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Human male social etiquette question.
February 21, 2013 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I've asked a couple questions about building a richer social life on AskMeta, and a few times I've gotten the suggestion that I should be spending more one-on-one time with friends and acquaintances. My observations suggest that women socialize this way more often than men do. Tell me I'm wrong, then share tips.

Step 1: The cultural background is that this is the mid-Atlantic region of the US, the year is 2013, and I'm 28, male, white, gay, and not very blue-collar.
Step 2: Assume that I am not without redeeming qualities and that I do have at least minimal social skills.

I'm not in a relationship, I don't date friends of friends much, I'm not in any LGBT service organizations, etc. The result is that I haven't had the occasion to be out to everyone I know, especially to people I know from work.

I am usually OK at setting up group activities (including MeFi meetups), and when I'm with a group, people at least seem to enjoy my company somewhat (see Step 2 above). I occasionally end up inviting a single person to go do something somewhere, either because I haven't seen them in a while or because I don't feel like going out with a group.

I really struggle to think of an occasion when I invited a female friend somewhere by herself and got a positive response, as opposed to "I probably can't" or "I'm going to be busy." This includes women who have known me for a while and know (to the extent possible, I guess) that I have no romantic intentions.

I generally don't ask guy friends to hang out one on one, and guy friends don't ask me to hang out one on one. A few times I've ended up getting dinner after studying with someone, but I feel that this sort of thing is more situational than spontaneous. I've gone to events a few times with a straight male roommate before, but he seemed to remark a lot about how it must look like we're out on a date.

On a couple of occasions I've ended up somewhere with a gay guy friend (because we are the only two to show up to something). Granted, these were not people I knew very closely, but it seemed like both times the evening was spent with them on the phone with their partners.

To refine the question further, I hope you can talk about something like:
  • you are (or know) a guy and you meet people socially (as opposed to work/school) one on one a lot, maybe over coffee/drinks/lunch/whatever, and you don't think it's an issue for you socially at all
  • you feel that there are some social norms for guys to navigate here and you make certain conscious gestures to make one on one socialization relaxed and fun
  • you feel that there are definite limitations on socializing this way for guys, either based on who you can invite out or the sorts of things you can do together
  • this is just "not a very guy thing to do," guys are socialized and expected to hang out in group settings, and tete-a-tetes are reserved for more close/special/intimate occasions
Thanks!
posted by Nomyte to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think it depends on 1) the individual's comfort or preference for small or larger groups, and 2) comfort with the other individual. In college, my best friend and I spent a lot of time with just the two of us, as two straight guys, because we had shared interests, and I generally deal better with smaller social gatherings. He is an outgoing guy, and would also be happy in a crowd and made friends at bars, but I prefer quiet gatherings with a few people. I seem to find similar people, as I have a good female friend who also tends to prefer smaller gatherings, and the two of us spent a lot of time with just the two of us.

I can imagine that on some level, there's the silly awkwardness about two guys out together. I've gone to movies with a bunch of guys, and we all sit a seat a part from the next guy, so we're not too close, even though we'll sit much closer when hanging out at a friend's home.

Regarding your roommate's comment, the last time a non-date commented that people might think we were on a date was when I was doing errands with my wife's younger sister, back before she was in her current long-term relationship, so there might be some personal anxiety over appearances.

In short, people think too much about what other people think, but there are those who prefer larger gatherings instead of spending time with a single person, and (apparently) not because of social appearances.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:47 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure about a gender component, but in my case, I've observed smaller and smaller meetups occurring as a function of age. In my late teens and early twenties, meeting with large groups spontaneously could occur nightly. By my mid-thirties, meeting up in groups was almost always scheduled and occurred on a weekly basis at best. As I approach my mid-forties, I schedule short meetups with 1-2 old friends weeks in advance.

Some of that reflects a choice to play tabletop games much less often, but a lot of it stems from people generally being less available as they start having kids.

