Site for the book
05 March 2003
If you are male and are wondering why all those blockbuster books about the petty humiliations of dating – the rejections, the seamy conquests, the morning-after self- flagellations – always seem to come from the pens of women, now is the time to relax and enjoy. At last, a man has cast himself as the Brian Jones of the one-night-stand scene. And very likely, boys, your least edifying experiences will pale beside his.
You owe your thanks to Rick Marin, a journalist from New York, who entered a seven-year span of most undignified dating débâcles in 1991, the year that an ill-fated three-year marriage to a former receptionist at Harper's magazine in Washington DC, where he worked at the end of the 1980s, unceremoniously flew apart. He found himself – in New York by then – single and sex-starved. He not only made his own rake's progress in those post-marital years but – clever him, in his journalistic training – he took notes as he went along and kept them in a hanging manila binder in his apartment.
The resulting book – Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor – hit the shelves in the US a month ago and will become voyeuristic reading in Britain in the late spring. It has already eased the consciences of countless American men who discovered that they were not alone in having plumbed the abyss of mindless and self-destructive serial sex, and confirmed the worst fears of untold numbers of single American women. It has been hailed as the first of a new genre: lad-lit (as opposed to the British bloke-lit of Nick Hornby et al). The gender opposite of chick-lit.
This frequently distressing chronicle of hapless intercourse is a little different, however. Unlike those chick-lit triumphs – Bridget Jones's Diary or the Candace Bushnell column that spawned the series Sex and the City – this is the story of a real person, Marin. This invites two reactions. It is not as funny as it might be, because it is about actual victims – himself, and the scores of women he picks up and just as quickly discards. But, for the same reason, it holds a kind of sad poignancy. And there is an emotional arc to his tale, which ends, as it happens, with the death of his father and the discovery, finally, of real love.
Not everyone has embraced the book, published by Hyperion, since its release. The most pedantic reviewers found fault even in the title. How tasteful can it be, they ask, to write a book about an unfettered sexual safari of many years and then to put "toxic" in the title? Are we still not in the era of Aids? And for others, the stories of tragic mismatches and Marin's callousness – the definition of a "cad" in my dictionary is "a man with deliberate disregard for another's feelings" – proved too grim. "After reading Cad I felt like I need a shower," expostulated Katherine Pushkar in her review in the The Boston Globe, revealing some repulsion at the display, page after page, of "truly despicable sexual ethics".
For sure, Marin – who also uses the tome to trace his rather impressive ascent from journalistic penury to relative freelance success, writing eventually for Newsweek and The New York Times – has not bothered to tailor his tongue for those with politically correct sensibilities. He ponders as he breaks up with Kay 1 (she is quickly followed by a new amour, named Kay 2): "There are two kinds of women: the ones who get offended by the word chick and the ones who don't." Some readers may be offended also. Or by this other nugget of dubious dating wisdom: "One advantage of realising, or deciding, a chick is crazy: no guilt."
Most of his partners, whether of a few hours or maybe even months, at some point fail the crazy test. Like this one – Cynthia was her name – who joined him at a bar with an amply filled T-shirt bearing a slogan extolling the literary genius of Shakespeare. "She might as well have been wearing a Mensa baseball cap. I mean, we know Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the English language, don't we? Cynthia had been fine on the phone. Now I saw she was a geek blessed (or cursed) with the body of a centerfold. I can latch on to almost any common ground or opinion or quirk to justify my lust for desirable women. At the same time, the slightest misstep will send me into hypercritical frenzy."
This flaw – the ability to see a justifying quality and just as quickly to see a reason to ditch – is traceable to his professional pedigree. Marin's main money-making talent is doing interviews, a job that requires him to be a quick study. He rejects Kay 2, though not for several months, because she is just too normal and nice. (The real problem of Kay 1, by the way, is her doctor's bag of terrifying sex toys.) Chloe, his first one-night stand after the break-up with Elizabeth, his wife, barely survives until dawn after he sees that she was wearing a "pair of socks no man should be allowed to see".
A fling with Tiina (yes, two "i"s in the name), a Finnish restaurateur, was apparently doomed the minute she smuggled him into the toilets of her newly opened eatery to have her way with him against the white-tiled walls. She apparently ruined the magic by asking, mid-flagrante, what it was about her that appealed to him. "'You have great hair,' was all I could muster, and my eye wandered to the sign that said 'EMPLOYEES MUST WASH HANDS'". Poor Tiina kept chasing him for weeks thereafter, but Marin was never able to get past the hand-washing vision and swiftly moved on to other quarry.
The book – already optioned for a film by Miramax – was surprisingly hard to locate in New York bookshops this week. Perhaps this is simply because it has been selling well. There is nothing more reassuring than discovering that the dating experiences of another have been even more tragic than your own. Alternatively, it may be that every woman who recognises herself in the book has rushed to the nearest Barnes & Noble and purchased it in bulk to ensure that no one can read it and possibly recognise them. Never mind that Marin gives false first names to all his past partners. The fact is that many of them came from the rather small and highly gossipy media universe of Gotham, and attaching real names to all of Marin's past customers has already become a highly amusing sport in the industry. "I was scanning for details that might identify pals and acquaintances," wrote Nina Burleigh in The New York Observer this week. "Woe to the women identified by first name only: most of them are real-life members of the New York media community and Mr Marin has carnal knowledge of all of them."
Thus this recent, very anonymous, observation from one of his past fancies. She had actually forgotten about her Marin tryst until the book came out. Imagine the shock, she explained, when "you find out that, while all this time you've been trying to repress the memory of your yucky, low-point-of-life misdirected affection, he has been revelling in the memories. Maybe not of you personally, but of other girls like you, girls who had sex too quickly... girls who thought that when he said he was interested in them he actually was. In fact, your old flame has been thinking of himself as quite the chick magnet, the rascal, the Casanova."
The more desperate among the single men in Manhattan may have been rushing for their copies in some hope of picking up dating tips. Marin admits at one moment that his strategy amounts to little more than "relentless scheming, plotting and premeditation", coupled with a good dose of what he calls "rehearsed spontaneity". This last trick is surely also gleaned from his work as a journalist. Any scribe who has done sufficient interviews knows how to look as if they are earnestly listening and absorbing every word when really they are quietly hatching their next question or move. And he offers this reassurance to those of us who discover that success does not come every night. "Dating is a salesman's game: one in 10 is a good month. Most of them, you feel like Willy Loman."
The boys will learn also that it always helps to have some line ready to reveal a special vulnerability in their own lives. For Marin, this meant dropping in a reference to his divorce – and, if really necessary, to the fact that his wife ran out on him to take up with another man named Drew – to seal the deal and keep her until breakfast. He calls it his "Rakish Swipe" manoeuvre. When the target follows up with a question about his failed marriage, he calculatedly swipes off his horn-rim glasses and utters: "I'd rather not talk about it." Then he does just that, giving her every detail of what he admits is the "only juicy detail of my emotional résumé". It doesn't always work. In one of many moments when Marin lightens the tone with self-deprecating humour, he recalls how he tried the move on one woman, whose only response was: "Why do you look like you just swallowed a rotten egg?"
