Biting back at the anti-male backlash, and memories of home, this week in Table Talk.

Published February 3, 2006 9:00AM (EST)

Private Life

Would Ya Like a Little Cheese With That? The Whiners' Thread

meursault - 04:52 am Pacific Time - Feb 2, 2006 - #604 of 607

Okay, I'm game. Here's what I hate: being reduced to a sex-starved cartoon simply because I'm a single man.

First time poster here. I just stumbled in here and I have a question for everybody: what the HELL is going on with relationship advice books pertaining to men?

I'm getting through an awful breakup and yesterday I hit rock bottom: I started looking for a self-help book. I was looking for something gender specific, written with a man's experience in mind, and what I found had me completely flustered. Nearly every single title that mentioned men were completely negative. Here are some titles: "Do Your Own Damn Dishes," "Are Men Really Necessary?" "Toxic Men," and "Face It, Men Are Assholes," among many others. I'm not cherry-picking either, these books were the norm. The books on dating that were written by men for men were completely insipid, with lines like these: "a ball game and a six-pack might be nirvana, but sometimes you're going to have to listen to her." Not only am I completely indifferent to sports and stopped drinking beer in college (Bombay Sapphire is my drink of choice now), most of my male friends are the same way. Any books for men almost exclusively pertained to sex, as if having a dick means I have no inner life. Is Homer Simpson the only option here?

Even fiction was no better. I found countless works about women's sexuality and relationships told from a million different angles, but I could find only one author who actually delved into the emotional life of being male (Nick Hornby, who is pretty excellent).

It's hard enough being a man in a culture where telling anyone, even close friends, about bad feelings and hard times is taboo, where even in 2006 we're encouraged to be completely isolated and carved out of wood. But when even the so-called experts confirm this blather, it deepens the isolation.

Someone needs to address this. And I don't mean Robert Bly, I have no desire to go out in the woods and eat a bear's heart or god knows what. All I'm looking for is for someone to talk about the interior life of being a single man, and maybe help encourage closer male friendships in the process. There are so many stories left untold here.

As a final thought, one assumes that whenever someone writes a book called "Men Are Assholes", it's an attempt to be witty or arch. If so, it's a joke older than vaudeville and it needs to stop. This oh-so-clever attitude is actually damaging to men and women both. Think about this: if I'm an asshole simply for being born, destined to cheat and lie and generally disappoint the women in my life -- if a Y chromosome has forced this upon me, if ALL men are this way -- then why should I even bother? Why not be a perpetual adolescent, slouch, or cheat?

I do usually have more of a sense of humor about the whole thing, I love women and if they want to buy books to make them feel more secure than the men around them, I don't usually care. But looking for help yesterday (albeit from a very dubious place) and not only missing it but getting smacked down by the literati really pissed me off. "Do Your Own Damn Dishes," hell. "Change Your Own Damn Oil" -- let's see how long that stays on the shelves.

White House

The White House B&G XV: The Paul Wellstone Memorial Refuge

Rosella - 06:02 pm Pacific Time - Jan 26, 2006 - #421 of 1095

Evening, budgies. A little depressed and homesick tonight -- it is, of course, Australia Day today and even after many years I sometimes feel the pull of my country and the ways to which I was born. It isn't so very different from America these days -- there are drugstores and freeways and central heating (well, some) and even air conditioning; there are hateful politicians and international airports and duty-free shops and dull suburbs and too many cars and a luxurious smug affluence, but there are still kids in school uniforms on the train every morning wearing just what we all wore when I was a kid -- short pants and blazers trimmed with braid in the school colours, long socks, neat shirts with striped ties matching the blazer trim for the boys, pleated skirts and blazers and straw hats for the girls, and old ladies "up the street" doing their shopping with their "jeeps", and people arguing about the footie results, and sports results on page one of the paper -- not decently tucked away in the Sports section, but naked on Page One, with banner headlines. And cricket -- well played, dinkum. And you go to the milk bar in the morning after you do the messages and have a short flat black, or a long flat white, or a cappuccino. And last time I looked it didn't cost $3.00.

You can still look up at night and see the Southern Cross blazing away and the Milky Way in a great dusty white band across the sky, much brighter in the Southern Hemisphere because of the Magellanic Cloud, and sometimes in the summer when a Change is brewing, you can smell the eucalyptus and the ocean on the wind. The Bay is still bluer than the vaults of heaven, and the wattle flowers are gold and fluffy as baby chicks, and they leave little dots of pollen on your hands and the old ladies say it's unlucky to bring wattle into the house, so I never do even when I find it called mimosa here at an expensive florist.

And yes, there are still kangaroos and one can still spot an emu out on the wheat plains, hieratic as an Egyptian statue. The pink and grey galahs still fly in great flocks, and the sulphur-crested cockatoos still love to divebomb the dead frond bundles on the royal palms along the railway line, to raid the nests of the Indian mynah birds.

You can still sit in your mother's hospital room and watch flocks of rosellas in the trees outside, and the nurses will be so kind, and the doctor will drop in and tell you to call him Pat, and hold your hand while you watch your mother die.

I have part of my heart there, part here. I don't feel completely at home there any more -- many of the things I remember are gone as completely as Atlantis. But, anyway, Happy Australia Day, my country.

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