We asked men from across the country -- including Sebastian Junger, Robert Pinsky, Andrew Sullivan, and James Franco -- to name their favorite "guy ritual."
Franco may have hit upon the most consummate male ritual -- reading a newspaper on the toilet. When I dared bring this up to friends at a recent social gathering, I had no idea it would cause such an uproar.
A woman who works in the personal wealth division of a multinational bank had some choice words about male coworkers who disappeared with the office's communal Wall Street Journal. "The guys grab it, disappear, and then bring the damn thing back twenty minutes later!" she said. "It's supposed to be for clients. Why don't you just scream at the top of your lungs, 'Hey everybody, I'm going to take a crap now!'"
The women were of one mind: this behavior is disgusting and highly unethical, made worse by occasionally leaving the toilet seat up. The guys at the party stood behind our man James Franco and the bankers looking for a few moments of peace and quiet.
Fortunately, most of the "guy rituals" below are not poop-related.
What is your most cherished guy ritual? I hope you'll let us know in the comments.
"Drinking beers in the garage with my buddies."
Glenn Lyman, personal chef to LeBron James. (Sadly, Lyman will have to find himself a new garage and some new buddies, because he's headed to Miami.)
"Being summoned to deal with a spider, a mouse, or some other critter that frightens my wife or grown daughter. Critters like these don't really scare me at all, and I'm not sure I understand why they scare so many women. I think mice in particular are cute, actually. I trap them live to set them free outside."
Arthur Golden, author
"Taking a piss standing up with my arm leaning against the wall. Smoking a cigar. Growing my beard. Scratching my ass."
Andrew Sullivan, blogger and author
"Since I was on the wrestling team in high school, I have had the same set of push-up bars. Every morning since I was, say, 15 or 16, I have done fifty pushups using those push-up bars, which I have carried with me on my travels around the world."
David Abel, journalist
"A manicure or pedicure, like the girls do. Don't let them have all the fun!"
Dave Winfield, Hall of Fame baseball player
"Reading on the toilet."
James Franco, actor
"Standing in a circle among men and checking in, from the base of my balls through the channels of my heart!"
Michael Pierce, actor
"Playing pick-up basketball. I have two sons. I'll play with both of them or one of them at a time. I used to play with my dad, so it means a lot to me. I'm the type of dad who will not let my kids beat me at anything. I trash talk to the kids, and they don't like it, and that gets them frustrated. But it's sort of my way of trying to get them used to the real world."
Brady Udall, author
"Slice and dice."
Stephen Siegal, urologist
"Every day, Monday through Friday, at some point in the day, I call my friend, Eddy, or he calls me. Sometimes we talk for five minutes, sometimes an hour. We've done this for five or six years. We've kept it up through health and sickness, crisis and calm, births and deaths. There's something really magical about keeping up with this little commitment. We talk about what's going on, our plans for the day, tell stories, discuss music and culture and stuff that we think is stupid or pisses us off. This ritual keeps us strong and keeps us connected. It reminds me that I'm stronger walking through life with a good man as a friend than I would be if I tried to be a good man without one. I highly recommend it."
Todd Mauldin, bluesman
"Watching very tough soldiers say 'I love you' to one another before rolling outside the wire in Iraq."
Michael Kamber, photojournalist
"Making fun of my dad for being so old."
Jason Craig, high school student
"Peeing in the toilet with my son, Darius. Been doing it for years. He was into pirates last year, so we would say, 'X marks the pee spot' as we crossed streams. I can't wait until he see Ghostbusters. Then we can warn each other, "Don't cross the streams!"
Ben Anagnos, tutor
"Every March, I get together with three college buddies and go to the Big East Conference basketball finals. We go out to dinner beforehand, then relax and turn into sports fans with no agenda and nothing to prove to each other. There's nothing like drinking a couple of beers and yelling with friends."
Tom Jolly, journalist
"One of my favorite man rituals is when the priest or Rabbi says the words 'You May Kiss The Bride,' and the good guys pause and a bubble appears over their head like in a cartoon and it says, 'Holly Molly! She's mine and there are 300 people staring at me right now so I better not blow this kiss!' Where's Al Gore when you need him?
