Where have all the men gone?

CHICAGO — I’ve been watching women all my life. I haven’t learned a single thing from doing this. But it’s been enjoyable and I’m still watching.

What I’m seeing lately is that women are traveling in groups. No men. Just women of all ages going out together in groups. I know this has been going on for awhile. But it seems like I’m seeing it more today.

I noticed it again last weekend when my wife and I were in Chicago to see the musical “Jersey Boys.” As we gathered in the foyer waiting for the doors to open, there were groups of women everywhere. Some of them looked like they were church groups of fully 20 women, all out together. No men. Others like looked like maybe bridge groups of 12 women, while still others were groups of maybe five or six female friends. There were groups of women everywhere.

All of this made me wonder. Where are all the men? Surely at least some of these women had men in their lives. But where were the men while their women were out in large groups having fun?

Were they home sitting on their Barcaloungers? Are men becoming extinct, like the dinosaurs? Maybe we’ve been hit by a giant meteor and are so wrapped up in ball games, we don’t even know it yet.

My wife, Jeanne, had an explanation. “Women get tired of their husbands complaining whenever they ask they them to go out someplace,” she said. “So eventually we give up, stop asking, and just go out with our friends and have a wonderful time. No one grumbles.”

I think that she saw this as a teachable moment.

One hundred years ago women didn’t go out unless they had a man escorting them, and I think it’s great that they feel comfortable going out today without male escorts. What I’m worried about is the men. Another hundred years of this and we could be obsolete where women are concerned, not unlike girdles and corsets: Uncomfortable items of the past that have lost their purpose.

I see groups of women everywhere today —restaurants, movies, the theaters. And in case any of you guys are wondering, they are having a wonderful time without us.

You don’t see men doing this. Two guys will go out together and do something. Sometimes even three guys go out. But men never gather in groups of more than four, which, not coincidentally, is the same number for the most common golf group — a foursome.

Men will go in foursomes to baseball and football games. But you never see 10 or more of them going out together. And you certainly never see them in groups at a musical play. While there were more groups of women than I could count at “Jersey Boys,” I did not see a single group of men. In fact, men are more likely to be seen out by themselves than in a group of more than four.

We had breakfast Sunday morning in Rockford, Illinois west of Chicago, at a restaurant called the Machine Shed and there were groups of women there, too. It’s a fantastic restaurant, unless you’re on a diet like I am and can’t eat anything described on the menu with the words “hearty,” “man-sized,” or “dripping in butter.” I can only order things off the menu if they’re described as “dry,” “tasteless,” or “unfilling.” You don’t eat a lot of that stuff, so you lose weight.

This restaurant features homemade cinnamon rolls as big as a breadbox, made from scratch with real butter and brown sugar and heaven knows what else. They come to the table warm and while I couldn’t eat them it was worth going to this place just to smell them on Sunday morning.

If you are ever condemned to death, pick these cinnamon rolls for your last meal. You will not be disappointed. With the cinnamon rolls, at least.

The reason I mention all of this is because a group of women came in and sat down at the table next to us. No men. Just women. Six of them.

There were three teenage girls in their blue soccer warm-up uniforms, obviously ready for a game later in the day. These were the kind of teenagers you look at and feel good about the future. You could see these were very bright young women.

The three girls were accompanied by their mothers. Two of the women had medium length, dark hair. They wore no make up early on Sunday morning. They were dressed for going to a soccer match. They dressed in loose dark clothing, chin to toes.

The third mother had very long streaked blonde hair. She was wearing a tight top that did not cover her midriff. She had tight pants that rode a little – shall we say – “low.” And all of this was done for the purpose of exposing a neon blue thong.

Not that I noticed.

The group of six women, all thin and fit, promptly ordered several warm, buttery cinnamon rolls with icing dripping from the top. The sweet aroma wafted over to my table. I tried to eat it out of the air. When they finished every crumb of the cinnamon rolls, they each ordered a huge breakfast of waffles and omelets and sour dough French toast and hearty skillets. How could these thin young women eat like this when I had nibble at crumbs?

So, this is how it was when I saw these young woman, one in a neon blue thong. I was thinking about sweet rolls and sour dough French toast. This is what diet does to a middle-aged man.

But I had to wonder through it all what the two conservatively dressed mothers thought about their friend and how she dressed for a girls’ soccer game. Why did she wear this to go out with other women?

I know the dynamics within a group of women are very complicated and men who attempt to even consider this are at grave personal peril. But I couldn’t help but wonder. What would the two women say to their daughters about this? What would they say to each other? What would they say to their husbands who would be at the game later? “Keep your eyes on your daughter.”

I don’t know any of the answers. I just know that groups of women are going out together at all times of the day and evening and having a great time and men are nowhere to be seen.

This has been quite a revelation for me and it’s given me new understanding and insight. It’s changed my thinking and helped me understand what I need to do.

I need to get a Barcalounger and find out what all these guys like about them so much. That, and I’m never, ever, going back to the Machine Shed without ordering homemade cinnamon rolls dripping with icing right out of the oven.

If a group of women can do it, I can, too.

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