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April 10, 2005

Out with a guy

The New York Times's numerical reporter, Jennifer 8. Lee, writes about the rules by which straight men operate when going out with a male friend. You know, so that people don't think they're, like, uh, GAY!!!! (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) Lee calls this a "man date," as in "Last election, Bush won a man date with Dick Cheney."

The concern about being perceived as gay is one of the major complications of socializing one on one, many straight men acknowledge. That is what Mr. Speiser, now a graduate student at the University of Virginia, recalled about another man date he set up at a highly praised Italian restaurant in a strip mall in Charlottesville. It seemed a comfortable choice to meet his roommate, Thomas Kim, a lawyer, but no sooner had they walked in than they were confronted by cello music, amber lights, white tablecloths and a wine list.

The two exchanged a look. "It was funny," Mr. Speiser said. "We just knew we couldn't do it." Within minutes they were eating fried chicken at a "down and dirty" place down the road.

Mr. Kim, 28, who is now married, was flustered in part because he saw someone he knew at the Italian restaurant. "I was kind of worried that word might get out," he said. "This is weird, and now there is a witness maybe."
Yes, it's all this dumb. Here are some rules.
Some men avoid dinner altogether unless the friend is coming from out of town or has a specific problem that he wants advice about. Otherwise, grabbing beers at a bar will do just fine, thank you.

Other men say dinners may be all right, but never brunch, although a post-hangover meal taking place during brunch hours is O.K. "The company at that point is purely secondary," explained Steven Carlson, 29, a public relations executive in Chicago.

Almost all men agree that beer and hard alcohol are acceptable man date beverages, but wine is risky. And sharing a bottle is out of the question. "If a guy wants to get a glass of wine, that's O.K.," said Rob Discher, 24, who moved to Washington from Dallas and has dinner regularly with his male roommate. "But there is something kind of odd about splitting a bottle of wine with a guy."

Other restaurant red flags include coat checks, busboys who ask, "Still or sparkling?" and candles, unless there is a power failure. All of those are fine, however, at a steakhouse. "Your one go-to is if you go and get some kind of meat product," explained James Halow, 28, who works for a leveraged buyout firm in San Francisco.
Having made fun of this, I now have to disclose the most important one-on-one outing I ever had with another guy. It was 1982. I had gone out only once with the future Mrs. Attila, and, in all seriousness, I had already decided I would marry her. But I had repeatedly tried to schedule another date with her, to no avail. She said she had various conflicts, the most absurd-sounding one being a musical engagement at her friend's parents' 40th anniversary party. (Turned out to be true, and her friend, it now turns out, is the sister of a well known California-based blogger.) So one lonely Saturday night, I had dinner in a Manhattan restaurant with a male law-school classmate, and I asked him an important question: How many times would he take no for an answer before giving up? He said: Maybe three. I replied: How about 11? He told me to give it one last try. I did, and the rest is history. Now, Mrs. A will tell you, if asked, that she never did a thing to discourage me and that I totally misunderstood. But I was pretty lucky to give it one last chance, because I'm the kind of guy who would take no for an answer before it was even given.