Just Hangin’

A previous Fanagram discussed the refined art of puttering, an activity that I have mastered.   Hanging out is a related but distinct discipline, and one that I completely suck at.  Puttering is a solo act that involves some physical activity, while hanging out is a social activity, but one that implies no physical activity.  Hanging out is the fine art of doing nothing together.  To me, it also implies some level of multi-tasking, where conversation can be interspersed with periods of silence.  Further, one of the key ingredients of the successful hang out is that the moments of silence are expected and are not awkward – there is no imperative to keep a conversation going.  This is only possible if there is some other easily interruptible activity that you can defer to, such as reading the Sunday paper or watching sports on TV.      

My failure in hanging may be partially due to my general impatience and lack of conversational skills, but I also think that hanging out is more of a male activity centered around sports.  We went down to visit our son Ned at college and took a tour through the appalling dump he was renting with 12 other guys.  The TV room was set up almost as a shrine; all the room mates had chipped in to buy a huge flat screen hi-def TV.  There were two couches in the room, one at floor level, the other elevated so that the seating was tiered, simulating a stadium.  Although I think that there had been some effort to tidy up the joint in anticipation of a parental walk-through, I noticed a couple of beer bottles and a smattering of bottle caps in the corner.  

I asked Ned, “Do women ever watch the games with you?”

He looked at me in total astonishment.  “Are you kidding, why would they want to do that?”

“Well what do the women do during the weekends?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” he answered with a sad tone in his voice as he contemplated a weekend afternoon without hanging out.

Now I actually know a fair amount about sports, particularly football, and I can happily hang out with Nick watching football. But if there are several couples, for example at a super bowl party, I feel that my proper place is with the other women who have no interest in men’s sports.  I remember one party where the men and women had self segregated, with the women in the kitchen arranging hors d’oeuvres and the men hanging around the grill poking at the coals and talking sports.  I decided that I would try and break the mold and walked over to join the grill group.  They were talking football and I attempted to break into the conversation by appropriately commenting that Charles Woodson was one of the few defensive players who had ever won the Heisman trophy.  The conversation stopped dead and all eyes turned to me in astonished horror.  The men then turned away without any further comment and continued their conversation.  I had been summarily dismissed. 

What is the female equivalent of the man cave?  Women just don’t sit around watching sports together and don’t really talk about sports, except maybe women who talk about their children’s playing time on the travel soccer team.  In contrast, men can put on a random basketball game with some chips and a beer and they are set for the next several hours.  Shopping might qualify as female hang out pursuit, but I still maintain that hanging out should involve a couch – besides I never shop.  Perhaps going to the park with the kids, where breaks in conversation can be filled by helping kids on the slide or in the sand box – but I always found that hanging out at the park was a total bore, and I don’t think that I am alone here.  I remember pushing kids on a swing and looking over at other women who had the same weary look on their faces.  Furthermore, by the time a child finally learns how to pump by themselves, they have generally lost interest in swinging.

Taking a walk, with dogs, a stroller, or even a power walk with purposeful strides carrying weights is a frequent social activity, but does not qualify in my scheme, since all involve physical activity.  In my paradigm, hanging out at the fitness center is an oxymoron.   Hanging out with a the Sunday paper either at home or at Starbucks does qualify, but these are gender neutral opportunities, so I still maintain that women cannot hang out as successfully as men.  Furthermore, the image of women hanging out carries with it the unattractive whiff of idle gossiping. 

Part of my discomfort in hanging out traces back to my mother who simply had no tolerance of any idleness.  I grew up when the Cubs only played day games, and I have a distinct memory of her walking through the TV room and saying in a very pissy tone, “Can’t you think of something better to do on a brilliant sunny day?” and then she would harumph and indignantly march off, frequently with a tennis racquet in hand.  She loved it when her children brought friends over as long as they were not draped over couches idly drinking sodas and watching TV.  So in response she always organized group activities –  one summer she organized a volleyball league in our backyard, in the fall there was always a soccer game, and in the winter we would go skating or sledding.  Sometimes we would find a gym and play dodgeball.  There was one summer where croquet was the featured activity.  It turns out that her mother, my grandmother, was a fairly accomplished croquetter and had taught her some basic strategy.  Using a “split shot” she could almost make it all the way around the court on a single turn.  She and my father played constantly in their bathing suits.  There are couple pictures of him during that one summer, tanned a golden brown in a madras bathing suit, and then I never saw him without a shirt on again.

My brother-in-law Hank and his family live about 3 hours away in Madison, and we have visited many times with the stated goal of “just come on up and we’ll hang out together.”  This is great for our son Ned and his cousins Nate and Will, but Hank knows that these visits make me somewhat anxious.  But now that I have dissected the art of hanging out, I have much improved.  Our last visit was in the spring and I brought along a crossword puzzle book, some knitting and some books – all the perfect hanging tools.  What’s more, the French Open was on, one of the few women’s sports that men enjoy watching.  That Maria Sharapova is pretty easy on the eyes and her tennis dress can double as a cocktail dress.  And Venus Williams’ surprising choices in tennis attire will get men commenting on “fashion.”  Serena Williams’ enormous biceps and other body parts always provoke conversation.  For example, Nick and I have debated whether or not you could balance a teacup on her glutes.  Even better, due to the time change the French Open was on in the morning, so after a leisurely breakfast and paper reading, we segued to the TV and spent a very pleasurably morning chatting, and not panicking about keeping a conversation going for 4 hours – we would just default to the French Open.  In the afternoon we went for a walk, and then I helped Hank take the garbage to the dump.   A great weekend.  As we left, Hank even complimented me on my new found hanging skills. 

The missing words in the following poems are anagrams (i.e. like spot, post, stop) and the number of dashed indicates the number of letters in the words.   One of the words will rhyme with either the preceding or following line.  Your job is to solve the missing words using the context of the poem.  Scroll down for the answers.

Equality was not Job One when the sexes were ——-

And sometimes sucking the hind tit is where women are relegated.

For example, I have always thought that hanging out ——- to the guys

They sit on the couch, watch sports and endlessly fraternize.

Once I tried to join the men at the barbecue as they shot the breeze

But they ——- like I was a leper with a lethal disease.  







Answers:  created, catered reacted

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