Women have long been vocal about girlfriends and celebrity females they think are gorgeous or adorable, but many guys haven't yet arrived at the same point as Ferriss and his Valentine's Day date; they need the relative remove of celebrity to declare a man crush. That's the idea behind mancrush.com, a site that lets its male users vote on the relative crushworthiness of famous dudes living and dead. Eric Vecchione, its founder, got the idea for the site in 2005, during his senior year in college, when he realized that discussing man crushes had become a way for his buddies to relate to one another: "We would be watching a game or a movie . . . and the debates would start: 'Are you man-crushing on Johnny Depp?' Or 'I can't believe you have a man crush on Derek Jeter!'"
According to Geoffrey Greif, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and the author of an upcoming book about male bonding called The Buddy System, the rise of the man crush may be bringing guy culture full circle. "The word homosexual didn't even exist until the late 1880s or 1890s," he says. Greif adds that once upon a time, expressing same-sex admiration was the norm among red-blooded frontiersmen who didn't have the conceptual framework to fear that they might be labeled homos. "A lot of the founders of our nation would write letters to their male friends saying 'I can't wait to see you again. I love you; I can't wait to get together with you,'" he says. "Somewhere over the last 125 years, it became no longer okay for a man to present himself that way."
That's the beauty of a modern-day man-crush declaration: It gives a guy a sort of wry shorthand, allowing him to say something meaningful about his masculine ideals without having to actually spell them out. As Ferriss notes, "Male vocabulary is limited when it comes to expressing positive feelings about other men. We've got like three adjectives: cool, awesome, badass. I'll give you an example: There's a guy named Dave Camarillo. He's a professional Ultimate Fighting Championship grappling trainer, and he's also my jujitsu coach. The guy's a total stud. I mean, he's one of the top trainers and jujitsu and judo practitioners on the planet, so the guy's a total badass." He laughs, then adds, "So I have a serious man crush on him, yeahin the purest heterosexual way possible."