The smart ones are careful what they say

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Nothing has had a greater impact on the casual conversation among men today than the #MeToo movement. Anecdotes between guys that use to float off our tongues like spit on a sizzling summer day now get choked back in our throats as we weigh the repercussions of what a careless comment could do to our reputations, if not our careers.

I mention this because I recently met up with a Las Vegas friend from 25 years ago, and we reminisced about a group of 10 of us who regularly met at a local restaurant for a dinner that was labeled Boys Nite Out. We recalled that the conversations we had back then had all the decorum of a rugby locker room.

The dinners were basically male-bonding affairs, with good friends getting together to network, share war stories, and commiserate over the types of issues that concern all men in the prime of life: namely health, our work lives, and relationships with women.

Naturally it was the last of these three topics that dominated the conversation. The first of these two were just icebreakers each week before we got to the juicy stuff.

Of our group of 10, five were divorced, four were married, and one had never been married, so there was an open field of personal issues to discuss.

Most of the spicy material was provided by the divorced guys, who out of basic male insecurity and the bruised egos that go with a failed marriage were always trying to convince themselves and others at the table that in the days since their marriages had ended, their lives had become an ongoing bacchanalian celebration.

It wasn’t that we divorced guys were offering explicit details about our dating experiences: the fascination with that sort of dialogue fades away for most men in the 20s or early 30s. Rather, we were subtly trying to convince the married guys that they were missing out on a wild world out there where sexually liberated women were more than willing to hook up on a first or second date.

The married guys would invariably respond with something like, “It must be nice,” while the divorced guys were secretly hoping that they could find a partner who would provide them happiness and stability on their marital mulligan. We always want what we can’t have, or what we perceive to be the missing ingredient for the ongoing quest for perfect happiness.

In practice if not in theory, the married guys were the bigger flirts. Invariably, when an unmarried woman would approach our table and ask what the group was up to, the married guys would beam like strobe lights and use everything in their arsenal to impress her, while the single guys would hang back and act slightly above it all. I never quite knew what to make of it, but I’m sure some sociologist who studies the mating habits of peacocks could provide an answer.

Was it that the married guys knew that by being considered “safe,” they could get away with more? Or that they had license to pour on the charm without being perceived as having an ulterior motive? Or was it that the single guys felt the best strategy was to play it cool and survey the game like a veteran poker player, just in case the woman had her eye on them?

I do know that small gatherings of men in their 30s and 40s that I’ve been around in the last 18 months don’t discuss women much at all. Those conversations from past years fall into a twilight zone. There’s too much fear of being inappropriate, or offending someone even second hand, to share an anecdote about an experience with the opposite sex. Every man I know who spent many adult years single and actively involved in the dating scene, worries today over what he might have done in the past that crossed the line and could come back to haunt him.

Any social movement of merit, and #MeToo clearly falls under that heading, has to swing the pendulum well past center before it can settle back somewhere near the middle.

Until that center point is reached in these changing times, I would think that most dinner gatherings like my Boys Nite Out group of old would spend far more time discussing their golf games, their investment strategies, and their views on the next election. Boring stuff, but safe.

In 2019, a male discussing past or current dating rituals in any kind of detail is as passé as a manual typewriter.

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About the Author

Jack Sheehan

Vegas Vibe columnist Jack Sheehan has lived in Las Vegas since 1976 and writes about the city for Gaming Today. He is the author of 28 books, over 1,000 magazine articles, and has sold four screenplays.

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