip" is a delicate endeavor, one fraught with greater tension and compromise because a "guy trip" is always too short-lived to do everything that we thought we wanted to do. And that's what keeps us coming back. And next time, we'll do everything we did that we liked last time plus all of the things we didn't get to do and then some. We're guys. We're boys. We live in the world of endless possibility.
It's not unlike watching, in miniature, 650 boys cut loose on campus to do what they please with minimal supervision and mostly only each other to keep each other in check. There may be one-upsmanship, but there is rarely fighting. There may be ravenous hunger, but everyone gets the chance to eat (let it go by, and you may not get the second chance). There may be unchecked competition, but there will be concern when someone gets hurt. And above everything is that sense that whatever you are doing, you like it that a bunch of other guys are doing it with you. You stray outside that brotherhood, and maybe that's when you get in trouble.
But boys will be boys. And men, well, God forbid we ever lose that boyishness. That's when we die.
Ryan Adam's criminally-underrated Rock N Roll and David Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging" are both available at Itunes.