Most readers will soon discern that Marin is not quite the cad the title suggests. Otherwise he would lose our sympathy and therefore our interest. It is in the hope of nurturing that sympathy that he harks back to the calamity of his short marriage throughout. He recalls its failure not with the glee of a newly librated man but with obvious sadness. And, unlike a bona fide cad, he has occasional moments of remorse at his lurid lifestyle. About 40 pages before the book's end he begins to admit to tiring of his new freedom and yearning for routine and stable love. "Maybe I wasn't literally on the way out, but every time a wedding or birth announcement darkened my mailbox, I died a little. My friends were snapping up lifemates right and left, popping out heirs. I, too, longed for the pitter-patter of little feet – and for once I didn't mean the 'Asian outcall' service on Channel 35."
The book finally turns when he meets and, after a few false starts, falls in love with a woman whose name has not been changed. She is Ilene Rosenzweig, an editor at the time for Allure magazine. At the time of their courtship, he finds himself sitting at the bedside of his father, who has fallen into a coma. His ensuing death and the certainty he feels that in Ilene he has at last found the right woman, rather than a right-now woman, causes Marin to shed both "cad" and "toxic". He and Rosenzweig are set to marry later this year.
'Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor' is published by Ebury Press on 5 June
'He never called me again': a British victim writes
In the 1990s, while I was living in New York, a friend introduced me to Rick Marin, the man who is now enjoying notoriety throughout the Western world as the author of Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor. Marin, who has now revealed himself to be a bounder on a grand scale, appeared when I met him as unlikely a candidate for Don Juanism as you could hope to find outside a plane- spotters' convention. On the sturdy side, with heavy, black-framed glasses, he was not obvious catnip to the ladies.
He was however, good company and – the Achilles heel of women everywhere – funny. Over the next year or two we became, I thought, friends. We went out to the movies, to dinner, to parties. We told each other about the people we were dating, and he said flattering things about my prose style. A recurrent theme in his conversation – one to which I should have paid more attention – was the craziness of Manhattan women, with the flattering implication that I was exempt from the general rule; he once congratulated me on being one of the three women in New York who wasn't in therapy.
One night, in the sort of accident that can happen after a night in a well-stocked bar, I thought, "What the hell? We're both grown-ups. What harm can it do?" and went to bed with him. The sex was the sort that is likely to result after 12 cocktails and two jugs of sangria, but I thought of it as if I was in a French comedy, where adults sleep together casually, almost as a form of exercise. I didn't think it meant anything; I didn't expect him to fall in love with me. But nor did I expect never to hear from him again – which is exactly what happened.
One "crazy lady" story he told me, and which now came back to me with dismaying clarity, was about a woman he knew who'd called him up and said, "We used to be friends, what happened?" "I slept with her once. That doesn't make us friends," was how he saw it. So now I was faced with the choice of persisting in trying to revive our "friendship" and being classified as another bunny-boiler, or giving up and facing the fact it had never existed. I had been set up: he'd probably never liked me, or my prose style. He had just been biding his time.
That he is now painting himself as a Lothario to make Warren Beatty weep and has parlayed his emotional inadequacy and weasel behaviour into a bestseller is, of course, galling beyond belief. For myself, I'm thinking of starting Rick Marin Anonymous: a support group for all the women foolish enough to have slept with this callous, cash-hungry Casanova.
Katherine Pushkar is a writer in Greenwich, Conn.
February 23, 2003
CAD: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor, by Rick Marin. Hyperion, 284 pp., $23.95
Ever since reading "The Elements of Style" in high school, I've thought that good writing must always be a pleasure, its own reward. Isn't one of Strunk and White's lessons that any subject, no matter how dull, is interesting if written well? But virtuosity without substance turns out to be just maddening, bringing to mind porcine metaphors involving silk purses. Like rotgut in Waterford, writers who squander obvious talent, not to mention book deals, on callow trifles leave me cold.
measure, Rick Marin is successful. His book jacket boasts of gigs at The New
York Times and Newsweek as well as homes in New York City and Sag Harbor; his
byline has appeared in an almost slutty array of publications. "Cad: Confessions
of a Toxic Bachelor," his chronicle of his professional rise and somewhat more
uneven personal triumph - finding Miss Right - could just as accurately have
been called "Confessions of a Toxic Freelancer." The book reads like a time
capsule from the last days of old New York, just before the Giuliani revolution,
when crackheads lived in Chelsea doorways, when topless bars were right around
the corner and when magazine assignments grew on trees.
I'm as nostalgic for those days as anyone, but I can't for the life of me think why Marin wrote this book. Between the media-insider name dropping - interning with Fareed Zakaria, Hamptons-ing next door to Alex Kuczynski - and the truly despicable sexual ethics, after reading "Cad" I felt like I needed a shower. My own romantic behavior has at times been characterized as guylike, so I tend to be charitable toward the cads of this world, including Marin, when he writes lines such as: "My usual strategy - the time-honored not calling and not returning calls - wasn't having its intended effect." But he lies to his sex partner, sleeps with two different women in 24 hours, and can't even be nice to a girlfriend who just did him a very big favor in the bathroom of a restaurant.
According to a recent interview with Marin on a media Web site, "Cad" is supposed to be a male take on the "Bridget Jones"/"Sex and the City" genre. Which would be fine, if not for the fact that it isn't a take at all - Bridget and Carrie are characters, while Marin, if we are to believe him, really did pull all this ... stuff. "Cad" has the same tight, clever writing, the same slick, New York knowingness that made "The Nanny Diaries" so much fun to read. When you remember, though, that the narrator is also the hero - and he clearly thinks he is - "cad" is not the word that comes to mind.
DO YOU LOVE ME OR AM I JUST PARANOID?: The Serial Monogamist's Guide to Love, by Carina Chocano. Villard, 150 pp., $9.95 paper.
While "Cad" at least makes good on its promise of seedy tales of the single male, Carina Chocano's "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" doesn't even make sense. The subtitle describes it as "The Serial Monogamist's Guide to Love," the blurb promises "you will laugh," and the press material calls the book Chocano's "hilarious spin on the dating guide." None of this is true. The most accurate characterization of a book I can only conclude was intended as parody, along the lines of the "Preppy Handbook," comes from the author's introduction: "mercifully slim."
"Do You Love Me's" fatal flaw is unfortunately its premise: that serial monogamy is a concept-phenomenon- trend worthy of satire. Chocano's writing is almost amusing at least once or twice: For example, the chapter title "Things to Do on a Date - If, In Fact, That's What This Is." But after 150 mind-numbing pages, I emerged with the very clear impression that the "idea" for this "book" must have had its genesis at a bar, with Chocano and/or her editor lovelorn and very much in their cups.
It saddens me to write this, because I've long enjoyed Chocano's smart, witty criticism in the online magazine Salon, and, with rumors predicting the site's imminent demise, it's a shame that her truly humorous work might disappear into the ether. "Do You Love Me" is a poor show, strung together with insensate, supposedly funny comments like "As Deepak Chopra once said, we don't strangle our own chickens, and yet we expect occasionally to dine at Kenny Rogers Roasters." This book should be no one's calling card.