So whatever your pattern has been in the past, I'd start getting used to the idea of more one-on-ones.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:48 AM on February 21, 2013


I am female but hang out with my male friends one on one all the time. I don't think this is unusual for guys at all. I do notice that they tend to hang out one-on-one with other female friends more than other male friends, but this could just be sampling bias.

I've gone to events a few times with a straight male roommate before, but he seemed to remark a lot about how it must look like we're out on a date.

This does seem like it'd be an issue for some men, but less...traditionally minded people would have less of an issue with it, I'd guess, especially once you know each other well.

I would say just keep trying to move things in that direction, with either men or women. You're a bit unlucky in that a lot of women will be cautious about it being or appearing to be a date (if they don't know you're gay), whereas gay men might be cautious about the same thing (if they know you're gay), and the straight guys might be afraid of appearing to be on a date. If you ask the right people, though (and avoid sending romantic signals, of course) they will have no issues with it. Avoiding traditional "date" activities like fancy dinners, movies, etc will help too, especially at first.

It will also help if you become better friends gradually, including some group activities and casually hanging out - so you aren't asking them out on "friend-dates" until you're actually good friends.
posted by randomnity at 9:52 AM on February 21, 2013


The men I know (mostly in 30s) do man hangouts in groups of 2 - 4. Dinner and pool is a common thing for them to do. Everyone's life is pretty busy and booked up, so pretty much every social engagement is planned in advance. Just last week my fiance had a "boys night" with two other guys, and it had been planned for at least a week, probably closer to two weeks. I have been attempting to schedule going out for dinner with a female friend of mine for the better part of a month but we just haven't been able to find a good time yet since our schedules are so packed. On the days when I am free she has her art lessons or one of her kids has an activity. One the days when she is free I have an appointment with my atheltic therapist or my kid has an activity. lather rinse repeat. Also, prior to getting involved with my fiance, I used to hang out one-on-one with my male friend. His girlfriend (now wife) was extremely busy with school and work and had a crazy schedule, and I was single and bored. usually we would go out drinking together or something, but we did other stuff too. Once we went to the beach. It was never anything sexual or romantic, everything was always on the level. We were just two good friends that happened to be of opposite genders.

Anyway, Last minute "Oh hey, lets go grab dinner" just doesn't work out at this age and stage for reasons like:
- you usually have to figure out child care/make sure your spouse is fine with flying solo with the kids for the evening
- you have to have advance notice for everyone to be able to shuffle things around in their calendars
- some thinsg just AREN'T shuffle-able so it takes discussion to come up with a time that is likely to work for all invitees
- a lot of us don't live within walking distance, or even a reasonably charged cab ride, so coordination of drives with spouses especially if alcohol comes in to play (DD? Getting picked up?) and especially if there is only one car for your household.

It has been my experience that the older you get, the less spontaneous stuff gets.

As for things to do with one other person, going out for wings and playing pool is usually what people around here do, men and women. Just going for dinner is a common one. Going to see a movie could maybe be a date-y thing, but I wouldn't let that stop you. Finding workable friendship date activities can be tricky if there is concern around romantic intentions maybe being implied, but a lot of that can be circumvented by how you present it maybe?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:10 AM on February 21, 2013


Granted, these were not people I knew very closely, but it seemed like both times the evening was spent with them on the phone with their partners

This is rude. Don't hang out with people who do this.
posted by sweetkid at 10:10 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is unclear to me what your question is. My best guess is that you are looking for "tips" regarding how to socialize one-on-one, and that all the rumination about gender is you trying to figure out aloud why you're having trouble making that dynamic happen. Is that close?

I do socialize one-on-one with friends. However, I would say that generally speaking, if a one-on-one dynamic is happening then it's because either (1) our plans will involve a particular conversation we want to have, or a particular interest that we share; or (2) we invited other people who couldn't make it. This is because my friendships tend to originate from groups. If I'm hanging out with an old classmate, it will likely occur to us to invite other old classmates. Ditto if the person is a (former) coworker.

