The number one cardinal rule

Ben Sales

We were friends from camp and I hadn’t seen him in months. When, this summer, we were both back at home – he near Madison, Wis., and I in Chicago – we decide that it would be a good idea to find a few days when we could hang out and when the time came I took the three-hour trip by bus to go to his 200-acre farm (that’s right, Midwest) in America’s Dairyland.

Our time was spent well that night, playing “Mario” on his old Nintendo, drinking beer and watching old episodes of “Alf,” but when the next afternoon came, I had a problem. I had a tentative dinner date with one of those friends-who-is-a-girl.

This wouldn’t have been an issue, except that I had a distinct desire to get rid of those hyphens and get a girlfriend, that evening if possible, but I couldn’t if I didn’t leave Wisconsin soon. When the bus arrived I was deep in vacillation: stay with the guy or go to the girl?

Five minutes later I was on my way back home, thinking with my little man and well aware that I’d broken the most important rule of Guyhood: Bros before Hos. You never ditch the dude. Ever.

It’s tough, I admit, because the guys you don’t want to bail on are the same ones that you would wingman for as they all but ignore you to hit on some chick at Blue Hill. Any guy wants to see his friends get with their better halves, provided, of course, he gets the details afterwards. So, what do you do? Where do you draw the line?

Some of my friends play it by ear, taking each choice as it comes and setting their respective girlfriends opposite their buddies time and again. This setup has the potential for success, except that there’s always the chance that the conversation can go something like this:

“Dude,” says Guy 1, “I should stay with you and play video poker. I’ll hook up with her later.”

“No, man,” Guy 2 says, “Go with her. We’ll chill later, and you need to get some tail.”

“Dude, seriously, I’m going to stay here. I’m not about to let you down for some girl.”

Guy 2 will undoubtedly respond with more encouragement for his friend to go, and the conversation thus has the potential to continue until: a. The girl calls Guy 1 angrily wondering where he is; or b. Guy 2 loses his game of video poker. Probably both. An hour later, both guys will have gotten nowhere, and they’ll most likely end up sitting on their couch dejectedly eating Chinese takeout while watching the Strongest Man competition on ESPN2. This is not the situation we’re looking for.

So dodge that circumstance and lay down the law. If you’ve got some free time, give it to the girl. But if you’ve made plans with one of your boys, you better stick around, no matter if you’re discussing philosophy or playing video games.

As for me and mine, that night didn’t go the way I planned, and after I got home I called the farmer friend and apologized for my conduct hours earlier. At the time, I believe he was watching cable TV, eating his dinner on the couch.

Odds are it was Chinese takeout.

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