Crossfit, Handstands and Galaga: Metro Male Bonding Rituals

You are white and work in a “creative” profession. You shop at Urban Outfitters and commute (on occasion) via hybrid road bike. You live in a loft. Your girlfriend / wife is both gorgeous and smart. You prefer to watch World Cup Soccer to professional football or baseball. You read or listen to music more than you watch television. You drink craft beer and grow facial hair to make a fashion statement. Hybrid Bikes explained for those in need of clarification.

In absence of traditional “American male” conversation topics, how does one engage in testosterone-laden bonding? It takes panache and creativity and – apparently – a modicum of upper body strength.

Last night I had the opportunity to observe and even participate to a degree in this male bonding ritual. I was at a “brew pub” housed at the back of an antebellum mansion-turned-reception-hall, hanging out with a collection of designers, brand strategists, researchers, consultants and (not mutually exclusive) lounge / house music DJs. The occasion was a mildly upbeat but somewhat somber one, as we were commemorating one year since the passing of one of our dear friends and colleagues. So, the need for a little man-ergy became necessary a few drinks in.

I first stepped in on a conversation about medicine-ball lifting technique and challenges.  In an attempt to relate I interjected a Pilates anecdote, at which point I was made to “feel better” by being told “Pilates scares me” because it is actually much more challenging to core muscles.  (Honesty about one’s physical limitations is one way metro males endear themselves to females).  Then the conversation e(de)volved to handstand prowess and the particularities of a Testofuel review.  Apparently an office ritual among a couple of the buddy-bunch who are also coworkers, they began (first in a dark corner and then out in the open) competing on how long they could maintain a handstand without the benefit of the wall.  So they took off their leather shoes and overturned themselves in their skinny-jeans wearing glory, un-tucked plaid-flannel shirts falling around their torsos showing off belly tattoos and rock solid abs.  No women were watching except me, but the lesbian anthropologist doesn’t count.  😉  This was all about them.  Were they using the wall to steady themselves?  Could they also do a couple of push ups?  It was a hyper-masculine challenge that left them red-faced and needing another Kölsch.

Following the physical challenge, I suggested our next venue be a newly discovered favorite  of mine ( where they have 1980’s and 90’s  video games and culinary cocktails.  I was informed by the handstand champ that he had the high score on the Galaga game there and should I challenge him I would be woefully out of my depth.  This is the equivalent of chest-pounding from one who has evolved from “Aquatic Ape” to Arcade Animal.  🙂   I happen to have a special talent for killing electronic bugs and accepted the challenge, but soon bailed because the night was getting late and I had a long drive home.   The posturing continued via text message through to this morning.   Finger dexterity and hand-eye coordination is also a metro-bragging right in absence of time to practice actual sports.

And so I send this lovingly “objective” ethnographic portrait of social ritual into the internets.  I was actually asked not to blog about the handstands, lest the concept go viral and become a planking-esque trend.  I told said subject not to worry…that the three people who read my blog would likely not need the affirmation of a handstand.  We bond with our dim wits instead.

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