Ask an Uptight Seattleite

How to greet a fellow manly man.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

I've become confused about exactly how to greet and part with my male friends. I think part of my confusion comes from socializing in different circles.

With the men I know through Empowered Men's Circles, it's assumed that we hug when we meet and when we say so long (or "ho!"). But sometimes when I'm with my male friends who are more sales and sports oriented, a standard handshake is assumed. However, there are also times where there seems to be a middle ground—a handshake (or "brother shake"), leading directly into a "thug hug," a quick meeting of chests accompanied by a turn of the head.

The thing is, what do I do when I meet a male artist friend in the company of less-sensitive men? Hug him and try to lead the less-open men to a new way of connecting, or follow the crowd and use a proper handshake? Help!

Aluminum John

Dear John,

Follow your heart. Your heart wants a full hug. Man Love is a beautiful thing, and we shouldn't let shame, society, or homophobia deny it to us. Because we need it. Say it out loud with me, John: "I need Man Love." That said, I would myself be insensitive if I didn't recognize the validity of the feelings of discomfort you experience in front of your less- enlightened friends. That's why, for the situation you describe, I suggest the Fierce Tribal Hug.

To first work yourself into the proper frame of mind, imagine that you are at a funeral for your friend's father. Then, lips pursed in manly determination, embrace your artist friend with the full force of both arms, and rub your fists slowly up and down his back. Look over his shoulder at the floor, your eyes brimming with deep unspoken feelings. Hold for three slow beats, then release. Follow through by hammering both his biceps with your still balled-up fists and hoarsely proclaiming him to be your brother.

If for some reason he flinches from your display, you can follow up with some gestures that show him and everyone else the lighter, sports-guy-friendly side of your Man Love. Do some quick boxing moves while flashing a crooked grin. Grab his ears. Poke your fingers into his eyes. Gently choke him. Grab him by the middle, hoist him over your shoulder, and spin around while shouting, "You big crazy sunuvabitch!" Playfully knock over a few glasses with his head.

Congratulations. You've just united the worlds of your sports friends and your artist friends. You've shown everyone how to be both strong and vulner-able. Get yourself a beer and bask in the warmth of the boundary-crossing Man Love you've engendered.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

Is it ethically OK to visit the Woodland Park Zoo?

Handwringer

Dear Wringer,

The greater scaup is a black and white duck that dives for his food. Would he be happier if free of his enclosed temperate wetland? Well, on the one hand, if left to his own devices, he could freely roam the lakes and bogs of Europe or North America and otherwise conduct his affairs as any scaup, be he greater or lesser, would prefer to do. But on the other hand, if not a dependent of the zoo, he would be vulnerable to predators and fluctuations in his food supply of mollusks and aquatic plants.

Or consider the tapir. Not the star of any animal fable, excluded from the canonic E-I-E-I-O scheme, this prehensile-snouted alterna-mammal languishes in his pen along the trail through Tropical Asia forest, ignored by the crowds rushing toward the more mainstream attractions of the Elephant Barn. Is it right that the tapir wanders around aimlessly behind Plexiglas panels? Is his freedom worth the chance that a budding young environmentalist may have her or his consciousness raised by the informational panel provided by the zoo, which teaches us that this jungle dweller, with his highly flexible proboscis, is in fact an endangered species?

Perhaps my point by now is clear, Wringer. It's this: It might be OK to go the zoo. The important thing, though, is to not get so involved with "enjoying yourself" or "having a good time" that you miss the many rich opportunities for extended discussion and self- improving rumination.

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