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February 14, 2005

Ada, Or Ardor

My comments about Ada Calhoun's Nerve.com piece on The Men Of McSweeneys will be brief. I'm not going to address her aesthetic concerns with the magazine or its associated writers, some of which I share, though I'm tired of defending myself at having been part of something that was fun and exciting for me at the time. Still, it's rare that one's intellectual disapproval of something comes out as a full-frontal assault on group sexual potency. And that's where Ada Calhoun takes a turn for the cuckoo.

I don't like any of Wes Anderson's films and wouldn't know a Will Oldham song from a Todd Oldham garbage can at Target. The phrase: "Only when you play their game in exactly the right way will you earn love, or whatever passes for love in that sphere" definitely doesn't apply to me. During those years that Calhoun writes about, I would have returned the love of any woman who asked me, which my own Nerve.com column confirms. But this wasn't a personal attack on me, every woman's best pal. I took it more as an attack on my friends.

It's hard to deny that the twee, detached men Calhoun describes in the piece existed. They certainly did, and such men still exist today. They're called Men In Their 20s. The Men Of McSweeneys that I knew had nothing in common with the men she described, other than their relative ages and the shameful fact that they'd gone to college. No, they weren't linebackers, but most people aren't. I'm sure that Ms. Calhoun's new husband is a brute who came from the impoverished working class and has never read a book in his life. That's exactly the kind of man I imagine for her.

Here's the money point: The men who I knew the best at the time, including myself, all ended up married (or soon to be married) to strong, independent women who don't display any of the neuroses that make their sad parade across Calhoun's article. Every one of those guys treat women with respect and honor. They were never a whit like the gang of roving ironic cads that Calhoun describes. They grew up long before she did, and I'm proud to know them.