Written for The Boston Globe
Dating demographics increasingly favor women – so where are all the books about the lonely single guy?
By Elizabeth Manus, 2/16/2003, The Boston Globe
OVER THE PAST few years, the lonesome anxiety of the single girl has had its share of serious-and sympathetic-chroniclers. Where Bridget Jones first tread, an army of analysts have followed. The past six months alone have seen the publication of sociologist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead’s “Why There are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Women” and journalist Betsy Israel’s “Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the Twentieth Century.”
But what about the plight of the single guy? According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, it’s single men, not single woman, who now face the longer odds of making a match. For every million thirtysomething single women, there’s a “man surplus” of some 80,000-with things looking even worse for men holding out for younger mates.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Details magazine weighed in recently with advice on “How to Marry a Millionairess” and the Web site www.askmen.com – rife with Cosmo-like articles such as “Is she giving you the run-around?” – attracted more than 4.3 million unique visitors last fall alone. And now, just in time for Valentine’s Day, comes Rick Marin’s “Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor” (Hyperion), the tale of a seemingly normal guy in his 30s ricocheting from woman to woman after his wife trades up for a better model.
After five years of “Sex and the City”-powered single girl-mania, is the single guy ready for his own pop-sociological close-up?
Marin may revel in the “Sex and the City”-inspired sobriquet “toxic bachelor” – which he defines as “a rogue, a rake, a bit of a playboy who tends to lack the guilt gene” – but he’s also shoving back against the Bridget Jones’s and Carrie Bradshaws of the world. “Women own the terms of debate when it comes to dating,” he says. “I’m trying to give the male response. One woman’s toxic bachelor is my ordinary guy behaving in an ordinary way.”One thing is clear: For the single man, the dating scene is more confusing and competitive than ever. As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead notes, ”There is great confusion about who should take the romantic initiative. The three key things-the first encounter, initiating sex, and proposing marriage-are now equally a woman’s prerogative. Women might see this as progress toward greater egalitarianism. Men might see this as having the rug pulled out from under them.”
Fortunately, help is on the way-if you can afford it. Santa Monica, Calif.-based “dating agent” David Wygant charges clients at least $3,000 for a starter course in first-impression management, which includes 72 hours of Wygant’s time plus three months of 24/7 phone follow-up. Wygant flies out on a Friday to the bachelor’s home base (at the client’s expense) and poses as a buddy-“the ultimate wingman,” he says – while the client approaches women in various venues. Rigorous self-criticism and behavior modification ensue.
Wygant says one client dropped $35,000 for deluxe services ranging from a multipage personal Web site to trips to Colombia to study “nonverbal communication” and fully attentive listening. The client eventually launched a $20,000 “Mr. Romantic” radio ad campaign that ran in eight cities, from Trenton, N.J. to Boise, Idaho. “He got 1,000 emails,” Wygant says, and is now in a relationship.
Do men need all this help? Wygant believes there’s “a little bit of truth” to the notion that men are slipping into stereotypically feminine (read: demure) dating behaviors. “If a woman does not give 7,000 signals, a man will sit back and say, ‘I can’t believe she didn’t approach me.’ You should listen to these guys talk. They’re passive. It’s unbelievable.”
Of course, the defiant Playboy spirit still survives. “I don’t feel a biological clock ticking,” says James, a New York private equity investor. Not that he isn’t looking. James recently launched an international bachelorette search he dubs “Around the World in 80 Dates,” a scheme that came to him, he explains via e-mail, as he was dating “an Iranian-born lawyer, a French painter, then a Puerto Rican investment banker, then a French fashion stylist, a British hedge fund marketer, and a Russian model.” He says, “I liked the fact that all had serious jobs but held conventional views about male/female roles outside of the workplace. They were certainly less interested than American women in social status and economics.”
Money just may be the root of the trouble. When Henry Higgins asked why a woman can’t be more like a man, he probably didn’t have her bank account in mind. Dating coach Wygant and scholars of the single girl agree: Male passivity correlates with the rise of the financially independent women.
For professional cads, of course, this turn of events may have its upside. “We’ve had openness from chick lit and date flicks,” says Rick Marin. “I hope to be airing the hitherto closely guarded secrets and thoughts of the male mind.”
If his book is a hit, it may be a sign that male writers are now moving in on the world’s oldest female literary profession-kissing and telling.
Elizabeth Manus, a New York-based writer, reviews books for WBUR.org.
This story ran on page of the Boston Globe on 2/16/2003.