Today, the New York Times spends time "at home" with John Bowe, the forty-something writer and frustrated bachelor who's dedicated himself to understanding why and how we love. And yet, Bowe has sacrificed love for career.
When Cleaving came out, a friend of mine chided me for being so hard on it, making the point that when a man wallows in self-discovery and emotional shortcomings, we're not as hard on them. At the time, I thought she had a point. But at the same time, I doubted I'd be able to stomach it in a man, either.
Case in point: John Bowe! Says the Times writer of Bowe's Terkel-esque Us: Americans Talk About Love (inspired by yet another failed romance),
On the surface, there is little to suggest that Mr. Bowe, who came to New York from Minneapolis in his early 20s "to be a famous musician or filmmaker," isn't the last great catch. On a recent afternoon, he was well groomed and neatly dressed in a pressed oxford and jeans, his bright studio equally tidy: an assortment of cookware carefully arrayed on a kitchen wall, records and files stacked neatly under his bed. In the cotton-candy-colored bathroom, there was none of the hair or dust one might expect to see in a bachelor pad. And nearly every wall of his apartment was decorated with paintings of flowers, a collection he has spent more than two decades amassing...Mr. Bowe's domestication extends to cooking: even though it was the middle of the day, he had already begun preparing dinner - a pork dish with a homemade spice mix inspired by a jar of crushed sweet peppers brought back from a recent trip to Portugal. Offering his guest some mint tea, he reached into a cupboard and pulled out a bag full of dried mint leaves that he grew over the summer at a friend's house in Dutchess County.
Well, that's all lovely, but I can hardly see a 42-year-old woman being regarded as a major catch because she's mastered the essentials of adult domestication (indeed, flower art and herb-drying might be deterrents.) Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Bowe's a fine person and a lovely guy. And it's certainly interesting (if not refreshing) to see him giving vent to the frustrations that popular wisdom deigns distaff territory:
Pouring mint tea into two glasses, he explained that while he has no regrets about his past, he still wants nothing more than to fall in love and start a family. "At a certain point, one wants it all to stop, and just to settle down and be boring and normal," he said. "And that's absolutely who I've become now. I will be the happiest person on this planet when I have kids. I do think it's a bummer to be playing around with your kids in your 50s as opposed to in your 30s, but that's the way the cookie crumbled." Over the years, he admitted, friends have accused him of being afraid of intimacy. "But pretty much all of those friends wanted to be artists or filmmakers or writers, and none of them are," he said.
"The goal was always to avoid being that surly alcoholic guy who didn't live up to his dreams and blamed the wife and kids for that," he added. "So, you make your calculations, you roll the dice and you hope you're right that there's time after you make it to then join the human race and have a normal emotional life."
That he has the option of playing with those kids in his 50s goes pretty much unquestioned, and that's not "just the way the cookie crumbles" for any woman in the same position. But then, when Americans talk about love, no one said it had to be self-aware.
A Bachelor's Effort To Understand Love [NY Times]