Some guys celebrate Father’s Day by spending time with their families. A day at the pool. A romp on the beach. A backyard barbecue with potato chips crunching and whiffle balls flying.
My husband has a different request this year: to get as far away from his wife and kids as is physically, and financially, possible.
It’s nothing personal, he explained, but the part of him that doesn’t relish plunging toilets and wiping noses is yelping for some “me” time, some down time.
Some man time.
So he’s meeting his brother — an overworked father of three Pre-K boys — for a weekend of childless, wifeless, workless bliss to pay tribute to Life Before Mortgage.
A time before they were cast as upstanding role models for the small drink-spilling, jacket-losing, tantrum-throwing people who claim to be their children. Before they were asked to be reliable, communicative and socially demonstrative partners to calendar-keeping wives. Before they plodded happily — but perhaps a bit blindly — into lives as modern men who are expected to not only put a roof over their families’ heads, but mop the floors on occasion, as well.
And I get that, I do. What I don’t understand is the way they choose to honor that freedom: in my spouse’s case, by racing off-road all-terrain vehicles for hours on end, followed by vast over-consumption of red meat, red wine, and late-night diner pie.
“I guess I want to figure out who I am besides a husband and father,” he explained. “And the way it seems natural to do that is to find my limits — whether physical or gastrointestinal.”
He’s not alone. Guy getaways are a hot travel trend, inspiring hotels across the globe to offer testosterone-fueled packages from helicopter skiing to NASCAR training to poker parties complete with hand-rolled cigars and buckets o’ beer.
There’s even a moronic new term for them: “Mancations” (If they asked me, I’d have opted for a snappy double entendre like “mandate,” “manifest,” or even “mango,” but they never seem to ask me). The concept, though, is nothing new. From the crowd-pleasing “City Slickers,” to the Oscar-winning “Sideways,” to the universally panned “Wild Hogs,” male-bonding trips have a storied history both on and off-screen.
When the nagging “why, oh why” of domestic life comes into question, a furlough with the fellas can be the, um, manswer.
A friend of mine who is prone to surfing safaris, Vegas jaunts, and fishing trips, calls his excursions “man camp.” They involve some form of friendly competition and — preferably — a modicum of danger.
“Deep conversation,” he explains, “is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. For example, if I spend a week with a buddy and all I find out is that he got a new tool kit for Christmas, that is just as acceptable as learning something terribly profound. Remember, many of us communicate silently.”
That is especially true, of course, if they are passed out from too much tequila. (Did you know there’s an actual instrument called a “manometer” which measures — I kid you not — the pressure of gases or liquids?)
I asked my friend, both out of genuine curiosity and because I like to watch men squirm, why he couldn’t take his family along on these great adventures.
“We want our wives and children to retain whatever level of esteem, admiration, and affection they have for us,” he says. Adding ominously, “We are baser than you think.”
Another friend and father of two said it would be the foul language and raunchy name-calling he would miss most if his wife and kids showed up on a husbands-only holiday.
“It would be like hosting a party during high school with your parents there,” he says. “You just couldn’t bust loose.”
Wait, now. Cursing? Gambling? Drinking? And the pursuit of high-cholesterol, high-speed thrills with no voice of (feminine) reason in earshot?
These “mancations” aren’t innocent getaways at all. They’re manarchy.