So...if you want to develop one-on-one dynamics for whatever reason, then I might suggest looking for a shared interest, to start. Maybe there's an indie film festival coming to town, and you have a friend who went to film school. If that tack doesn't seem promising, then maybe there's a particular conversation you'd want to have with someone. For instance, maybe you have a friend who works in HR and you've been hoping for a promotion at your company; if so, then you could invite your friend to dinner to ask for advice.

I hope that's helpful. If you were deliberately trying to ask a more gendered question, then I guess that would raise different implications. For me, if I'm spending one-on-one time with an opposite-sex person, then it might need to be clear to possibly four people—me, her, my partner, her partner—that she and I are just friends. But that dynamic can vary widely with gender, orientation, and circumstance.
posted by cribcage at 11:03 AM on February 21, 2013


It is unclear to me what your question is.

I tried to structure my question the following way —
Hypothesis: it's harder for younger men to hang out with individuals, as opposed to groups.
- personal evidence
- personal evidence
- personal evidence
Request for confirmatory or contradictory evidence, keeping in mind where I am in life.
Request for behavior tips if I'm way off base.
Most of my friends are "just friends": we don't share any abiding interests; we're mostly connected through work, school, physical proximity, roommate situations, etc. I haven't been able to find hobbies that are shareable, are convenient for me, and which I actually like. (For example, I'm trying to make time to practice translation, but this is both obscure and hard to share.)
posted by Nomyte at 11:52 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am a lady, but anecdotally can say that I hang out with guy friends one-on-one pretty regularly. I definitely do this more with gay guy friends than straight guy friends, but also have more close gay guy friends than straight ones, so that may not be significant. The only time it would be significant is if a guy I didn't know very well who I suspected was straight asked me to hang out one-on-one; I'd want to be sure it wasn't a date before saying yes. With close friends, I'd only say no if it wasn't an activity I was interested in, or if I actually was busy.
posted by dizziest at 1:25 PM on February 21, 2013


I'm white, male, straight, white-collar, 28, live in DC, and I regularly hang out one-on-one with both men and women I've met outside of work.

So long as you have a decent personality, it sounds like your real problem is that you're not meeting people with shared interests or hobbies. Essentially any time I get together one-on-one with an acquaintance, it is for some specific activity that we're both interested in, and that not everybody in the world would be interested in: going for a run or bike ride, playing tennis, going to a museum or show, playing guitar. I really only meet up one-on-one for dinner, drinks, a movie, etc. with close friends or for dates. I would just find it awkward to do that with someone I didn't know very well, especially another guy. If you don't have unusual interests or hobbies that lend themselves to meeting with other people, I'd strongly suggest developing them.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 1:55 PM on February 21, 2013


I'm a bit younger so most of my experience is still college-related, but I (white, male, gay, 24) routinely hang out with friends of all genders in one-on-one situations, small group situations, and larger group situations. Hanging out one-on-one seems to be fairly common within the communities I access (queer and/or student), especially if we haven't hung out for a while.

That said, I find there's quite the correlation between closeness of friendship and smaller group size. My roommates and I often hang out one-on-one; same with my exes and really close friends. Less close friends are usually hung out with in small groups (n<>6). I need to have something in common with my friends, usually hobbies or activism, otherwise there's no point in interacting with that person (in my opinion).
posted by buteo at 2:43 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Male, straight, white, 36, deep deep South. Extrovert, if you're counting. Most friends referenced below are straight and male.
you are (or know) a guy and you meet people socially (as opposed to work/school) one on one a lot, maybe over coffee / drinks / lunch / whatever, and you don't think it's an issue for you socially at all
Usually over drinks, rarely for any other reason, but yes - I meet my friends out one-on-one frequently, probably more frequently than I meet in groups. If we're meeting in groups it's usually a get-together at someone's house, and typically friends and significant others.
you feel that there are some social norms for guys to navigate here and you make certain conscious gestures to make one on one socialization relaxed and fun
No, I don't think I make any conscious effort to make socialization relaxed and fun. Socialization is relaxing and fun. The idea you're putting forth sounds to me like saying, "You make an effort to keep hard work hard" or some other circular definition - but this is why I mentioned being an extrovert. I can understand how for others socialization is not necessarily relaxing.
you feel that there are definite limitations on socializing this way for guys, either based on who you can invite out or the sorts of things you can do together
I understand that there might be for other people, or others might feel that way, but I can't think of a single close guy friend with whom I would not go out one-on-one. To clarify, I mean "go out" in the sense of hanging out and talking, not "HURRRRR, HUNTING WOMEN." I can think of some acquaintances with whom I might be reluctant to bring up the idea. I guess I have specifically tried to cultivate the kinds of friendships that would encourage this sort of interaction.
this is just "not a very guy thing to do," guys are socialized and expected to hang out in group settings, and tete-a-tetes are reserved for more close/special/intimate occasions
While this is not true for me at all I can see how a lot of media (especially commercials) makes it sound like "MEN HANG OUT IN PACKS. IN BARS DRINKING BEER. PERIOD. WOMEN EAT YOGURT TOGETHER IN PAIRS. PERIOD." so it's not a strange thing to ask, but it is not how my friends and I act.
posted by komara at 3:44 PM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even after the clarification I'm still pretty fuzzy on the question, but here I go...

