"Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them -- and then, the opportunity to choose." ~ C. Wright Mills
Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor
In 2001, on our way back from Atlanta, my friend leaned over and pointed to an article in Reason that marked the first time I ever encountered the phrase "toxic bachelors." We laughed at its novelty, and since then it has often been used to describe many of my closest friends and confidants.
With this in mind, perhaps in a "character is destiny" moment, I went out and purchased Rick Marin's Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor. I went to a Borders in Chicago to obtain it, but at first could not find it on the shelves. I approached the information desk to inquire as to the book's whereabouts. The heavily "punked out" girl behind the counter gave me a stare when I mentioned its title. She ran it through the computer and said, 'We have one copy and it's in self-help.' 'Self-help?' I asked. 'It's a memoir. It shouldn't be in self-help. It's not a self-help book. Miss, don't you detect a bit of editorial comment in your employer's relegating it to the self-help section?' She did not.
At a stop light on the walk home, I did a quick scan of the recommendation quotations on the back jacket and wondered if I had not made a mistake in buying it. Several of these 'advance praise' comments were highly offensive and printed with unmistakable "Feminista" typeset. Quotes like 'Ninety-nine percent of men give all the rest a bad name. Thanks to Cad, women now have the wisdom to know the difference.' This quote is pure misandry and has nothing to do with the text that is contained between the covers. Also noted on the jacket is the inaccurate, 'an outrageous work of chauvinism.' The book is neither outrageous or chauvinistic. Well, at least the gender feminists who run the publishing industry are consistent in their disdain for the truth. I suppose they thought that--no, of course they didn't.
First off, the title for the book is potentially misleading. Mr. Marin is not a cad, as he is neither unprincipled nor ungentlemanly throughout the majority of his interactions. At one point, a woman he works with wants to set him up on a blind date and he says, 'I have a girlfriend. I can't take her number.' This is not the response of a cad. In the eyes of this reviewer, it appears that Mr. Marin is well within the range of average behavior for a man or woman in America throughout the 284 pages in which he describes himself. He is not a saint or a demon. At one point he even recites the motto of all anti-cads by saying that 'sex is not enough.'
Marin's is a story with great universality. His work will resonate with many unmarried, straight people, and there is much truth in it. His observation that 'I'd spent so much time 'pouring my heart and soul into being insincere,' I'd forgotten how to act with a girl I actually liked' is an unhappy predicament that affects countless single adults. Re-igniting lost idealism and optimism is a highly daunting task and a foremost reason as to why finding love later in life is such a struggle. Those of us in our thirties all have emotional baggage, and it invariably means that sometimes one has been brutalized in the past and can now be brutalizing in the future. This is true regardless of one's sex, as we inflict pain but also have it inflicted upon us. Mr. Marin is far from an exception to this rule.
Much of Marin's status seeking in the memoir can be attributed to the old Orson Welles quote about men making civilization to impress their girlfriends, but the narrator amends the saying by changing it to 'to get girlfriends.' He spends tremendous mental capital in the pursuit of making his career as a journalist a success, but often finds that he needs monthly subsidies from his parents just to get by. Work is as chancy a venture as love is for Mr. Marin. It seems that his internal makeup and character are nearly insurmountable obstacles to Marin getting what he wants and needs out of life, as he lacks the quality of "decisiveness," which is one of the worlds greatest virtues, and his indecisiveness in all things sabotages his numerous opportunities.
What drives the action in Cad is the author's attempt to recover and stabilize his life after the debacle of his divorce. This traumatizing event is key to any understanding of our aging anti-hero. In his three year marriage, Marin was flayed and flamb'ed by his ex-wife severely. By any configuration, his was an awful marriage. His narration humorously documented: '. . . even our goldfish were committing suicide. I found them on the floor halfway between the door and the window. Making a break for it, maybe. I didn't blame them.' Marin had met a girl who cuckolded him, and he ignored every portent of their relationship's doom ('after we were married, she was still introducing me as her 'friend'').
This reviewer did have some difficulty being completely emphatic towards the narrator, as Rick Marin on a personality level has many flaws. He is a vain and foppish man yet this seems to be a prerequisite for getting an advance from the New York publishing industry to tell one's life story (Toby Young, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, being another prime example). He and his friends are obsessed with Rogaine and keeping their hair. One of his buddies convinces Marin's girlfriend, an OB-GYN, to write out a special prescription for the 'super-concentrated' kind. It is a challenge to not look down on this type of frivolity in one's peers.
Most males will also be estranged from Marin's concept of masculinity. One of his criteria in mate selection seems to be derived from inhaling a tube of Testor's model airplane glue. He writes, 'Vogue was as erotic a publication to me as Playboy. Women who assume men are oblivious to the nuances of fashion do so at their peril.' What a shame I left my "inhalant abuse" presentation at work. Sorry Rick, but that particular insight is just stupid. The mass of men don't care about women's fashion. Oh, maybe they care about the cut on an item of lingerie, but no run of the mill guy cares where a woman buys her suits or dresses. This reviewer, nor any man he knows, has ever said 'that skirt is so 2001.' We don't notice that minutiae. Rick Marin might, but men-kind does not. This small "glue-moment" in no way de-legitimizes the rest of the book, though.
Marin unwittingly stumbles onto a great truth that divides contemporary men from contemporary women. Nowadays, just being a man is to be politically incorrect. This is doubly true in reference to our reproductive strategies and behaviors. It appears that in the totalitarian minds of the PC anti-elite, there is great room for tolerance and diversity in America, provided one never tolerates straight men and their reproductive diversity. Men are directed to find attractive in women what women find attractive in men, which is the recipe for eternal misery (recall the old Scottish saying 'It's better to have a lazy bossy than a bossy lassie''amen!). Our narrator is initiated into this "war on maleness" while conversing with a feminist editor with whom he makes the mistake of discussing his personal life. She had been the conduit for many of Marin's dates, but she cuts him off abruptly saying, 'This is what makes us scream ourselves to sleep at night. No more setups. I want to write a book on men titled You Call This a Gender.' This same editor becomes irate with Marin when he inquires about her assistant. She says '. . . you need someone who has an assistant, not someone who is an assistant.'
No better example of an attempt to coerce a man into acting like a woman can be found. In general, but not in every case, high status women offer nothing to men. As this reviewer often says, 'If I meet a woman who has two million dollars, then all that means is it's two million I won't have to spend on her.' A female's status is neither a benefit nor a detractor. By definition, these "alpha females" are usually past reproductive age and offer no dividend to the male who invests in them. Marin's tiff with his editor is a good example of our society labeling men who attempt to advance their own interests as being "sexist." This is something this reviewer sees all the time and it gives him a special thrill to combat it by pointing out to people that a woman's vocational achievements are as superfluous to their value as whether or not they are fans of England's Tottenham Hotspurs football club (the reviewer is not a soccer fan and also would not be able to find Tottenham, which he believes to be a section of London, on a map). In due course, the author uncovers the cardinal rule of male sexual attraction by stating, 'when all else fails, go young.' Words to live by.
This book is a jolly good ride and therefore easy to recommend. Unlike other tell-alls, Marin never takes himself too seriously and shows that he can laugh at himself. One of my favorites lines is illustrative: 'She called me an 'opportunist,' because I went to publicity events for the free booze. 'I'm a journalist!' I protested.' Cad is a major surprise, as the misandry embossed onto the back cover gave this reviewer a bad case of the heebie-jeebies, but in the end, it is a far more valid description of the single life today than what one finds in practically every other memoir or publication.