I read a quote once by some old-timey journalist type. Can't recall his name, but his writing rule of thumb has stuck with me: Tell them something new or make them laugh.
Good advice. Marin and Chocano do neither.
In his new memoir, "Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor," Rick Marin gives womanizing a bad name.
By Jake Tapper
Feb. 27, 2003 | George Clooney did not invent it. The archetype of the sensitive skirt-chaser has been with us for centuries, ever since biblical patriarch Jacob bedded two concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah, for breeding purposes while still professing his eternal love and devotion to Rachel. Sensitive jerks -- by which I mean men who love women, who want to love just one, but who nonetheless, due to a combination of boorishness, immaturity, neuroses and commitment-phobia, cannot -- are nothing new.
Especially when portrayed by a handsome actor (think Clooney's Dr. Ross on "ER"), the delicate rogue is a crowd-pleaser. The literary equivalent might be the self-loathing romantics who populate the novels of Nick Hornby. At this year's Sundance Film Festival the Special Jury Prize for Emotional Truth went to David Gordon Green's "All the Real Girls," featuring a protagonist who's broken the heart of every woman in town. "Real Girls" features co-writer Paul Schneider as Paul, a Tarheel Lothario who falls in love with his best friend's sister Noel, played by Zooey Deschanel, and winds up having his heart wrenched from his cardiopulmonary system and puréed into a frappuccino.
It's not enough for the lead to be a mere womanizer. No, our hero must be a womanizer who feels, who emotes, who wants to settle down but just can't. He must have a shot at redemption. We know that Clooney is capable of falling in love, and we root for him to grow and do so. In the meantime, of course, we vicariously enjoy his romp through Gomorrah.
Former New York Times feature writer Rick Marin takes a stab at the world of the self-aware rogue in his new memoir, "Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor," which details his post-divorce 30-something dating years. When we first meet Marin, his wife has left him, and he's struggling to make his way in the romantic minefield of Manhattan by exploiting that very painful experience to get into the skivvies of a cognac-swilling lass named Chloe. Immediately, perfectly, we are thus introduced to the warring sides of the modern cad, the man on the make who sells a certain sensitive romantic premise, perhaps even secretly hoping that it comes true.
Marin seems to feel that because his ex-wife, "Elisabeth," left him "a wounded animal," he is the "injured party" and therefore is entitled to pursue as many women as he wants. "But men like me are not drawn to Sweet Janes offering sensibly fleeced lives in the suburbs," he writes. "We crave the unpredictable, the unstable, the Zeldas."
Still on the "parental payroll," Marin begins his tear. He woos women by shedding his spectacles and holding them forlornly in his hand, feigning depth and sensitivity. He references pop culture too often, judges his dates' physical attributes far too harshly (especially if the nebbishy author photo is to be believed), and his commitment issues have commitment issues. If he weren't somewhat aware of all this, it might be hard to take. But as it is, Marin's glib descriptions of his romantic disasters are entertaining, if unfailingly mean.
After Kim, a woman he slept with in Edinburgh, Scotland, comes to visit him, he quickly grows sick of her and acts like a jerk. "I'm trying to decide if I should let myself get really crazy about you," she says at one point, terrifying him. She leaves in tears and Marin couldn't care less. "Kim professed to be crazy about everything about me, but didn't know anything about me," he sneers. Then there's Tabitha, a 22-year-old assistant at a magazine, whose affection he appreciates, then takes advantage of by continuing to sleep with her even after he knows that she's falling in love with him. One night he even says to her, "Cling much?" Actually, it's Marin who clings to her -- but only because his condo is being worked on and he needs "a place to shack up during the renovations."
Marin can be more than just glib; occasionally he even stumbles upon moments of modest insight. To his perpetual bachelor friend Tad, Marin muses that "Women blame men for acting fake. Interested when they're trying to get them in the sack, then not spending the night, not wanting to cuddle or spend the day together. But women are the ones speeding from zero to intimacy like a Ferrari. Which is more artificial?"
Other truisms pop up here and there. "Women don't want true honesty," he tells another friend, John Podhoretz of the New York Post. "They say they do, but they don't. You can't tell someone the real reason, or reasons, you don't ever want to see them again. Like they're too crazy or they don't get your jokes. That would be cruel. So you latch on to some minor thing and they come away thinking you're the damaged one."
But Marin gives womanizing a bad name. Throughout the book, he frequently crosses lines of human decency, and does so in such a way that while he knows he's being caddish, it's unclear if he knows he's also earning far worse sobriquets. When Tabitha lets him know what her friends call him -- "the Fucker" -- he seems to think the nickname refers to the physical act of sex rather than his abject cruelty.
Marin's lack of understanding of women rears its head in comical if disconcerting ways. He's shocked to learn, for instance, that "Carnal Knowledge" is not a good date movie; ditto for "In the Company Of Men." In his mid-30s, he seems surprised to realize that dating Tabitha, who is just out of college, brings him into a world he ultimately finds boring. Perhaps because so much of his 20s was spent spinning his wheels in that disastrous marriage to Elisabeth, he's coming to these lessons a bit late.
The sensitive man on the make was fleshed out better by Ethan Hawke in the 1995 Richard Linklater film "Before Sunrise." "You know what's the worst thing about somebody breaking up with you?" Hawke's Jesse asks Julie Delpy's Celine. "It's when you remember how little you thought about the people you broke up with, and you realize that that is how little they're thinking about you. You know, you'd like to think that you're both in all this pain, but really, they're just, 'Hey, I'm glad you're gone.'" Jesse's wound -- his girlfriend just dumped him -- is all the more painful because of his past callousness.
Marin, conversely, never really puts his hurt together with the hurt he inflicts. We never learn exactly why his failed marriage wreaked such psychological havoc on him and sent him into a decade-long bachelor party for himself. There are hints of emotional trauma, but there's no real analysis of his psyche. Perhaps he feared that such exploration would seem self-indulgent, or detract from his breezy writing. Ultimately, however, all it does is make you tired, the same way your 30-something bachelor friend who still barfs up trite college-era complaints like "Chicks dig jerks" (something Marin actually says) is exhausting to be around. In the end, the only interesting aspect of Marin's character -- I call him that since I assume he's much less horrible in reality, that he's billed himself as a cad partly as a marketing ploy -- is that he's a cute writer.
These days, Marin is busy adapting his memoir for Miramax, so one knows "Cad" must include an Act 3 character arc where Marin will grow. In Hornby's "About a Boy," for example, Will becomes a bigger man because Marcus -- the little boy he has met by feigning single-dadhood so as to better troll for hot single moms -- grows to need him. In this genre, no one ever grows just because the clock is ticking; something has to happen.
