Revenge of the Nerds
I GOT A CALL from my friend Gina Barreca, who teaches feminism and literature in college. Gina wanted my help.
Gina: I just finished reading an essay in the Atlantic arguing that attractive, interesting, accomplished single women in their 30s should stop hunting for the perfect man and settle on some schlep so they can get married and have a staid, comfortable life with children. It may have been written by a woman, but it is the most regressively antifeminist tract I have read.
Gene: So, ignore it.
Gina: I can't. My beautiful young accomplished 20-something grad students have been joyfully waving this article like oppressed peasants brandishing pamphlets by Voltaire outside the Bastille. They're almost delirious with happiness because, to them, this idiot tract is liberating.
Gina: It's telling them that the dating pressure is off and that they can opt for safety over romance, that they can settle for this old boyfriend who yells at waiters, who is never going to get his teeth fixed and who pronounces "ignominy" like it rhymes with hominy. This "settling" thing needs to be nipped in the bud.
Gene: How can I be of assistance?
Gina: You can tell your male readers that they need to be outraged.
Gene: Because . . .
Gina: Because they have self-esteem! Because they don't want to be patronized. Because they don't want women to sell themselves short.
Gene: Let's clarify. Should it become an anthem for modern women, this article could increase the likelihood that ordinary guys, older guys, guys with big guts, small paychecks and underdeveloped social skills, guys who ordinarily might wind up married to career convenience-store clerks -- that these undeserving men might wake up one day to find hot, interesting, graduate-student types with high income potential standing on their doorsteps with their toothbrushes.
Gina: Well, yes, but . . .