Why It’s Important to Have Real Male Friends

Originally published on MYSA.

 “You should be manager of the hockey team,” a sophomore from down the hall advised. “We need one – it’s a really chill group of guys.”

“OK?” I agreed, hesitantly.

Agreeing to manage the men’s club hockey team was the start of a college-long commitment – not just to seasonally spending every Saturday in our home rink or traveling hours to some other nearby university for games (with a return trip that wreaked of moldy socks, aftershave and epic helmet head), but also to expanding my social horizons. This was my time to see what happens in Guy Land. And like the inside of their gym bags, it wasn’t always pretty. But it definitely taught me some skills that have proven useful.

How to Talk to Guys

Our first away game, I packed into a car with three freshman players. Nervous, I sat on my hands and hardly said a word. To my luck, the freshman were just as anxious. From the driver’s seat the team captain complained into his phone,“This is so boring. It’s silent. I am talking to myself.” This was the first of many silent moments, but soon I learned to relax and became the token girl of the gang.

Later on in life, this prepared me for many a male-dominated work environment. Being the only woman in the room was no longer an issue due to many nights bro’ing out with the hockey team.

In all my relationships, whether professional or personal, I became a lot more comfortable speaking with men. (Fun fact: guys are just as tense – or even more-so – speaking to us as we are to them.) I learned to ignore the nervy, awkward introductions, and even adopted a few strategies for diverting conversations from sports (about which I know nothing).

How to Make Skippy

As part of my initiation as manager, I was taught the magical recipe for “Skippy” – a highly alcoholic, nuclear-colored beverage that tastes like a mound of watered-down Starbursts.

The recipe:

  •     1 30 rack of beer (poured against the edge of the water cooler in order minimize carbonation loss)
  •     1 canister of Old Country Lemonade powder
  •     2 liters Mountain Dew
  •     1 handle vodka

Place ingredients in a Gatorade water cooler. Stir together with a wooden spoon (preferably like you are a witch doctor, for added effect). Write “SKIPPY” in sloppy capitals (better when already inebriated) on a large piece of masking tape. Serve in red solo cups, interrupt gulps for occasional “USA! USA!” chants.

The Benefits of a Broad Network

No matter what party I went to, I always ran into a hockey player or a friend of a friend. As the independent, social Thundercat I am, making the rounds to two to three parties a night was never a problem – I always found a friendly face from the team.

The Importance of a Go-To Spot

The hockey house was my home-away-from-dorm. Going to hang out with the team was like visiting a bunch of older brothers. Whether watching Grandma’s Boy for the millionth time or playing beer pong on a Thursday night, I was always welcomed and knew I’d have good friends and a good time.

The Advantages of Being a Connector

Knowing a lot of hot guys was never an issue with my girlfriends. Broke up with your boyfriend? No problem. Done with a major exam? No problem. Sick of frat guys? No problem. There’s always a place to take it easy and admire some chiseled jaw lines.

Life After Graduating From Hockey Team Manager

My spot tucked snugly under the team’s wing taught me a great deal about the importance of having male friends. Years later, I moved to a new city. Weeks into the apartment search, nothing had proved promising. Feeling a bit discouraged and desperate, I agreed to a tiny room in an apartment with male roommates. They showed up the next day with the lease for me to sign looking incredibly hungover. They explained a rugby party the night before had done them in, and they urgently needed some wings and a Bloody Mary or two to cure the headache. “Wanna come?” they asked. It was then I knew I’d made the right decision – tiny room or not.

Without these men in my life, I wouldn’t appreciate the merits of Keystone Light versus Keystone Ice. I wouldn’t know that Cookies & Cream protein powder tastes good in a milkshake – or that eggs should always be cooked in bacon grease. Without my team, I may fear or avoid male-dominated environments. But thanks to them, I know that they’re places to enter confidently, ready to win – or lose – a game of beer pong (or, now that I’m a bit older, sip on an ale out of a real pint glass). I know that no matter the gender ratio, I can walk into a room, cool, calm and collected and strike up a conversation with anyone.

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