‘Men can talk about their lives in meaningful ways with other men. They just need the time and space to do it.’
We need a new term for men getting together to connect in meaningful ways. Guys Nights Out (GNO) isn’t doing the trick. While fun, GNOs are inevitably linked to men getting together to drink, play poker, watch sports, and lord who knows what else. Also the “Night” in GNO implies a short-term get together. Bond with your friends—and get back soon.
Personally, I like the Mancation concept. The word has been around for a while, but it hasn’t quite made it to the mainstream. It had a breakthrough in 2006, when Vince Vaughn uttered “I’m excited. I look at it like I’m on a Mancation,” in The Breakup. Since then, the word has been used sparingly in the travel industry, mainly to promote the idea of men vacationing together.
I’d say we are short-selling Mancations. Lets amp up the use and sophistication of the term. Sure, Mancations can be extended GNOs. But they could also be something far more significant. They can be a place where men do things they enjoy while talking with others in meaningful ways, including the strengths and challenges of being a guy.
This concept is not completely insane nor unfounded. In Australia, a similar idea has sprouted up, called “Men’s Sheds.” These physical spaces allow men to get together, work on common hobbies, and talk with others. It’s been quite successful. But we may have less sheds here in the U.S. And we sure love our vacations.
I say whatever works. Certainly, the need for men to seek out places to connect is easy to justify. Men continue to lead the way in a wide range of physical and mental health concerns. We also know men don’t often seek help via traditional help-seeking methods. Finally, the importance of adequate social support and forming connections with male friends has been found to be an important factor for men struggling with various issues.
Of course, selling the idea of a Mancation is not without its challenges. Seeking help and talking seriously with other guys is still unfamiliar territory for many. For others, the concept of men getting together to connect is (unfairly) equated with drum-beating gatherings in the woods. Mancations may need to be framed differently.
But lets give it a chance. Recognize the legitimate need for men to connect with each other. And lets not equate that with debauchery. Men can talk about their lives in meaningful ways with other men. They just need the time and space to do it. And maybe a different word. I’m booking my next trip right now.
Aaron B. Rochlen, Ph.D is an associate professor of counseling psychology at the University of Texas, Austin. He is Past President of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity. His research interests focus on men and help-seeking, non-traditional work and family roles, and men and depression.