Hi there! My name is Allan. Perhaps you recognize me as that short guy, or the fella who once worked in a porn store. If not, you might have seen my big beardo face staring out at you from one of xoJane’s comment sections like a tiny rowboat of testosterone set adrift in a vast ocean of estrogen.
I’m used to it.
Since I was 11, I have become accustomed to situations where I’ve been the sole possessor of a Y chromosome. Throughout my life, I’ve been the token dude so many times there’s a grad student in Hungary who’s attempting to earn her master’s by effectively proving that -- like Schrödinger's cat -- my penis is always both alive and dead at the same time.
But I’m not complaining about this. Just the opposite! The fact is, being the token dude is pretty damn awesome and the only reason I don’t shout it out from the rooftops is because if every dude found out how great it was, it would be nothing but sausage and meatball parties for the rest of my life.
It all started on the first day of Grade Seven. A natural ham with dreams of being a thespian, drama had been my first, second and third choice for my elective class. It turned out 30 other students felt the same way I did. 28 of them were girls.
I felt conflicting emotions as Mr. Mack sat us in a circle and took our attendance. On the one hand, I felt isolated and alone -- two of these things were so much not like the others -- while on the other I looked around and set my eyes upon the largest single collection of cute girls I had ever seen in one place.
And there, at their center, was Kristie S -- the girl in the white dress who had been held back for mysterious reasons sometime in her elementary career and whose obvious physical maturity immediately made her the prime locus of my grade’s fantasies and social reality. One look at her and her other almost-as-cute friends and all my concerns vanished. This, I decided in that instant, was going to be awesome.
I then proceeded to spend the rest of year partnering up almost exclusively with the class’s only other dude. Because I’m an idiot. (I originally wrote, “Because I was an idiot,” in that last sentence, but then I realized that I would be doing a disservice to all of you by not delivering anything but the complete and whole truth.)
The problem was I was far too young to properly fill the token dude role. As much as I enjoyed being in their proximity, girls were still too unpredictable and dangerous to approach without trepidation. Could you really just walk up to a beautiful dragon without any concern that it might burn you to a crisp with its fiery tongue? Try being in a room with 28 of them!
The next year other boys found out that taking drama meant both an easy grade and close proximity to cute girls, and as a result the gender ratio shifted to a far less satisfying 50-50 split. The year after that, though, I got to briefly relive the experience when it was decided during one spring gym class to take both the boys’ and girls’ classes outside and give us all the following individual option: You could either choose to play a game of “serious” baseball or a less competitive game of kickball instead.
As the two groups dispersed, it appeared that they were split almost entirely down gender lines. All of the girls went to play kickball, while all but one of the boys went to play “serious” baseball. Guess who the lone gender-dissenter was?
As I walked towards the kickball field, I heard one of my fellow male students refer to me with a word that rhymes with “bag” in a sotto voce whisper, causing the guys surrounding him to laugh and nod in agreement. Five minutes later this “rhymes with bag” was crouched ass-level behind home plate, while the cutest girls in Grade Nine (including Kristie S -- who was now a jaw-dropping 16-year-old) took their turns to kick the big red ball. Did I mention this was 1990, when spandex bicycle shorts were a popular fashion choice for such athletic events?
But before you dismiss me as some objectifying ogle-monkey, I have to tell you that the chance to enjoy a consequence-free view of my fellow kickballers’ transcendent hinders was only a major benefit of my decision -- not the reason for it.
A lot had happened to me between then and Grade Seven. My own special brand of “uniqueness” had gone unapproved by my classmates and as a result I had to quickly not give a fuck what anyone said to me, since 99% of what I heard was specifically intended to make me burst into tears.
So, when I was asked whether or not I wanted to play kickball, I made my decision based on only one factor -- I fucking hated baseball. I knew I wasn’t alone in this amongst my male classmates, but I was the only one who also didn’t care how it would look if I went off to play with the girls.
Since then I have never actively chosen to be the token dude for the sake of spending time with attractive females. When it’s happened it’s because I’m being true to myself and everything I think is valuable and important. How many guys out there, I wonder, have (metaphor alert!) spent their whole lives being miserable, playing “serious” baseball when they really wanted to play kickball instead?
Which brings me to xoJane, a website that on its surface might seem uninviting to anyone who produces semen with any regularity. I came to it for the first time in mid-May, through a linked tweet. The specific post was entitled “My Rapist Friended Me on Facebook (and All I Got Was This Lousy Article)". You’ve read it. You know how amazing and moving and brave it is.
It stunned me and made me immediately crave more words from the Emily McCombs person who wrote it. [Oh, Allan, stop! (Don't stop.) ] I Googled her and found a bunch of great articles and hilarious videos from previous incarnations of her career. I was so impressed I followed her on Twitter and started reading everything she wrote for this site.
As the days and weeks went on, I started venturing out beyond Ms. McCombs’ work, to that of the other contributors, who I also quickly came to love for their unique personas and opinions (I came to the conclusion, for example, that if I were to ever meet Ms. Marnell, I would quickly embarrass myself by being able to do nothing but clap my hands and giggle like an infant in the thrall of a wondrously shiny object).
I found myself wanting to add my voice to the comments of these articles, but I was hesitant. Not because I felt out of place and too dudely to join in a primarily female discussion, but because the nature of the Internet had forced me to conclude that comment sections are where joy and happiness go to die the most horrible of possible deaths.
Imagine my surprise then when it turned out that xoJane was the rare place where thoughtful discussions actually occurred and where being kind and supportive mattered more than competing over who could deliver the most cynically snarky one-liner. To quote Abed from “Community” the women at xoJane, “Like[d] liking things,” and I wanted to get in on some of that.
Since then I’ve been an active participant in the world of this site and have -- as of yet -- never been called out for it or made to feel the slightest bit out of place. Even in the cases where I’ve made statements some of you have vehemently disagreed with, your responses have been nothing but respectful and thought-provoking.
My guess is I’m not the only dude out there who feels this way. I’ve long suspected that Sarah Woolley is actually a 43 year-old teamster from Hoboken, and not the 20-something Brit she poses as, but until she comes clean all I can do is write this and let the other token dudes out there know that xoJane is a safe place to be a man, so long as you aren’t a total asshole-douchebag about it (or Tucker Max, which I guess is pretty much the same thing).
Yeah, I remember I said I wasn’t going to shout out how great being a token dude is from the rooftops, but xoJane is too good a thing not to be shared. Do me a favor, send this post to your boyfriend, husband, brother, father, fuck-buddy, platonic male friend or any other dude whose presence you think will only make the site a better place. It’ll make me a lot less of a token, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
And before I go I just wanted to add -- in the name of honesty -- that as much as I’ve changed since I was that scared token dude surrounded by all of that glorious female hotness in Grade Seven (it’s been 23 years since I last wore a Garfield sweatshirt!), I have to admit some of the same impulses still remain. Just take a look at this photo taken at an after work bowling party this part June: