One day when I was eating lunch at Caffe Baci on Madison, a nearby conversation intruded itself into my awareness. The speakers were two young male professionals. Their dialogue was along these lines:
“So he thought we should, like, tell the client . . .”
“Like, that is so weird.”
“Well, he was like . . . and then I was like . . . He’s so, like, annoying, you know?”
“Totally. Like, what are you going to do?”
And so on and on.
I looked at them. They were ordinary-looking men.
Who sounded like teenage girls.
Since then, I’ve noticed a lot of this, even in men I guess to be as old as 30 or even more. I heard another one the other day at Bonjour; he was pacing the courtyard, carrying on his end of a particularly mundane conversation on his mobile phone and peppering his contributions with nearly every poor speech habit imaginable, loudly, so we all could hear.
Now, I’m not a woman whose tastes run toward the macho. I do, however, like a man who sounds like a man (Richard Harris, Richard Kiley, and Howard Keel all come to mind). That means I like a man whose every other word isn’t “like,” “he goes/she goes,” or “totally,” a man who doesn’t remind me of a young woman.
Presumably, many of these men have wives or girlfriends. Do their women find their speech patterns and habits sexy? Do they match their own so closely that it never occurs to them how odd they sound emanating from an adult male? Does everyone, both genders, of a certain age talk in this way, and am I catching on only now? After all, in the past 10 years I’ve noticed more and more adult women, some as old as 45–50, who sound like chipmunks on helium, which I had not realized before. I’m starting to wonder if men are following suit. To wonder, and to be afraid.