Reading a television blog, I found out the newest episode of the TBS comedy My Boys had a subplot that involved a mustache growing contest. Have you ever seen guys do this? I have. I met two guys at a party who were two weeks into just such a competition, and the results were fairly skeevy looking. Then again, if you’re the kind of guy who’s willing to competitively grow facial hair, I’m guessing you’re not terribly vain. I found the look distracting, but I talked to them both anyway because I found what they were doing completely fascinating.
This type of weird, perhaps slightly misplaced creativity is something I love about guys. I consider myself a creative person in some ways, but I’m stunned that someone came up with such an idea. Who? How? Why? Some ideas just strike me as something only a guy would come up with like my friends’ Rube Goldberg project in college or books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and How to Survive a Robot Uprising. There’s also a contest some guys I know call The Race to the Bottom, where one tries to say something so disgusting that everyone else is too busy trying to suppress their gag reflex to top it. When a young guy I know told me about a milk chugging contest, I was shocked because I don’t know any woman who would even imagine such a thing, let alone compete.
“That’s disgusting!” I told him. “Why would anyone do that?” Obviously, you’d do it to win, but the fact that I didn’t understand that is why I’d never orchestrated one. All I focused on were the unpleasant elements, and winning—not prize money mind you, but the satisfaction of beating someone else and the pride that comes from being awarded a made up title—meant less to me than the general pleasures of not throwing up.
I accidentally stumbled upon the contest as it was happening. I noticed a crowd and walked over to see what was going on. In the middle of a circle of guys, two dudes faced off, each holding a gallon of whole milk and a trash bag. The rules were simple: they had an hour to drink, and whoever drank the most in that time period or didn’t throw up first was the winner.
I sidled up to my friend. “I can’t believe this,” I said, but he shrugged it off. I stayed, checking out the scene for a few minutes. Then I thought: I can’t believe I’m even watching this. I should go. I should definitely go.
But I couldn’t. The concept was gross, but it was also compelling. At first glance, it’s not that exciting. It’s the psychology of it that kept me riveted. The guys sized each other up like in a Wild West shoot out. Each of them was trying to figure out how much the other guy’d had. Who was ahead? How much did he have to do to stay ahead without risking becoming sick? There were a lot of factors to balance, which made each gulp seem important. In the crowd, we analyzed their body language, looking for signs that one of them might be close to breaking.
I realized part of me was waiting for someone to throw up. I wasn’t comfortable with knowing that about myself, and I wanted to leave more than ever. But I’d managed to get sucked and now I felt the urge to see it through. I stayed for maybe fifteen minutes. I made a little idle conversation with the boys around me, hoping to mask my interest in the main event. Then, the competitor closest to me put his milk down and grabbed the trash bag with both hands. The second I saw his shoulders hunch, the whole thing lost its mesmerizing hold on me. I left quickly because even though I’d been waiting for it to happen, I didn’t want to watch.
There’s nothing particularly redeeming about such a contest. I’m pretty sure the winner is no better off for having participated in it, and I’m certainly not a better person for having witnessed it. But there’s something intriguing about the fact that someone even imagined such a thing. Maybe guys do this all the time, but it’s new to me. I generally have a higher tolerance and greater appreciation for ideas that don’t involve vomit, which is why experimenting with creative facial hair or inserting zombies into classic literature is preferable. Still, I love those moments when I’m hanging out with my guy friends, where I feel like I get a glimpse of how their minds work in ways mine never would. It’s amazing.