It takes two to tango |

It takes two to tango

Summit Daily/Andrew TolveTony Lagreca (center), who went on a man date last year in Denver, relaxes with buddies Glen Morgan (left) and Jeff Nielsen at the Moose Jaw in Frisco.

FRISCO – Monday at the Moose Jaw was a perfect night for beers with the boys. Glen Morgan, a Breckenridge resident of nine years, was sitting on the patio outside the Frisco bar, a Budweiser in hand and an air of unflappable calm wrapped about him. On the opposite side of the table, his friend Jeff Nielsen sipped on a Miller High Life. His hair was unkempt. His smile was cast downward. The topic of conversation was a hot one: Do straight men in Summit County ever leave down-and-dirty relaxation behind for more heart-to-heart social outings, like dinner for two at a fondue restaurant? Nielsen flicked his hair back from his forehead and scowled.”I don’t think a guy’s idea of a good time is going to a fondue restaurant with candles flickering,” he said. “At that point it’s getting pretty uncomfortable.”Morgan bobbed his head in agreement.”A man date like that is a fallacy created by women to get their husbands home earlier,” he insisted. “It goes down with the Yeti and the Saskwatch. I don’t think it exists in Summit County.”

Going on a man date – defined for this article as a social excursion shared by two straight men – isn’t so odd in an urban center like Denver. With a medley of museums, theaters and restaurants beckoning, social encounters between two guys are bound to shift from burgers and beer to more cultural dates, from time to time.But here in Summit County, the opportunity for such outings can seem few and far between. There is no Denver Art Museum. There is no ballet hall. There are few sushi bars or fondue restaurants. The question must be asked, is the Summit County man date as fictitious as the legendary Yeti, as Morgan suggested?Tom Freiling, a 20-year-old Minnesota native who just moved to Blue River with his buddies, was undecided. “I just think it’s a little different,” he said, clearly uncomfortable that conversation had switched from “babes” to man dates. “Going to play some golf or going on a hike or something, that’d be legit, I guess, but a little risky.”In fact, Freiling recently found himself in that very situation. He had met a “dude” playing twilight golf at the Breckenridge Golf Club – Freiling was flying solo until the two were paired together – and after the round concluded, the two agreed to hang out again.”We talked about maybe going out to a little party or something,” Freiling said. “I’m only 20, so I said, ‘If you want to play another round of golf or go on a hike?'”And thus, the following Wednesday, Freiling and his new friend were hiking up to Mohawk Lakes, September’s first snow fluttering down, a golden retriever, a schnauzer and a mutt running along beside them.”We went to the lower lake and made it half way up to the upper,” Freiling recalled. “It was fine. I had never seen September snow before.”

Chris Ryan, a 28-year-old who has been in Summit for three years, said that Freiling’s experience wasn’t out of the ordinary for guys here. While men typically eschew one-on-one dinners, he explained, the wilderness is an open nest for new friendships. “The outdoors is what brings everyone together,” Ryan said. “I think it’s comfortable to say, ‘Yeah, I’ll see you on the hill tomorrow,’ rather than say, ‘Hey, let’s go see a movie.'”Ryan pulled an example from his past. Two years ago, before he had a girlfriend, he was searching for friends and met a guy in the Copper terrain park. The two were hiking a jump together and, as Ryan put it, “sparks flew.””We went down to the Blue Moose and got some pizza after,” Ryan said. “The relationship blossomed from there.”They exchanged numbers, continued riding the Copper terrain park and started going out for drinks at local bars. The friendship was purely platonic, and the outdoors had fostered it all.”But the moral of the story is that he ended up moving away,” Ryan lamented. “I think it’s different here because not everyone’s moving here at once. It’s a transient place. People come here, you make friends and then they move away. It cramps one’s man dating style, for sure.”All jest aside, Ryan’s experience in the wilderness didn’t surprise Jim O’Donnell, a professor of business and economics at Huntington University in Indiana. O’Donnell recently finished a book called “Walking with Arthur,” which explored his relationship with a male friend in the mid-1980s, a relationship that revived his marriage and changed his future aspirations.”When it comes to a certain unburdening, I just think guys avoid that stuff religiously,” O’Donnell said of the hurdle he had to leap almost a quarter century ago. “They don’t want to get into that territory. Divided inner struggles sound almost feminine.”But, he said, the wilderness can be an excellent place for guys to confide in each other. Camp fires and backcountry adventures often lead to honest conversation and introspection, the type that men in traditional settings avoid time and again.”Each of us is deeply in need of other people and other perspectives,” O’Donnell said. “We are social beings. We don’t have to go away to the Colorado Rockies to find others, but it may be a good beginning.”

z z zBack at the Moose Jaw Monday night, a third friend, Tony Lagreca, had joined Morgan and Nielsen mid-conversation. He had a frazzled visor on his head, a cigarette behind his ear and an unmistakable bravado to his gait.”I’ve been on a man date,” he said with a sheepish grin. “I went shopping with my buddy for furniture in Denver last spring in the artsy, boutique furniture stores. I did feel a little uncomfortable walking into the boutiques with another man.”Lagreca added that he and his friend spent about an hour shopping for upholsteries before they decided upon a picnic table and some cushions. In the end, the escapade was short and relatively painless.”I did drag him across the street to the Yakima store after we found the furniture, though,” Lagreca finished. “That way I could feel a little more secure about my sexuality.”Andrew Tolve can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 227, or at

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