February 8th, 2007

monkey pirate

Worst Ambassador Ever

I read Salon almost daily. Today they published an article called "Eric Schaeffer Wants to Marry You". It's written by Rebecca Traister, who writes for Salon's disorganized and scattershot "Broadsheet" section - a conglomeration of articles for or about women. I'm left feeling double-plus-yucky dirty by this article.

First, the article itself holds up Eric Schaeffer as a typical guy in the dating world. Except.. he routinely hires sex workers, had sex with his cousin at age 6 - who despite being traumatized he insists it was "no big deal" - demands that if a woman isn't going to marry him or fuck him, he doesn't want to spend five minutes with, and has violent fantasies about his short relationships with women. (He hasn't had a third date in years. Wonder why?) Schaeffer came into public light when his own trainwreck of a blog, I Can't Believe I'm Still Single was mocked by Gawker. Unfortunately, his fifteen minutes of celebrity have mostly consisted of articles like Traister's, wherein he is held up as some sort of ur-single guy - the Platonic ideal from which every cave wall shadow is cast, thus explaining why dating is so very hard for women. That's a ... well, I hate to use so limp a word as "bummer" but that's pretty much what it is. This guy is a walking bag of neuroses, wrapped up with conceit. He's convinced he's a fine specimen of maleness, and unfortunately that mistaken claim is often simultaneously rejected and confirmed by the people who complain about him. On one hand, writers like Traister say, "See how creepy this narcissistic psycho is? He's so weird!" ... even as they simultaneously imply that "...and this guy is so typical of the single men out there. Isn't dating hard?"

So he's both completely typical, and also completely reprehensible? I hope not, I really do. I mean, I don't know anyone who demands that a woman on his second date cancel her own dinner party to spontaneously gad off to Vermont - and then judge her as insufficiently open minded when she demurs. I don't know anyone who hires a dominatrix to insert metal rods in his penis, either - or at least, who admits to doing so. Sure, hobbyists who do so with their loved ones, ok... but to pay for the service? (I kid, I kid.) I rigorously assert that this man is not at all typical of single guys. While his desire for a woman younger than himself (in order to propagate) is maybe not so atypical - everything about what else he expects along with that, as well as his singular inability to offer anything in kind - is definitely not consistent with the many single men that I know. And I include myself with that - Schaeffer's particular gift of blankness seems to be that he feels his own laundry list of what will make an ideal woman for him are totally reasonable, whereas all the women who disqualify him as a match because of his (what can only generously be described as) quirks are entirely unreasonable. I know plenty of weirdos who are keenly aware they're weirdos, and don't expect to be seen as anything else. And I know plenty of the bland, doctrinaire men who are only looking for the same.

Schaeffer doesn't understand that he needs to keep it within his tribe - the freaks will appreciate other's freakiness, as long as they get some understanding in return. He wants it both ways - for his freakiness to be valued, but not to value anyone else's. This is not typical, and it's a mistake to think so. Please, single ladies - don't lump him in with the rest of us.

And the second thing that's a real let-down is just the man himself. He describes incestual sex at age six, and buggering his male friends in childhood - and tosses it off as totally normal, no big deal. He even tries to tell mothers that their sons are likely doing the same right now. Relax, moms - they're not. He's really weird, and just can't admit it - so he projects his own damage onto the world to make it normal. His attitude towards women is at best off-putting and at worst reprehensible - he wants his needs catered to while giving no indication that he will reciprocate. He expects to constantly be wowed by the women he dates -- yet also figures sex on a first date (in the bathrooms of gyms, or when he is himself too tired to do anything but sit on the couch) is a reasonable demand. It's not! If it happens it happens, but a first date is not a contract for sex. In fact, no date is a contract for sex; sex is something two people who are both feeling it will do together. He seems to think that hirng sex workers is much the same as making a date - except in one case he just uses money, in the other it's his time and company that is the coin with which he pays. That's a distressing thought - on one hand because it's just gross, and on the other because - what if women are thinking the same thing ... that they get dinner or entertainment in exchange for sex they don't particularly feel like having? Yikes. I feel dirty.

Schaeffer is free to make whatever demands from the dating world he chooses - he just shouldn't expect that unreasonable demands with nothing to offer in return will often or ever be met. Part of what makes him infuriating is that he does feel entitled to have his unreasonable demands met. I can see why that sense of entitlement would be infuriating to single women, who might be horrified at the prospect that this guy is just like all the others... that all of us single guys who claim to be looking to settle down are really just seething pots of conceit and entitlement; a stew of demands and expectations, but without anything to offer in return.

It's depressing to read about this guy's lack of self-awareness, coupled with his raging narcissism... but even more depressing to think that maybe somewhere, women read about him and paint the rest of us with the same brush. We're not like him, I swear.
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