The Lost Art of Men’s NightNovember 25, 2019 Comments Off on The Lost Art of Men’s Night Living Well, Relationships Tom Burden
It used to be that men would occasionally gather together and do things. Camping, poker night, playing billiards, etc. Men would gather together with other men, and be men, doing manly things. Not so much anymore. Male gatherings have been dying a slow death, and it needs to be revived. Men need, even require, time among themselves away from the women.
Men need bonding time; they need interaction with other men. No, getting together to watch the game on Sunday is not the same, neither is getting together to play video games. It may be a group of mostly men but that’s not social time, it’s screen time with some others involved. You need to interact and engage with other men, not a TV.
Let’s address something first – a men’s night means NO WOMEN. Surprising that needs to be said. Some of you may be thinking there are exceptions to this rule – there are not. Oh, but she’s more manly than your male friends? Doesn’t matter, no. She’s a lesbian? Still a no. She’s just “one of the guys”. No, she’s not. She doesn’t urinate like men do, she doesn’t masturbate like men do (even if she’s crushing hard on Scarlett Johansson too – but who doesn’t?). When a woman joins a men’s group the atmosphere changes. Regardless of the woman and the relationship she’s had with the guys in your group, I can guarantee at least one of the guys in the group has thought about sleeping with her.
What about your gay friend? Sure, invite him. He’s crushing hard on your friend Joey? Ok. As strange as it may sound, that’s not much of an issue. When a guy is interested in a woman, competition and jealousy come into play. When a gay man is interested in another guy in a group, this is rarely the case. Gay men don’t often see straight men as their competition for another man, just as women don’t see other men as competition for the guy they like. A gay man in the group may cause a problem down the road, but in general it’s not an issue.
Don’t get me wrong, you absolutely should have women around you, too. Mixed gender parties are great, and you should have those too. But not always. Sometimes you do need time with just the guys.
So now that we’ve axed the cheap beer and sports gathering, and we’ve removed the ladies, just what do you do? How do you have an event like this? You do it like everything else. A guy’s night out has four primary elements: the audience, the activity or theme, the food, and the alcohol (if any).
Audience and Activity
Who will be attending has a large impact on what you can do, and what you shouldn’t. If your friends think Pabst beer is the best, a high end scotch tasting is not for them. If your audience is college students with very limited funds, high stakes poker is not for them. Take a moment and draft a tentative list of attendees. Keep this list at hand as you make your plans. The list will likely be revised, but it’s a starting point.
Next, think on what activities or themes you can do. Again, keeping your attendees in mind. Don’t overthink or overdo it. If this is your first endeavor into an adult guy’s night without sports or video games, then go easy. You need an activity to provide some structure to the evening, but not dominate it (like watching football). Something where your guests can still interact, enjoy the evening and bond. When in doubt, start with some basics that your crew might enjoy.
Save game night for your co-ed gatherings, where the ladies can get involved. This is men’ night, so break out the cards. You can get away with a poker night with a basic kitchen table, deck of cards, and a pocket full of pennies. But why not up the stakes?
- Get some quality cards. Yes, you can go with the cheap one’s you can get in the Walmart checkout line, but why not do better? I personally own multiple decks from the standard Bicycle to collector sets like Firefly and Playboy magazine covers (the last one was a gift from my wife).
- Pick up a set of poker chips. Again, you can go with the cheap ones from Target or Walmart, and they’ll work fine. Or you can up the ante and get actual clay chips. Legit clay chips are surprisingly not that expensive, but add a level of class and sophistication to your evening.
- If poker night becomes a regular event, consider investing in an actual poker table. The options for tables is varied: from large stand-alone tables, to fold-able tables you can store, to tops meant to sit on your existing dining room table, or even simple painted felt you can roll out on your table to play then roll back up. There’s an option out there that will fit your needs and lifestyle.
Poker isn’t as much about the cards you have, as how you play them. It requires social interaction and engagement. It encourages some competition, but that’s part of its charm. It’s not a coincidence that poker has been in multiple James Bond films, and will continue to be for years to come.
I tend to drink very rarely, but some of my friends are connoisseurs of fine liquor. An evening at one of their houses will tend to involve a bottle of a nice Scotch or whiskey, maybe a sake. Sometimes even mixed drinks. These are good instances to sit around and converse casually while enjoying a find liquor. Unlike sitting around drinking beer, one doesn’t tend to overdo it with a good, and often somewhat expensive, liquor. Beer is cheap and meant to be drunk in large quantities. Liquor is meant to be savored, taking your time. Can you get sauced on a bourbon? Absolutely. But, in the right social setting, unlikely.
Have each member of the party bring a bottle of their choice of quality liquor to share with the group. Not only will it save you lots of money, but will let you get to know the tastes of your friends. To make it better, when your friend cracks open their bottle, have them explain a little about it and why they like it.
The same type of evening can be made around other consumables that you don’t normally get to partake in, such as cigars. Just remember to keep it classy, and to take your time with whatever you’ve decided to consume. A fine drink or cigar should be savored, not downed or burned as fast as possible.
Wine tastings, btw, are best done in mixed company. So save that for a night with the ladies.
