This is my company’s first week in our new office. In the old office, the men’s restroom consisted of only a “one seater”. Complete privacy, no worries about anyone using a urinal next to me only three feet away on the other side of an inch thick stall. Those days are gone. The men’s restroom of the new office is much nicer than the other one, but contains one stall plus two urinals.
Today I half-jokingly told my co-worker Mark that I am planning to make a sign to put up on the outside of the stall door whenever I am in there that would say, “Nick Shell is in here, in case you wanted to know.” That way I could enjoy my peace without having to hear heckling comments or even just having to deal with the annoying question, “Who’s in there?” Mark replied, “But if you make that sign then you will be interfering with Man Law. Pestering the person in the bathroom stall is a requirement if it’s someone you know in there.”
It’s hard to imagine I could make it through 5 volumes of Manspeak without mentioning Man Law. (Here’s a refresher course I found…)
Man Law of course was officially outted and recognized by those Miller Lite beer commercials in 2006. Laws like “a man shall not walk a dog that is smaller than a football” and “there shall be a minimum waiting period of at least 6 months before a man is permitted to start dating his best friend’s ex”. These laws are taken from the Book of Man Law, a book that no man has actually ever read or even seen before. A man is just sort of born knowing it.
While a man is hard-wired with his own built-in instruction manual which helps him know his own kind; he is not programmed to understand a woman. That’s where trial and error comes in. But at least for himself and his own kind, he does have some direction.
At the heart of Man Law is an effort to ultimately prevent any reason for a man to ever have a Misunderstanding with another man. Which prevents the unspeakable Hurt Feelings and the play-it-cool Apology. A man doesn’t go around thinking about and talking about his relationships with his other guy friends. Man Law takes care of that. It’s set up to keep things simple in male friendships.
Man Law not only keeps his fellow male relationships healthy but also helps keep a man from unnecessarily embarrassing himself more than he already does on a weekly basis. One of the many reasons I can’t stop obsessing over the movie I Love You, Man is because of how right-on it addresses the quirky rules of what it takes to be a socially acceptable man among his male peers. It does this by having a cast full of men who constantly break Man Law. In fact, it is ironically Andy Samberg’s openly gay character, Robby Klaven, who helps his brother Peter to know what a confident straight man is supposed to act like.
One of the best examples of a serial offender of Man Law is Peter’s annoying self-obsessed co-worker Tevin Downey who has highlights in his hair and a fake tan, sends annoying e-mail forwards, and sneaks up behind Peter and tickles him whenever he gets the chance. He’s the epitome of what used to be called a jerk, but in this decade has evolved into what is now called a Tool or a Douchebag. This kind of guy is not physically threatening, nor is he effeminate. He is simply completely oblivious to the importance of Man Law.
Understandably, Man Law is sometimes misinterpreted as a chauvinistic list of what it takes to be macho. Not the case. What’s much worse than being less than manly is being compared to Dane Cook or Spencer Pratt, two “men” I constantly make references to, usually mentioning how men around the world long to punch them in the face.
To outsiders, Man Law may seem like a finicky, strenuous system in which a person can become overwhelmed by trying to keep up with all the rules. It can be, for those born with out the instincts. Because after all, it is an issue of social survival. For the men who were unfortunately born with Man Law Deficiency, there is hope: Watch The Office on Thursday nights. Pay special attention to Andy Bernard and Michael Scott. Do the exact opposite of whatever they do.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: