IN THE MAIL: A copy of Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man : One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back. It's basically a Male Like Me book -- she disguised herself (rather convincingly) as a man named "Ned," lived that way for several months, and writes about what she learned. I opened the book at random to this passage from the section on dating:
Bisexuals know that hurt gets inflicted by both sexes in equal measure if not always by the same means. But for these women -- who had never dated other women, and thus never been romantically hurt by them -- men as a subspecies, not the particular men with whom they had been involved, were to blame for the wreck of a relationship and the psychic damage it had done to them.
It's hardly surprising, then, that in this atmosphere, as a single man dating women, I often felt attacked, judged, onthe defensive. Whereas with the men I met and befriended as Ned there was a a presumption of innocence -- that is, you're a good guy until you prove otherwise -- with women there was quite often a presumption of guilt: you're a cad like every other guy until you prove otherwise.
"Pass my test and then we'll see if you're worthy of me" was the implicit message coming across the table at me. And this from women who had demonstrably little to offer. "Be lighthearted," they said, though buoyant as lead zeppelins themselves. "Be kind," they insisted in the harshest of tones. "Don't be like the others," they implied, while having virtually condemned me as such before hand.
It was enough to make me want to read the whole thing (and to be glad I'm not single!), and I did, at one sitting, last night. I think the book's terrific, and it's going to make a huge splash. Helen's now grabbed it, and she agrees so far. We're going to try to get Vincent on for a podcast interview next week.
UPDATE: Reader E.J. Boysen emails:
As a 48-year-old never married single man still in decent shape, successful and now retired, and having weathered the "feminist" cultural storm still raging since my teens, I can tell you that even your having read Norah Vincent's book, you STILL have no idea of the anger, the hatred, the vengeance and the pain so many otherwise attractive and available women are afflicted with. It is an epidemic of conflict and self-distortion that begins and ends with an impenetrable sense of entitlement, based on a false sense of victimhood, and for which not just any man but every man must pay forever for the restoration that's never good enough.
The "feminist" demand runs from fathers to brothers to sons and husbands, to their friends and acquaintances and chance encounters; it is endless. "I am woman, hear me roar" has produced a psychological wasteland that would put Sherman's march to shame and into which any man who travels does so at his peril. My assessment certainly does not apply to all women, of course, but the damage done by what I'm calling the "feminist" demand is so severe and pervasive that at my age, it just ain't worth it to go through it all again only to end up with yet another petulant woman-child unwilling or incapable of accepting responsibility for her own happiness and success in life, and who deeply resents the fact I have found my own without her, and so becomes determined to destroy it. I'm too old, I'm too tired, and the scars are too deep and too close to the bone. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.
Bought a dog, gone fishin', never happier.
Of course, there are plenty of loser-guys on the dating scene, as well as loser women, but we do tend to hear more about them. However, I should stress that dating isn't a big part of the book -- just the part that caught my eye first. And Boysen's complaints aren't just his -- in fact, Helen had a post on this the other day. Her comments indicate that many men are happier. Certainly I am.
STILL MORE: Another reader writes:
I'm 52 and didn't get married till I was 35, so I know exactly the type of woman to which Mr. Boysen is referring. But I had the type figured out by the time I was 25, and although the petulant woman/child can be alluring, they are generally recognizable in less than a half hour of conversation. Quit complaining and move on!
He needs to find the woman who is serious about what she is and what she does without taking herself too seriously. There is no better place in the world to find that kind of woman than here in the US.
That's the kind of woman I married. But maybe I was lucky. Also, we were put together in the best possible way -- via an ex-girlfriend. Nobody knows you better than an ex-girlfriend. That's one reason why it's important to stay on good terms with 'em, as I generally have. Besides, if you pick your girlfriends well at the outset, you'll usually stay on good terms with them even after you break up, because they'll basically be decent people.