CAD: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor, by Rick Marin. Hyperion, 284 pp.
Valentine’s Day Reminder: Avoid Professional Observers
by Nina Burleigh
Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor, by Rick Marin. Hyperion, 284 pages, $23.95.
Everyone knows that Manhattan is filled with women who can status-check in a nanosecond. A flick-of-the-eyes subway scan tells them if the shoes are Prada or knockoff, how much the purse cost, whether the highlights came from Anna Wintour’s latest salon pet or the storefront Jean Louis David colorist.
Given this daily gauntlet, only the most energetically, determinedly hip woman would choose to start her days pulling on skivvies in front of a man whose job duties include knowing—at 20 paces—whether the cashmere twin set came from TSE or Club Monaco.
Wise women, when it comes to selecting a mate, proceed with caution around all professional observers. Writers, journalists, shrinks and their ilk charm with the intensity of their attention. It’s flattering at first, even sexy if you pass muster. Soon, though, you will be found wanting. Worse, he’s probably taking notes.
A particularly dangerous subspecies of professional observer prowling latter-day New York is the "style" journalist. His job is to write "what’s IN, what’s OUT" lists on New Year’s Eve. GQ, Esquire or Vogue might have hired him to define the new black. He’s paid by Time or Newsweek to spot "national trends"—whatever’s current around his midtown office and downtown Manhattan pad. He’s got an expense account earmarked for the hippest threads, restaurants, hotels.
He knows at a glance exactly how cool you are. Or not.
Does there exist the supermodel with a Ph.D. and a staff of costume and location assistants to keep her au courant enough to withstand that kind of scrutiny? And would she pass inspection? To his great dismay (and certainly to the dismay of Miramax, which optioned the film rights to his book a couple of years before it came out), no supermodels prance in the parade of vixens, neurotics, bimbos, social X-rays and downtown hipsters who dated former New York Times Sunday Styles writer Rick Marin. But there was no shortage of real women willing to fling themselves into his path, and hence into the crosshairs of his memoir, Cad.
Thanks to their hapless efforts to snare him, the pages of Mr. Marin’s book are strewn with the sex toys, bad breath and screwy behavior of dozens of victims from the author’s days as a "toxic bachelor" in Manhattan.
This is a guy’s version of Lucinda Rosenfeld’s novel What She Saw … , a much more literary take on ex-boyfriends. Ms. Rosenfeld contributed a blurb to the back of Mr. Marin’s memoirs; so did Candace Bushnell. No matter who the author is, the technique remains the same: date, take notes, eviscerate.
The names have been changed to protect the intimately exposed—or perhaps to avoid retaliation. Only the women Mr. Marin hasn’t boinked get identified. For example, there’s a chaste scene included, apparently for name-dropping verisimilitude, with Times writer Alex Kuczynski in a black bra working a Weber grill.
Woe to the women identified by first name only: Most of them are real-life members of the New York media community, and Mr. Marin has carnal knowledge of them. Since the narrative isn’t exactly compelling—a bunch of style vignettes loosely held together by a not-terribly-convincing emotional arc—it was the clef factor alone that held my attention to the end of the book. I was scanning for details that might identify pals and acquaintances. Watch for bulk sales in Manhattan and L.A., where women who’ve dated Mr. Marin will be rushing out to snap up every copy before their friends and colleagues have a chance to get their hands on published details of private humiliations.
Despite the book’s title and his modus operandi, Mr. Marin is not a classiccigar-gnawing,Wall Street–swaggering, lap-dance-loving cad (though he does hang out in a topless bar). We know from the start that he’s got a mushy center. His wife has just dumped him for another man—his excuse for a rampage through the ranks of mid-1990’s Manhattan women. He relied greatly on a sensitive-guy persona to get laid. The journalistic habit of asking questions and appearing to be interested in the answers served him well.
