Conventional wisdom holds that men's magazines are better than women's magazines. That would be correct. Below, our manly men's magazine writer Tim Wolfian offers 'Glamour' dating blogger Alyssa Shelasky some gentle advice on love, literacy, Sexy Euro and Edgy English Teacher...
Do you enjoy blogging? I don't, babe. I soooooooo don't. Though I did enjoy, just now, holding my finger on that 'o' key like a bad, bad boy. Sooooooooo not allowed at Esquire! But aside from that little perk, blogging makes me think of a certain line from one of my favorite magazine stories of all time. It was about the cruise-ship industry, and ran a few years ago in Harper's. Author David Foster Wallace (you'd like him, Alyssa; he's kind of, oh, the writer-equivalent of Drew Barrymore, i.e., an artist committed to existential inquiry) wrote that the game of shuffleboard, as played by old people, is "a game played on the skin of a void, and the rasp of the sliding puck is the sound of that skin getting abraded away bit by bit." Well, replace "game" with "advertising platform," and "rasp of the sliding puck" with "whir of the laptop fan," and that's how I feel about blogging.
And yet here you are, Alyssa, blogging for Glamour magazine about the comings and goings of your Brazilian-waxed bod; and here I am, Tim Wolfian, writing J-school memos for the blogworld equivalent of Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. In my defense, I only accepted this assignment after the Jezebel gals — a terrible ferocity in their eyes, bits of Cap 'N' Crunch-and-sugar sandwiches between their teeth — fawned extravagantly over my wallet pics of Mr. Langewiesche, my dashing, headstrong black tabby. ("Weeshie" for short.)
But enough. Let's get to the heart of the Shelasky blog/life/blog/life crisis. I have now read three months' worth of your blog posts. Here is what have I learned. You are 29. You live in New York. The HBO character with whom you most identify is Brenda from Six Feet Under. You used to work for US Weekly. Your social capital allows you to have dinner at the Waverly Inn and spend summers in the Hamptons even though you don't have any steady sources of income save your blog (and maybe your parents). You do an hour of "hard cardio" every day. You once allowed yourself to be faux-tattooed by fifteen Swedish rappers called "Speech Defect" (Mr. Wolfian sends big ups to Mr Linus, Boogie B, Thage and Prao-D). You love New York, except when you're in L.A, because L.A. "feels so authentically me"; you are casual-sex-positive, and have dated a million guys on both coasts, but lately you are "obsessed with eloping, and although you think your bicoastal "gypsy" life is "cool" — your therapist called it "unsettled" — you do wonder sometimes, just like you wonder about your skanky ex-boyfriend "Edgy English Teacher," whom you abbreviate as EET, and your difficult breakup with "Greek Dentist," the great love of your life, whom you abbreviate, confusingly, as GD, which I misread the first time as the Jewish abbreviation for G*D, and which misreading really fucked me up ("GD bought me those /tearful/ Manolos!"). Most poignantly, Alyssa, you seem to realize that many of the things your friends think are important are actually — well, you put it best:
Just got back from B's "Change for Kids" event at Room Service, this new "hot spot" (and I use that term loosely) in the Flatiron district. It was like this "/make a donation, make your mother proud, have a million free martinis and save the children"/ thing. Great cause, girls in pearls, endless smalltalk, you know the drill.
And yet, Alyssa, despite all of these conflicts, fears, insecurities, exotic locales, and penises, your blog is a fucking bore.
The problem here is not Alyssa Shelasky, the person; unlike my Jezebel editors, whose opinion of you is, I'm afraid, not kind, I think you are well-intentioned and probably very decent. The problem is that your well-intentioned decency is obscured by layers of terrible prose. How often can you "fall in lust" and "go with the flow"? How often can those "sun-kissed afternoons" make you feel like you "had wings"? How often can you look for major life solutions in the email-forward wisdom of your dipshit friends ("If you love him, let him go")?
