The New York Times seems to have started something with an article by Jennifer Lee in its issue of 10 April under the headline “The Man Date; What do you call two straight men having dinner?” The article discussed the issue that two male friends enjoying certain kinds of public activity together — going for a walk, visiting a museum, or having a meal — are automatically assumed by onlookers to be gay if there is no obvious business- or sports-related reason for them to be together. The fear of being thought gay, the article suggested, made it difficult for men to create the kind of one-on-one close friendships that women take for granted. The story has been picked up by papers worldwide as a peg for discussing these issues and for relating them to social attitudes, metrosexuality (changing male views on fashion and personal grooming), and other matters. Whether Ms Lee’s invention of man date for a non-sexual male assignation is going to become a permanent part of the language is much too early to say. My back hairs say it isn’t.
Like the now passé “metrosexual,” man date is sure to cause some consternation and self-consciousness among males everywhere. Social behaviors once considered mundane will be subjected to a man-date litmus test. Watching a football game with another man will be kosher; watching a foreign film will be a man date. Cooking outdoors on a grill will be normal masculine socializing; cooking indoors on a range will be a man date. Of course, Lee and The New York Times aren’t trying to promote homophobia by bringing “man date” into the national vocabulary, but one can see little sociological use in the term other than exacerbating homosexual panic.
University Wire, 13 Apr. 2005
Sideways, the recent highly acclaimed film from Alexander Payne, is perhaps the best example of the Man Date movie. Two buddies, Jack and Miles, hit the road for a week of wine tasting and fine dining before Jack’s wedding. These are average guys, but are unabashed about sharing a good bottle of wine over dinner and talking about their feelings.
the Observer, 17 Apr. 2005