Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Bro Code

Sharon Wildwind

Two first cousins meet in a bar . . . . No, that’s not the start of a joke.

I have two characters who are first cousins. They live in different cities and haven’t seen each other in about two years. They meet each other, unexpectedly, in a bar on a Saturday night. Both are facing serious problems, one financial, the other a threat to his reputation. Neither knows that the other one is in trouble, but both are glad to see the other because they’re family. Suddenly neither one feels as alone. The problem is, how am I going to use body language to show that?

If they were girl cousins, I could take a running leap at writing how they would greet one another. What they would say. What their body language would be. What they would tell one another, and what they would hold back. But guys? I realized I’d completely lost track of what guy body language was happening out there.

The last thing I remember being aware of was bear hugs where both guys pounded each other’s back as if dislodging food from a choking victim’s windpipe, hitting each other on the shoulder with a closed fist, and in some cultures, doing a complicated dap with their hands. Mentioning the dap should give you an idea of how many decades it’s been since I did guy-culture research.

Off I went to a sports bar. That in itself was a revelation. There was a very good salad on the menu. There was also decor. High wooden-and-black-leather chairs. High wooden tables to match the chairs, and about nine high-definition televisions, each one tuned to a different sport, but none of them with the sound on.

I learned there is now a GPS locator that will give you the co-ordinates of where fish are. With apologies to the avid golfers, I relearned that watching golf on television is incredibly boring. I learned that college football players are huge and that they seem to communicate mainly by making a fist and touching the knuckles of another player, kind of like that infrared transfer that electric devices do when they are sending information to one another.

One of the teams scored a touchdown. In the stands strangely-dressed people, some with half their face painted one color and half another color, whooped and high-fived one another. Two figures—gender unknown—who for all the world appeared to be wearing green body suits that covered even their faces and heads, hugged one another.

On the sidelines, one of the football players put his hands on either side of another player’s face and kissed him. On the lips. For a long time.

None of the guys in the bar seemed to care.

Okay. What planet was I on?

Apparently, this guy kissing thing started on European soccer fields. Of course, soccer players have a lot of strange rituals, including the scorer banging with his fist on his chest (A Tarzan imitation? Self-administered CPR?). The scorer outstretching both arms and running around changing the angle of arms mimicking an airplane. And the scorer sucking his thumb as a tribute to his child(ren). I suppose it beats having gallons of ice-cold sports drink poured on your head.

Since the last time I checked on such things, a whole sub-culture called the Bro Code has emerged.

The man hug, where the guys briefly shoulder-bump is okay. So is the high-five, the fist bump (the acting mayor of Memphis fist bumped the Dalai Lama), and the Bro hug (right hands clasped in a handshake, interlocked hands between the bodies, bodies not touching except at the shoulders, and the left hand patting the other man on the back).

Holding hands is out, at least if you’re Toronto Raptors basketball players. The 10-second YouTube clip of Leandro Barbosa and Reggie Evans holding hands on their way to the lockers resulted in so many negative comments that the site disabled the video.

Also pulled was a You-Tube video of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow kissing his teammate wide receiver Demaryius Thomas after a successful field goal was kicked.

If the guys in the sports bar are any indication, I have a feeling that in a couple of years, neither hand-holding nor kissing will do so much as raise an eyebrow.

Since one of my cousin-characters lives in Memphis, I’ve decided to follow the mayor’s lead and go with the fist bump for them. It seems a safe middle ground, though by the time the book is published, it may seem terribly restrained and old-fashioned.

Is it my imagination or are the times they are a changing?


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Great post, Sharon. You sure did your homework! You left out my favorite football fan weirdness, which I learned about from my husband during this past football season, though for all I know it's been going on for decades: Green Bay Packers fans are called Cheeseheads, and many of them attend games with a simulated (at least I hope it's simulated) wedge of cheese fastened on top of their heads.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it's real cheese, though the price of a real hoop of cheese restricts a lot of fans to staying with the styrofoam stuff.

There is a football team in Saskatchewan called the Rough Riders and there is apparently a whole "rider culture," the details of which I haven't investigated yet, but to hear my husband's cousins talk is a whole world in itself.

Sandra Parshall said...

I will never get used to all the hugging that goes on between men these days. Things have definitely changed.