Remember the 1955 movie “Marty”? It was a respected oldie when I was a kid (it’s one of only two films to win both the Best Picture Oscar and the Cannes Palme d’Or), but it’s now pretty obscure. I saw the movie in the 1980s as part of a screenwriting class.1
“Marty’s” title character, plain-faced, chubby, and not great at talking to women, despairs that no woman will ever love him. The screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, thought of the “Marty” story after he saw a sign posted in a ballroom, which said “Girls, Dance With the Man Who Asks You. Remember, Men Have Feelings, Too.”
Marty eventually meets a wonderful woman and begins a relationship, although he has to overcome the resistance of his jealous mother, and of friends who mock him for dating a “dogface.”2 In pop culture, everyone – or at least, everyone who isn’t a terrible human being – eventually meets someone wonderful and falls in love.
But in real life, that’s not how things always work. Some people don’t want romantic love at all. Others want romantic love but will never find it. That’s life. I’m beginning to accept, at age 45, that probably “true love” will never happen for me. I have a bunch of factors working against me – I’m physically conventionally unattractive, I badly lack confidence, I’m sort of a weirdo, as I get older I meet new people less often, etc..
To tell you the truth, I resent the situation. It’s not an all-consuming bitterness or anything – on the whole, I’m a happy guy3 – but I irrationally feel cheated of a fundamental human experience.4 And although I’m happy for my friends who are in great relationships, there’s also some ugly jealousy in me on the subject. And I’m really fucking sick of movies and TV about the sad troubles of stunningly attractive people who somehow can’t find love until they meet some other stunningly attractive person, blah blah blah complications ensue and are overcome happy ending credits roll.
I don’t bring this up to ask people to feel sorry for me, or to ask for dating advice. (GOD NO!!! Please don’t give me any dating or romantic advice, folks; if I haven’t specifically asked you for it, I don’t want to hear it.) I bring this up because I feel my ability to enjoy complaining about my single state has been ruined by MRAs and anti-feminists.
Because in human culture, we do something called “signaling” a lot. And, on the internet, men complaining that they don’t have the romantic success they want, that they feel they should be more attractive to woman then they actually are in practice, etc., have all become signals used to indicate alliance with the manosphere.
When I read someone from the manosphere talking about their lack of dating success, I always
emphasize empathize. How could I not? They’re pretty much describing my life story. Except then they keep on talking, and suddenly the repulsive bitterness towards women or feminists (or both) comes out. And the empathy is now accompanied by a strong desire for a shower.
I don’t want to be even momentarily mistaken for part of the manosphere. Because while not everyone in the manosphere is a bitter, angry woman-hater, lots of them are. And those who aren’t overtly woman-hating seem to find the misogyny among their comrades either invisible, unobjectionable, or excusable.
Those hatebags have directed abuse at me personally – fat jokes, “you’re just trying to get laid,” name-calling like “Mangina,” and so on. I’m not bothered by such insults, but it sure hasn’t endeared their community to me.5 I get off relatively easily; the abuse directed at well-known female internet feminists (Amanda Marcotte, Jessica Valenti, and Anita Sarkeesian are the most obvious examples, but the ever-moving hatefest is always seeking new victims) is stunning in quantity and vileness.
Gore Vidal once groused that the once-useful word “turgid” now belongs to the porn writers, because it has become impossible to use the word without sounding like a porn writer. The manosphere has done something similar to unattractive men’s romantic problems. They’ve flooded the discourse with misogyny and anti-feminism, and it’s nearly impossible to rescue discussion of being male and unwanted from their bitter waters.6
- Actually, I’m not positive I’ve ever seen the movie – I may have seen the 1953 television play that the movie was based on. [↩]
- Marty’s love interest, played by Betsy Blair, was too pretty to be plausible as someone men would label “dogface” at a glance. But nearly all “ugly” female characters are played by pretty actresses because Hollywood. [↩]
- Seriously, don’t worry about me, folks. I’m not lonely, I’ve got lots of good friends, I’ve got a great job. My life is good. [↩]
- What’s irrational about it is feeling “cheated,” rather than merely “lacking.” [↩]
- Actually, one time my feelings were hurt. I attended a blogger dinner, where I was seated next to an anti-feminist who had clashed with me online. We had, I thought, a terrific conversation. He offered me a ride home after the dinner, and we agreed that we should meet again sometime. The next day, in a forum he didn’t know I read, he wrote that I clearly wasn’t into feminism to get laid, because I was (he said) so fat no woman would ever have sex with me. The insult was too pathetic to hurt, but that he was so extraordinarily two-faced stung. [↩]
- Said waters are no doubt made up of male tears.
To tell you the truth, I don’t feel natural making that joke – see Ally Fogg – but I’m making it anyway, because I hope it’ll get the goats of people who had vapors over Jessica’s sweatshirt, while remaining silent about the immeasurably worse comments Jessica receives from anti-feminists on a daily basis. [↩]