There’s not much better than the smell of fresh bacon sizzling on the grill. Your sense of smell is arguably the sense most associated with strong memories. For me, the smell of bacon brings back images of my dad cooking breakfast (his favorite meal to cook) before hunting trips or a day of handyman work. It also conjures up thoughts and feelings of grandparents’ homes (both mine and my wife’s), lazy mornings with college roommates, etc. Simply put, bacon just smells like home.
As men, I think much of our energy is spent trying to find a home, somewhere to belong. As evidence of this, we have the modern “man-cave” phenomenon, as well as the large amounts of time and effort expended trying to find the right person to spend life with. Also, if most men stop their busy-ness for a moment of honesty, they’ll admit that they feel lonely, even in a crowd. After the chummy days of high school are over and adulthood begins, we find ourselves as a bunch of lone wolves searching for a pack. I know for me, the days after finishing my undergraduate career were really tough on this front. After being super well-connected and even well-known around campus, I moved to another college town to start my Master’s degree. No job, no connections, no friends within a 50-mile radius. The loneliness was palpable, and I was reeling inside. I don’t know that I caught my emotional balance until my wife and I got married and moved to SoCal, where she has an invested family and lots of family friends from her growing up years. Here, I’ve been able to invest in her, our kids, and our families. I’m also involved in my local church (and now the “Dadblogging” community).
The mostly unspoken message is that all are welcome, and that friendship – that feeling of being “home” – is the priority. These men are my personal network, my friends, my brothers.
But I feel like I’m one of the blessed exceptions, and I still have my dark, lonely days. Sometimes it feels like all those relationships I had in high school and college are a distant memory, one that holds little resemblance to my current life. I wonder what those old friends are up to, why we didn’t stay in touch, and why it’s so hard to make friends as a young adult in a relatively new place. It was easy for me to throw a pity party of one until I realized I wasn’t alone. I started reading other men’s accounts of the same experience. Realizing that other men were in the same situation, longing to connect, I tried to think of the best way I knew to reach out. My church is great, but if you’re not crazy about the adult softball league, there aren’t a lot of ways to meet up with several other guys at once. Even if you LOVE softball, there aren’t a lot of ways to connect with other guys on a meaningful level in between all that base running and striking out (usually the latter is my role). On a bigger scale, the church as a whole seems to have a problem reaching and retaining men in a meaningful way. So I thought to myself, “In what situations have I felt like I belonged? What feels like home to me?” I realized my life needed an infusion of bacon.
It was awkward at first, but I pushed through it. I rounded up all of the e-mail addresses I could find of the guys I knew in the area, mostly through church. Wanting to give this idea a memorable name, I called my idea B.O.B. (Bonding Over Bacon). I introduced it as a casual, non-programatic, irregular gathering of guys at our local Denny’s. I wanted the concept to be as non-intimidating as possible, and make sure people knew this wasn’t an attempt to put yet another regular obligation on their calendars. And you know what? This crazy thing worked. It’s never been huge on numbers, but each time I send out the note that “It’s about time for some more bacon …”, I get enough takers to fill a big corner table. There we sit, guys from many backgrounds and age brackets. We have engineers, marketers, directors, salespeople, pastors, etc., ranging from 25 to 65, genuinely enjoying the hour or so we’re able to stay before our day’s work starts calling. We rib each other, swap stories, catch up on life. There’s no agenda, no lesson plan we have to get to, no expectations. The mostly unspoken message is that all are welcome, and that friendship – that feeling of being “home” – is the priority. These men are my personal network, my friends, my brothers.
Life is still not often easy, but man, it’s good to be home again.