I won't spoil the rest of the book and reveal Marin's own particular epiphany. Suffice it to say, he meets a woman who changes the way he looks at relationships and through that, combined with a major family crisis, he morphs into a good guy. But unlike Rob Fleming -- the protagonist of Hornby's "High Fidelity" -- who comes to appreciate the value of valuing someone else, the reader isn't clear what lessons Marin has learned and therefore is left to guess whether his impending marriage to former New York Times Styles deputy editor Ilene Rosenzweig will last. Yes, she makes him "wanna be a better man" -- as Jack Nicholson so tritely drawled in "As Good As It Gets" -- but what else?
In April 1999, a former stripper wrote an angry letter to the Times protesting a story Marin had written about bachelor parties. "Marin's assumption that a bachelor needs a final night of sophomoric 'wisdom' to make the final commitment to matrimony is outdated, shortsighted and misogynistic," she wrote. "As a former stripper, I know only too well that a bachelor who seeks to entertain his friends at a strip club on that one night is surely the same face I'd see by himself, clutching a dollar bill in one hand and a drink in the other, only a short week later."
Men tend not to buy books like "Cad"; the Candace Bushnell blurb on the back reveals its true audience -- single women trying to understand why they've fallen into the trap of so many jerks. I doubt, however, that many will find within it any real explanation for why men behave caddishly other than for the sex -- which Marin doesn't make much mention of. I fear instead Marin's prose will only further exacerbate their confusion and misandry. While an engaging read, "Cad" ultimately falls short because of Marin's embrace of the superficial in his writing and cruelty in his dating life. Without knowing him or Rosenzweig, you will be forgiven for wondering if in a few months Marin himself might end up clutching a dollar bill in one hand and a drink in the other.
About the writer
Jake Tapper is national correspondent for Salon.
A Field Guide to the Single Guy
February 19 - 25, 2003
by Judy McGuire
Frankly, when my pal Julie recommended I read Rick Marin's new book, Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor (Hyperion, $23.95), I was a little afraid. She assured me that not only was it hysterical but that it would give me great insight into the mind of the single man. But see, I've been dating a lot lately and wasn't sure I really wanted to know what was going on inside there. For the most part, what they chose to show me voluntarily was frightening enough.
But crack it I did. And once I started, I couldn't put it down. At first I took comfort in the fact that most of the women Marin went out with were so annoying I couldn't blame him for dumping them—they were awful. As I well know, when you're rewriting history, the author always puts their own spin on things. I telephoned Mr. Marin and asked him if these were true-to-life representations of girlfriends or just composites. He said it varied by circumstance, but that wasn't really the point. "What I tried to show was at first the fascination and then it turning to not being interested anymore," he explained. The slide show in my mind immediately flashed to a vision of the Herpetic Bass Player's face midway through our second, (in retrospect) overly long date. He'd seemed to like me so much just two days earlier, but immediately afterward went into deep cover. "Like how you can go from being so into someone to then not wanting to ever hear from them again," he continued helpfully. Erm, yeah, I agreed, in what I hoped was a knowing tone.
While still clutching my all-access pass to the inner machinations of the male psyche, I wanted to find out what every girl wants to know: What in the hell do men look for in a broad? Marin writes that most women are either too crazy or too sane. "The formula I've arrived at is what you want is crazy on the outside, and sane on the inside—someone who has the surface qualities of the crazy chick, but has a solid core." Hey! That's me!
Thumbing through my Big Book of Bad Dates, I wondered what distinguished a cad from your run-of-the-mill fuck-n-dump jackass. "A jerk has no charm," he explained. "A cad has some wit, some charm." I thought back to the guy who'd shit himself in my bed. Cads were starting to sound vaguely appealing. "He's not self-involved, he doesn't talk about his therapy for five hours . . . he's fixated on you; very interested in you."
Interested in me? Really? I was starting to get excited. "I argue that a woman is better off with a cad than a so-called nice guy. Because she'll look back on the two of them and think, 'At least I had fun with the cad.'" But wait . . . either way, the girl gets dumped.
Rick's amorous adventures were aided by a pseudo-sensitive guy move he perfected over the course of many first dates. At a pivotal moment, he would bring up the fact that he was once married. He would then remove his glasses for emphasis and shoot his prey the wounded puppy look. As I was reading it, the ploy sounded foreign and somewhat forced—nobody'd ever worked a pity-party scam like that on this girl. But then—the very next day—I met up with a seemingly nice guy for our first (and only) date. Midway through our alcoholic beverage, he let slip that both his parents had died when he was very young and he'd grown up in an orphanage. Very sad, sure, but the coincidence was jarring. This was his faux-nice-guy maneuver! Knowledge is power! My mouth involuntarily curled itself into a smirk. I couldn't see him, but I could feel Rick nodding over the telephone as I relayed this tale. "If I can help women see through the ruses, in a small way, I've done my part."
But that guy had been really cute, and I'd blown it by tipping my hand. "Don't you think that if we can see through men, we're never going to get laid again?" I fretted. "The trick is to see through them and be amused, rather than offended or turned off," he assured me. "That was the case with Ilene, who I end up with. She saw through it, but it didn't bother her—in fact, she thought it was kind of funny."
Ah yes, Ilene. The Great Cad Reformer. Like all good fairy tales, Rick's has a happy ending. After slutting his way through his late 20s and early 30s, he stumbled upon Ilene, the woman who turned this cad into a good guy. They're even getting married in the spring. What was her secret? How does one get a guy to toss aside his caddish ways? "The woman can't get him there," he said. "He has to get himself there. If you aren't the right one for him, you can try all you want and it's going to be useless. But if you are, then you don't have to try at all because he'll do it all himself." Oh.
Just call me Miss Wrong.
Dating demographics increasingly favor women -- so where are all the books about the lonely single guy?
By Elizabeth Manus, 2/16/2003
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.
February 13, 2003
BY MIKE THOMAS STAFF REPORTER
Following his 1991 divorce, former Newsweek and New York Times writer Rick Marin embarked on an epic, and long fruitless, journey to find the perfect woman--cad style. Years later, after many mostly meaningless couplings and excruciating morning-after brunches, he finally hit the bullseye. His colorful and, to many men, entirely familiar adventures are detailed in the hilarious memoir Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor (Hyperion, $23.95), due out on Friday.
Recently, Marin, who splits his time between New York City and Sag Harbor, spoke with the Sun-Times about sex, love and restroom banter with Regis Philbin.
Q. How can women spot a cad?
A. Spotting one is one thing, but the question is, should she avoid him or not? I would argue she should not avoid him, because the cad is a far more fun, if short-lived, date than the so-called nice guy, who doesn't call either. So why not have a good time with the cad than spend five hours talking to the nice guy about his therapy and still not hear from him?
Q. There are different types of cads. Obviously, some are better at cadding than others. What are some telltale signs of the top-notch cad?
A. The true cad has some style. He knows how to show the woman a good time. He knows what he's doing. He's got a certain confidence level. He's not the more self-reflective guy in the world, but again I would argue that maybe that's a good thing. We have enough self-involved people in the world. The advantage of the cad is, he is not fixated on himself. He is totally fixated on you, the woman, the object of his desire. For that period, at least, you have his undivided attention, and he'll ask you questions, he'll be responsive, because he's so single-minded.