Another favorite and very telling moment is when the groom gets fixated on his tie. It's a funny moment because it's a sign he has definitely gotten the Wedding Bug and is desperate to be able to control at least one thing about his wedding."
Bryan Rafanelli, luxury event planner. (He's planning Chelsea Clinton's wedding.)
"Rolling around in the grass like a dog with my dog."
Tom Jones, waiter
"Sunday night, I sit down and write down everything I have to do during the upcoming week on a steno pad, with little check-mark boxes for each. It keeps life orderly and fends off the chaos. Checking those boxes is the most satisfying thing I do every day. In fact, when I finish this sentence, I will check another one. Ahhhh."
Will Leitch, author and journalist.
"My iPhone (the iPhone 4, of course, which I stood online at 5 a.m. to buy on launch day) never leaves my hand, pocket, or reach. I have a 24" iMac with dual monitors, Macbook Pro, PS3, GPS, 60" HD TV, Skype, and somewhere down the line a 3D TV may make it into my life--not to mention facebook, youtube, twitter, my blog, vimeo, etc. I'm pretty 'connected' or never 'disconnected' from technology as my wife freely points out. With all of the radiation seeping into my brain there is one ritual I refuse to update. I read the actual paper version of the Wall Street Journal religiously every morning cover to cover while I drink my coffee. I always start with the 'quirky' story on the bottom of page one, then on to the marketplace section searching for the inevitable daily love fest over Apple, and then make my way back through the other sections and usually finish up on the toilet, since that cup of coffee makes me poop in ten minutes flat.
My friends want to know why I don't just read it on an iPad or on my phone or computer. I don't know, really. I was never a newspaper reader growing up, my parents were divorced, and other than the Sunday Times my dad never really read the paper. On the weekends, when my news print fix doesn't present itself a bit too far from my doorstep, I miss that ritual and try to substitute it with the label of a ketchup bottle label or any random printed article within reach at the breakfast table, yet I'm never quite satisfied."
Darin Hager, designer and entrepreneur
"Washing my piece of shit car."
Michael Carter, landscaper
"Washing under my foreskin."
Duncan Roy, filmmaker
"I read a chapter of the Bible early every morning."
Mark Stevens, criminal defense attorney
"I size up the situation, devise a strategy to address this seemingly insurmountable challenge, and then execute that plan to perfection. Thus do I perform my daily ritual of loading the dishwasher with every damn dirty glass, plate, knife, fork, spoon, pot, and pan. I suspect this feat doesn't impress my wife quite as much as she leads me to believe it does."
Larry Bean, journalist
"It's really about the baby right now. In the last two years, I've seen basically every sunrise, which has been sort of amazing. At a certain point you're not sure how many more sunrises you're going to see. And then I've seen every one since she's been born. We get up together, and we have this sort of meditation thing in the morning for two or three hours -- until her mom gets up -- where we're just together, just in this really quiet time that I really cherish."
Nick Flynn, author
"Not sure if this fits, but I like the little, comically exaggerated, luxurious, almost self-parodying gestures when athletes emphasize the follow-through or wind-up: the pleasure as you jog to your position of indulging in a small, droll mime of jogging: I'm doing this, and kind of kidding the act of doing this.
I associate it with my father, a noted local athlete, a great hitting catcher in baseball. He was a shameless expert at patter and chatter: in his forties, he came to see me pitching in a sandlot game. My team was losing. When the petulant catcher for our team quit on us, my father put on the equipment and with vocal force of personality (and hitting prowess) he turned the game around.
There's a sense of ridiculous in the sports I like, and they have a ritual quality that I associate with men finding being a man, in certain ways, something to laugh about."
Robert Pinsky, poet
"Hangin' with my homies."
Austin Frank, middle school student
"Getting clipped at my barber up in East Harlem. Frankie -- who is always giving me advice on how to visit Santo Domingo without going broke."
Junot Diaz, author
"Watching Northwestern beat Iowa at football four of the last five years (three straight times in Iowa City), and then watching Iowa fans lose their shit each time and act like it's some kind of HUGE SURPRISE. 'Did we just lose TO NORTHWESTERN?' they'll wail, usually drunkenly. Yes, you did. Four of the last five years. Get used to it. We're just better than you."
