Welcome back to Boys Who Talk About Girls, where we interview target-demographic dudes who watch genre-defining television, and who don't write things on the Internet for a living. The mission: To get them to speak without reserve or remorse about sex and relationships in a manner most men won't, which is to say, in a way that will undoubtedly have us read the riot act by commentariats regardless of how they answer. Ready?
This week's interviewee is a man who we'll call Mike. He's 24, lives in Atlanta, and is a web developer and waiter.
So: Mike. Last week, the commenters accused me of interviewed myself on the premise that 'nice guys' like the ones I previously interviewed (when they weren't being awful by other accounts) don't exist, or are anomalies.
I saw that.
So I'm really hoping you're a huge asshole, because — taking readers for their word that they haven't been given a fair and honest sampling of men — we could really use one. Are you a huge asshole?
I uh, um, well..
Let's start out with that email you sent me.
(Laughs) Here we go.
Indeed! Let's see here…
I've sent pictures of my dick to girls I've dated in the past, even when we weren't dating.
I've been like Charlie to a girl who was far less attractive than a girl to whom I was like Adam.
Zosia Mamet will always call Joyce to mind ahead of Shoshanna.
I really like the show, and I think it gets guys pretty right, though if Charlie doesn't forgive Marnie and dumps her, I may have to revise that statement.
You sound like you might be the asshole we're looking for!
I hope not?
Let's start with that last point. Men in reality don't do what, exactly?
I was going into this episode assuming Charlie wasn't going to be returning Marnie's calls after he read to her from Hannah's journal about how awful their relationship is, that it was over. In relationships I've been in (that are ending), it doesn't just stop. I've never done that. I've always hoped she'd come over after it "ended", in the hopes that she'd want me to take her back. Which is the way it went with Charlie and Marnie tonight.
You should know: A lot of the feedback we've received doing this is that discussing how accurately the show portrays men isn't worth discussing, because it's art. But you brought it up! Why?
I know a lot of words have been devoted to the notion that guys are now huge "pussies." That we've been arranged to be a lot more sensitive than men in previous generations, and we're all of the sudden running up in a backlash against that. Guys have to be a man, but be sensitive at the same time. Coming to terms with that or living both sides of that is pretty impossible. You're supposed to be kind and caring and generous and also be the guy who's throwing somebody up against the wall and calling your girlfriend a dirty whore, and shit like that.
Do you think it's impossible for those two things to co-exist? You think they're mutually exclusive?
I don't, but I think differentiating between them is where some people really get messed up. Charlie can't. Many guys can't. It's kind of a mindfuck. If you're a lot more secure than Charlie is, you say, "You don't love me." Which Charlie said! But then he let her get his hopes back up, and helped by convincing her that she was wrong.
How do you think Marnie convinced herself she didn't want a breakup initially, besides the obvious fact of him simply being gone?
Besides the fact that they've been together for four or five years, when she went to his apartment and started learning these new things about him, she was emboldened: This is a reason to get back with him, because there's still so much I don't know. He's building out his apartment. He watches porn!
He'd shown a life independent of her. She maybe got a glimpse of the future: Oh my god, here he is without me. He's fine.
That could've been it. There is some precedent for that, given her reaction to the art guy. But once she realized he's not okay on his own if he's so willing to take [him] back so quickly with such facile promises, it should be harder than that. That's when she ultimately knew she was wrong.
Do you think Charlie could've done anything to save their relationship?
Fundamentally, I don't think she liked him. She needed to grow, she needed to be challenged, she wasn't being challenged. If they had met three years from now, when she's figured it out (or whatever), they could work. She might not need somebody to be a dick to her, to throw her around, or whatever.
What about Marnie learning the revelation that Charlie watches porn?
Intentional naivety for the plot. I don't think she thinks that when Charlie's not thinking about her, he's a eunuch, but maybe she thinks that Charlie's fantasies involve them having sex? I've gotten that from girls before. Mental monogamy is a fucking waste of time. If you can imagine other people who're more exciting at the time, why not? I don't know.
Jessa meets up with an old boyfriend — ostensibly happy in another relationship— who she says she doesn't want to have sex with. But she wanted to from square one, right?
She does! Of course she does. The makeup. The posing. The signs were all there. Also, there's no consistency with the makeup. It came off when they were having sex?
We apparently have a lot to learn about makeup remover. But he called her to have sex, right?
Oh yeah. As much as he'd like to pretend he didn't, he definitely did.
You sound pretty sure of yourself on that.
I dated a girl in college who lived in D.C. for a semester. We broke up while she was there. After we broke up, we were trying really, really hard to be friends, to keep the friendship going. I planned a trip up to D.C. to see her. I kept telling everyone: 'We're not going to sleep together. We're friends.' People were warning me: Just don't do it. We know you're going to do it. Don't.
You did it. Of course you did.
Of course. I got up to D.C., we got into a fight about not being in a relationship, and it happened. And it kept happening until I left. I don't think anyone ever truly means it if they're putting that out there. Isn't that how it works?
One time I was visiting an ex, and she literally said the words, "We're not going to have sex tonight." And…
And of course...
Okay, wait. Let's skip to the end of this story. Did you have sex with her?
You lead me on! This is horseshit. You totally lead me on. I thought you were going to be a fuckin' asshole, Mike, what happened?