But Mr. Marin is too self-conscious to be a genuine cad. Sitting in a bar on a blind date with a woman whose huge breasts are bouncing around inside a William Shakespeare T-shirt, he gets annoyed. "She might as well have been wearing a Mensa baseball cap. I mean, we know Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the English language, don’t we? … Cynthia had been fine on the phone …. Now I saw she was a geek blessed (or cursed) with the body of a centerfold …. I can latch onto almost any common ground or opinion or quirk to justify my lust for a desirable woman. At the same time, the slightest misstep will send me into hypercritical frenzy."
In the happy ending, Mr. Marin finds his Holy Grail, a woman who will never infect him with style-crisis cooties because she happens to be one of the arbiters of cool in our generation. He’s set to marry Ilene Rosenzweig, co-author (with designer Cynthia Rowley) of Swell, an entertaining advice book for slick chicks, and now co-founder of Swellco, which sells cool home furnishings to Target.
Cad and Swell could become essential tomes on bookshelves in certain precincts of Manhattan and Brooklyn—or anywhere women still dream of learning how to walk, talk and act in the hip, fun, culturally savvy yet post-ironic style that might make them ideal mates for guys like Rick Marin.
Nina Burleigh is a writer living in Paris.
This column ran on page 18 in the 2/17/03 edition of The New York Observer
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
hung in the city with Samantha and Carrie, gone hunting and fishing with
Melissa Bank, and found the key to Bridget Jones's diary. Along the way we've
learned a lot about the relentless search for sexual pleasure, or the
perfect mate, or both -- at least from one side in the battle of the sexes.
reading Mr. Marin's escapades, you may have the same question. This is a man who
kisses and tells, who says things like "women have two personalities, the one
they meet you with, and the one you meet later," who carries a French novel he
has no intention of reading so he can impress a 17-year-old, who whips off his
glasses in tragic-intensity style just to make a soulful first impression. Why
Early And Often
Mr. Marin married at 24 out of youthful infatuation and green-card consideration (he is Canadian) and responded to his youthful divorce with vigor. He does it early; he does it often. By a quick count, Mr. Marin has at least 17 dalliances or near-dalliances: These include a part-time stripper, a Tolkien fanatic, a gynecology resident with some, uh, unusual uses for her instruments, his editor's assistant, an astrology-loving biker, a model bunking in an Edinburgh convent, a sexologist, a Finnish restaurateur and a Buffalo native who suffers from the delusion that she is Catherine Deneuve. Of all the questions one could ask about Mr. Marin's aggressively serial monogamy, the most pressing might be: Where does he find the time?
The book is a catalog of these episodes — which Mr. Marin propels with an infectious comic rhythm — and an arch story about his career in entertainment journalism. Recalling his diary entry about his wife's departure, he writes: "E. says 'It's Over.' Leaves D.C. for good, under a cloud. I'd bordered the day in black ink, like a death, then on Friday, wrote: 'Call ABC Re Urkel.' So it was a big week."
The stories rarely work their way to any great crescendo and coda; indeed, the tone of their endings more often resembles the ping of a triangle than the clash of cymbals.... But the aborted climaxes work, playing on the book's themes of restlessness, idealism and thwarted hope. Dating is an endless series of promising beginnings punctuated only occasionally by gratification, and Mr. Marin captures this rhythm perfectly.
As the book moves along, the episodes meander their way toward a true love ending. But it would be a mistake to think of "Cad" as a fairy tale for the irony generation. In fact, the happy ending is almost beside the point. The real pleasures lie with the salvos Mr. Marin fires along the way. For all of its wry appeal, "Cad" is a gender-wars manifesto, a subtle argument that acknowledges mens' role in the unraveling of relationships but points a finger at women, too. It's a crackling stew of theories and emotions, the most pungent of which will elicit either pleasure or revulsion (depending, I suspect, on whether you're a single male).
On a one-night stand who suddenly wants more: "Women blame men for acting fake," Mr. Marin writes, because they think men will say whatever it takes to get a woman in bed. "But women are the ones speeding from zero to intimacy like a Ferrari. Which is more artificial?" On breakups: "Women don't want honesty. You can't tell someone the real reason" for ending a relationship. "So you latch on to some minor thing and they come away thinking you're the damaged one."
