Odd Man Out

Today I discovered the real reason behind the invention of beer.

For years, I thought beer was created because A) Ancient peoples needed some way to make use of grain that had gone off; B) Beer was sometimes safer to drink than the local water, which could make you feel ill and vomit; C) People really like getting drunk, which often results in feeling ill and vomiting. I had yet to reconcile reasons B and C, but I felt I was getting close.

Silly me. Apparently beer was invented so that men could socialize with each other without anyone questioning their manhood. Well okay, questions about manhood do arise, but usually only after Bob has had a few too many, and Mike accidentally steps on Bob's foot. Then it all goes downhill from there, but that's another story.

Anyway, according to a recent article, even in the modern, liberated 21st century, men still feel uncomfortable socializing with other men if they don't have business, sports, or beer as an excuse. Or to put it another way: Men feel less manly if seen in the company of other men.

I don't pretend to understand why this is so, and I concede this is a bigger issue for guys than it is for women. Women hang out together all the time, and no one suggest that doing so makes them less, er, womanly. We do still get strange looks when we do manly things however, like… drink beer.

Since what's socially acceptable seems to be in flux, and since very few of us have the courage to shed our cultural inhibitions (unless beer is involved), we need a solution. I propose we all get together and negotiate a list of things that are now, or should be, socially acceptable — and then we can all pledge not to point and gossip when people do these things. The list can be updated regularly and posted online on something like itsokayreally.com. Here's a starter list:

Funny colored drinks with umbrellas: These should be banned for both men and women unless they're on vacation in some tropical location. Is this because they're too cute? No. It's because they're too dangerous — try carrying one of these through a crowded nightclub without having the 'brolly knocked into your eye.

Movies, Reel One: It should be okay for guys to go to movies that don't involve car chases or explosions. Actually, guys sighted going into movies that have actual plots should be applauded — maybe Hollywood will get the hint and start hiring screenwriters again.

Movies, Reel Two: Women should be able to feel okay about going to a sci-fi film without a guy in tow. C'mon, Princess Leia knew how to fire a blaster and drive a speeder bike — she had to learn that from somewhere.

Dinner, Not Diner: Guys should be able to go out to dinner together at a decent restaurant. Women aren't relegated to grotty sports bars or fast food joints, why should men be?

What's In Store, Part One: A woman should be able to walk into a hardware store without having to deal with A) A smirking clerk who talks to her slowly, ignores her question about power drills, and points her to the pink paintbrushes; B) A shocked clerk who implies she's abnormal because she knows what a power drill is.

What's In Store, Part Two: A man should be able to walk into an interior decorating store without having to deal with A) A smirking clerk who points him to the pink paint brushes; B) A shocked clerk who makes pointed, frequent references that he’s abnormal.

Chores and Snores: It should be okay for a woman to mow the lawn and paint the garage while a man vacuums the house and dusts the wood work. These chores involve the same physical movements and will bore the socks off the person doing them regardless of gender.

To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.

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