I'm sorry I've let you down.
So wait, you actually have called an ex out of the blue just to see how she was doing when you weren't in consistent contact with her?
It's a lower form of contact. A phone call, G-Chat messages every now and then, just a 'Wanted to see how things are going.' The ultier motive there is just to know that what we had was meaningful and nice, and you're a good person.
You don't think the ulterior motive is "maybe one day we'll both be single and have sex again"?
(Pause) No. And when I went to DC, I was not going to have sex with my ex-girlfriend. I know, it's a hard sell. Ultimately, I hate feeling like a bad guy. And the relationships that end in the past, I've contacted pretty much everybody, and have had enough affirmation to believe that I was not an asshole with regards to the relationship and after except for one person. I reached out to her twice. Both of which resulted in a "fuckoff and die" response.
But what are you really going to get out of that besides affirmation that you weren't an asshole? That you were and are a good person?
That I was and continue to be!
But why do you need to talk to an ex-girlfriend to do that?
It's typically when I'm dissatisfied in relationships that I'm in.
This is what I'm getting at! I don't think people reach out to exes (in the way we're talking about) unless they want something that isn't completely platonic and friendly.
That's a very broad brushstroke to paint in, my friend.
Is it? So rarely do I have the instinct to check in on an ex without having been in some kind of consistent contact with them. Checking in on people is just that. It's facile. I think we're all looking for something when we do it. There's no other reason than to give ourselves the comfort to maintain something, and that's the most generous reason. Otherwise, you'd already be friends. Jessa's ex told her "I just wanted to see you." Bullshit!
However we're socialized, there's this pervasive idea that if you were so enamored with a person, why can't you continue to talk with this person, why can't you continue to be friends. There's a pervasive notion that you should be able to do that, if you're a good, normal, well-adjusted person, you should be able to be friends with an ex. Or…maybe I've just read everything wrong. Or…maybe I'm just an asshole. Or maybe I just want the knowledge that, if we were both single again, you'd fuck me again!
I danced around it long enough. You got me. My girlfriend will not be happy with this.
Well, she's just going to make sure you're not calling any exes.
And of course, an ex that I want to see is moving to Atlanta, and I already told my girlfriend we're probably going to hang out. We're friends from way back. It's been a really long time since anything happened and…
One more thing: When he leaves, Jessa explains to Shoshanna that she did it "to show she could not be smutted." Was that the reason?
She has men fawning over her. Having a firm grasp on the efficacy of her sexuality, she knows how to use it, when to deploy it, and I think it was just an affirmation of that power. She didn't need an affirmation of herself emotionally so much as the power she holds over men. The father of the kids she babysits hasn't made a move yet. He will. We know he will. And she genuinely likes him. And it's going to be devastating.
Hannah confronts her touchy boss this week, and propositions him for sex, hilariously. The next thing that happens: He laughs at her, which was, in so many ways, devastating. But does she believe it when she tells him she "knows" he wants to fuck her?
Why do you think she said it?
I think she wanted the touchy-feeling moments of uncomfortably to have meaning to her, which plays into her character as someone for whom everything is about her in so many ways. Here, she wants to believe she's somehow different from her co-workers because she's her. She's reaching for that.
So why do you think he harasses his employees the way he does?
It's egregious, and something that shouldn't be tolerated in any workplace whatsoever. But at the same time, I was with him: Why would she think that he wants to fuck her?
Because he's touching her ass on a regular basis?
But do you think she thinks he wants to fuck everyone in the office? The only time she brings up the point that anyone else is saying anything is when she's threatening the class-action lawsuit! I think that's where the comedy comes in that juxtaposition: When it's just about the fucking, it's about her. But when it's about the justice, it's about everything and everyone else, too.
Okay, the final scene: Hannah leaves Adam's place, upset about the state of their non-relationship, and he's jacking off in front of her. It seemed bordering on flasher-like conduct. Sadistic, generally. Do you think Adam gets off on hurting her?
He's just trying to find a way to provoke her, to make it interesting, to keep it interesting. She doesn't find her interesting when she just rolls over for him.
Do you ever think you could get off on hurting someone emotionally? Could you get off with someone who likes to hurt you emotionally?
I'm not that solipsistic. I think it takes a degree of sociopathy to think of other people in a way that would render one capable of getting off on hurting them. I could understand that some people could. But that's not me. If that was the only way that a girl got off, I probably couldn't do that. No. I think everyone's stayed with someone who's hurt them. There's sort of a draw to that. But it's not a draw that's going to grow into anything long-term.
When he's done jacking off, and asks her to shake his hand, why do you think he says that? Is he still being a dick, or is he genuinely offering a genial salutation goodbye?
(Laughing) I think the world would be a far more interesting place if he were offering a hand in friendship, but I think he's trying to degrade her. He gets off on her denigrating him, and then by doing that, puts her in a place, puts her back on the shelf with some wiseass remark, letting her know that things will remain the way they are.
So you've never gotten off, even in the realm of fantasy, of emotionally hurting someone or denigrating them in any way?
No. Final answer.
You were really supposed to be a Grade-A, trophy-winning piece of shit, Mike. You've failed us all miserably.
I'm sure someone will find something among all of this to indicate otherwise.
Foster Kamer is a senior editor at The New York Observer. Are you a boy who watches Girls? Get in touch.