Column: Guys' night out tests 'guy code'


In the mid-1990s, I went with the guys to see a movie at the Astra. No wives were allowed since they went the previous week when no husbands were allowed. This took some getting used to for a guy like me who, back then, had to keep his masculinity in check. The prospect of sitting in a dark theater with only guys created anxiety.

As the big movie night with the guys drew nearer, I became less comfortable with the plan. There was something I needed to know before I could relax, one vital piece of information to set me at ease. Unable to take the suspense any longer, I called Troy, one of the guys.


“Scott here.”

“Ready for the movie tomorrow night?”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Backing out on us?”

“Of course not.”


“There’s just something I’m curious about. No big deal, really. Just a silly little thing. Well, what I’m trying to say is, how do we go about this, Troy?”

 “What do you mean?”

“Do we sit side by side, or will we have an empty seat between us?”

There. Finally it was out in the open.

The last time I went to a movie with guys was during high school. Back then, we adhered to the No. 1 guy movie rule: There had to be at least one empty seat between each of us so as not to put our manliness in question as we viewed cinematic gems like “Porky’s” or “10.” “10” was not a good movie-going experience for me, by the way. My mom made a surprise appearance during the movie after realizing her freshman son had deceived her by sneaking into an R-rated movie just to see Bo Derek change from her bathing suit into her birthday suit. She somehow found me in the dark theater and ordered me to leave with her. Luckily my buddies’ eyes were too glued to Bo Derek’s corn rows (or something like that) to witness my kidnapping. Even now, at 49, I still can’t bring myself to rent “10,” too scared mom will kick in my front door.

But back to the movie house guy code.

During high school, when several of us went to the movie together, we’d be so spread out because of an empty seat between each of us that in order to communicate we’d have to punch out the bottom of the popcorn carton and use it as a megaphone — you know, just to say something like, “Scott, here comes your mom.”

After telling Troy about the movie house guy code, he took a deep breath and said, “To be honest, I’m pretty certain about my masculinity to not let us sitting beside each other bother me. Heck, if you want, you can even sit on my lap. I got over that seating issue thing a long time ago. But I can’t speak for Rusty.”

Rusty was the other guy going to the movie with us. I had a feeling that he was probably a “two empty seats between us” kind of guy. Or even more drastic: He would expect each of us to sit in separate rows.

Troy added, “Scott, before we hang up, I just want you to know I was joking about that lap thing.”

During the movie, the three of us actually sat elbow to elbow to elbow, with no empty seats between us, Troy quite comfortable in the middle. It wasn’t as bad as I feared. Rusty seemed OK, too. He even shared his jumbo pack of cherry Twizzlers with us. We three chewed heartily. I did refrain, however, when Troy invited me to reach over to take some popcorn from the container positioned on his lap. That went too much against the guy code, no matter how certain one is of his movie house masculinity. Twizzlers are one thing. But popcorn? A guy has to draw the line somewhere.

Scott Saalman and the Will Read and Sing For Food players will perform May 18 at the Jasper Riverwalk gazebo. Nashville-based duo Channing and Quinn will be special musical guest. Admission: monetary or canned good donation for Community Food Bank.

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