Sunday, April 27, 2014

Nitchification of Maledom

A little over a year ago I went up to the mountains with some friends from church on a "men's retreat." A type of activity that I honestly would typically shy away from.

In fact, I would typically say I shy away from most "men's activities" -- largely because I feel like I'm typically not the "man's man" that is attracted this type of event. Yet in 2013, I said "yes" to attend one of these events, incidentally encountering a handful of people on the way that year who were reluctant to attend for what were probably similar reasons on my part.

In a group discussion there was a moment where I started talking and spit out a phrase where I used the phrase "the nitchification of maledom."

Now believe me - this is not a real term (thank you, Google for allowing me to confirm this terminology is 100% pure original thoughts when I search it and return 0 search results), but conceptually let me explain the thought that I presented.

As men, we often relate to each other best through our hobbies, interest, and various affinities. It seems to me that often many women, particularly those who are part of a similar life stage can quickly connect whether it's discussing their children, their jobs, their spouse, their shoes, or a past event. One conversation leads to another and a conversation that started about someone's shoes leads to a life story about their career path, past relationships, hopes for the future, and everything in between. Men struggle in this way.

Yet, if are initial connection point, or even reason to hang out together is going to be these hobbies and interest, there's really nothing bad about that -- except it seems like there are so many different hobbies and interest that men have that you through 30 guys together and you might feel like no one shares your interest.

There's no need to connect stereotypes to people or hobbies, but in many cases I find that someone who is into hunting is likely not into surfing, or someone who is into video games is also not reading the financial times.

Just think about the potential for hobbies men have: golf, fishing, hunting motocross, mountain biking, jeeping, skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, surfing, animal husbandry, investing money, playing video games, sports collectibles, attending concerts, playing guitar, running marathons, weight lifting, and home improvement. When it comes to sports, particularly watching sports some men don't watch sports at all and others are absorbed in sports. Yet even those who are absorbed might be more interested in college sports or professional sports. Sports can range from baseball, basketball, soccer, football, boxing, golf or NASCAR. Participation in sports might vary in certain groups, and try to pull a group together to play baseball, football, basketball, volleyball, bike racing, ultimate Frisbee, golf or ice hockey and your group will shrink quickly.

The availability of various forms of male leisure (granted that leisure exist for both genders, but seems particularly expansive for men) creates this nitchification of maledom.

Even if a group of men want to talk about their interest outside of these more basic hobbies the group will likely find interest split, or people that are on the outskirts of the conversation. I experience this when friends discuss photography equipment, cars, camping, wine tastings or home brewing, the NBA draft, video games, military strategy, home repair projects, meat smoking technique, types of snowboards, firearms, contemporary male fashion, or favorite places to go rock climbing.

Putting a list like this together makes me feel like there's so many things I cannot discuss -- and frankly the effort it would take to even fake it half of these conversation would be life-consuming and frankly not worth it. I'm going to go buy a new set of water skis, rush home to watch world cup soccer while I watch youtube videos of John Deere tractors during the commercial breaks.

In the context of the retreat one of the solutions I made to men dividing along their interest is to avoid doing this by identifying with our core identity first. In terms of our church, I pitched the idea that our identity be in Christ not in fly fishing or our college football team's recruiting class. These secondary interest are good, but can't keep us from connecting with one another over areas of our foundational identity. In some cases, this might mean an identity shift from a life focused on stocks and bonds, gardening or the latest Call of Duty video game.

Practically -- there's something there, but it's a challenge, and even still the broad spectrum of possible interest can just easily bring us together as separate men from getting to know one another. And if we agree that there is something valuable in friendship and relationship among other men, then figuring out to connect in this midst of this nitchification of maledom is something I truly believe is worth working through. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Adventure Hobby Thrill Season

For all sort of reasons (new and recent) which I intend to outline in more detail, I have found myself recently willing to pursue an adventure, find a new hobby, or seek out a thrill.

And believe me...I am not a thrill seeker. In fact I often feel like I don't have many hobbies -- especially those ripe for small talk. And when it comes to adventure, outside of the fun of three kids and the fun we enjoy together as a family, I'm not sure that I seek true adventure.

But with that in mind - in having some conversations today with some dear friends (conversations I've had in part before, but in a much more action minded manner today), I decided now is the time for adventure and I said to these friends "If you say do it, I will say yes." Now these of course, friends I trust to not lead me into danger, but rather just push me a little bit. But I was serious - because I was ready for an Adventure Hobby Thrill Season.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dear Blog

Dear StrangeCultureBlog,

I am not ignoring you. Not entirely.

Sure I've spent very little time with you but you haven't entirely escaped my thoughts. I suppose the main reason I've thought of you recently is because I realize I haven't posted. Similarly, there are certain blog series I typically start working on this time of year and hasn't happened yet.

I'm not really sure what that means for the blog. One of the challenges of this blog is that over time things have changed. For starters there's been changes with my reader base (not just ups and downs, but changes in source - there's been seasons of dedicated readers, seasons of blog feed responses, and certain times where google searches seem to flood certain pages with readers). Even still with daily hits quite high (to pages, through search primarily), the task of generating new content is interesting if you're not sure you still have real readers that are touching base regularly.

Similarly, the tone and topics have shifted through the years, but one of the consistent themes have been films. There were some years were I was seeing movies opening weeks in the theater regularly, and eagerly anticipating upcoming releases.

With the additions of babies in my life, and changing family and work demands my interest in films have shifted. I'm not completely uninterested, but have a lost of degree of relevancy when it comes to discussing the top films the moment that they come out. I'm okay with this, but it is been a challenge I've faced in the years past. I've made adjustments to my content a number of different ways, but I've began to wonder if some of those adjustments are at this point adjustments to keep the content coming as opposed to fulfilling writing experiences on my part.

Layered on all of this, there are times recently when I feel like if I have a moment of personal time in the evening or on a weekend, I'm not always sure this space is how I want to fill the time.

Yet, here's the rub, part of my lack of interest in filling the time and space here is because in the name of consistent content what I wold write here might be a diversion from natural thought. I am finding more and more that this space is not a home to share my thoughts of film/culture/media. Largely because those things might not need a place to put them, because I might not be thinking about those things outside of this space some weeks.

And yet, I miss the opportunity to express myself in relative anonymity, to those who are either clearly seeking out what is written here or stumbles upon it accidentally. If it were up to me I would trade in hundreds of accidental Google hits for a few dedicated followers.

Similarly, I would trade in some run of the mill blog post for a chance to say something meaningful that might connect with people in a meaningful way.

In that vein, instead of abandoning this blog I am very open to writing new content. I'm not sure if it will fall in line with previous post or themes, or completely divert from that.

I'd like to turn my recently blasé feeling about this blog into something I can re-channel into something fresh for me in my current life stage, current interest, and current fascination.

Will that mean I may never talk about movies here again? Maybe, but probably not. But more so, I'm opening myself up to a new season of freedom -- perhaps even a different level of personalization.

We'll see what happens - but I want to say, thanks for following. I hope that in my permitting myself to go new directions with this space you are open for taking the journey as well.

This post will be the 1,790th post on the blog. Those hundreds of post are certainly a mixed bag of content, but I hope to mix it up some more - who know's what might happen.

Thanks for joining in this journey,
RC of