Saturday, December 19, 2015

Beck’sting: Frexting for Men?

NOTE:  This post is rated R for mature themes, alcohol references, and mild strong language.


Dang it!  Tonight is the only night I have free to write, but half my research cannot be done.  There’s something wrong with the Google.  I think their server is down.  So I’ll have to go mainly from memory when I talk about Beck’sting.

What?  You haven’t heard of Beck’sting?  Well, I’m a little hazy on its origin, but have tons of first-hand knowledge myself.  That’s right … I’ve been Beck’sting for years and didn’t even know it was a thing.

What is Beck’sting?

Beck’sting is an empowering way for men to allow their appreciation of fine beer to manifest in a way that will never come back to haunt you.  When you Beck’st a friend, his response is always positive and always confidence-boosting.  It presents you with a really non-dangerous platform to intercept or allocate affirmation and the visual essence of thirst-quenching, pure drinking satisfaction.

Okay, I cheated a little bit there.  I was trying to be expansive and touchy-feely so I could capture some of the excitement and zeitgeist-y-ness of a bunch of articles I read online about frexting.  But unlike girls sending sexy pictures of themselves to their girlfriends, Beck’sting just isn’t all that titillating, probably because it’s a guy thing.  So I borrowed some verbiage.  (You didn’t think “intercept or allocate affirmation” was mine, did you?) 

Beck’s is not one of my favorite beers, and thus not the subject of many of my Beck’sts; fortunately for me, the term applies generically to texting photos of any beer.  I’m hazy on the origin of this term, but one theory holds that Beck’s, the American beer that used to be German, “anonymously” coined the term as an Internet “guerilla marketing” thing.  The more common explanation is that the obvious term, “brexting” (brew + texting) was already taken (it means breast feeding + texting.)

By the way, when I first came across the word “frexting” I had no idea what it meant, and automatically thought to ask my teenage daughter, who is like a walking encyclopedia.  But as the question left my lips I realized with horror what it might mean, and hoped to God she’d never heard of it.  She hadn’t, so I immediately engaged her in a conversation about bird species or science or something so she’d be unable to commit the word to memory to look up later.  (I’m sure I failed but I’m not about to bring this up with her again to find out.)

My first Beck’st

Looking at photo metadata, I can say my first known Beck’st was all the way back in 2010 .  (It’s not like I’ve carefully filed these over the years, as I didn’t expect Beck’sting to become a worldwide phenomenon.)  One caveat:  I seldom text and actually sent the photo via e-mail, but with smartphones the difference between texting and e-mailing is largely semantic. Here’s that (possible) first Beck’st:

I sent it to my friend “Chuck” (I’m using a code name here because I don’t know how public he might want to be about his Beck’sting).  I hoped that he would appreciate my Beck’st’s artistic merit and construe it for what it is:  a fun and empowering way for men to strengthen their bonds while conveying the exciting idea that those who appreciate quality enjoy it responsibly.

I was of course taking a risk.  Frexting, I’ve read, is always consensual and girlfriends “care too much to ignore each other’s hot bods” and “will respond all, ‘GIRL, YOU ARE ::fire emojis::!’”  On the other hand, the frexting literature warns against traditional sexting because of the “critical male gaze” and the danger that “a boyfriend you send it to will do something vindictive with it later.”

How much damage could you do with a Beck’st?  I didn’t want to find out the hard way, but fortunately Chuck was very affirming.  When he wrote back, “Mmmmmmmmm,” I felt that the exchange had brought us closer together.  And not long after, he Beck’sted me back!

A word on –exting and the sexes

Is it really fair to say that only men Beck’st?  Well, I don’t really know because I haven’t known that many women.  But I think it’s fair to say that a woman is less likely to chug down some glorious IPA, pause for a pregnant moment (maybe with a subtle gesture that says “wait for it!”) and then belch, deep and loud and proud, and announce, “Wow, that felt great!”  I think women are less flamboyant about their enjoyment of beer, and thus less likely to Beck’st.

