Buddy System

Understanding men and their friendships.

Men and Dieting Competition

Men compete with dieting competition - a throwback to the playground

I am quoted in an article in today's New York Times (Style Section) about men who bet each other about how much weight they can lose.  Essentially, this is a new form of competition.  Men make bets and, depending on the nature of the bet, have to pay each other, give to a charity they like, or give to a poliitician they hate, if they lose.  (Imagine a Democrat paying out to George Bush's Library or a Republican supporting Bill Clinton's.) 

My specific quote centers on this kind of competition being a return to the playground where boys compete around who can run fastest or throw the farthest.  Such betting also allows men a modicum of closeness.  If a straight man feels a little uncomfortable showing too much interest in another man who is a friend, betting with him (or teasing him) can be a way to maintain contact in a way that feels safe - there is a competitive distance.  Remember - men like shoulder-to-shoulder interactions while women like face-to-face interactions (discussed in Buddy System: Understanding male friendships).  Competition allows for men to have these types of interactions.

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Geoffrey Greif, Ph.D., is a Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships.

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