Paying nine bucks for a simple drink seems like a waste of money, so when I go out to one of Portland’s many great restaurants, I try something made with ingredients I can’t afford to keep stocked in my globe bar at home.
I’m not going to play Garth Brooks and pretend I’m just too darn simple to appreciate anything but Jack Daniels and Budweiser. Dude probably laughs and guzzles champagne with Beluga and blinis every time he does an encore of “Friends in Low Places” for the Wal-Mart country crowd. I’ve been around good food for years, and I know what I like.
We’re living in a renaissance of fine drink mixing, and while you’ll never hear me say “mixologist” or “artisan cocktail,” bartenders really are doing some nifty things with booze. I’ve had some truly inventive, artfully-balanced and complex drinks in the past few years.
Unfortunately, the hipster trend is to serve them in foofy stemware. Having learned this, I order whatever I feel like drinking, but ask the waitress to have it poured into a double-old fashioned glass, because I don’t want to sit around with my pinky out, pinching the fragile little stem of something that looks like it belongs at a tea party for Polly Prissy Pants.
So, last night I ordered this beverage I really like at a fine establishment that will go unnamed to protect the innocent, and told the waitress I wanted it in a DOF or “something a little more manly” than the champagne flute or whatever they were going to serve it in. She comes back with my drink the way I wanted it, but told me “the bartender says that glassware has no gender.”
Obviously, the bartender was a woman, and she must have confused her job pouring drinks with a Huffington Post comment thread.
But more importantly, she was also incorrect.
Many objects can be gendered, including glassware.
Hell, one of the guys at the gym told me the other day that I was using the girly ab roller and I should switch to the manly one. Apparently, you can also gender ab rollers.
One of the reasons I developed a comprehensive theory of masculinity was that I wanted to be able to apply a formula to reasonably assess whether a behavior or even a thing was more or less masculine.
Men all have their opinions about what is masculine and what isn’t, but they can’t usually explain why they think the way they do. Usually, they are just repeating something they’ve heard or making some kind of cultural association.
Culture matters — because culture is theoretically about what the men of our tribe associate with masculinity. It makes sense to care about what your father and grandfather thought was masculine.
But out in the gray zone of globalist modernity, where most people don’t even have a tribe or much of a culture that wasn’t advertised to them by some corporation, I think the formula is what really matters.
The opinion of some female is irrelevant — masculinity is primarily about signalling to men. My drinking buddy was a guy from my gym, and we agreed that we were probably the biggest, manliest guys in the dining room at that moment. (In downtown Portland, that isn’t a big achievement.)
We had no one to impress, but masculinity is a way of being. You don’t turn it off and giddily act like a teenage girl just because no one is there to judge you. I’m still watching me, and I have to respect myself in the morning.
Speakers of Latin languages have long believed that objects can be gendered — though sometimes strangely, arbitrarily, or for long lost cultural reasons. I can’t tell you why the French think a day is masculine or a table is feminine. They just do.
I was recently searching for the right font for a project, and Fonts.com users have tagged certain fonts as being “masculine.” The masculine fonts are predictably sturdier and stronger-looking, tend to be sans-serif (because serifs are kinda fancy), and related tags include “legible,” “clean,” “geometric,” “technical,” and “sturdy.” They read as direct, solid, functional, bold and authoritative. The “masculine” fonts fit the pattern and more or less communicate the universal masculine tactical virtues of Strength, Courage and Mastery as I laid them out in The Way of Men. (It’s hard for letters to have Honor.)
You can look at an object, compare it to other similar objects, and gender it according to the tactical virtues based on both how it looks and how a man would use it. It’s somewhat subjective, but if you asked a room with 100 men from all different cultures to pick out glasses and determine which ones were masculine and which ones were feminine, the more fragile looking glasses would consistently be rated as less masculine, and the heavier, sturdier glasses would be rated as more masculine. The masculine virtue of strength alone would be enough to gender the glassware. (I’m not sure how courageous a glass can really be.)
There’s another reason why men prefer certain kinds of glassware — it has to do with the way you hold the glass. For instance, a few years ago I had a little debate with a pal over martini glasses.
As a gin drinker, if I’m not driving anywhere and I really feel like getting my drink on, I’ll open with a dry martini or four. It’s basically a glass full of gin, and a classic man’s drink. (Ladies’ drinks like “chocolate martinis” are not regarded as martinis proper by any competent drinker or bartender).
After ordering my martini “up” in a martini glass, the guy I was drinking with chuckled in that snidely bemused way that men do when another man does something that seems a bit off.
I argued that, for me, the martini glass was a Las Vegas, Sinatra, “rat-pack” kind of thing. I started drinking martinis during that whole 1990s lounge music and cocktail revival period, so that was my cultural association. I’ve had a martini at Musso & Frank’s in Los Angeles, and that’s the way they’ve been serving them since Humphrey Bogart and Gary Cooper were drinking there.
I still think that’s perfectly valid, but my friend Andy won me over to the idea that the gesture and hand position required to hold a martini glass was more meaningful than the cultural association.
A pint glass, double old-fashioned glass, and a beer mug all offer a solid hold. With a mug, your hand is basically making a fist, and if you actually clobbered a man with the mug itself, you wouldn’t be the first. Same goes for bottled beer. Cans can be crushed on the forehead as a threatening gesture, but only at a hillbilly barbecue or a frat party. What are you going to do with a champagne flute or a martini glass? That’s right, not a damn thing. Pint glasses, beer cans and DOFs probably don’t make the best weapons, granted, but the hand position communicates strength and control, compared to the delicate pinching required to hold a martini or cocktail glass.
It’s a small thing, and it doesn’t matter much, but why not make the manlier choice?
These days when I’m out in public, if I order a martini, I order it shaken and neat, or on the rocks. And if I’m sampling a complicated drink with bitters or some imported liqueur that’s been made by monks for 300 years, I make sure I don’t have to drink it out of a vintage pink champagne coupe.
When I write about things like this, there’s always going to be some guy who says, “real men don’t think about whether what they do is masculine or not.” This is the fetishization of stupidity and the confusion of stupidity with masculinity.
One might as well say that real men don’t think about what they do at all. This is strange position, given that men invented philosophy.
Clearly, men do think about what they do and why they do it, and I guarantee you that if I were given a position of authority over any man who says he doesn’t care how other men perceive him, I could give him something to do that he would grumble about because he felt like it was emasculating.
“You don’t think about masculinity or about how other men perceive you? OK. Your new uniform is pink spandex with sequins, and every morning we’re going to start the day by doing pole dancing to “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé. We’re going to do this in public where hundreds of people will see you.”
If that’s not going to be a problem for you, you’re probably already too far gone to be reading this.
Granted, most men don’t sit around philosophically contemplating the relative masculinity of glassware. That’s my job.
Gendering objects, actions and gestures is an educational project, and doing it can bring you to a deeper understanding of masculinity and the behavior of other men. It’s also a good way to check yourself and determine whether you’re sending out some signals you’d like to change, or craft a better argument for why you’re going to keep doing it the way you want to anyway.