Benoit Denizet-Lewis, editor of The Good Men Project Magazine and insufferable Northwestern sports fan
"Growing and maintaining a mustache. I really like it."
Alexander Chee, novelist
"Having a good cigar."
Robb Braun, motivational speaker
"Every morning, I look at the memento mori on my computer desktop. As you may know, memento moris are reminders of death, and were popular in the Middle Ages when paintings often included skulls and other symbols. So I have a JPG of a skull on my computer. But I didn't want it to be gruesome, so it's a fun, multicolored skull -- a design I downloaded from some site. It puts things in perspective. It helps stop the small-stuff-induced sweating. Reminds me to enjoy my life and my family while I'm here."
A.J. Jacobs, author
"There is nothing like working on the crew, outdoors, on the first warm day of spring. The guys all bust balls all day, you give each other shit to pass the time. Everybody gives, everybody gets. Nothing serious, we bust each other's balls and bust on the world at large. It's the blue collar way. We are all in it together, getting through, bitching about things. All winter with the heavy clothes, you can never get fully warm, then suddenly you are down to your t-shirt by 10, muscles stretched out, flowing, building, putting up walls. Done, wrapped up at 3, take at look at what you put up, what you built, feels good. Cold beer by 3:45, on the front porch chillin. That is being a man."
Don Foote, general contractor
"My bride and I remarry in a different state or country every year -- number 13 in 2010."
Evan Money, life coach
"Seeing films by myself. I often escape on certain afternoons into the cocoon of my favorite theater, alone in my thoughts, ready to be affected by a work of art. Distractions must be eliminated. Plan for transcendent moments. I always do, and I'm convinced that inspiration can be engineered. We needn't be passive."
Jason Silva, television host
"Male initiation rites in New Guinea."
Sebastian Junger, author
Kip Mazuy, composer
"I am always training for my fights, so my most cherished ritual as a guy is simply being dad."
"Bad" Chad Dawson, current IBO Light Heavyweight Champion of the World
"I'm a Miami Heat fan because I grew up down there, and I take every opportunity to see the team play. But these days I live in Manhattan and almost love going to Knicks games more. The team sucks and the seats are cheap, and that means I can go with a pal, sometimes for $10 each! And we can sit in the nosebleeds, talk, drink expensive beers, and, on account of not caring who wins, we're guaranteed to leave with no disappointments. When discounted Knicks tickets go on sale, I always buy two per game. No doubt, someone will go with me. Here's hoping the Knicks continue to suck. Sorry, New York."
Jason Feifer, editor
"Hanging out with my son, Dylan, playing the Wii or telling big stories before bedtime."
DP Gates, entrepreneur
"I love to take four, count 'em four, actual newspapers out to my porch in the morning. (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and The Star-Ledger.) Laptop stays closed for about an hour because once I am on the grid, the print reverie is over."
David Carr, author and journalist
"I may just have performed one of mine -- going to the recently rebuilt track at the local high school (where all three of my kids went). I've been going up there since we moved to Port Washington in the fall of 1968."
George Vescey, journalist
"Okay, the honest answer? It's loving, conscious sexuality. It's everything in one: deep love, deep pleasure, deep communication, and spirituality all at the same time. Nourishment for the soul and the body, too. To men growing older like me, I'd add, come on guys, it's use it or lose it. Don't let it slip away."
Gordon Wheeler, president and CEO, Esalen Institute
Chris Anderson, college student
"Watching the Detroit Tigers while drinking a Coors original."
Ben Evans, executive editor, Fogged Clarity
"Mountain biking with my buddies on Sunday morning at the top of Corral Canyon (near Los Angeles). I've been doing it for the last fourteen years."
J. Stephen Hicks, photographer
"Enjoying some downtime at home in Wisconsin when the race season allows. My buddies and I will catch up over a Crown Royal cocktail and dinner -- I think it's really important to remember your roots."
Matt Kenseth, NASCAR Champion and Daytona 500 Winner
"My fake answer would be watching sports with my buds. My honest answer would be masturbation. Which one do you want?"
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