We've all been guilty of it at one time or another. Perhaps it was after a twenty-five-minute wait for a rush-hour train. Maybe it was the time you got unlucky on a last-minute flight, and ended up in the middle seat. Or it could just have been at a local bar, finding a bench to watch the game.
You sat down, stretched out, and "man-sat" — legs at right angles, butt pushed forward in your chair, bag splayed out at your feet — oblivious to all who surround you. Sounds like bliss, right?
Wrong. The habit of "man-sitting" has become such a modern social faux pas, it even has a Tumblr dedicated to the most egregious examples. Jezebel railed against the phenomenon last year in characteristically foul-mouthed style, but evidently we didn't listen. This week, Heather Mallick took up the cause in the Toronto Star:
The implication is that men like this are hauling something so huge that it requires its own seat, possibly the mallet and wrecking ball on that subtle Miley Cyrus video. I don't know if this is a signal to other men — as blatant as apes presenting to other apes — but it makes women laugh, as do steroided necks and arms so thick that they can't hang vertically. [Toronto Star]
But man-sitting isn't just about what Gothamist's John Del Signore called "territorial alpha-male meathead shit." Most modern men are able to resist the subconscious, proto-masculine temptation to display their junk to potential mates.
And besides, this phenomenon isn't limited to apelike male specimens. A glimpse at the Tumblr finds men young, old, fat, and thin thoughtlessly airing out the seam of their pants to fellow passengers. If it is something primal, it's more accurately a kind of posture towards the world — a way of marking territory, but remaining open to society.
If that sounds like an excuse, there's a lot of them going round. Men are too big for the average train seat. Our bodies aren't made for sitting hunched over or with our legs crossed. None of that should make a difference, writes Barbara Ellen at The Guardian. "This isn't about bodies," she says:
This is about what could be termed the zoning of entitlement — male space, female space, shared public space. Isn't it high time that some people learned to tell the difference between public and private? [The Guardian]
In other words, if man-sitting feels like something you've got to do, do it in your spare time, in your own space. But when you're in public and you feel the urge to spread out, consider the following:
Learn to sit with your damn legs crossed
Despite what you tell yourself, the architecture of your nether regions is not so oversized that it can't tolerate one leg on top of another. It might be uncomfortable at first, but unless you're smuggling a lobster down there, a cross-legged posture can easily be achieved without the social no-no of tucking or folding. If you think you look feminine, then don't worry — there's a Tumblr that will convince you otherwise.
Or bend your knees
If you're not secure enough in your masculinity to cross your legs, then consider folding them. Yes, sitting with your legs splayed out is more comfortable. And we all know how painful that college football injury can get when you bend your knees. But really, men, you should be able to do this with a minimum of discomfort. If you can't, maybe it's time to lose a bit of weight.
Sit up straight
It's true what your mother told you as a kid: No one likes a slouch. And if you find yourself unable to sit with a straight back then perhaps it's time to consult a doctor. "It may be a sign your spine's crumbling," says The Daily Mail.
Stay in your zone
As Barbara Ellen said, this all about zoning. Women don't want you up in theirs — so you need to stay in yours. Imagine the space around your seat as a kind of conceptual prism inside which you must remain, a kind of reverse strike zone of personal space. Cross your arms. Imagine you're in a restaurant, trying not to get hit by the servers passing by. If you can keep that up for just 25.5 minutes, or the average commute time, you can help "man-sitting" become a thing of the past.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- America created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Meet the ISIS 'truthers'
- The Pentagon's troubled, expensive new fighter jet
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- How American businessmen are ruining American business — and the U.S. economy
- The elusive 'It factor' in presidential politics
Subscribe to the Week