Q. Recall your most caddish moment. Any specific morning-afters?
A. Most morning-afters. You don't think back to that many great morning-afters. I talk [in the book] about the horror of the afternoon brunch, when you've used up all the conversation the previous night and there's nothing left. But you're facing three hours over eggs benedict and cappuccino in some brightly lit retro diner.
Q. So what's it like doing your business next to Regis Philbin in a men's room? That happened at some movie screening, right?
A. [laughs] That was a high point in my celebrity encounters, standing side-by-side with Regis at a urinal. ... I was so fixated on getting him to come over to our table to impress my then-date, now-fiancee [Ilene Rosenzweig, co-author of the Swell books with designer Cynthia Rowley], that that's all I could think about. That's proof of the lengths to which the cad will go to impress a date: He'll accost Regis Philbin in a men's room, get him to come over to work his magic.
Q. What's the female equivalent of a cad?
A. I guess the female equivalent of a cad would be a woman who can approach relationships with as much emotional attachment as the cad. Someone who, as I say in the book, doesn't go from zero to intimacy with the speed of a Ferrari. Because I think that's the female flaw in the arrangement. They accuse us of callousness, but I say that women rush into things at an inappropriate level.
Q. Is it always good to have sex on the first date, as a former editor of yours once theorized?
A. That's her unique theory. I've never heard anyone else espouse it. But there is a crazy logic to it, her theory that that's the only way you know your true feelings, and everything up to that point is soft focus, blurry romantic hokum. I think very few women can pull off that level of detachment.
Q. Talk a bit about your celebrity cadding. If you hadn't been busted by an irked Marisa Tomei for keeping your tape recorder running after an interview was officially over, could you have bagged her?
A. [laughs] I don't think so. This was a period when I was having my regular blind dates, and then going on these crazy celebrity interview blind dates. You get this kind of fake three-hour, we're-best-friends, we're-gonna-keep-in-touch-forever feeling. And it's all, of course, artifice. Yeah, I was not immune to the wiles of attractive actresses. I'd go in with the tough questions, but I tended to leave them till the end.
Q. Was there conscious effort throughout your cadding period to achieve higher ground?
A. Always. When guys get together at a topless bar, they're not sitting there saying, "Oh, I just scored this hot chick last night." They're saying, "I wish I could meet a really normal, cool woman." That is what women don't think guys are talking about, but I guarantee they are. Even the guys with the worst reputations are sitting there saying, "Get me outta this bimbo hell! I need a really solid woman." That's the quest. It's not just to mindlessly accumulate trophy vixens.
Q. Men want a solid woman, but at the same time a not-boring woman.
A. Not boring. Exactly. That's the key. That's the hard thing to find, the combination of what I call crazy on the outside, sane on the inside. All the lovely, unpredictable oddness and idiosyncrasy of the crazy woman, who men love, but with a normal core underneath. That's hard to find.
Q. If, God forbid, things don't work out between you and Ilene, will you return to your caddish ways?
A. [laughs] At a certain point I think you've got to take yourself out of the game. Cads are like athletes, they've got an expiration date on them. It just becomes unseemly. You don't want to be, as Chris Rock says, the old guy at the club. There's nothing worse. Leave it to the younger guys to take over where you left off.
Swinging bachelor is more calculating than actual 'Cad'
Reviewed by Rachel Elson
Sunday, March 2, 2003
Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor
By Rick Marin
HYPERION; 284 Pages; $23.95
Pity the plight of the young, single male. Raised by a generation of feminist mothers, men appear to have become more sensitive, more evolved, in their quest for companionship; they go to yoga, share feelings, seek long-term relationships, just in time for women to have perfected the art of zipless sex.
So now, it seems, the guys are up in arms, their natural place in the urban single universe usurped by the women of "Sex and the City." "Wait a minute!" they cry, book contracts in hand. "Men have sex, too! Casual sex! Shallow sex! " What's more, they write, men can be every bit as callous, superficial, objectifying, emotionally regressed and fickle as women in the pursuit of a good time.
Oh, really? Quick, stop the presses.
Fortunately however, the better writers of the bunch have managed to dose their PR campaigns for monogamy with liberal dollops of error-ridden comedy. Among them is erstwhile single guy Rick Marin, whose "Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor" tells the story of the six single years that followed his first marriage, an early-20s pairing that seems to have been doomed from the get-go. Starting several months before the divorce papers make the split final,
Marin's dating memoir follows him in and out of a girl-crazy period he terms "Bachelor Hell."
Far be it from this reader to suggest that Marin kindles his own inferno, but he certainly knows how to pick, shall we say, colorful women. To start out with, there's the enigmatic and possibly demented Chloe, a would-be singer from Buffalo, N.Y., who talks like Catherine Deneuve and turns up for their date in jodhpurs and riding boots. Then there's Tiina, -- a clingy Finnish restaurateur with a Ph.D. in English lit, who loves to lie in bed and make love and talk, which complicates Marin's plan for a quick exit. There's Lynette, a hard-looking, hard-to-get stripper -- clearly one of life's cruel jokes -- and Kay, an Upper West Side princess who costs him a fortune in restaurant meals and cashmere sweaters. In between, he complains to a friend, are droughts stretching "to Ethiopian proportions."
Marin seems to want to have it both ways; he is, for the most part, a witty,
charming single guy who can't seem to find a girl he wants to settle down with. Along the way, he passes along a few clever insights on single life in the city. "Saying 'I love you' is the Heisenberg of relationships," one friend tells him. "The act of observing the thing changes the thing being observed. The woman says, 'I love you' and the man is immediately forced to re-examine his feelings."
In fact, the biggest problem with "Cad" is that Marin really isn't one. For most of the book, he's just cad enough to avoid being Mr. Nice Guy -- and it seems as much a calculated ploy as the rest of his well-practiced pickup moves.
Over the six-year course of the narrative, he manages one divorce, beds eight or so random women (by one count), has two actual relationships and one "Sort- of Girlfriend," or SOG, and then finds, courts and settles down with the woman of his dreams. He flirts; he rehearses impromptu moves; he commits the sin of shallow attraction. He probably even has a slightly racier sex life than your average straight, urban guy in his 20s.
He even has a few bona fide moments of questionable character, as on the night before one girlfriend comes home from a weeklong stay in Mexico, when he sleeps with formerly platonic friend Tabitha, then scoots out in the morning to greet the girlfriend, just off a red-eye. "You didn't bring me flowers?" she asks petulantly. "Was I supposed to?" Marin shoots back. Ouch.
But please: Magic Johnson he's not. Even in his immediate post-divorce forays, he follows up one well-accessorized weekend fling with the shocking conclusion that -- gasp -- sex is not enough. (Nor, he admits later in an equally devastating revelation, are breasts.) "What could be more unnatural than sharing a bed with someone you met in a bar, when you were both drunk," he vents to a friend from a barstool in the neighborhood topless joint. "How do they get the moral high ground on this?"
