The secret lives of certain men
I have four friends. I’m not going to be cute and make a joke; this is far too serious of a column for that. So, for the record: I have more than four friends. Several more.
These are four very specific friends, and sticking with our theme of not being cute and leading some to think this is one of those gender jokes, where you can’t solve the puzzle until you realize that the surgeon is also the boy’s mother, let me say right off that these are all men.
Men of a certain age, mostly my certain age.
What these four men also have in common is me. Two of them don’t know the other two.
Although I’m sure they’d get along. They’re all well read, interested in the world, have or have had careers and experiences that surely would overlap; I’d be glad to arrange a meeting, any time, and feel secure.
What my two sets of friends share in common with me is different, though. Two of them merge on sort of professional/avocational grounds, although we talk about things other than work. The other two went to high school with me. We almost never talk about high school.
We do discuss the usual suspects: Sports, politics, spouses, children, mutual friends, the world as it is and as we wish it would be. There’s no surprise here.
Here’s where I’m going, though: In recent meetings with all four of these guys, at least one of us brought up a subject, a subject that barely began to bounce around in his vocal cords before the others of us were nodding and waiting for our turn to speak.
Actually, this is sort of a gender joke.
Or maybe not, depending on one’s assessment of the current state of manhood. What do four guys, in a broad-brush, cultural stereotype sort of way, talk about universally, almost in short-hand, a subject that is never a stranger when it comes up, something everybody can relate to?
OK. We’re not talking about young men. I’ll give you that. These are, as I said, men of a certain age. So maybe talk about women can be ruled out, but I wouldn’t be so quick.
All four of us are married, so we deal with women on a near-daily basis. We just don’t, maybe, daydream as much as we might have once. Also, we know more about hot flashes.
I’ll just tell you, since I’m being serious here. The topic was weight. How much we weigh, how much we used to weigh, how much we should weigh, whether or not to weigh – you get it.
I’m just trying to put my finger on how and why this feels different to me, how it feels like a subject that would have never come up a generation before in a group of men.
Vanity, sure. Aches and pains, things that are harder to lift, how the designated hitter rule worked out or didn’t…of course. But waistlines?
And here’s how it works, at least in my two groups. One guy gripes about his weight. One guy is sort of self-satisfied, having lost weight. And one guy feels OK but worries all the time about weight he is sure to gain any day now.
I understand that we are a nation on the verge of tipping over. I understand that there is an obesity crisis among our children. I understand that this is a subject that’s hard to avoid.
But guys? Come on. Tell me you’re a woman and you thought we talked about diets.
We do, though. And we eat vegetables when you’re not looking.
I have my own particular gripe (of course), which I gladly shared the other day with two of the above friends (the high school ones). I told them how I’d developed a theory of my personal metabolism, backed by careful tracking and a couple of things I read online.
My theory involved staying away from the scale and instead relying on my own finely-honed observational skills. I’d carefully keep track of what I ate. I’d exercise daily. And I’d wear the same clothes.
I did this for most of 2012, in fact, with satisfying results. I kept a virtual weight in my head, which went up and down by virtue of thermodynamics, not a household appliance.
These jeans get tight as I get close to 190. Those jeans are way too loose at anything under 180. And so on. It was scientific.
And I got to test this theory, finally, in late November, when I went in for a physical. Now, understand that this virtual weight is taken on a virtual scale on a virtual morning when I’m wearing virtually nothing. That is, it’s on the low side.
I’d be wearing clothing when I saw the doctor, at least part of the time, and probably would have some coffee or water beforehand, which weighs, of course. And shoes, etc.
I was willing to accept an office weight that was 5 or 6 pounds heavier than my virtual weight. Shoot, scales are different, particularly when one is not real. Even 9 or 10 pounds.
But the clinic’s scale suggested that, in fact, my theory was off by 19 pounds. In an awkward direction.
This was the story I told, anyway. There was lots of nodding at the table. Everyone had vegetables. This is what men do.
Try to keep it to yourself.