Meanwhile, nobody needs to bother making the case that frexting is a women-only thing.  Some websites—and it’s always women’s sites that have stories about frexting, and they all quote one another like they’re wound up in some tight journalistic braid—suggest that the reason men don’t frext is that they’re homophobic.  But these same sites are adamant that frexting isn’t sexual.  So if it’s not sexual, why are non-frexting men (i.e., men) homophobic?

There’s actually a very simple reason men don’t frext:  we just aren’t interested in our own looks or our friends’ looks. In fact, we’re not interested in any man’s looks.  Case in point:  my wife doesn’t like Daniel Craig as James Bond because, she complains, he’s not attractive enough.  Do I care?  Hell no.  He’s a great Bond because he’s a badass.  I don’t care what he looks like as long as he beats somebody down in a stairwell and drives an Aston Martin DBS really fast.

I’m not judging either sex; I’m just acknowledging what I think is a basic truth about humans:  the females got the looks.  It’s pretty common, throughout the animal kingdom, for one sex to be more flamboyantly good-looking than the other.  Consider the peacock:

You ever see a female peacock fan out her dirt-colored feathers?  Of course not.  I mean, why would she?  Same with men.  Why primp and preen?  We have nothing to work with! We’re not the fair sex!  We’re just crudely made lumps who grunt and scratch a lot, and I for one am glad I don’t have to try to be attracted to us.

And you can call me sexist, but I’m just going to say it:  it’s totally fine, and normal, for a woman to be vain, but vanity in a male I find deeply distasteful.  When I watch my wife (and lately—gasp—my teenage daughter) carefully applying makeup in front of the mirror, I’m as fine with it as when I watch my cat washing herself.  But a guy fussing in front of the mirror is as bizarre and wrong to me as if I saw a dog washing himself.  I spend as little time in front of the mirror as possible, because I’ve been looking at this same face for 46 years and I’m tired of it.  So I use the mirror only for shaving and occasionally making a bare-bones, half-assed effort to style what’s left of my hair.  So why should I expect a friend of mine to want to see a photo of this mug?  (And don’t even get me started on  my stick-thin body.  I’m fine with it, and it does a decent job for me on the bike, but nobody needs to look at it.)

Women might frext to get a friend’s honest opinion about this or that cute or sexy outfit, but in my experience, guys are pretty blasé about what they wear.  And if they see a friend getting too caught up in matters of fashion they’ll probably hassle him, as well they should.  Here’s an example.  In the mid-‘80s, when the original Oakley Factory Pilot sunglasses came out, I thought they were a bit much.

The Oakley Blades weren’t quite as gaudy, but they were also a lot of money, and I made the mistake of asking Chuck, “What do you think of the Oakley Blades?”  He parroted this back to me endlessly, all summer, openly mocking my self-consciousness.  Thirty years later I still remember all his flak, and even though he was right to mock me, it’s really reassuring when I send him a Beck’st and he texts back affirming my choice of beer, or when out of the blue he suddenly Beck’sts me, “just because.”

Okay, I was bullshitting you about the “reassuring” and “affirming” bit, just now and throughout this essay.  I just can’t resist trying to adopt (well, mock) that of-the-moment, “this is how we live” tenor of the women’s magazines as they go on and on about female-empowerment-thru-lingerie-selfies.  But Beck’sting is not about us men—it’s just about beer.  Being a guy, I can pee standing up, I make more money for the same work, and I get to wear comfortable shoes without anybody calling them “sensible” … I don’t need empowerment.  And this toxic “male gaze” the frexters keep talking about?  It’s not pointed at me!  One journo-frext-alist writes, “[The frexter] counters the male gaze by saying ‘I THINK I LOOK GOOD, AND I DON’T GIVE A SHIT IF YOU THINK I’M A NARCISSIST.’”