I don’t own any records anymore. I don’t even own more than a half dozen CDs, but I know people who do. Some of them large collections. While I don’t have them anymore, records are still nice to listen to. Artists who started their careers long after the days of vinyl have had limited runs of their albums done. Like with the liquor, have your friends bring over some of their favorites to share. Don’t have records or a system to play them? That’s fine. Playlists are almost as good, and far more portable. Records, or anything similar, can be used to provide structure to the evening and a little bit to discuss, while still allowing for free conversation between participants. Which is what it’s all about.
A guy’s night doesn’t have to stay at home. A classic guy’s night was to shoot some pool. Most of us don’t have pool tables in our homes, but you don’t have to stay home. Most reputable places that offer pool tables have the ability to reserve part of the facility for groups and events. And many of them will let you reserve a table too. Ideally it’ll be isolated from the rest of the bar or pub, so you’re outing remains guys only.
Depending on the members of your group, you might find something like an escape room more fitting. Alternatively, a bachelor party I attended once, among other things, involved going to a firing range and/or shooting skeet. (Great fun, especially if you are on cleanup.) A group hike is also an option – if you live in the US there are an abundance of trails.
Mix It Up
A night with the guys doesn’t have to be just one thing. My brother has a man cave with a pool table, dart board, and sound system. Such surroundings means guys can alternate throwing darts, playing a game of pool, or just sitting back and chatting, all while the music plays. It’s a structure that allows everyone to interact, but also allows more intimate smaller group conversations for those that might need one.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Yes, some of your events may fail horribly, and if they do keep a good attitude about it. It may have failed spectacularly, but now you’ve got a story to tell later and one that you all can laugh about for years to come. Some of our best tales to tell are our biggest failures.
Paintball, Sports, and Similar Activities
You might wonder why sports, paintball, and other similar activities are not on this list. The purpose of an evening like this is to connect, converse, and have the opportunity to get deep with each other – with your conversation and your emotions. You cannot do that charging at your buddy from 30 yards away with a football or trying to tag him with a paintball. While these are fun activities, and you should do them from time to time, that is not the intent of this evening.
Unless your activity involves food or drink specifically, consider catering it. Seriously. Even if you are a gourmet chef, spending half your day in the kitchen preparing is not fun for most people. If you’re one of those few that find it enjoyable, then by all means cook away. And I mean cook, not grill. Grilling can be appropriate, but not every time. A poker night with BBQ is a bad idea. Your food selection should reflect the activity and the audience. Just the same, don’t cop out and order a pizza or dump a bunch of crackers and individually wrapped cheese slices on a plate and call it good.
Take time to work out your food arrangements. And as with the activity, don’t overdo or over think it. Your poker night may be served well with a party platter from the grocer, if that’s the audience you’ll have present. But if the order of the day is liquor tasting, and you’re friends are offering up $60 bottles of bourbon, Kraft cheese is not going to cut it. Similarly, if the most cultured tastes among your attendees is being able to distinguish between the different types of cheese whiz, spending the day assembling the perfect charcuterie board is wasted effort.
To really make an impact, determine the level of your group, and then go just a half notch higher. And remember you don’t have to go it alone. No, I’m not saying get your significant other involved, it would be rude to have her help you cook and then send her away. If one of the friends you’ve invited is a culinary meat connoisseur, no harm asking him to help you prep.
When it comes to alcohol, quality trumps quantity every time. While it may be impressive to see Bob across the poker table with a pyramid of beer cans winning his sixth straight hand of Texas Hold’em, it’s an indicator of a so-so, even drab, night. When was the last time you saw James Bond pop the top on a beer can? That would be never.
Your beverage selection is as crucial to a good evening as everything else. More so if you are inviting friends who have had alcohol issues in the past. You simply don’t offer a drink to a drunk, even a recovered one. That said, if your friends are able to drink responsibly, or can refrain on their own from drinking if in recovery, then go for the high road. Go for quality.
You don’t need a fully stocked bar, but you should provide the essentials. Again, if you have a friend coming that’s very knowledgeable on the subject, don’t be afraid to reach out for some advice or help. As I said before, I rarely drink. But when I put on a party, I have everything that’s needed for it, or I know someone more than willing to help me out and loan me what I need.
Finish With The Details
When was the last time you cleaned the space you’re using? Did you dust it recently, even that one shelf you can hardly reach? The picture frames? If you’re party involves liquor, even if not the main activity, do you have the right glassware for it? No, your regular drinking glasses are not good enough for a fine Scotch or martini. Do you need every type of liquor glass they make at hand? No. But if you know whiskey is going to be at hand, you should at least provide some nice GLASS, not plastic, tumblers. A charcuterie board goes on a BOARD, or at the least a nice platter. Never, ever, on paper plates.
Just the same, don’t be concerned if the night has begun and you realize you didn’t dust that one shelf. Don’t sweat it, even if someone notices. Own up to the oversight, and let it be. As I said before, if the night fails spectacularly, own it. Don’t let it deter you from trying again. You regret what you don’t try, not what fails – that just give you a new story to tell next time.