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I was talking to my friend Kathryn the other week about this project, and she was sure a conversation about being a man was much needed, especially if I addressed the fact that when it comes to dating, “there’s no code anymore.”

Then I encountered the time-worn phrase “bros before hoes” about twenty times in two or three days in wildly varying contexts (including this one, which caused small bits of my brain to splatter all over my monitor and the wall). And I thought, maybe it’s not that there’s no code, it’s just that the code is written by absolute morons.

Deconstructing the phrase, you can see the roots of something sensible and even kind of sweet in its way. If it were part of the 12th-century “Art of Courtly Love,” you could imagine it rhyming less but sounding less offensive and more wise: “Remember the bittersweet fact that young love is fleeting, and when this transient infatuation ends, you will rely on your true friends to support you and mend your broken heart. If you do not neglect your band of brothers in your times of bliss, they will certainly not neglect you in your times of need.” Or something like that.

But run that through the worldview that nothing at all, ever, justifies taking anything seriously and then rewrite it as a hip-hop lyric (which, as with most hip-hop lyrics, will then be shouted loudest by drunken middle-class frat boys) and there you have it: “bros before hoes.” Which compares the object of one’s affection to a prostitute and codifies the alcoholic logic in which your drinking buddies take precedence over your lovers (somehow “yuks before fucks” seems like it would make less sense to the same guys, even if it means the same thing).

Still, for whatever else it is, the phrase is a kind of elegant illustration of a part of the slide into guyliness. That said, a quickly aborted attempt to research the etymology of the aphorism through Google did show some of the hilarious genius of the user-generated Urban Dictionary.

The first meaning is pretty much the straight-faced one you’d hear from a guy at the beer pong table:

The unwritten law that your bros (male friends) should always be come before hoes (female with whom you are/hoping to have a relationship with). Most used as a trump card by your bros when they feel you are becoming whipped or that your hoe is a slut and a bitch.

Jack: Scott, its poker night, remember to pick up the beer.

Scott: Sorry I can’t, Erica wants me to go shopping with her. She said we might go back to her house after we got done though, I’m hoping I will get in the box.

Jack: WTF, bros before hoes, I will see you at 8.

Scott: Good call, see you at 8.

By the fifth alternate definition, even as the straight definition seems to mean essentially the same thing, we see the example cited to illustrate the usage show the truth about how the libido work as the buddy realizes his error:

When a bro chooses a homie over a bitch

Yaseen: Lets go to the movies!

Denver: Nah ima get laid tonight

Yaseen: Bros before hoes bitch!

Denver: Nah ima get laid

Yaseen: Ok sorry for trying to cock block you [:

Then definition seven provides the point of view of the young homie in love, defining the phrase in the context in which he’s most likely to hear it from his dateless friends:

Used by men who feel threatened at the fact that their friend got a life and a girl. Anyone who actually does utter the phrase “Bros before Hoes” has never actually been with a chick. Anyone who has been with a chick would invariably prefer to have sex with a girl as opposed to playing Halo with their smelly friends and talking about boobs.

Friend without chick: Yo, come play Halo with me and the guys on friday.
Me: Sorry dude, I got a date with the lady.
Friend: Dude, bros before hoes!
Me: Fuck you I’m getting pussy, asshole.

After that, the pretense of providing a definition just evaporates and subsequent definitions become more of a confessional argument:

Oh yea, let me add something else here… Lets see how many of those jack asses from high school who say ‘ bros before hoes’ are still around when the shit hits the fan. Maybe 1 or 2? if that, if youre lucky, but the majority will desert you, the same ones saying dont go with that ho/slut whatever they call her…

For the record, the rule when I was in high school and university was: if you’re turning down dates to hang with me, there’s probably something wrong with you. And if you meet a girl at a party, have a good night and we’ll catch up tomorrow. Kids today and their priorities.

Posted in Act Like A Man  • 

  • frank

    i agree with you there is an exception. My friend who has a girlffriend and so do i. He is older 18 and am 15. he would choose “bros before hoes” when it was nesscary its just at times were its really hard to explain u just have to know when and when not to use it. you would have to know if u played football and wrestled with only 50 kids for football and 30 for wrestling it brings u to a bond that will make u bros forever.

  • MaxMinimum

    Woah BbH has changed. I’m 29, and the idea when I was high school/college age was that BbH kept guys from fighting over the same girl. No potential mate should cause strife between to friends because friendship lasts a lot longer than casual flings.

    Anyone using BbH to play Halo or to cockblock should be immediately flogged. Gross misinterpretation to the rule that keeps men from being totally decimated by the more wily side of the species.

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