The humiliation of Bryan Winter

He wrote the archetypically arrogant male brushoff e-mail, setting off a firestorm of urban myth and electronic revenge.

Topics: Sex, Love and Sex,

One muggy Washington weekend night, two overworked young
professionals hit the dance clubs, among throngs of like-minded revelers.
They
meet, they dance, they exchange e-mail addresses. Monday morning she sends
him a typical “let’s get to know each other” e-mail. Carefully crafted to
sound aloof yet encouraging, it starts with a friendly opening, coy and
slightly flirty second paragraph, and then likely closes with mention of a
busy schedule, an allusion to importance in the workplace. Instead of a chipper and equally
flirty reply, he gets frank and tells her:

I am at a stage in my life where I’m looking seriously and
systematically for
someone I can share my life with. You seem like a nice person, and I don’t
mean this as badly as it might sound, but I don’t have time for twenty
questions by e-mail. I met five girls Saturday night, have already booked a
first coffee with three of them, and meet more every time I go dancing … and I go dancing at least three times a week. I immediately rule out women who put up too many barriers. I don’t do this because I think there’s anything wrong with them, nor do I do it because I’m arrogant. I do this
simply to economize on time.

I know that dating in this city is difficult and scary for women. But keep
in mind it’s that way for the guys, too. Most of all, remember that you’re competing with thousands of other women who don’t insist that the man do all
of the work of establishing a connection. And they live closer.

Now, maybe you’ll find someone who’s so taken by a single dance with you that he’s willing to negotiate by e-mail for a chance to trek to your suburban hideout to plead his case. But you might not. And if such a person does exist, and you do happen to cross paths with him — what do you imagine a guy that desperate would have to offer?

– Bryan Winter

The nerve! She decides to teach ol’ Bryan Winter a lesson. So she cuts and
copies the text of his e-mail and sends it to a handful of friends with a tag line:

“In the hopes that this e-mail might get back to him after being seen by countless thousands of young women along the way … please send this on to a friend!”

She tells her friends. And they tell more friends. And so on, and so on …



The woman who went looking for love and found a jerk got her electronic
revenge and then some. Within a few days, an estimated 10,000 people — based on an algorithm of the 50 responses I received to my informal e-mail survey — read Bryan Winter’s arrogant reply. The e-mail has surfaced on desktops across the globe. It has zipped up and down the East Coast, zigzagged all over California, Ohio, Michigan and Alabama, and even made the transatlantic crossing to Paris.

Many recipients took the liberty of adding a few comments of their own before
forwarding to an average of eight more people.
“He’s sick.” “What a loser!” “Mr. Wonderful.” “This guy should be shot.”
The subject line changed but his text — so far as I have been able to determine — remained faithfully unaltered.

The case of Bryan Winter seems to have struck a sensitive spot. Thousands of people who have never met this guy (or the woman to whom his e-mail was addressed) jumped at the chance to inflict judgment and more humiliation on a
perfect stranger by forwarding his personal correspondence. All of this with
minimal prompting and on behalf of someone they’ve never met. His three
insolent paragraphs have created an international e-mail uproar.

What a perfect artifact of male arrogance! Perhaps women have finally had enough of the “I’m doing you a favor by letting you get to know me” mentality rampant among today’s datables. With his condescending tone and his immediate assumption of his own desirability, Bryan Winter represents the archetypical pompous male. His emotionally detached methodology for finding a mate robotically and systematically rules out anyone who does not fit his arbitrary criteria. And his forthrightness is just plain impolite.

Yet, perhaps ubiquitous electronic communication will usher in a new
romantic justice system, where such personal acts of insensitivity are
tried on a larger stage. After all, we live in a society where reputation means
more and more. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”
is not just a nicety mom constantly repeated, it’s a maxim that can make
or break a burgeoning career. With increasing frequency, who you know is more important that what you know. Could such an e-mail really damage Bryan
Winter’s career and love life?

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
-

Round 2 of the Bryan Winter Saga gets even uglier. Several people get the
bright idea of running Washington-area identity checks, so Bryan Winter’s home
address and phone number are circulated as widely as his original e-mail. The
phone number for Bryan Winter in D.C. is mysteriously “no longer in service.”
But the search for Bryan Winter’s e-mail address continues. Suddenly every
Bryan Winter in the country is suspect. Bryan Winter, Internet manager at
Malcolm Marketing Communications in Madison, Wis., issues this plea via e-mail:

My name, unfortunately, is Bryan Winter. I have gotten these e-mails for
days now — and they are really getting annoying. I don’t know who this joker
is/was, but it is not me. So please take me off of your lists … I’m asking
that you please forward this e-mail with the same vigor you posted the initial one.

Judging from the forwarded e-mail addresses, the Bryan Winter message has made its way among a disproportionately high level of lawyers, communication industry professionals and Washington government workers. It is interesting to see that among upper echelons of the white-collar hierarchy, no one sought to verify the source. The context and content of Bryan Winter’s e-mail were taken at face value. How do we know that Bryan Winter wasn’t responding to an equally arrogant retort? Aren’t we making a judgment before we’ve heard the whole story? He is cybercrucified with frightening zeal before he gets a chance to explain himself.

If, that is, Bryan Winter really exists. He may be as real as the Kentucky
Fried Rat or the Bubble Yum spider eggs. Wait a second, Bryan Winter,
wasn’t he the one who got his kidney abducted after a stripper slipped him a
mickey at a bachelor party? All the world loves a good urban myth, the more
believable the better. This text of the e-mail is subtle enough to be
believable and agitating enough to incite reactions ranging from amusement to
outrage. In short, it’s perfect material for a carefully crafted hoax.

If he is indeed real, Bryan Winter was naive to assume that e-mail is
a private exchange. It is doubtful that he would have sent the same message
had he known everybody and her uncle was going to read it. Clearly it
doesn’t matter if Bryan Winter exists or not. What is shockingly obvious
is an end-user susceptibility to information from unverified sources. Not
to mention the agitation from men and women alike toward unjustifiable arrogance.

What remains to be seen is how successful the revenge will be in the long run.
Will Bryan Winter’s reputation suffer or be enhanced in by the cyberpublicity he is unwittingly receiving? In a society where a man commonly
known to have a re-attached penis goes on to become a porn star, convicted
prostitutes launch lingerie lines and presidential fellatio gets you a book
deal and two hours with Barbara Walters, this scandal could be a blessing in disguise for Bryan Winter. The added publicity to his forthright spousal quest might be just what this guy needs. His rationale, tone and methodology didn’t appeal to this particular woman, but who is to say that his perfect love match won’t read his words and recognize in them the man of her dreams. Spamming is certainly a lot more efficient than going dancing three times a week, Winter’s preferred method of date trolling. It’s easier on the wallet, too, and you don’t come home at 3 in the morning smelling like smoke.

Let them scoff all they want, Bryan Winter. Suddenly women across the nation know who you are, and some of them even have your home address. Now that you’ve got their attention, all this publicity might be the most efficient road to true love. And we all know how much you love efficiency, Bryan
Winter.

Gentry Lane is an American writer living in Paris.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>