The Man Date
Bloke 1: We went to that new steak joint, T-bones as thick as your arm.
Bloke 2: Nice.
Bloke 1: Then we saw the new Fast & the Furious.
Bloke 2: Best date ever! This chick sounds awesome, what’s her name?
Bloke 1: His name was Bruce. It wasn’t a date date, it was a man date.
This is NOT something you would have heard a decade ago. Back then the term “mandate” was just something lying bastard politicians said before they were about to break another promise – I have a mandate from the people to blah blah blah…
But in the last few years the term “man date” (two words) has crept into modern consciousness as a way to describe two straight men spending time with each other. You wouldn’t think this simple act would need an actual term, but blokes aren’t very good at hanging out one on one. The main reasons for this is a fear men have of being thought of as gay. Instead they tend to hang out in threesomes (not at all gay) or large groups (man orgies).
According to Associate Professor Michael Flood, an academic, educator and general bloke expert (who we’ll be calling “Doctor Flood”, because it makes him sound like a Batman villain!), this fear of being seen as gay means men rarely show emotional intimacy with their male friends; and it means they struggle to develop the same deeply connected friendships that women do. This is not healthy, especially when men are facing a time of crisis, like a break up.
Men have a tendency to let friendships drift. Not a cool, Tokyo style drift involving fast cars and furious women, but a slow, gradual drift towards isolation and loneliness. Work pressures, family commitments and a tendency to let wives and girlfriends run their social calendars all contribute to men losing touch with their friends. It’s not uncommon for men to wake up at 35 and realise they have almost no close male friends.
Doctor Flood says that even men who maintain friendships still shy away from showing any kind of genuine affection to their mates. He identifies hugging as a simple example of how men can build closer bonds. It’s hard to fathom in a country where our major sports are built around blokes essentially hugging each other all afternoon, but Australia is still a firm handshake nation – hugs are for women and kids (and men in tight shorts on a footy field).
While men, particularly younger men, are becoming more comfortable greeting each other with a hug, it’s still a special type of hug – a “man hug”. The man hug is more of a grapple than a warm embrace (like an overly friendly arm wrestle), it is very short (two pats on the back) and the genitals must stay as far away from each other as possible, which leads to the forming of an arch shape that more closely resembles a bridge pylon than an actual hug.
But even if man hugs are a bit like a solid off the ball bump, they are an important part of generating greater intimacy between men. Blokes may want to have closer friendships, but they still want to maintain their masculinity while doing it. If you find it easier to connect over a beer and a game of footy at the pub or in your man cave at home (you lucky bastard!), then go for it! The important thing is spending time together and strengthening your friendships.
Doctor Flood says there is definitely a change occurring in attitudes, particularly with younger men who are less afraid of being labelled gay. Flood stresses the importance of men cultivating their friendships during good times, as well as bad. He says male friendships can be a bit like fire extinguishers – only used in case of emergency. But if men are going to have blokes to turn to in the tough times, they need to make more effort in the good times, too.
So the challenge for blokes is simple, pick up the phone, give a mate a call and organise a man date. You don’t have to bring him flowers or eat at a candle-lit restaurant, you just have to spend time with someone you like and shoot the shit for a while. Oh, and you know that awkward moment at the end of a first date with a woman when you wonder if you should lean in for a kiss? Well, you don’t have to worry about that…
Just lean in, wrap your arms around your mate and give him a good, solid man hug.