Crucial Minutia
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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: Danny Tanner vs. Alcibiades in Cancun
6 Comments | posted March 26th, 2007 at 01:54 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

My freshman year of college, I went to Cancun for Spring Break. This was a mistake.

I went with my hallmates. We were three nice guys, decent-looking, average builds. At our college, we were considered fine specimens. But in Cancun, we figured, we’d clean up. Our first act in arriving (besides purchasing a bottle of tequila), was to sit down and figure out a “point system” so we could determine who “won Cancun.” Should kissing a girl on the dance floor be worth more or less than kissing in a hotel room? Is a threesome the same if—well, you get the idea.

Don’t worry; we got what was coming to us.

The thing is, men get conflicting messages in our society. Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Charles Bronson, etc, tell us we should be warriors. And they are not causes as much as products of what may be built into our genetic code. The history of men, from Greece’s Alcibiades to Eisenhower, reinforces the point that the most admired men are the strongest, the most virile, the dominators.

And yet, with the rise of the feminist movement in the last fifty years, men are supposed to temper that arrogance. Democratic societies over time impose on their inhabitants the will and perceptions of the majority. When women’s voices became prominent, it was pretty clear that they were not going to accept the purely Alcibiades male anymore.

Nor should they. Alcibiades was a dick. He peed on monuments to the Gods during fits of debauchery. He goaded the Athenian legislature into an ill-advised war with Sicily by questioning their manhood. Nevertheless, men in the last fifty years have had to struggle with two standards, each one working against the other. This is what led us from the blustery, emotionally inaccessible Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners, to Bob Saget’s let’s-play-soft-music-and-discuss-our-problems Danny Tanner in Full House.

And frankly, it was working against me in Cancun. We had no luck. But not because we came in there full of macho swagger, dead set on objectifying women for sex. I would argue that our failure came because we did not objectify them enough. See, we tried to be macho pricks, grabbing the women and pulling them to us on the dance floor. But then, over the raging techno music, we’d want to know: who were they? Where were they from? Did they like being an English major? Then we’d lose them to some beefcake guy with LUST written in fluorescent paint on his chest with an arrow pointing to his groin.

We were sensitive guys at heart or by upbringing, but we felt goaded into the warrior, macho ideal. Much like, I expect, men who grow up in opposite environments feel oppressed by the sensitivity and communication that is now required of them by shows like Sex and The City and Friends.

The problem, I suppose, is that both ideals feel so uncompromising. The environments that call for Alcibiades will accept no Danny Tanners. They’ll give Tanner a wedgie, kick him in the groin, and send him home crying to his mother. Cancun is one example. Five guys watching football is another. On the flip side, the Danny Tanner environments—talking with your mother, your girlfriend—don’t really brook Alcibiades. You’ll be chided for acting “so male,” or for not being in touch with your feelings. Guys these days have to live a double life of sorts, hiding one half of themselves, perforce, from the other.

Cancun, frankly, was scarring. One of my hallmates pronounced: “The next time a girl tells me a guy’s body doesn’t matter, I’m going to pull down my pants and poop on her head.” Upon returning to school in a last gasp attempt to hold on to what little of Alcibiades we possessed, we decided that the plastic bracelets we wore, the ones that had let us into the clubs and the bars for reduced fees, would not come off our wrists until we had hooked up with a girl.

I made a decision. The meat market, the frat parties, the clubs—they weren’t for me. I wasn’t Alcibiades, and never could be. The women that wanted Alcibiades, they wouldn’t want me. The bracelet came off my wrist a week or so later—when I hooked up with a girl who I would date for nearly three years. And in a committed, serious relationship, I discovered, I no longer felt the Alcibiades pressure—at least with regards to women. Finally, I could embrace my inner Danny Tanner.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 26th, 2007 at 1:54 pm and is filed under Pop Culture, Relationships, Gender. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 6 responses

  1. Joie Jager-Hyman

    Best line of the day:

    “The next time a girl tells me a guy’s body doesn’t matter, I’m going to pull down my pants and poop on her head.”

    The extreme always seems to make an impression.

    March 26th, 2007 | 5:30 pm
  2. This is my favorite line of this post:

    “I wasn’t Alcibiades, and never could be. The women that wanted Alcibiades, they wouldn’t want me.”

    It touches the heart of the personal side of this issue beautifully.

    As for the theory here, it echoes the balancing act that we all have to do, between the “feminine” and “masculine” energies (yin/yang, anima/animus, yoni/lingham, etc.). This balance shifts in different cultures, and throughout history. It’s cool to read your experience on this wild ride.

    March 27th, 2007 | 9:20 am
  3. I’m interested in whether or not you’ve been able to embrace your inner Alcibiades within the context of your relationship. Now that you have no pressure to be anything, I thought he might pop up too, no pun intended.

    March 28th, 2007 | 8:03 pm
  4. Josh Krafchin

    That ill-advised war with Sicily basically led to Athens’ downfall, not to mention Alci kept building powerful enemies which led to him fleeing Athens for Sparta, then Persia, and then back to Athens. He had enough raw ability to become powerful and more than enough bone-headedness to bring about the downfall of one of the ancient world’s greatest centers (sound like any president we know?)

    It’s tough to balance the obsession with catching the eye of a hot stranger and at the bottom being respectful, polite, and interested in the other person (beyond the Cancun floss bathing suit). Next post: Hamlet?

    March 30th, 2007 | 8:43 am
  5. Trudi Levine

    When what you are really craving is french fries, catsup and a beer you probably shouldn’t be going to PerSe for lunch. Context seems to be a crucial element here.

    Young women seem to no longer feel that they need to couch the desire for sex in the guise of wanting a relationship. Femailes have, I believe, gone from needing to deny sexual needs to being able to compartimentalize and seek sexual conquests and thrills just as men have historically done. The guy who is attractive in that context will be, I imagine, the one who looks as great in his Speedo as the woman in her ‘floss bathing suit’.

    I would conjecture that what women look for when seeking a long term relationship is somewhat different from what they would be attracted to on a beach over spring break. Culturally we don’t seem to have had any problem with the dichotomization by men, of women into ‘Madonnas” and ‘Whores”, or the woman you ‘bed’ and the woman you ‘marry’, so why should we not have a commensurate bifurcation in women?

    Looking forward to your ‘generational’ response.

    April 1st, 2007 | 6:59 am
  6. Trudi:

    Yes, I believe that’s true for women. And I don’t begrudge them that objectification one bit. I would like to be clear, though: I didn’t look so bad in a bathing suit. And neither did Trent or Matt. I think it was our unwillingness to completely objectify them as they were objectifying us that led to the failure. As I said, we would actually get to dance with some girls, but as soon as we got off the “asshole” track they lost interest. No joke.

    But I guess the question remains of how healthy this is for either gender. Is it a simple expression of sexual desire finding a suitable outlet? Or is it acting out gender archetypes in order to gain approval of the opposite sex and one’s peers?

    April 4th, 2007 | 11:58 am

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