To be perfectly honest, I'm a little distracted while I'm writing this. I'm making a mental checklist. Since it's summer, the grill is clean and running well, and I have plenty of charcoal. Likewise, there's a freezer filled with chicken wings, breasts, and drumsticks that I'll defrost and season starting tonight. I'm going to save Steak Hunt until the last minute and grab some from whoever's having the best weekend sale. After the debacle of this past winter with the whiskey tasting, this time I voted that we focus on "white liquor"--gin, vodka, some white rum--and, since I'm hosting, I have to get the foundational bottles to go along with the couple of cases of beer. Finally, though we never watch all of them, I have to figure out what movies I want to have on hand. I'm torn between the three Bill Cosby/Sidney Poitier movies, Leon Isaac Kennedy's very important Penitentiary trilogy, or a nice trio of black monster movies: Blacula, Blackenstein, and Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde. There are a lot of preparations for Man Weekend.
You know how it is--the older you get, the activities that you used to take for granted end up being the very thing you have to schedule. I've had the same core of friends since I was a freshman in college, and, I don't think this is much of surprise to anyone, my crew spent much more time drinking beer, eating chicken wings, and watching Uptown Saturday Night than we did going to class. But after we finally managed to stumble out of college, everyone got jobs then girlfriends then careers then wives then houses then kids and then, finally, The Calendar. For the most part, our wives keep up with it and our kids fill the bulk of the spots on it, but what all of us have found, as the years have gone by, is that we don't have time to just hang out anymore.
So, about five years ago, we came up with Man Weekend. We all get clearance from the Keepers of the Calendar and come together to do some of that hanging out. And, as you hopefully picked up from the above, there isn't a great deal of important stuff that happens. Seven grown men sit around, drink more alcohol than we do during the rest of the year, eat charred meat, and watch black films from the '70s that none of us (well, except for the guy with the column who spends a lot of time watching them . . . for research) see anymore. Oh, and we talk a lot of shit. Now, you're probably wondering why I've burned up 450 words with this? Well, one of my friends reminded us that his son, our oldest "nephew," is 12, and we've all started talking about bringing him next year on his 13th birthday.
This got me thinking about manhood and male socialization a little bit. First, let's clarify something. You know that old saying? "You can't be a man until you've held a man's hand." I've always been a little ambivalent about the line of thinking that a woman is incapable of raising boys. There are a great number of sexist assumptions in that sentiment. Single mothers have always successfully raised sons, and they continue to do so, and to suggest otherwise is both ignorant and insulting to those women.
Still, when I think of my own adolescence, a huge part of my initiation into manhood came from watching the older men around me interact. I spent a lot of time sitting at the table with my dad and my uncles, just watching and listening, getting the cadence and rhythm of their relationships down. Obviously, I saw them with my mother and aunts, but there was something special about seeing them bounce off of each other. It's one thing to see men function as fathers and authority figures, or as husbands and mates, but to see them with all of those social positions stripped away, just as men among other men, is invaluable to a young man's growth and his own definition of manhood. Likewise, it was a little rite of passage when those men start to relate to me as a man. It sounds stupid, but I distinctly remember when my father and his friends started to tell dirty jokes in front of me, and when I was allowed to drink with them. And without giving much thought to what we were doing, it looks like my friends and I have carried on this tradition and, starting next year, we'll begin to pass it on. We spend the weekend doing nothing, but in some important ways, it means everything.
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