There’s nothing like an old fashioned guys’ night. A bunch of men sitting around a table drinking scotch, talking about scotch, reading about scotch. No deep feelings to explore, no serious politics to discuss, no complex theology to dissect. Just some guys laughing, joking, relaxing. When one of them pulls out a novel to read from, he picks a passage about a group of men drinking moonshine. Time passes easy. It makes you nod and think, “Good. Good, good.”
There is something refreshing about hanging out with just friends, away from your spouse or significant other. It’s healthy for a couple to spend time apart. It’s healthy for the individual. For opposite-sex couples, these opportunities occur naturally, at gender-specific gatherings like “guys’ night” and “ladies’ night.” When you’re gay, things get trickier.
In a sense, every time gay people hang out it’s a “guys’ night” or a “ladies’ night.” Gay men and lesbians sadly don’t mix much. (I’ll let sociologists and gender studies majors figure that one out.) However, gay socials rarely take on the feel of a traditional “guys’ night.” They tend to be mixed gatherings in their own way: You find couples, singles, and partnered people flying solo. For singles, they can be an opportunity to meet someone, and for couples a chance to hang out together. They’re fun, and also healthy, but they serve a different purpose than the type of hangout I’m talking about.
So what makes guys’ night “guy’s night”? For me, there’s three main components:
The gender aspect. Meeting more LGBT people has challenged many of my assumptions regarding gender, and I’ve learned that it is not a simple topic. Still, I think there’s something to be said about bonds born of shared experience. I’m a cisgender man. That means I was born male, identify as male, and have always lived my life as male. My only experience of life is as a man, and that means that at some level I find it easier to relate to men—we understand each other better, because we’ve seen life through the same lens.
It is unhealthy to only surround yourself with people who share your life experience. It stunts growth and robs you of meaningful relationships; it prevents you from taking part in the whole of God’s creation. But the comfort that comes from similarity is also healthy. The key, as with everything in life, is in finding balance.
The second rule of guys’ night is: no couples at guys’ night. It’s an unspoken rule because, among straight people, it’s obvious. For gay couples it requires more intention and self-awareness. David and I went together the first time we got invited to hang out with a bunch of guys from church for a scotch tasting. It was fun, but the dynamics felt off. You relate differently to a couple than you do to an individual, so when a “couple question” gets asked, it’s like a needle scratching a record. The guys ask it to be polite, and the couple answers out of obligation. I want to make it clear, though, that the point of leaving your spouse behind is not to vent, or even just talk about them. The point is just to relate to others as an individual. There, you’re not Mark and Linda, or Jenny and Kim, or Dave and Tino. You’re just Mark, Kim, or Tino.
The third, and perhaps less obvious aspect I see as crucial to a good guys’ night is the absence of even the potential for sexual or romantic tension. No one there cares how you look or how you sound. There's no one to compete with. There’s no one there you’re trying to impress, either consciously or subconsciously. For gay people, there’s always the potential for this kind of situation at gay socials. This is another sense in which an all-gay hang out is akin to a mixed-gender hangout among straight people. Even if you’re partnered up, and everyone’s just friends, there’s a natural and healthy desire to want to look good, maybe even get attention. Competition and jealousy can creep in.
This doesn’t exist when you’re hanging out with mostly straight guys because, contrary to what many heterosexual men might think, most gay men don’t find them attractive. My experience is that, absent a compatible sexual orientation, the attraction flies away—even if a guy is “objectively” good looking. I suspect this phenomenon is also the reason why straight women find it easier to be friends with gay men than with straight men.
David and I both love our gay friends, and cherish the comfort that comes from hanging out with them. We love our female friends, our single friends, and our couple friends—gay and straight. We enjoy having a variety of social outlets. We also recognize that we both need to be able to socialize independently of each other, and that this type of socializing is most easily attained through an old-fashioned night of drinking or playing cards with just a bunch of (in this case, mostly straight) guys.
So how can we make this work? There’s some pretty cool guys at our church, and we’re both becoming friends with them. We can’t very well split them into two groups and label some of them his friends and some of them mine. Neither one of us wants to miss out on the friendship and fellowship of half our community. The solution, we’ve decided, is to take turns hanging out with these guys absent the other. I hung out with the guys from church this weekend. David stayed home. Next time they meet up, David will go and I’ll stay home.
We’re old-fashioned guys, I suppose, and we want to respect the old-fashioned rules of guys’ night, both for our sake and our friends’. This doesn’t mean every couple will do the same. Not even every gay couple. But for us, this seems to work.
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