I think it's all about your priorities. I don't like hanging out in groups, but I do really like spending time with people one-on-one. Always have. So I do. I generally decline events where people hang out in groups and ask individuals to hang out. With people I don't know well I'll make a pretense. "Hey, I know you publish your own music, want to go out and get a few drinks while I pick your brain about that?" And we do talk about music, but we also talk about all sorts of stuff. And I actually get to know that person instead of the edited person that they are in a large group.

The people who don't like to hang out one-on-one (or who don't like to hang out with me one-on-one) don't come back. That's good. Gives me more time for those people who I enjoy, and vice versa. I'm reasonably shy, but I've never found it hard to find enough personal company to keep my life interesting and full.

I also think the people who contribute age are on to something. The older you get the more diverse interestes you pursue and the more commitments people have. This makes it harder to get bigger groups together.

(straight male late 30's)
posted by Ookseer at 7:23 PM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Request for confirmatory or contradictory evidence,

I'm a gay white male, 34, living in Ohio, and partnered. All my friends are one-on-one (group dynamics just irk me), and all of them are male. Some are straight, some are gay. I've never had a problem with this sort of one-on-one interaction, and I've never heard any of my friends say they had a problem with it either.

Request for behavior tips

I think it has less to do with behavior and more to do with your mindset, or how you see other people. I see each and every one of us as a very unique individual, for example. I see each friendship as very unique as well. When I meet a new person I don't have any expectation that this person is going to be the same as others, so when I'm interacting with them (can i get a gender neutral singular pronoun please?) I'm always trying to see things from their perspective, and I'm always tailoring my responses specifically to them. I think this way of interacting is conducive to forming a bond with someone.
posted by MrOlenCanter at 12:05 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Hey, I know you publish your own music, want to go out and get a few drinks while I pick your brain about that?" And we do talk about music, but we also talk about all sorts of stuff.

Yep. That's how you do it. If you take the time to get a sense of that person as an individual, then you don't need to worry so much about figuring out what to do. You'll know what he'd like to do, because you'll know him.
posted by MrOlenCanter at 12:08 PM on February 22, 2013


Weird, the experience all of you are describing is pretty alien to me. I'm finding a common thread that maybe this is something that happens more when one's in his thirties.
posted by Nomyte at 4:59 PM on February 22, 2013


I think a lot of how this plays out has to do with where you live and what circles your run in.

I suggest that if it is not working for you, try to tap into a different subset of people in your area who may share your values.

Perhaps it's not that 'men don't hang out one on one,' but that you haven't met the right individuals to connect with in this way- because it is more intimate, so it requires a higher level of compatibility than group gatherings. Or- it just may be something you have to build to and not jump into right away. If you're not sure of someone, to commit to being with a near stranger for several hours can seem daunting - that's the beauty of the group.

I can't tell from your question how well you know the folks your trying to one-on-one with, please disregard if this doesn't apply to your situation.
posted by abirdinthehand at 7:05 PM on February 22, 2013


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