I carry a messenger bag. It is blue, nominally waterproof, and big enough to fit a chef’s knife roll (which is a good thing, as carrying knives on the subway in NYC is generally frowned upon). It took me a long time to get used to the idea of a “purse,” but considering a car is generally not an option up here, a bag in which you can fit a lot of stuff is somewhat of a necessity. Still, I am not used to getting compliments on my bag from other guys, as happened on my first day of work at a restaurant that will remain nameless. Usually, pleasantries between men don’t involve complementing clothing and accessories, yet there I stood, somewhat awkwardly, while the sous chef told me how much he admired my bag. The double entendre was palpable, but totally lacking irony, because we were in NYC, home of the metrosexual man.
As any man (and especially any woman) who has spent time in both the north and the south can attest, there is a tangible difference in the way men act and live between the two places. While there are some common ties that bind, the differences between a northeastern Yankee and a Southerner can be quite stark. Men in the north tend to be more image conscious and fashion conscious. They are open to the idea of spas, manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, yoga, red wine and sushi. Reading the New York Times in a smart pair of Oliver Peoples glasses while sipping a cappuccino is a daily ritual to some. As is getting the best reservation at the newest restaurant in town. Because money is a big deal in the Northeast, and especially in the NYC area. Those that have it thrive, and they let you know it. Men approach women in NYC not with names and lines, but with business cards and portfolios. And they take more time with their hair than many of the girls (and remember, I am still talking straight guys here).
Now while I don’t necessarily condone the above, I can accept it to some degree; But the apathy towards sports, that is something I will never accept. Now don’t get me wrong, sports are popular in the Northeast, and we have our die-hard fans. People that have had Yankees and Giants tickets for years. People that bleed Mets blue and orange. But we also have a large contingent of otherwise red-blooded males that could care less about them. Maybe it is due to the betrayal of the Brooklyn Dodgers, but I tend to think it has more to do with the long term effects of hair gel, skinny jeans, and club music. How else do you explain (as I desperately tried to steer the conversation elsewhere) the blank look on the sous chef’s face when I asked him about the Yankees and he said “I don’t really follow sports.”
Don’t really follow sports? Those words would raise more than an eyebrow in Southern Louisiana, where LSU flags fly outside of homes whose inhabitants have never matriculated a single semester at LSU. Don’t really follow sports? Where Saints flags fly unfailingly, and always did, long before the perpetual underdogs reached the pinnacle of Super Bowl Champions. Don’t really follow sports? A high school football game could draw a bigger crowd than the Mets and Pirates on a drizzly Monday night in April at CitiField, in a city of eight million people. If you are a man in Louisiana (the south in general) and you don’t follow sports, it is thought, obviously, that there is something deeply wrong with you and you are not to be trusted. It is a God-given fact of life that from the months of August to January, while you may or may not attend mass, you will attend the Church of the SEC and pray with the latter day Saints. And during the time when church is not in session, you and your friends will hunt, fish, boil, barbecue, and imbibe in backyards, boats, and bayous, making plans for the upcoming holy holidays. It is that serious. If only the people of Louisiana could muster the same passion for local politics as they do for the pooch punt; but maybe they are on to something there too, as the Saints have done more to help the people of Louisiana than the Longs, Landrieus, Nagins, and Jindals combined.
So where does that leave my northern compadres, who know more about shoes than their female southern counterparts (who, not conversely, could shame most northern guys with their college football knowledge). What was the seismological shift that sent men above the Mason Dixon scurrying into the arms of queer eyes for straight guys and drinking gin-less Martini’s? When did Gym, Tan and Laundry replace pass, kick and punt? I don’t really know, but I have a theory. Really, not much of a theory actually, I just blame Oprah and “Sex and the City.” Regardless, it is not something I wish to be a part of any longer.
The next time I get hit on by a guy, I want it to be for the new crawfish boil rig I built, the way I jury-rigged an old fridge into a smoker, or for the purple and gold accents I put in my hair for the LSU tailgate up on Tower Drive. A man has got to have his standards, I dare say…