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all it Bridget Jones Strikes Back. Throughout two books and a slightly less annoying movie, the yammering pulp heroine worried she couldn't snag a man. Now it seems like every dude in the industry is trying to get with her. Yep, thanks to the popularity of Bridget and her lovelorn sisters who comprised the pink-jacketed biblioclique known as "chick lit," publishers are pushing a male version.
Prepare the way for "Dick Lit." Although the genre's terrain is vast ? spanning Nick Hornby's huggable About a Boy and Rick Marin's gaseous Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor ? a book is considered to be Dick Lit if a) it is written by a male; and b) it explores relationships from an male point of view. The typical Dick Lit protagonist is horny and flawed, yet benign, wading through a sea of women in search of himself.
Scott Mebus, author of The Booty Nomad, is the latest batter up. His protagonist is David, a TV producer who's enough of a skirt-chaser that he regularly forgets girls' names, but sweet enough to nickname them like a lovelorn fifth-grader — Bendy Girl, Opera Girl, the Goddess. Not exactly a cock-swinging cad. Will Dick Lit be on everyone's lips in '04? Nerve asked Mebus this and other pressing questions. — Philip Higgs
Are you familiar with the term "dick lit"?
Did you intend your first novel to be considered such?
Not really. I have a friend who read an article in Publishers Weekly about how there were no male writers in the [relationship fiction] genre. The only thing Dick Lit has to do with my book is that it made me feel like I'd get published. Otherwise nobody would be interested.
Your book seems to argue that there's something missing in the contemporary picture of masculinity.
That picture of masculinity is drawn by men and women, but I think women tend to write about the relationship stuff a bit more, so we get their picture more than we get the male's. Going through a million women, not getting attached, being the emotionally unavailable guy — all that seems to be how people look at men in the dating world. And I've never found that to be true. Me and my friends have never approached it that way. The way men are drawn hurts me when I'm trying to date, when I talk to a woman: She's already looking at me like I'm some kind of player because I have the balls to talk to her. It's always shitty to have someone on their guard like that, but especially when you're trying to get them into bed. Then a book like Cad comes out and reinforces every stereotype. Almost everything I know of Dick Lit — meaning, like, both books — they reinforce the same notion. I set out to do something different.
"I know this makes me a turncoat to the male gender."
David seems like an essentially lonely guy. That's not such a macho thing to be. He makes it very clear that he's lonely and not feeling attractive some days. At one point, he makes sure he has on the right shirt just to phone a certain girl.
Admitting that you're lonely is not a particularly masculine thing to do. Nor is admitting that you actually want a relationship, or that a relationship actually hurt you. Most of the guys I know, half of them are married, and the other half are still hung up on the girl they dated in high school ? it's the same type of relationship crap that the women are writing about.
I know this makes me a turncoat to the male gender, but I'm finding that sex with women I don't know is becoming less satisfying. I turned down sex, a few months ago with an extremely beautiful woman, just because I valued her friendship. It's just not worth it.
At one point, David says everything would just be easier if he went and got a lobotomy. Often, he just doesn't want to engage with the larger world. Is that how you see men operating? They're needy, but putting up a front?
I think, at the base, everyone wants companionship. People want to be less lonely. I don't think anyone seeks out loneliness, unless they're flagellant by nature. Maybe that's weakness. I think the difference is in just admitting it.
While David is expressing all this need, he does focus a lot on sex and ogles hot lingerie in boutique windows. He's not just after true love, he's also after getting it on.
Well, yeah. I think, for a guy, it's easier to say true love and sex are connected. I don't think guys really disassociate the two.
But you think women do?
I think women do, yes. I think women are taught, from birth, to disassociate the two: Love is more pure than sex. I dated this one girl who kept saying to me, "Would you still love me if we never had sex again?" And this was really important to her. It's like asking me, "Can you breathe underwater?" It makes no sense to me. They go hand in hand. Women are taught to expect certain concessions just because they're owed it. Because of the way sex is used, they expect us to approach it with such reverence and thankfulness that we're being allowed to have it. It's so one-sided. If there's at all an issue with sex, it's our job to deal with it, and not their job to look at it and say, What's our role in this?
"A lot of my friends are women. So it's not so us-against-them anymore."
But then again, David's also waiting for his phone to ring a lot, like a bit of a weepy girl in a high school romance.
That's just old-fashioned obsession.
At one point David tells the Goddess how much he likes sex and wants to have fun, but there's very little actual description of sex.
I don't think this book is about sex. I definitely didn't want him to have sex. It's about a single guy thinking about sex and how that gets in the way of looking for love.
But the impression one might get from certain aspects of the culture, like Sex and the City perhaps, is that the New York dating scene is just one long, slow orgy.
You've got to remember what Sex and the City is, though: it's ten writers in a room compiling all their experiences to fill a TV show. Maybe the women in New York are having a lot more sex than the guys — or maybe just more sex than me. I would not consider myself an expert dater by any stretch. My friends and I, we're the fringe members of the dating scene. We think too much. We read into things almost as much as women do because we watch Sex and the City more than we watch reruns of the A-Team. A lot of my friends are women, and that kind of platonic friendship changes your view of dating. It's not so us-against-them anymore. That informs a lot of how I look at it. And it means that I have less sex. So I really blame my female friends for not having as much sex as I should be.
When I go out to a bar, half the time I get depressed, because it just seems like play-acting. The dating scene in New York is a lot of people in bars waiting to be talked to.
"What does a guy care about without his job?"
Most of the guys in Booty Nomad seem to only talk about themselves in the context of their relationships. It takes David a long time to admit that maybe he's not entirely right about his ex-girlfriend. So there's not a lot of the female perspective in the book.
But that's how most people are when they break up. It takes a long time for you to actually see who the person you're dating is. For a while, you're dating someone that you've made up. It sounds really selfish and self-involved — and it is — but I think it's natural. People approach dating from their point of view. They have that laundry list of things they're looking for. Not many people go out and think, "Whatever happens, I'm going to be dazzled." They think, "Here's my type, and they better be smart, and I hope they're a Democrat, "so they can check off all these things in their head. Then when they're talking to someone who's really attractive, they think, "All right, I'm going to ignore the things I don't like." So it takes a long time for people to actually get to know the other person. Women are always saying, "What is he thinking, what is he thinking?", but they never really care what he's thinking. It's more, "What is he thinking and how does it affect me?" Maybe I'm just cynical and I think everyone just thinks about themselves.
So men have emotional lives, and there's more going on than absolute confidence and absolute sexual dominance.
In a lot of books dealing with masculinity, men's jobs seem to be very important. Jobs sort of drive their interest. I wanted to take that out of the equation. David doesn't care about his job. And what does a guy care about, without his job? What are his obsessions? They become useless things like fantasy baseball — things that don't matter in the end and that he doesn't control anyway — and relationships. And if you don't have a passion in life — and if, you know, you don't play sports — that's all you got.
You got chicks?
You got chicks.
You've said that the book is somewhat autobiographical. Are you worried someone you know will see themselves in it?
Just my ex-girlfriend. I made a point of telling everyone else. I'm just waiting 'til the day before publication, then I'm going to send her an e-mail to let her know it's coming out. n°
The Booty Nomad,