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Men 2 Boyz
Without a doubt, Wednesday is my favorite day of the week. That's because every humpday evening, underneath the stands at Memorial Stadium, Kansas football coach Mark Mangino meets with members of the local media to talk football.
This is the way it works: Mangino will approach the cluster of five or six waiting reporters following his team's practice - smiling or unsmiling, depending on how positive our coverage has been that week - and open with the same introduction every time: "Hello, men."It's a great intro. "Hello, men."
It's tough-sounding, and somehow it creates this instant masculine bond, like we're old Army buddies or something - just a few old-timers trying to earn a paycheck and make it through this crazy thing called life.
Except a couple weeks ago, for reasons I do not fully understand, Mangino called an audible. He approached the way he usually does, smiling and jovial in his fleece adidas jacket. But when he reached the group of waiting reporters, he said, "Hello, boys."
Now, first of all, let me go on record as saying that I couldn't BE farther from a "boy." As most of you are probably aware, I'm all-man. I'm probably the manliest guy that I know. I'm always doing all kinds of manly stuff like building things with my bare hands and grilling steaks with my shirt off and watching Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. People are always coming up to me and saying, "Dugan, you're a man's man!" Heck, even the name of this blog oozes manliness - it ain't called 'Dugan' A., Boy,' is it?
Second of all, Mangino's little stunt has brought back some pretty troubling memories for me. Memories that I spent a great deal of time trying to forget. Memories of a night nine years ago that threatened to shatter my self-confidence into a million tiny pieces.
You see, when my friends and I were sophomores in high school, we had this idea. As we counted down the days until the first member of our group was to turn 16 - thus, giving him the ability to drive the rest of us around; thus, expanding our social lives to something beyond slumber parties - we began racking our brains for the best way to celebrate our forthcoming freedom. It didn't take long. Soon, it was decided that, on the day the license was obtained, the eight of us would take a trip to the first place every group of 15-year-old dudes goes when they're of legal age to operate a motor vehicle: Hooters.
The night was kind of a coming-out party for us, our foray into manhood. I don't remember all the specifics, but I know the bowl-cut to human ratio was at least one-to-one, and there was probably a fairly pungent cloud of Tommy Hilfiger cologne hovering above us for the duration of the evening. We were on top of the world, chests puffed out, drunk off the independence that comes when you don't have to have the "My-mom-can-drive-if-your-mom-can-pick-up" conversation. And as we cruised through town in a busted-up Camaro, anticipation growing with each clunking mile, there was one thing we were very sure of: That night, we were men.
So you can imagine our shock 30 minutes later, when, after we'd arrived at the restaurant and made our way to a table in the smoking section (manlier than non-smoking), a neck-snappingly gorgeous waitress approached, pulled a pad out of her apron, and said, "Hello boys. Welcome to Hooters."
For a moment, we thought maybe we'd heard her wrong. Surely, she couldn't have said "boys," we told ourselves, as we scanned our minds for the word she'd actually used - "Toys"? "Noise"? "Roy's"? When we failed to come up with anything, we figured that maybe she was just goofing around with us, like how when you see one of your good friends at school and you say "Hey, dork butt!" (Obviously you don't think your friend is a dork butt, it's just an expression you're throwing out there). But she didn't really smile. She just kind of stood there, chewing her gum and looking bored, and then she took our drink orders.
Here's the thing about that: At that moment, my friends and I were approximately 94-percent sure that we were "men." At the very least - and I mean very least - we were "guys."
What we were quite sure of, however, was that we were not "boys."
Guarantee you what, "boys" didn't roll around town in Camaros and spend their Friday nights eating hot wings at bars surrounded by provocatively dressed waitresses. That much we knew.
Our particular waitress, however, disagreed, and her blatant disregard for this fact was rampant throughout the night. She proceeded to call us "boys" throughout the evening - even when it wasn't altogether necessary - and each time the word escaped her lips, it was like a shotgun blast to the ego. Would you boys like a refill on your Cokes?
OK, boys, here are your wings.
Is there anything else I can get you, boys?
With each "boy," we cringed, and the more she said it, the more it got to us. Eventually, it managed to ruin our night. By the time we'd paid our bill and made our way outside to the parking lot, we didn't really feel much like doing anything else.
"Can you drop me off at home?" someone asked, quietly.
"I think I'm just gonna call it a night — I've got some homework to get started on," said someone else.
"This was a bad idea," added another, a bit more bluntly.
In the ensuing years, we didn't go to Hooters much. And by "much" I mean "ever." We tended to stick to places a little less conducive to public ridicule - like Winstead's and Taco John's. And we never spoke about the Humiliation at Hoots again.
As the years came and went, the passage of time allowed us to forget about the whole incident. I pushed it into the deepest depths of my consciousness, a place reserved for things like Ross Johnson stealing my bike and threatening to beat me up in junior high. But then Mark Mangino had to walk up one day two weeks ago and, with his two-second introduction, bring back nine years of pain and heartache.
He uttered that word, "boys," and there I was, back at Hooters, a 15-year-old dude trying to choke down some wings I didn't want anymore and wishing a hole would open up in the ground so I could crawl into it.
For the record, I'm not mad at Mark. I'm just confused. Calling me a boy is like calling Jessica Alba "plump" or Mario Chalmers a "law-abiding citizen." It's just weird and doesn't make any sense. I'm a man in the truest sense of the word. To paraphrase a former San Diego news anchor, I'm the kind of man that built the Eiffel Tower out of metal and brawn. That's the kind of man I am. And it's high-time I start getting treated like it.
Anyway, I'd love to sit here all day and talk about how tough and manly I am, but I gotta run. I'm gonna go pound some Budweiser and then meet up with some buddies. We'll probably spend all night arm-wrestling each other and talking about car engines. Peace.