When both sides are dangerously crazy

Behold the state of journalism at Glenn Greenwald’s alma mater. Charming, no? Unusually for a Salon troll job, it’s a lot worse than is indicated by its title; the editors at Salon usually let it all hang out, just like LBJ did with his own junk. The difference is that Johnson was drunk when he displayed his Johnson. And no, gentlemen, you cannot beat that; you can only match it with a diametrically opposed but equally horrid reactionary attack job

Much headdeskage.

If these two articles are the state of public discourse, we’re in mighty bad shape. The good news is that they aren’t the sum total of all debate on matters of sex for everyone. The bad news is that for a lot of other people they are exactly that. Kyrie eleison down the highway in the night. We be skr00d.

Salon has a long history of leavening its serious journalism with putrid tales of sexual dissolution and lost bowel control, so Tracy Clark-Forry’s pathetic navelgazing attempt to assuage her own doubts about the wisdom of her terrible mating decisions by way of trolling her audience is not exactly unprecedented. It does, however, seem marginally worse than what came before it, and more destructive. She’s playing right into the hands of a proliferating cottage industry of hard-right-wing “red pill” cult leaders and dittoheads who offer pat explanations for everything dysfunctional about relations between the sexes. These guys are demagogues pandering to undersexed shut-ins. They’re ridiculous. So was Adolf Hitler for most of the Weimar Republic. She’s one of the cabaret girls, and they’re a quiescent crew of extremist bruisers. So far quiescent, that is. When extremist nastiness spreads into the mainstream from the margins, it doesn’t always spread in an orderly linear fashion, and it can’t always be neutralized before it reaches critical mass. Ken Cuccinelli came within a percentage point of winning the Virginia governorship on a campaign platform that included a call to restrict divorce (for women mainly) and Mike Huckabee has begun speaking the parlance of “Uncle Sugar” in public, so as a country we’re pretty close to the tipping point. Clark-Forry is playing with fire here.

She’s also playing with suck. Scout’s Honor, I expected better of her as a writer. I used to read her pieces back before I got sick of Salon, and I was rarely dismayed. She wasn’t great, but she was competent enough and her arguments were reasonable enough. This time, she sounds like she tripped getting off the short bus and hit her head on a fire hydrant. Don’t take my word for it:

Young single straight women, take cover! Susan Patton is out there flacking for her book, “Marry Smart: Advice for Finding THE ONE.” She stopped by the “Today” show this morning to tell college-age women to find a husband immediately — and also to learn how to bake bread, get plastic surgery in high school and, you know, not get themselves raped, as women are so often wont to do.

It’s such patently absurd advice and yet this is exactly the sort of cultural messaging that used to freak me out as a 20-something single straight lady. In acts of self-punishment, I would read these self-appointed gurus, or watch them on the “Today” show spouting their B.S., and genuinely worry that they were right — that I would end up sad and alone.

Well, guess what.

I did everything the Susan Pattons of the world said not to do and I ended up marrying a freaking wonderful man — not despite disobeying these retro rules, but because of it. That’s why, amidst all the “Princeton mom” noise, I bring you instructions on how to actually marry smart, according to me. True story, I recently went to the optometrist and she told me, “Your eyes aren’t young anymore,” so I feel like that makes me at least as qualified as Patton to give life advice.

Susan Patton is a foul, smug troll and a hideous social climber, but why, pray tell, must her opposition come from people who argue like that? First post hoc ergo propter hoc, and then qualification by old eyes? Shit, missy.

Work your butt off. First in college, then in the work world. Become the man you want to marry — or rather, the woman the man you want to marry will want to marry.

Stray thought: men aren’t so much put off by women who work hard as they are by women who preen about their own work ethic. There’s a risk that by “men” I actually mean “I”, but still. Another thing: if you have a successful career, it’s vile form to brag about it around people who are struggling with long-term unemployment; adding a you-go-girl gloss at a time when men have worse employment numbers and prospects than women just makes the bragging worse yet. If you’re writing for any general-interest publication, long-term unemployed men are a large part of your audience; for one thing, we have time to read. Tone matters, folks, and Clark-Forry’s tone here is inappropriate.

The microwave is all the lover you need for now. Swing by Walgreens after a long day at the office and pick up a Stouffer’s frozen lasagna. Grab a $9 bottle of white wine while you’re at it. You’ll probably cry into your partially warmed food while watching “Snow Buddies” — those talking pups, so cute! — but one day you will look back at these scenes of early bachelorettehood and smile. This is how you learn to be alone, which you need to do before learning to be together. Sorry, them’s the rules.

For real, woman? It’s Lent, and I had lunch at the Super Buffet in Chula Vista today, but I didn’t eat there on the notion that the west side of Chula Vista is somehow wholesome or that Chinese buffets are places of prudence. And I’m not about to apologize for it, not to myself and probably not even to God. But even less am I going to enthuse about how OMG how could you criticize me like West Palomar Street is the bestest part of the South County EVARR. That would just be stupid. Quite like Tracy Clark-Forry’s writing of late. What the hell is the matter with her that she can’t write something more like, “Look, I ate for shit in my twenties, and maybe I should have eaten better, but it didn’t totally fuck me up, either.” How fucking insecure is she that she can’t cowgirl up over having eaten TV dinners?

You know that drug dealer who keeps money in his freezer and doesn’t know where to put apostrophes? Date him. Same with the guy who literally has “I’m a mistake” tattooed on his arm. They are terrifically wrong for you, but they are truly lovely people who will enrich your life. (If they are not truly lovely people, get the hell out of there. Only poor choices with hearts of gold are worth your mistakes.) It’s only from dating these self-styled bad boys that you will realize the folly of making yourself interesting through men. You get to be the protagonist of your own god-damn novel.

