By Laura Yao
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 28, 2008
CHERRY HILL, N.J. -- In the basement of the Cherry Hill Mall, Dante Moore, a first-time author from Washington, sits at a table tucked between two security gates in the entrance of a tiny Borders Express. Piled neatly on the table: about 20 copies of his book, waiting to be bought and signed.
Few passersby stop -- mostly women, mostly African American -- and they laugh a little at first when they notice the book's cover. They are tentative, but they are interested. After all, the cover is eye-catching: a man towers over two black women sitting in desks (those awful ones from high school with the wooden writing surface attached to the spindly metal chair, remember?) with the book's title, "The Re-Education of the Female," scrawled on a chalkboard. The "students" are listening in rapt attention. This must be every man's dream.
Moore's slim treatise purports to explain how women should go about sex, relationships and marriage -- according to men. Here is his mission as a self-described reeducator: "I want to express my anger and frustration as a man with the women I feel are miseducated, misinformed, and ill-prepared about their responsibilities in getting and maintaining a relationship with a man of quality," he writes in the introduction.
Moore, of course, considers himself just such a man. Read his book, ladies, and you can snag a catch just like him. Your responsibilities include cooking, staying skinny, wearing sexy things around the house and doing whatever your man tells you to do (because, Moore writes, "Here's a little secret, ladies: men never really ask for anything. They command. . . . And believe me, what you won't do, ten broads around the corner will.")
There have been several other books of this unvarnished ilk, recent releases that have both horrified and fascinated women: bestsellers such as "Rules of the Game" by Neil Strauss, and "He's Just Not That Into You" by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. Evidently, what men need in order to be happy remains mystifying, despite all these books, so Moore hard-boils it down to three things: food, relaxation and, you know.
Moore himself is approachable, almost welcoming, behind the book-laden table. He's heavyset, 33 years old and still baby-faced, dressed in a crisp white button-down shirt with some gold embroidery on the chest, and jeans. He's well groomed, his longish hair in twists and pulled into a half-ponytail.
Moore, a computer engineer, wrote his book because, he says, he just wants to help women in their relationships -- because he loves women. He was raised by women. He's met his father maybe three or four times, but grew up in a house in Temple Hills with his mother, two sisters, two aunts and two female cousins.
When Moore was a boy, his mother told him to treat women like queens: "My mother used to say, walk them home from school, grab their books, give them gifts, blah blah blah, yada yada yada," he remembers. "I went like that for maybe two years, and I probably lost every girlfriend that came along."
One day, Moore says, he realized how wrong his mother was. "Once I started being myself and saying, 'look, I'm not going to do this, this, or that for women,' the phone didn't stop ringing," he says, laughing.
Moore's girlfriend, Khanequa Tuitt, who's at the book-signing, recalls that when she first read his manuscript, she only got past the first couple of pages before calling him to curse him out. But now she's come to terms with his views. She's started "trying to stay away from wearing frumpy, flannel stuff," even when she's cleaning, for example.
They'll have been dating for two years come November, and she describes their relationship as exclusive. "He's wonderful," says Tuitt, 30. "He's one of the good ones."
Moore says he believes in true love, but hasn't truly experienced it -- otherwise he'd be married by now. (He has an 11-year-old son, Dante, but Moore says he was, until a few years ago, "a testosterone-filled cloud" and unable to focus on much else.)
There's also the fact that he's rather selective. "I like someone of a certain size," he explains. "My preference would be African American, size 10 or under, conscious about her history and culture."
In his book, size matters -- a lot: "The fatter you get, the more you decrease your potential single-man pool. Let me give you an example. When you go to the grocery store to shop, do you pick out the nastiest-looking, most rotten, smelliest fruit or meat you can find? Oh, you don't? Why not? . . . It's the same with men when they see baby elephant-sized, out-of-shape women."
Though generally reluctant to discuss the specifics of his dating life, Moore does talk unabashedly of a time he broke up with a woman over the fact that he inadvertently almost stole $15 from her.
He took her on a date to Maggie Moo's, and she gave him a $20 bill to order for her. He pocketed the bill and, distracted by the menu board, claims he never saw the value of the bill and just assumed it was $5. When his date later asked why he hadn't given her change, he thought she was accusing him of not treating women well, and dumped her on the spot.
"If I would've just paid for it, had she not given me the money at all, we'd probably still be dating," he says.
This incident, he recalls, happened about two months ago. But weren't he and Tuitt "exclusive" during this time? Moore quickly revises it to "several months ago," he can't really remember, but probably before he and Tuitt "became exclusive."
(Tuitt confirms that the incident occurred more than a couple of months ago -- she trusts that he just got the time frame wrong. "He's very open with everything he does," she says.)
* * *
It only took Moore seven months to research and write his book. He shopped it to a few publishing companies before it was picked up by Strebor Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster and a company founded by Zane, a prolific African American erotica author who's built an impressive empire. Zane -- who persistently declines to reveal her real name to the media -- provided his big break. She threw the weight of her name behind Moore by putting "ZANE PRESENTS" on a banner across the cover.
Not that she agrees with his views; she just thinks he really is a typical man, and readers will be able to relate to the situations he writes about. "If he hadn't put his name on the book, I would've thought my ex-fiance wrote it," the Largo-based publisher says. "There are some men who feel exactly like he does. I feel like women should be forewarned and realize what's out there."
Released in mid-July, the book had a press run of 25,000 copies. In Cherry Hill, by the end of the day, Moore had sold a few books, but a large stack remained.
Two women in their 20s stop to hear Moore's version of the truth about the female of the species. He asks how their relationships are going; one of them, Natasha Williams, answers negatively.
"Why do you think that is?" Moore asks.
She thinks a long time before answering, and Moore nods as she talks. Something about how she thought she could change him, but he just wouldn't change. Aha! If she had read "The Re-Education of the Female," she could've benefited from a chapter titled "You Knew He Was a Bum When You Met Him."
A 14-year-old girl notices the display and pulls on her mother's hand; a few minutes later, she is bounding out of the store, clutching a copy of the book. "When you finish reading that, I want to read it next," her mother says to her as they walk away.
Maybe feminism is dead. Or maybe women are just humoring Moore (and men everywhere), reading his book and others for a good laugh.
If we're to believe the author: Women have been throwing themselves at him since the book's release. "Those dudes that think their woman just comes out to get a book signed are probably in for a rude awakening," he confides. "As I'm hugging them they're whispering right in my ear, so I'm loving it."
What do they whisper? "Stuff like, 'Can you write your number down?' or 'Where you gonna be after this?' " he says. "I mean, I would prefer something more sexual, but hey, that'll do."
And so it is that in this messed-up world where relationships between men and women are plagued by misunderstandings, we are all to take lessons from a man who says his best decision as a teenager was to stop treating women well.