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When to worry that your boyfriend is a freak.

by Dear Jon
June 3, 2008

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Dear Jon,

I started dating this guy on St. Patrick's Day and here's the thing, he doesn't like sports. He doesn't know anything about the popular televised sports that all my guy friends and exes always talk about like baseball and football. He doesn't play anything like tennis or racketball or bowling or golf. He's not even into weird sports like rugby and lacrosse. He likes me to talk about me when we're together and he seems genuinely interested because he remembers things a month later to surprise me with stuff I had hinted about liking, like my favorite wine-to-dessert combinations, my shoe-size and the color of my eyes and that kind of thing, which is really sweet and flattering. But I can't get a handle on what he has for hobbies and interests outside of our relationship. Does this make him the perfect guy? Or should I be worried? How do I get him to open up about himself? And what do I buy for a birthday present for a guy like him?

Flattered and Frustrated

Dear Frust,

It's funny how people assume they have said more than they really have. For example, I have no idea right now how intimate you two are, your ages and stages in life, or even for certain that you are a female.

Obviously your "birthday present" question has to do with feeling like it would be wrong to get him a sports jersey, a beer mug with a team logo, or a tie with a golf-ball print, gifts that work for 85% of all males 21 and older.

St. Patrick's Day is about 10 weeks ago. This is long enough to start wondering how serious you are going to get, especially as you make summer plans.  Your dilemma is that on the one hand it is really flattering and awesome that this guy is more interested in you than in the hourly ESPN progress reports on the recovery of Tiger Woods from foot surgery.

On the other hand, you have the astute feminine intuition that something must be wrong with your boyfriend.

Boyfriends are supposed to have that certain quality of "boyness" about them, those behavioral attributes that provide a primal reassurance to the unconscious depths of the pscyhe that a boy has testosterone coursing through his body. Testosterone, which allows boys to be boys for the carrying on of the species, is also responsible for all the stupid, aggravating things boys do that drive women up the wall, things like when being asked "what's on your mind" the boyness in the male responds "Nothin'" or, if in a talkative mood, begins to describe ways the Green Bay Packers should redesign their offense now that Brett Favre is out of football.

While you have heard rumors about normal guys who are not football fans, you have not heard of many guys who are completely oblivious to all sports of any kind. From your letter though it is possible that your boyfriend is a total outdoor enthusiast, that he is into sports such as hunting, fishing, sailing, rock-climbing, bicycling or hiking through back country. I have a feeling that if your boyfriend were into those out-door activities, you would have found that out by Memorial Day week-end. But  if your boyfriend is an outdoorsman, you have nothing to worry about. He will display plenty of aggravating sports-related testosterone-charged behaviors soon enough, in one of the last great refuges of boyishness: the fishing trip.

Lots of guys are not interested in televised sports. A guy can have little use for the NBA but be completely male in other sports-related pursuits such as wind-surfing or snow-boarding. I can reassure you that they take stupid male-thinking risks relating to these pursuits, whatever they may be. So have no fear: televised sports does not make the man.

But if he is not into any sports at all, to watch or to play, should you be worried that something is wrong with him?


Let me give you a brief run-down of what non-sports males may be into.

There are some male types in whom the sports gene has mutated into  obsessions for past-times that are not truly sports. For example: Chess. Chess occupies the summit of a slippery slope into the depths of geeky freakiness where Trekkie fanatics lurk, where comic book superheros are objects of worship and where online Dungeons and Dragons tournaments can absorb entire week-ends.  These persons will tend to be highly intelligent, highly defensive ego-maniacs who place too much of their self-esteem on their fantasty-based alternate personas. Many need to be taught basic hygiene and domestic skills. That one of these has been dating a girl for ten whole weeks is highly unlikely.

Other possible past-times for misdirected testosterone: computer hacking, pool hustling, rock music, gambling, drugs, cars, guns, fringe political philosophies, porn.

Just as bad as the sports freak who has to watch at least six football games on an average week in October, is the freak who is completely obsessed with BatMan. More typical of boyish normalcy, is that a guy will have several interests. He may like science fiction and chess, for example, but he ALSO hikes and bikes. Or he is big into football, but baseball not so much, and he is on the computer a lot but not EVERY minute. In other words, most guys will be aggravating in their hobbies but they will be not sick with obsessions.

If a guy has no interest at all in sports of any kind, chances are there is a sick obsession that consumes him. It is not normal for a boy to be indifferent to them all. You need to find out what he is into before you get serious. But after ten weeks, my hunch is that you know more about him than you realize. Does he take you to movies, plays, concerts?  Walks in the park?  What food does he eat? Have you been to his place? Does he have any bookshelves?

What you really want to know is how to shop for a guy who is not into televised sports. Don't buy him a jersey. Buy him a shirt that you would like to see him wear on a date.

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