Field Guide To Guys: L'Homme Fatal

The NY Observer has put a name to yet another regrettable male archetype: L'Homme Fatal. This unassuming guy will lure you in with his self-deprecating charm and flattering attention - all to fuel his romance addiction.

The Observer's Irina Aleksander identifies the man-type thusly:

Often the creative type, he projects a deceptive vulnerability, while maintaining an appealing confidence. He's usually not the best-looking guy in the room, but he is the smartest; he turns these traits to his advantage, playing up the contrast with the typical hot guy or womanizer (physical inferiority, emotional evolvement). His courtship begins with a rushed sense of intimacy and, yet, a disarming lack of forward physical advances; a first date might involve a game of Scrabble or perhaps a cup of tea; his target usually leaves wondering if in fact it was a date at all. And yet the story always has the same ending-he grows distant, stops calling and eventually disappears with little explanation, if any.

As distinct from a self-absorbed emo guy, or what Jessica has termed "the wimpster," l'Homme Fatal manufactures a semblance of emotion as part of his romantic shtick. He's less sleazy than a Gamester, but his M.O. is just as direct. Aleksander identifies several real-life examples of the type: serial womanizers like Ryan Adams, Justin Long, Josh Hartnett and the Gossip Girl character Aaron Rose, all of whom seem to project a wounded humility while surrounded by a suspiciously omnipresent harem of gorgeous women. However, while a scourge on the land, this type is not necessarily villainous: most of those quoted in the article are ready to ascribe the type's antics to immaturity. Says one victim,

"He's not a bad dude, but he just doesn't know how not to have this over-the-top magical romance which eventually leaves girls completely broken. He's like a love monster...I think this type of guy is more dangerous than the typical one-night-stander because there is so much more emotion and attachment involved that is ultimately more destructive."

Of course, such a type couldn't exist if women didn't respond to it, nor is it necessarily new. Woody Allen, after all, built a career as an unlikely womanizer on the sensitive underdog persona. It's been a while now since the guy who doesn't get the girl has morphed into the hero, but "sensitive" is still equal to "harmless" in the popular imagination. The archetype used to be "secretly-sensitive asshole"; now it's "nice guy with the heart of a jerk." Although we're surrounded by the type, we're still not, on some level, prepared for it. And because this guy is as interested in an emotional conquest as a physical one, we're not trained to fend him off. Perhaps as sexual conquest has become less taboo, a certain kind of man feels the need for another kind of challenge.

In my experience, men of this stripe have a hard time with straightforward platonic friendship with the opposite sex: while they might maintain such a relationship, they insist on introducing an often-flattering, sometimes baffling element of romantic tension into everything, either because they crave drama or need to feel wanted. And when these guys talk about their relationships, they never rule out a hint of conflict, of torture, of uncertainty -they are just that sensitive! Or that immature.

Says one "recovering H.F.," "The empathy is there, but people who do the most harm are people who don't know what they want, and Hommes Fatales don't know what they want." Luckily, we do!

Beware L'Homme Fatale! [Observer]
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