I don't think it's incidental that some of your romantic frustrations concern guys who believe you're not "interesting enough, exotic enough, jet-setter enough" to steadily date/fuck. Witness your romantic Paris dinner with the man you call "Sexy Euro." The two of you meet at a "charming" cafe, where you say you "lit up at the first sight of him" because he "turns me on." Over steak frites and red wine, you grill Sexy Euro about his educational background. He gets pissy with the waiter, which you don't like. He starts "blabbing about god-knows-what." At the end of the dinner, the two of you part ways with vague plans to meet up again stateside, but as much as you'd like to show him off to your friends — "he is called SEXY EURO for a reason!" — you're not sure if his charms outweigh his faults. You ask your readers for advice.
This dinner seems to have frustrated you, but I'm not sure I know why; personally, and I'm sure my four ex-wives will back me up on this, I've always believed that yelling at waiters is a sign of alpha-male virility. Clearly, Alyssa, you need something from Sexy Euro at this dinner that you don't get. But I'm guessing that the feeling is mutual. Sexy Euro needs something too. What he needs, in the absence of actual sex, is a good story. He needs a story to tell his buddies just like you need a story to share with your blog readers. He needs to fixate on some sexual/personal detail that distinguishes you, Alyssa Shelasky, from every other 29-year-old woman who grew up reading gyno-mags and whose neural net, forked through with all that bad writing and banal romantic advice, is the author of a vapid non-persona — who knows, maybe you're the kind of girl who masturbates in the shower and opens her mouth sooooooooo wide at the moment of orgasm to let the hot shower water fill her mouth like a cup, like the woman in Vox — except the problem for Sexy Euro is that he doesn't get anything close to this at your Paris dinner, anything creepy or intriguing or mysterious or soul-laid-bare honest. I bet I know what he gets instead. I bet he gets the same sun-kissed ALYSSACENTRIC sentiments that we, your blog readers, already know are as intriguing as EZ-Pass, as mysterious as Lunchables. Alyssa, I think Sexy Euro would be surprised to hear that you identify so strongly with Brenda from Six Feet Under — passionate, dark, impulsive, complex, fucks-a-guy-in-a-broom-closet Brenda. Brenda is a mess but she is also a STORY MACHINE. Sexy Euro needs a hook, but his girl Shelasky is dud velcro. No hooks. So maybe — just a guess here — he fixates on anatomy. Maybe he looks up from his frites and thinks... wow, big forehead. Cute girl, gigantic forehead. I could shave in its reflection.
Now I'm not saying, Alyssa, that Sexy Euro is some great catch. He would never share his insecurities on a blog, and that makes you a braver person than he. Still, the prose, babe, the prose, the prose.
Two suggestions. First, look to EET, your "Edgy English Teacher" ex-boyfriend to whom you turn over your blog in times — Sundance? self-purification? — of overcommitment . EET is a promising prose stylist. His guest posts are funny, breezy, and utterly transparent. He conveys exactly the kind of person he is. I know this guy without ever having met him; I know what he thinks and feels and dreams; I know, with complete certainty, that he is a sashimi-grade douchebag. Alyssa, offer EET something "edgy" in exchange for writing lessons. I have a feeling he'll respond with enthusiasm.
My second bit of advice is to raise the stakes. If there is a shared quality of mensmag writers, it's that we are tortured, and willing to share that torturedness for three dollars a word. We are constantly returning to the sites of our childhood traumas: The dead parents, the murdered classmates, the bullies that beat us up and the girls who never wanted to blow us. In the world of gyno-mags, Mariane Pearl is doing something similar, turning herself into a global avatar of suffering, a hotter, thinner Sally Struthers. You need to push yourself toward catharsis, Alyssa. Fly to Greece. Confront Greek Dentist, to whom you are always circling back in brief cryptic references, much like Yossarian circles back to the memory of Snowden. Or at least throw your readers a frickin' bone and sooooooo tart it up stateside with a few decent necking sessions already!!!!!!!!
All that said, Alyssa, I wish you luck finding a good man. And if you are interested in discussing your career in journalism further, perhaps over a glass of single-malt scotch — the very same scotch that the late Art Cooper presented to me as a hiring gift years ago, and which he and I used to sip while leaning against the sturdy rail of Art's Manhattan balcony, looking out wistfully at the East River, talking about our wives and our lost loves — and, also, Alyssa, if you are not allergic to cats — MySpace-message me, screenname SINATRAHADACOLD, and we'll talk.
— Mr. Wolfian