I don’t think the male gaze itself ever accuses women of narcissism.  In fact, the male gaze doesn’t accuse anybody of anything.  That’s like saying the male’s taste buds accuse a sandwich of not being tasty enough, or of being narcissistic. And how can we find these frexts narcissistic when they’re not even sent to us?

As for narcissism, I think men and women alike should avoid it like the plague.  Vanity is the fear that you don’t look good enough, so there’s at least humility in it.  Narcissism is self-delusion.  Nobody is that hot, except Narcissus, and look what happened to him.  (If you’re rusty on your Greek mythology, this is the guy who saw his own reflection in a pool and fell in love with himself, forgot to eat, and starved to death.)

Speaking of food, here are some pasta-themed Beck’sts:

The point of the first photo was for scale, to show Chuck the width of my hand-cut pappardelle.  The second one was Chuck stoking my envy:  that’s Café Gondolier pasta (which I don’t get any more since I moved away from Boulder), paired with a Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA, one of my absolute favorite beers, which I almost can’t bear to shell out for—it’s like $12 for a 4-pack.  Chuck knows I’m cheap.

Why Beck’st at all?

Okay, so if Beck’sting isn’t self-affirming or empowering, and doesn’t bring friends closer together, why do it?

Whoa, hold on there.  I never said you should!  You must be confusing this essay with articles like “8 Reasons Why Frexting Is the Thing You and Your Friends Should Already Be Doing.”  I don’t believe that just because a trend has been identified and labeled, it should pushed on people.  Of course, some people don’t need to be pushed, because they live in fear of missing out on what everybody else is doing.  Consider the journalist who wrote, “Not having sent a frext myself, I decided it was time to see what all the buzz was about. Of all my female friends, I decided my friend Amelia would be the ideal choice.”  (How is this “automatically consensual”?  How does she know Amelia won’t be totally weirded out?  Whether she realizes it or not, this journalist is adopting the Senator Packwood ethos of “How can you know until you try?”)

That said, I do find Beck’sting fun, for a variety of reasons.  First, there’s the sheer artistry involved.  A glass of beer can look really good, based on the composition of the photo and/or the backdrop.  Check these out:

(Regarding that last photo:  no, of course I don’t smoke, and I’m not looking to learn how to roll my own cigarettes.  But I do love the original artwork on that jar of loose tobacco.  And that golden Belgian ale was as tasty as it looks.)

It’s also pretty cool, I’ll admit, how smartphones can shrink the space between us all.  When your friends are far away, it’s nice to realize they’re not completely gone.  Think of the Tom Waits song “Shoreleave,” where the Navy guy over in Hong Kong writes, in a letter home, “And I wondered how the same moon outside over this Chinatown fair could look down on Illinois and find you there.”  This same world-shrinking simultaneity sometimes involves beer, as when I Beck’sted Chuck from a little coffee shop where I was getting some writing done.

Moments after I sent this, Chuck Beck’sted back with the following photo and the message, “Dude, we’re drinking together!”

Beer can fuel nostalgia, too.  There’s a seasonal Boulder beer called Upslope that’s only available for about a month a year.  Chuck socked away a six-pack of it four months in advance of an epic mountain ride we did last year, so we could enjoy it after the ride.  His will power flagged during those months and we only got to share three of them, but that’s probably for the best.  (I meant that bit about how those who appreciate quality enjoy it responsibly.)  Eight months later he sent me the following Beck’st with the comment, “Remember this stuff?  Good freeking times!”

And then there’s the very practical matter of how to remember that great beer your pal recommended to you.  Lost in the aisles of BoozeMo, you can just pull out your phone.  Here are a few beers that Chuck either turned me on to, or that I’m still intending to try:

And here’s a seasonal ale I Beck’sted Chuck about a couple years ago.  It’s back in the stores now (though with a less groovy label; that barn owl drawing, according to a friend of mine in Bend, was modeled on a real owl that hung out around downtown Bend like a community mascot).  I think I’ll have to pick up a sixer of Jubelale and send Chuck a reminder Beck’st!

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