Men-only groups gain steam

The Baltimore Sun

It's Wednesday night, just after 7, and the betting has already begun in Greg Avedesian's kitchen. He and six friends have bellied up to a white folding card table, wedged between stove and sink, and begun a four-hour game of Texas Hold 'em.

The Seattle group has been gathering for poker night once or twice a month for the past three years. The rules are always the same: There is a different host each week, buy-in is $20 and there are no girls allowed. No wives, no girlfriends, no female friends, no female co-workers.

"It's a chance for us just to be guys, you know?" says Avedesian, a health-benefits consultant. "We can hang out, say anything we want, just be buds."

Guys-only gatherings - from informal poker nights to organized Rat Pack-esque Vegas vacations - are nothing new. But after years of being out of favor, they're finding a renewed respectability among younger men and businesses anxious to market to them.

Travel agencies such as I'm In! and have begun promoting guys-only vacations - or "mancations" - to such places asMexico and Hawaii.

Even when it seemed that fraternal orders would become extinct as their members died off, the organizations are now drawing a younger generation.

Today, all-female groups outnumber all-male groups. Dr. Warren Farrell, co-author of Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? and one-time professor at the University of California, San Diego and Georgetown University, says that ratio is as high as 100 female groups to every 1 male group. Given those sorts of statistics, it's not surprising that the social pendulum is beginning to swing back.

When you take out the XX-chromosome factor, Farrell says, "There's suddenly no need to get approval. Men don't need to censor themselves around other men. It's freeing" and therapeutic, said Farrell, who has debated men's issues on CNN News, ABC's 20/20 and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Tony Clarke, 56, has been a part of a men's group in Massachusetts for the past 29 years. He and eight other men, ranging in age now from their mid-40s to mid-70s, meet one Sunday a month.

"So what makes it special?" Clarke asks. "I don't know. Old friends, sharing their lives with each other - what's better than that?"

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