There comes, at some point, the sneaking suspicion that the growing intimacy Marin allows is simply a grand seduction of its own. Perhaps his admitted foibles, his family dramas, his confessional declarations are as artfully planned as Marin's studiously casual eyeglass lift -- a move he repeats often, to various effect -- or as carefully timed as his divorce revelations. But as most of the women he sleeps with could have told him, you can't tempt someone who is altogether unwilling to be seduced.
Rachel Elson is a New York writer.
I dated Rick Marin
Cad? Oh, I can think of worse names.
By Sandy M. Fernandez
Feb. 27, 2003 | Imagine this nightmare scenario: As a young reporter in New York -- a fact checker, actually, if you want to be technical about it -- you hook up with a divorced, older writer. It's a messy, booze-filled affair, because at the time, yours always were. You meet in bars (surrounded by your friends, who are almost a decade younger than he is) and end up in his bedroom every time, shagging away until you drunkenly lose interest and let him know that he's welcome to finish without you, thanks. He makes you nervous -- he's so much smoother, more urbane, more established than you are -- and you wonder what he's doing with you. But he also laughs at your jokes, praises your looks, has flattering predictions about your career. You figure that maybe babes his own age aren't interested in him because he's not that cute. In fact, to friends who haven't met him, you say he looks like Bart's glasses-wearing, asthmatic friend Milhouse on "The Simpsons."
So gingerly, once, you hint at future hookups, some continuity. He looks at you like you have two heads. Then, he starts answering your calls erratically -- nothing, nothing, and just as you're about to fade away, a phone call. Confused, you pursue, pursue, pursue -- until you're humiliated and just sick of yourself. When you run into him months later in front of Banana Republic, his eyes dart around like he's a rodent trying to escape. You feel guilty, ashamed; you leave him alone. And then you forget about him.
Until six years after, that is. That's when you find out that, while all this time you've been trying to repress the memory of your yucky, low-point-of-life misdirected affection, Milhouse has been reveling in the memories. Maybe not of you, personally, but of other girls like you, girls who had sex too quickly and then called a lot, girls who thought that when he said he was interested in them, he actually was. In fact, your old flame has been thinking of himself as quite the chick magnet, the rascal, the Casanova. How do you know? Because your former lover is Rick Marin, and he's just published his memoir, "Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor."
The book would be, I read in the trades, exactly what it sounded like: A roll call of all the bad dates, careless hookups and messy entanglements that the author had undergone in the years between his early marriage and divorce, and the present, now that he was settled down and engaged to former New York Times editor Ilene Rosenzweig. (The text identifies her just by her first name, but they're a very public couple). In a mixture of fear and guilty enthusiasm, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Would I be in it? Jesus, would it talk about that time I stubbornly stopped on the sidewalk and refused to move, annoyed at something or another? Any more intimate, embarrassing details? In my mind, our fling hadn't been pretty, and I'd gotten old enough that I didn't want it rehashed -- especially in print, for friends and colleagues to cluck over.
Well, don't flatter yourself, honey. There wasn't a word in there about me, not even a clause, unless there was some stolen detail that I didn't recognize (the pair of socks, left on the floor after the removal of boots, that "no man should be allowed to see"?) I didn't rank -- which was both a huge relief and kind of a bummer. No one likes to feel unmemorable, especially in a book that, like Rick's, seems to mention every B- and C-list player -- both personal and professional -- that ever crossed his path.
That's not to say there weren't delicious details in it for me, revelations I wouldn't have been privy to any other way. The first time I dropped by Rick's spare, modern Flatiron District apartment, for example, he left off all the lights, and put on Frank Sinatra's "I Have a Crush on You." I admired his moxie, the risk he was taking in using irony for seduction. But the move was even ballsier than I thought: The "friend" he told me had introduced him to the joys of the Rat Pack was Ilene. In fact, I learned in the book that on their first date they went to a Museum of Television showing of 1965's "Frank Sinatra Spectacular." Until then, he writes, he "wasn't particularly into the Chairman or his Board." After, he used him to charm the ladies.
Other details fall into the same oh-no-he-didn't bin. Was Billy's Topless just "the closest bar" for him and his friends to meet at, as he had once in all seriousness claimed? Read the chapter "What Can I Getcha, Hon?" and you'll learn that -- surprise! -- he and his friends went there because it was "like a regular bar -- with naked chicks." Was he telling the truth when I asked him if he was sleeping with anyone else and he said no? Um, not quite -- there were probably at least two other contenders, not counting Ilene. (Gosh, I hope they weren't having unprotected sex, too.)
But as I read on, another revelation became increasingly clear: For years, our tryst had been a bad memory for me; I had felt guilty and awful about liking him so much, so inappropriately. I'd felt like a pest and a needy little person. Well, no worries. In Rick's memoir, women scream at him on the phone, douse him in lice shampoo, force him to visit, literally, an insane asylum. And that's just by Page 130. "Did you know his first wife cut off all her hair and put it in a suitcase in the closet?" my friend Sara called to ask me, after she got her hands on her own copy. "Honey, whatever you did, you would have had to be a whole lot crazier to make this book."
It turns out, Rick likes crazy girls -- until he doesn't. Again and again, he makes terrible choices, picking partners who, as one of his friends describes them, are "witch wom[e]n, pallid, with wrist scars." Then he gets angry, freaked out and dismissive because they turn out to be, well, bananas. If his wife didn't already regret the marriage, she has good reason to now: She's a one-dimensional nut-job in this book. He might want to talk to someone about how much anger he can still work against her.
There is an argument to be made that what makes Rick a cad is not what he did, but that he wrote about it. "I was a critic, I was a takedown artist, a master of finding fault," he writes of his stint as a TV critic at the Washington Times. On a basic level, he's taken the same approach to his sex life, and that of his partners, selling them out for a book-and-movie deal. No one escapes his acid tongue. He lavishes a string of choice adjectives on his ex-wife: "petulant," "inscrutable," "troubled," "weird." And heaps scornful prose on girls who did nothing wrong but have the bad sense to sleep with him, girls like "the chubby speech therapist in L.A. who flopped around the Sunset Marquis hot tub like a manatee."
Cad? Hmm. Maybe there's a better word.
About the writer
Sandy M. Fernandez is a writer in New York City.
Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor
by Rick Marin
You're lucky you're not dating this man. But not for the reason you think.
For all of its purported immorality, the worst sin in "Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor," a new memoir by Rick Marin, gets committed not in the text but on the cover, where it identifies Steve Martin as "author of 'Shopgirl.'" Fight the urge to judge this book by its facade from the get-go, but it won't be long before you succumb. If you can't believe that, in the era of AIDS, a writer refers to his healthy self as a toxic bachelor — without irony — you won't be happy with "Cad." Congratulations. You still have a stylistic conscience, if not a moral one.
Marin's book tells the story of his late 20s and early 30s, that age in a man's life when immaturity pretends to maturity via post-collegiate wariness. It begins with our hero, a native of Toronto, transplanted to New York, where he has just finished Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. Astute readers should already be reaching for the TV remote at this point. If you need a better example of why editors don't want to hire j-school grads, Cad's hackneyed writing is a good example. So is this nugget: "There are two kinds of women: the ones who get offended by the word chick and the ones who don't." Of course! How had we not known?
