Right now, all over the U.S. middle-aged men like me are sending emails to each other, planning "guy weekends" involving golf. And whatever their walk of life, the emails all begin with the same word: gentlemen.
It doesn't matter who the group of guys is. Right now I'm in Lake Tahoe with about 20 other guys for four days of golf and poker. Well, for me it's four days of golf and trying to figure out what to do with myself while everyone else plays poker. One thing I know: I'm going to have to step up my evening game by this time next year. Hopefully, my present wet blanketness will be overlooked and I will be re-invited. It would suck to no longer be a gentleman.
This is not an unusual thing, this "guys weekend." As Peter Cetera once said so succinctly, everybody needs a little time away. Sandra Bullock sometimes disappears to Calistoga with a "girlfriend" or two, where they spend a weekend drinking wine and getting spa treatments. When this happens, I do not feel at all left out, as I am no less inclined to want a spa treatment than I am to want to play poker.
I am right now amidst a good cross-section of modern American men in their 40s. And I don't doubt that more than one person here this weekend has in the past gotten a spa treatment. However, I'd lay even odds that the mud bath or cucumber facial came at the request of their wives.
For today, at least, though, we are gentlemen. About a year ago, Roger Hunt forwarded me an email he was included on. A bunch of guys we went to high school with -- guys he, as a member of the football team knew and I did not -- were trying to plan a "guy's weekend away." And you guessed it: the first line of the email was, "Gentlemen."
When we arrive at the golf club, the guys in the pro shop greet us as "gentlemen." If it's not "gentlemen," it's "fellas" or "boys." It's never "guys," which is maybe a subtle admission that the only people who refer to a large group of men getting together as a "guy's weekend" are usually the women they left at home.
But gentlemen? It seems like this forced formality, to remind us that, freed from whatever yokes have been placed upon us by the lives we live 51 weekends out of the year, we should now be treated as though we were meeting for a fox hunt, followed by brandy and cigars. An event such as ours, which encourages the wearing of saddle shoes with spikes in the soles and misleadingly advertised "microfiber" golf shirts that, at least in my case, led to noticable body odor before the completing the front nine, is not so formal. And it's difficult to be a gentleman when you have B.O.
Meanwhile, only 27 days stand between now and my child's Bar Mitzvah. One of the golf courses we played this week was off the same exit on Highway 80 as Walton's Grizzly Lodge. "This is the closest I will be, geographically, to my son for the next week," I thought as we pulled off the freeway; then, like the socially retarded weirdo I am, I said it out loud. There was no response from anyone else in the car.
He's up there right now, probably asleep. I fully expect him to be changed when we pick him up next weekend. Two weeks on your own, when you're almost 13, is a big deal. When I went away to UC Irvine baseball camp at age 15, I came home a week later convinced that I was ready to go away to college right that minute. Come to think of it, I think that week was the last time I voluntarily played poker.
Is the Jawa playing poker this week? Is he water-skiing or shooting a bow-and-arrow? Has he met some 13 year-old girl camper and found that, for reasons that elude and confuse him, he wants to spend all of his time with her? How much of his experience at camp has he already decided we don't need to know about, for whatever reason? That's up to him, I guess.
Gentlemen. Someday, it's likely, my Jawa will be a middle-aged man, and you've got to wonder how closely his life then will resemble how he pictures it now. When I was thirteen, in 1978, I was positive that I would play first base for the New York Mets, even though Scott Moores had already taught me that I wasn't even good enough to play first base for Santiago Junior High School.
That year, we had to do a mock future timeline for U.S. History class. Mine, I remember, had me winning the A.L. Rookie of the Year trophy in 1988. (just to show how flexible I was about the future,I had me playing for the Boston Red Sox, wearing the same uniform number as Carl Yastrzemski.) Things didn't really pan out that way, unfortunately.
When Sandra Bullock was thirteen, she wanted to be a fish and game warden, I think. Something similar to that. Something that required being outdoors. Tellingly, she actually exceeded her childhood dream job, though the little khaki outfit would have been cute.
Once again, I hope my son takes after his mother. Right now his dream is to be a roller coaster designer. He's done all the research. He knows who the top companies are. He figures he'll first have to get a Civil Engineering degree, then a Masters. He wants to go to M.I.T., but is almost as sold on Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (so he can visit his parents, who will be living in nearby Cayucos, frequently).
It's much more realistic than figuring you'll be Carl Yastrzemski's successor, playing caroms off the Green Monster and hitting dinky home runs over the Pesky Pole in right field, which is good and not good. I was positive I'd be a big leaguer when I was thirteen, a dream almost as big as the one I had today, when I was certain I'd be able to get that seven iron onto the green and putt out for par. Neither one happened, but I hope the Jawa doesn't grow up and wonder why his dreams weren't more fantastical as a young teen.
Incidentally, when he's approaching middle age and gets that email that starts out, "Gentlemen," I hope he already knows how to golf. Otherwise I'd advise him to budget an extra $100 for the four boxes of golf balls he's going to buy to replace the dozen or so he loses on the course each day.