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((Excerpt from: "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal."))

It's a picture that speaks for itself.

Walk through any shopping mall in America, especially on Christmas Eve and what do you see?  Lots of knuckle-headed, dudes (author included) with crazed expressions on their faces, looking like they're lost in space.  They're wandering almost aimlessly through this old, yet uncharted territory in search of Christmas gifts for their wives, kids, and moms (or mistresses if they're having fun ... sorry).  Clearly, these guys aren't comfortable shopping for trinkets so they put off the daunting deed until the very last possible moment.

You've seen these guys.  They're the same ones who obediently sit on benches outside those little women's clothing shops surrounded by shopping bags that are NOT from the macho Best Buy or Dick's Sporting Goods.  Not completely whipped into submission, there they sit and wait, refusing to endure the standing torture of a spouse in search of the perfect handbag in a store no straight man dares to loom in for long.

Here's my point.  Territory that isn't male-specific can sometimes create issues for the Everyday Joe.  The world can sometimes be a strange place for "manly" men.  I suppose "metrosexuals" can go anywhere and feel comfortable.  Next time I see one I'll ask.  "Hey dude, everyone says you're a 'metrosexual.'  Would you feel comfortable using the ladies' room if it's unoccupied?"

Here's my real point about "manly" men and the places they'll visit on a whim.  Sports bars?  Yes.  Basketball courts?  Of course.  Pool Halls?  Sure.  Art galleries and museums?  Uh, hold on, let me think about that one.  For many men, it's not an absolute yes. 

There's still this quiet, nagging perception among some people (middle America?) that art is really an effete affair.  I've never asked, but I wonder how men who work in the art field cope.  I'm sure most of them brush it off and even deny it completely.  Men dominate the art field.  This of course, includes artists, curators, museum directors, etc.  If the men are gay, then perhaps that’s another story.  I don’t know.  Still, whenever you're a man in the minority or you're employed in a field that isn't considered the most masculine (nursing, flight attendants, the arts), its gotta be tough going.  Yet at the same time, they must be strong and secure to endure. 

I think it really comes down to whether or not men are obsessed with sports.  Certainly this is an American phenomenon.  In America, there's never a season without some major sporting event.  And ALL REAL MEN are into sports, aren't they?  We've got the NFL, NHL, NBA, etc.  It's all sports all the time.  As you know, men got game!  If not on the court or field then surely in front of a big screen television. 

However, I'm not a big sports guy.  Never have been.  Yet, here's what cracks me up.  During almost every conversation I've had with another guy I've just met, he'll say something like, "So hey, what do you think about those Colts this year?  Are they gonna make it to the Super Bowl?"  My answer is always the same.  "I really don't know, dude.  I'm not much of a sports guy."  Then the guy will look at me with this dumbfounded expression on his face and say, "Yeah, I'm not much of one either!"  I SWEAR this is true!  After hearing that, I always want to say, "Dude, are you kidding me?  Get a spine!" This has happened everywhere I've lived.

One of the problems that we have in American society today is that men don't really know how to relate to other men without it getting weird or based on some artificial premise, like sports.  I mean, how long can you talk about the Yankees?  It’s like talking about the weather.  After two minutes of talk about sunshine and rain, the topic has been exhausted short of hopping aboard a weather balloon and seeing for yourself. 

There are a million different things in the world to talk about.  Yes, art is among them and no, it's not gay (not that there's anything wrong with that … thanks Seinfeld).  What has really inspired me to write this are all of the surveys that say women generally live longer than men.  Most tend to attribute this to women having longer, healthier social connections (with both genders) that men often lack as they age.  That's really a shame.

I really think that in order for men to truly become men, they must be willing to risk going against convention.  Here's what I mean.  They won't admit it, but MANY men are terrified of not being perceived as "one of the guys."  Women know this.  If a man is truly a man, he can stand up for what he believes is right, even if it goes against convention (or even, God forbid, the NBA).  Many young men simply don't have the moral fiber to do this.  It's much easier to just go along and be seen as one of the crowd.  All men are guys, but not all guys are men.  You must be able to stand your ground ... certainly as a male nurse or flight attendant (let’s not even mention ballet dancers).

There's no denying that anything that smacks of art is considered less than MACHO.  When is the last time you saw a male artist or art curator drive a tank through a wall for pure kicks?  Or slam dunk someone's head into the floor?  Or crush a beer can into his head?  Dudes in art aren't PRIMARILY known for alpha-male, testosterone-laden beer bashes where they constantly belch, grab their balls and basically behave like college fraternity boys ... “boys” being the operative word.  That type of behavior is the ultimate in conformity and doesn’t require much courage.  It’s about giving the appearance that you’re “one of the guys” when perhaps you really aren’t.  Hmm.  At some point, low brow and crude behavior became synonymous with masculinity.  Has male adolescence become indefinitely extended?

Okay, I have to admit, the movie "Animal House" does crack me up.  So does "Caddyshack."  You know, one of the great benefits to being a guy is that if you're outdoors, you can go to the bathroom practically anywhere!  30 seconds and you're on your way.  Women can't do this.  However, I'm a dude in art, I know better.  I'm much more refined than that (God, please don't strike me down)! 

I don't know.  Men shopping on Christmas Eve has nothing to do with men in the arts which has nothing to do with men talking about sports.  These are all just random thoughts about my brothers of the world.  I'll never forget a conversation that I once had with a 60-something year old male colleague.  We were talking about some athlete involved in a brawl.  My colleague said, "You know, testosterone is what gets these guys into trouble!"  I couldn't argue with that.  If you're not careful, testosterone will get you killed ... playing games … and basically being an overgrown kid.  I think that a trip to an art museum might be a nice antidote.  You laugh, but it’ll help any guy get in touch with his inner man.  If you want to be brave, try being YOUR OWN MAN. 

Still, all men, including dudes in art, know that there's nothing more primal and satisfying than scratching your balls or belching to high heaven at will.  Let’s keep that confined to the privacy of our own bathrooms.  Even then, a little discretion might be advised.

You know what guys?  I have a thought.  Being a guy or more importantly a man is truly something great.  We need to pay tribute.  Let's all meet at the Mall of America next Christmas Eve for one FINAL salute to those college fraternity days.  Instead of rushing around buying last minute gifts, we'll light our farts on fire, smash beer cans into our heads and yell, “Hey Dude!” three hundred times.  Are you game?


Why Real Men Love Art

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