Growing up I lived at the far end of my neighborhood beside a big hill and a big empty expanse between us and Malibu Creek State Park. The block was filled with kids and most of them were my age and just about all of them were boys. We didn’t have a boys’ club because you don’t really name something that you’re born into. Girls were not exactly an option. We did what I imagined most kids would do if they lived in the suburbs beside a semi-wilderness (I learned later, once I transferred to WashU, that most kids spent their free time in extra curricular activities: soccer and piano and theater and all that.) We went into the creek and hunted for crawdads, wandered the hills and tried to get lost, anything really that could turn us into wannabe Tom Sawyers.
Thoughts of girls invoked images of Cindy Crawford, or Misty Tischer, our friend’s high school aged sister. But this wasn’t the “Wonder Years” so there was no Winny to make us think about grownup stuff. The following years we followed the same path I think every teenage straight boy follows. How could we find girls and how could we get them to hang out with us? This is the crux of manhood. Everything and anything is somehow done to impress women and get them to like us. I think Dave Chappelle said it best.
So pardon me if I’m not a little bit surprised and a bit discomforted by the collection of artificial boys’ clubs that continue to pop up as I get older–whiskey night, cigar night, poker night, car night, shopping night (wait, not that last one)–in which the exclusionary monicor, “No girls allowed” is transfixed to each activity. I suppose I get it. We’re not 13 but 30. Girls are no longer girls, but girlfriends, wives, sisters in law, mothers in law, awful brooding nags who hound and remind us in every way they can that we’re not boys anymore but men. If that sounds a bit dramatic it’s because it is a bit dramatic and as anyone who has dated any of us for more than a year knows, we’re a lot more dramatic than anyone gives us credit for.
But it’s not women who drive the kid from us. No gender or group could ever solely take credit for such an awful exorcism. Like most issues, the root lies in our cultural values. Now, just typing those two words made me throw up a little bit in my mouth, so don’t expect me to expound on our cultural mores just yet. But I do think there’s something to be said for that boyhood quest–how can we get girls around?–since, when used for good, the path to achievement most often results in the bettering of ourselves (unless we’re dictators of course). A better musician, better writer, better accountant, better architect, or even a better vagabond. Doesn’t really matter. Now I could take this circular logic all the way to the barn so it’s better I sign off here. Don’t be surprised though if at the next boys’ club meeting I invite a girl to crash it.