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The cover story in the Times' Sunday Styles section, by Jennifer 8. Lee ("8," not "B"), was entitled "The Man Date." The meatier features in Sunday Styles appear to be designed to make interesting and off-center social developments look as silly as possible, and, at first, I thought that a story about the tactics of getting together with another straight man for dinner and conversation without provoking homoerotic innuendo would be a prime example of this undertaking. Most of the story is indeed embarrassing to read, for the simple reason that reading about anybody's insecurities is embarrassing. But Ms Lee salvages her story from utter inconsequence by proposing a bit of history.

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.

Exactly, more or less. In Istanbul in January, we noticed that unquestionably heterosexual men were far more boyish and physical with one another than their American counterparts would dream of being. And isn't "defensive" the definitive adjective for Ernest Hemingway's manliness? Maybe what sexual conservatives fear most about gender equality is the tedium of thinking about their relationships with other men. What a shame that would be.


How sad that men cannot speak with anyone? It must be very suffocating to live this way. If they talk to a woman, it must be sexual. If they talk with a man, it must be sexual. What about pets? This is ludicrous. Thanks, NYT, for helping open the discussion! Social liberation through the Sunday Styles.

The Times contributes to the problem by talking about it in such hushed, breathless tones that you think the problem should be considered valid and worth discussing. It is in fact further proof of americans' complete inability to deal with anything intimate, emotional or dealing with the body. I sent this article to a friend of mine in Brazil -- where they don't have this problem on the whole thank god -- exasperated, saying this was a perfect example of how it's impossible to have any intimate, emotional, or intellectual friendship with virtually any male, or female for that matter, in this country. His exact words, after he said that he thought the whole thing was sad and ridiculous, were "americans are such fools." Yet again, time to emigrate.

Don't emigrate! Rebel, men! Go to dinner with impunity with your straight friends and flout convention! Talk, josh, be intense. Is this all we're left with for taboos? I for one manage intimate, emotional, AND intellectual friendship with men and women. I don't bring any fears of misinterpretation to the table, and none are imagined. (I'm sure there are plenty of sexual over- and under-tones, and I enjoy them where they belong: hidden and repressed. Sexual tension is at least lively!) I personally found the article embarrassingly juvenile, although if it really is such a problem, I suppose it could be experienced as a refreshing wake-up call. Sigh.

hey people, there is a real easy rather neat answer to this companionship problem. come down to florida where we are just plain folk loving, communicating, enjoying one another, sad that the NE new yorkers have all these HANG UPS.
havning spent lots of time in Istanbul I would cheerfully agree that this old culture has i RIGHT, maybe in six centuries we gringoes will grow up, keep happy

Something I noticed in the NYTimes piece: all of the men quoted (with one exception, whose age was not provided) were all in their mid- to late-20's. Is this perhaps a generational thing? My husband (who is far removed from the 20-something generation) doesn't seem to have a phobia about dining with a male friend (and even sharing a bottle of wine, assuming the wine is good enough).

The comments back up my sense that the stuff in the blockquote (from the article) has to be gone through. Men who haven't dealt with (a) ubiquitous homosexuality and (b) equalizing women will not have a problem with intramale socializing, and so seem to be free of the anxiety. The effort is all in the coming out at the other end - a sort of innocence reconstituted.

That's what the story is about: innocence. We present innocence as good thing when we associate it with purity. But in fact "innocence" is, etymologically, the same word as "ignorance." and ignorance of prevailing inequities is always - if you're on the right side of them - bliss.

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