No. Don’t date him. And how does she not realize that it’s a lot easier to get in with guys like these than it is to get out? I know this just from having been a confidant for an ex-girlfriend (of sorts) while she was tangled up with a dark triad asshat who committed disability insurance fraud against their employer in order to take her (and other times just himself) on vacation everywhere from Puerto Rico to Arizona. You won’t be able to just “get the hell out of there.” In theory, yes, but it’s different when the rubber hits the road. There’s too much to lose, the badboy asshat knows it and plays brinksmanship with the relationship, and homegirl freezes up. It happens when you get involved with people of such bad character. It’s grisly. Don’t let it happen to you.

And “truly lovely” “self-styled badboys?” Horseshit, bitch. They are not “self-styled;” they’re the genuine evil article, and they bring trouble into the lives of those close to them. Think about this line of reasoning for a moment: “I dated a semiliterate drug dealer who kept cash in the freezer William Jefferson-style and now I’m happily married; ergo, dating semiliterate drug dealers who do their banking with Maytag is the path to a happy marriage.” What a self-justifying wacko. Every fucking awful decision she has ever made has to be part of a coherent path to stability and happiness. She was a train wreck, and she may well still be one, but the disorder of her own life wouldn’t be such a problem if she weren’t actively counseling others to make the same destructive decisions. That’s the real sin.

Fake so many orgasms. Look, sex in your twenties is going to be horrible. For a long time you won’t even realize that sex can be more. You will take pleasure in giving pleasure. It is all the intimacy that you can take, for now. Despite the faking, these are some of the realest, rawest moments of your young life; two unformed people pressing their naked egos against each other.

It’s not like you’ll have learned all the sex things by the time you get married, either. That’s when the learning can really begin. It won’t be long before you feel like you need an entirely new word for sex.

Start joking about your shriveling ovaries once you turn 26. Collect plants and pretend that they are your offspring. Impulsively adopt a dog — and then immediately return it after realizing that you will be evicted from your rent-controlled apartment. Cry so much about what a horrible person you are and how this is the worst thing you’ve ever done. Self-flagellate about how you can barely take care of yourself, let alone a dog — let alone a child. Compulsively read trend pieces about “kiddults.”

Throw pity-parties with friends. You’re all single, bitter and hardened to the disappointing world of romance. Get together to drink cocktails, watch “The Notebook” and bitch about men who don’t call. You will go to bed at night alone, but this friendship stuff is great! You just won’t appreciate the profound, lifelong importance of it until later. 

Good Lord.

Mr. Good Enough is not good enough. That guy who seems almost perfect but still doesn’t feel right? Trust yourself, dump him and then wallow in sorrow. Call him and leave drunken voicemails about how much you miss him, when the truth is that you’re just afraid to be alone. Constantly remind your friends that you’re a woman who “wanted too much.” When books like “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” come out, snark it up online. Privately, weep. Later, you will feel sure that you dodged a bullet and thank yourself for being brave.

Facebook-marry a friend. You’re both approaching 30, you both feel like you’re going to be alone forever, so announce yourself as married, to each other, on Facebook. Plan to platonically raise kids together if neither of you meets the right person. (Conveniently ignore the fact that she doesn’t even want kids.) Entertain the idea of a male harem. Now you’re just owning this spinster thing. It really doesn’t sound so bad anymore.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, is too juvenile and irresponsible for this woman.

You know that guy friend you weren’t romantically interested in because he was just too nice and available? Suddenly, you’re grown up enough to come to your senses. Marry the fuck out of him.

Perimopause is the new eighteen.

Again, there is something deeply disordered about this woman’s inability to admit to the imperfection of her own judgment at Salon, of all outlets. She spent an extra decade of her life being totally callow and reckless, but it’s not like her entire career is a gravitas contest with Conor Friedersdorf. Clark-Forry’s self-seriousness is overbearing. Something about the lady is totally wiggity-wack.

As designed, her piece was an excellent troll job. Sure enough, it attracted red-pill asshats who compare aging women to spoiled milk and insist that sexual promiscuity leaves women with indelible vaginal trauma such as they would never sustain as a result of, oh, I dunno, childbirth. The comment threads got disgusting in places, but that was by design. Fun and profit at society’s expense; dat is how we roll at Salon. Not bad work if you can get it.

And what are the counterpoints to this self-justifying bullshit? Not so fucking wholesome, I submit. The mainstream opposition is apparently represented by Susan Patton, because what we need is more condescending guidance from another high-hat Ivy Leaguer angling to jack up her book sales. The eccentric opposition includes figures like Roosh, a prissy dandy who dropped out of a career-track STEM job in order to live in his father’s basement and run a blog network devoted to criticizing women for being intellectually inferior, useless at science, deficient dressers (for not wearing high heels), too impulsive around food, and not often enough the kind of bar skank who can also cook up a mean pot of goulash for a stranger she just brought into her bed after a night on the town. I’m not kidding that Roosh gets butthurt about club sluts who wear sensible shoes and ONLY make him a peanut butter sandwich after a good hard round of rumpy-pumpy. Return of Kings can’t be believed until it has been read.There is a sane middle ground between these crazies. As I’ve suggested before, it’s heavy on prostitutes. Hookers who are also single mothers, or, shit, married mothers, are an underappreciated source of other-than-batshit-crazy common sense about things like having a job and also having kids. Women who are just hookers or just single mothers would be a good enough start. Let’s go down to the Sunset Grill, and watch the working girls go by, and actually listen to them for a change. Because too many of our countrymen are listening to the wrong people. 

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