Initially, Marin's intentions are honorable, and he finds employment at Harper's. The brief descriptions of life at the magazine are actually quite amusing. Skewering an unnamed editor who dresses and sounds suspiciously like Lewis Lapham, Marin discovers his editor's erudition is a fraud culled from the pages of quotation books lining his office:
As an avid subscriber, I'd always marveled at this legendary Man of Letters' ability to begin each month's column with obscure aphorisms from Montaigne or Thomas De Quincey. So when I'd overhear him bellowing at his secretary, I expected it to be something along the lines of, "Where the hell's my copy of Seneca's Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium!" But usually it was more like, "Don't pay that American Express bill! I think we've got a few more days."
Terry Teachout has a cameo, and so does Fareed Zakaria, whom Marin pegs, accurately, as affecting "the genius-on-deck gravitas of a guy who knew he was going to edit Foreign Affairs someday."
Soon enough, the author begins a tryst with co-worker Elisabeth, of the "porcelain-doll skin" and black eyes and other clichés. Impressed by her Wall Street Journal op-ed byline and the way she wears her watch over the sleeve of her sweater — neither of which, on reflection, strike this reviewer as particularly good omens — Marin falls hard. So hard, in fact, that, three months on and running out of legal residency in the United States, the two get married. Almost immediately, Marin makes an equally poor decision, taking a job at the Washington Times. So much for respectability.
The marriage gradually disintegrates over three years that were probably a lot more interesting than Marin describes — might they have provided material for a novel more engaging than this memoir? After moving back to New York, the author dispatches his former lover with the following brick: "I let her make her own way to the Metroliner the next morning." Only a person pretending to be from New York would actually refer to the train by, essentially, its brand name. The branding impulse runs riot all over Marin's book. This isn't surprising, especially for a journalist whose career culminated in assignments about fashion and celebrity for the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times. It's the kind of prose palatable for celebrity profiles — "Ms. Dunst poked her risotto with her fork and furrowed her brow at the Spago crowd, her free hand playing with the strap of her Gucci dress" — but it sounds ridiculous, and gets painful, spread out over 284 pages.
The bulk of the book is a chronicle of Marin's single life in New York, a revolving door of various women whom he desperately pretends to disrespect. We meet Kay (addicted medical student) and Kay 2 (Jewish American princess) and Tiina (Finnish restauranteuse) and Tabitha (years his junior), all of whom the author caricatures in his effort to come off as a real playboy. Instead of thinking little of his conquests, Marin does exactly what a real cad wouldn't: he feels remorse. The revelation, rather than ingratiate us to him, just paints him as more and more of a loser. Secret moralists don't make the best cads.
They don't make the best memoirists, either.
Pretension runs rampant: "Cad" wants to be transgressive when it's completely tame. The Globe and Mail has reported the unfortunate news that Marin is working on a screenplay. He'd be wise to sell the rights to MTV, for whom he actually works at one point in the book. The book is music-television fare: the shock of sexual immorality ends up stifled in the old girl-meets-boy business. Our tour through Marin's bad-boy years serves only as a bridge to — surprise! — his eventual marital bliss. All of those lacerating asides and self-doubt, all of those petty judgements and obsessive tics, they're all, in a word, bullshit. Never has so much irony served so much sincerity to create such a waste of time.
There are funny moments in "Cad," but they are too few to sustain the book's momentum, and, soon enough, we're gratified to hear more about Marin's developing career than his sexual dalliances. Indeed, the funny thing about "Cad" is that, while it fails to make any insights glimpse about the male psyche, it does succeed in revealing a more mundane truth: how a freelance writer can make it in Gotham. The passages about Marin's parents and his Canadian home are, in true form, heartfelt and insightful. Charitable readers may guess he wishes he had written a book about them instead of himself. Those less charitable will wish it for themselves.
— Joshua Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Big bad love
Just in time for Valentine's Day comes a confessional memoir of a self-described toxic bachelor. Nor does Rick Marin seem all that repentant, writes SIMON HOUPT
By SIMON HOUPT
Saturday, February 8, 2003 – Page R1
NEW YORK -- Maybe this isn't such a good idea. Talking about Rick Marin so close to Valentine's Day might be a dopey and reckless undertaking, like having Slobodan Milosevic deliver the keynote address at a UN summit on human rights. (We can see the letters to the editor already. The only one suitable for a family newspaper begins, "Are you people out of your minds?") But maybe pairing Marin with Cupid's annual fete isn't so wacky after all. Because although some women will hold him up as a perfect example of everything that's wrong with men, his existence sheds some light on the poorly mapped minefield of contemporary love.
Never heard of Marin? That's all right: It just means you're not slavishly devoted to the Sunday Styles section (a.k.a. the women's sports pages) of The New York Times. Marin is a Toronto-born, 40-year-old writer who has lived in New York since the mid-eighties carving out a stylish niche as a pop-culture chronicler for publications like Newsweek, Allure, Mademoiselle and TV Guide. A few years ago, he landed at the Times's Styles sections, where he developed something of a following with his witty pieces about fashion, celebrity, dining and design.
Marin may have been writing primarily for women, but his heart was that of a roguish man. And on Friday, he'll publish his first book, a humorous memoir of the Bacchanalian decade he spent careening through the ranks of single women in New York looking for Miss Right. It's entitled Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor. As writing teachers always say: Write what you know.
Is Marin a cad? You'll have to judge for yourself, but the evidence he submits is more damning than Colin Powell's blurry satellite photos. He begins his tale in 1986 when, dreams of literary pretensions floating in his 24-year-old head, he took a $14,000-a-year (U.S.) job as an assistant editor at Harper's magazine. As a recent Columbia Journalism School grad, Marin had one year to find more significant work that would enable him to convert his temporary visa into something approaching a green card. Or he could marry an American.
Into the picture strolled Elisabeth, a sweetly brooding Vassar grad who wrote plays in a white-trash idiom while working as a receptionist at Harper's. They attended poetry readings in the East Village and went slumming at booze joints in Hell's Kitchen. After three months, Marin mentioned that his visa was about to expire, so Elisabeth suggested they get hitched, or so he says in Cad. (There's no way to confirm her side of the story: Marin is no longer in touch with Elisabeth.) A romantic of sorts, he figured on forever.
Alas, the marriage quickly crumbled, leaving Marin distraught, vengeful and, worst of all, sexually frustrated. Still, he was eager to find the next Miss Right. Or at least her breasts.
He embarked on a comic string of one-night stands, blind dates and long-term relationships with women who all somehow fell short: One was too unstable; another, too stable; one was a social climber; a few sported unsightly leg or nipple hair; some had no fashion sense; the fashionable ones were too high-maintenance. On occasion, he took emotional shelter back in Toronto (Cad features some wistful writing about the old hometown and cottage country), where old friends and his parents shook their heads, ruefully indulgent. In the end, perhaps Marin just got bored with his own superficiality; this spring, he will marry the woman who figured out how to beat him at his own game by staying three moves ahead of him at all times.
(The happy ending offers hope for all those desperate souls out there who think their search will never cease. And it has the added benefit of being true. Marin's fiancée, a whip-smart gal who suggested he write the book in the first place, said to him: "Now you can't break up with me, because then you won't have an ending for your book.") The publisher Hyperion is billing Marin's tell-all-about-himself as a male riposte to the whiny Bridget Jones female fiction that was all the rage a few years ago. Don't let the subtitle fool you, though: Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor fits into a very small and twisted genre -- a confessional written by a rogue who seems not the least bit repentant for his sins.
"I don't feel like I committed any war crimes or anything like that," joked Marin the other morning, over breakfast at the restaurant in the W Union Square hotel. No longer a Styles reporter, he's still awfully stylish, today decked out in rust-coloured cords and a V-neck sweater over a fresh-pressed striped shirt, doubtless of some fancy label provenance. You could see why women might fall for him, despite his ordinary features that recall early Elvis Costello. "With the book, I think there was a sense of wanting to lay it out there, and a sense of revealing the inner workings of what's going on in a guy's mind during this kind of period in his life, and perhaps confessing some of the secrets that women are always wondering about: the eternal mystery of the male mind."
Jerry Seinfeld famously joked that women always want to know what men think about. His disappointing answer: "Nothing. We're just walkin' around thinking about nothing."
Au contraire, says Marin. "I used to write a column for Mademoiselle, and a frequent question was, 'We went out a week ago and he hasn't called. Why hasn't he called?' And my short answer would be: He doesn't call because he doesn't want to talk to you."
Hmm. This might not be all that helpful.
"If he wants to talk to you, he'll call," continues Marin, forking a strip of bacon around his plate as he warms up to the comic riff. "If he's not calling you, why do you want him to call? That's trying to force behaviour out of someone that you're never going to get it from, because you're not meant to be together. A guy's behaviour will always fall short of your expectations, if you're not the one he wants to be with.
"It's like the Old West out there," he says, noting that a societal shift to later marriage in recent decades means large numbers of men and women are dating into their 30s. "Men, women: completely different ideas of proper behaviour. A man would never be offended if a woman didn't call him the next day after a date, but a woman is horribly offended at that. Not to say which is right or wrong, but each person has a totally different idea of correct behaviour. There are no norms." In other words, it's the ideal breeding ground for cads, because when standards are in flux, men -- naturally selfish, motivated by sex and willing to lie to themselves and the woman next to them to get what they want -- can't be held to any expectations of proper behaviour.
A glance back through history will show that cads have always flourished during moments of social upheaval. Pierre Choderlos de Laclos's 1782 novel Les liaisons dangereuses captured postrevolutionary Paris when libertines like Valmont and his co-conspirator Mme. de Merteuil were becoming extinct. Other famous cads in literature include Henry Fielding's scamp Tom Jones and Thackeray's Barry Lyndon.
Marin said he had more contemporary role models in mind. "For me, the word kind of harked back to the heyday of the cad, the 1950s and 1960s, to the guys who all died crashing their Ferraris into a tree in the Bois de Boulogne, like [Dominican playboy Porfirio] Rubirosa, and all those guys who had the combination of style and charm that I like to think ideally a cad would have."
Think of Warren Beatty, either in Shampoo or real life. Or Jack Nicholson, either in Carnal Knowledge or in real life. Or Frank Sinatra, who most caddishly had his henchmen serve Mia Farrow divorce papers on the set of Rosemary's Baby. (Ahh, Frank, the King of Cads, who zoomed from Ava Gardner to Lauren Bacall to Mia to Barbara Marx. Nice gals if you can get them, and he could get them when he tried.)
Things have changed since then, so don't be fooled by retro notions of cheeky behaviour. A cad is not a lad, that breed of louts (probably fearful of their own homosexual impulses) who have taken over the culture in the last five years with their magazines (Maxim, Stuff, Gear) and TV shows (The Man Show, The Late Show With Craig Kilborn, Jimmy Kimmel Live). No, a cad is a more refined version of the species, one who actually likes women and can summon up the energy to listen to her speak before asking if she wants to go to bed.
"The advantage of a cad, at least during the time that he's with you, if you're a woman, is that he's totally focused on you," says Marin. "He's not self-involved to a fault, talking about his new therapist or haranguing you for five hours about a trip he took to Nepal."
Still, nowadays we like our cads with a softer centre, men who radiate sensitivity even as they're pushing us away. Today's Platonic ideal would have to be Hugh Grant, whom Marin quotes at the beginning of the book: "People say, 'Dig deep into your emotions' and I find I don't have any depth or any particular emotions, so it's very tricky.' "
Marin believes that Grant is a beacon of inspiration for cads everywhere, both for what he accomplished in his personal life -- managing to smooth-talk his way back into Liz Hurley's good books and warm bed after his 1995 arrest -- and because all recent evidence would suggest he was simply born to play the cad on-screen. From Bridget Jones's Diary to About a Boy and Two Weeks' Notice, Grant fits our ideal of a Lothario who just wants to be redeemed. (Granted, he turned out to be a right bastard in Small Time Crooks, but these days Woody Allen doesn't let anyone have happy endings except himself.)
If only Hugh Grant were a little younger, because he would have been perfect to play Marin in the movie version of Cad. Marin has sold the film rights to Miramax and is currently working on the first draft of the screenplay. Who knows if it'll get made (you never can tell with these things), but Marin will move on to other projects. He left the Times to write Cad and figures he's done with journalism. It's a young man's game. Besides, he wants to tell his own stories now.
The experience of writing Cad has been humbling, an unusual experience for Marin, who often used to dispatch TV shows or books with the cool killing finesse of a Soprano. "I realized how hard it is to write a book. I feel like I would never give another bad book review, because I know [now] how much work goes into any book," he admits. "I went from a somewhat cocky journalist to an extremely humble memoirist." We should hope all cads end up so humble, but don't hold your breath. Oh, and happy Valentine's Day. Good luck.
A rogues' gallery: Cads in history
Fictional Sir Harry
Flashman, Don Juan, Morris Townsend (Washington Square), Mr. Willoughby (Sense
and Sensibility), Rhett Butler, Sgt. Troy (Far from the Madding Crowd),
James Bond, Capt. Hawkeye Pierce (MASH), Sam Malone (Cheers), all
of Philip Roth's protagonists.
All too real Giovanni Casanova, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Frank Sinatra, Hugh Hefner, John F. Kennedy, William Jefferson Clinton, Tony Curtis, Eddie Fisher, Mick Jagger, Steven Bing, Donald Trump, Errol Flynn.
The New York Observer
Valentine’s Day Reminder: Avoid Professional Observers
The Wall Street Journal
The Toxic Avenger
The New York Times
Guys just want to have fun
Misadventures of a 'Cad' lead to an irresistible book
The Washington Times
In defense of the Cad
Los Angeles Times
Trading his guy card for happily ever after
This is London
Specs and the City
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