Mr. Marin turns the analysis on himself as often as not: "Which is worse: to be with a guy who acts like a bastard or who acts nice then turns out to be a bastard?" Mr. Marin is often the latter -- and he knows it. He tries honesty but usually ends up treating his girlfriends badly, and there are times you think his next stop should not be another woman's bed but a psychiatrist's couch.
Luckily, Mr. Marin's humor and self-deprecation help keep the reader engaged despite episodes of semi-awfulness. And it turns out that his actions aren't always as nihilistic as they seem. His pursuit consists of something wholesome and, almost, well, girlish. He wants to cuddle almost as much as he wants to shag. He meets a beautiful woman and fantasizes about having a lot of... kids. Mr. Marin's trademark move is to bring up his marriage (to show his sensitivity, of course) by saying: "I don't really like to talk about it." This is patently dishonest, since every time we turn around he's doing just that. But you get the sense that it was indeed a wounding divorce and he likes the therapy that repetition brings.
All this adds up to a version of men that varies from the cliché. They can indeed be insensitive creeps. But a lot of them, Mr. Marin implies, contend with their confusion, contradictory feelings and, yes, pain not by indulging in shopping or chocolate -- as Bridget does -- but by transmuting the whole messy experience into another relationship. Men may be cads, but they're cads who occasionally think and feel.
Fear of commitment seems to be Mr. Marin's flaw, a common one among his half of the species. But it is the self-consciousness of his refusal to decide — between being a player and seeking true love, between blaming his girlfriends and blaming himself, between absurdity and sentimentality — that makes his character refreshing and his memoir memorable. After years of dallying with Bridget and her endless search for Mr. Right, one can't help feeling the pleasure of settling down with Mr. Not-So-Wrong."
— Steven Zeitchik, The Wall Street Journal
The Toxic Avenger
Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor by Rick Marin
Marin and I overlapped at NEWSWEEK for only a bit. It’s really too bad. After
reading “Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor,” due out next week, I’m thinking
he would have made a superb mentor. He schooled me last week:
Love your dedication: “For my parents, who caused none of my problems.”
My father always had time for me. I was never molested by the babysitter. I am, by definition, not interesting because I have no advertisable dysfunction. That was the origin of the book. I was sick of whiny memoirs where people blame everyone but themselves. I originally thought of this as an anti-memoir about a normal guy in a crazy world. Then I realized it’s really boring to write about a normal guy. I had to zest it up.
Yeah, combined, my friends and I haven’t had that many dates. And we’re pretty toxic.
I changed names and details. But they’re all based on real experiences I had. If anything, I hold myself up as a typical guy. Believe me, it’s much easier to get girls with each passing year.
You’re employed and you’re heterosexual. That alone puts you in the 99th percentile in New York.
Why do women want cads?
Cads are more fun than the knapsack-carrying guy who spends five hours talking about his breakthrough in therapy. The cad is focused entirely on you, not himself.
Being Canadian help?
It makes you seem marginally intriguing. Women will say things to you like, “Oh, I love Toronto! It’s so clean!”
Do women underestimate how important a guy’s male friends are to him?
They think we’re talking about beer and strippers. And sometimes that is what we’re talking about. But when I needed them, my guy friends rallied.
Ilene, your fiancee, read this?
I had this bulletin board and these index cards with the different chapters and she’d look up and see something like: “Night of Five Stewardesses,” “Blanche.” She’d say, “I didn’t know about that!” Not that there ever was a Night of Five Stewardesses. If only. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to write this. I wanted to show a guy who goes from nowhere to having good things happen. I just wanted to make it seem like, as much as I complain about bachelor hell, there is a lot of fun to be had in one’s single life. Enjoy it. Don’t just lament it all the time.
February 23, 2003, Sunday
BOOK REVIEW DESK
Guys Just Want to Have Fun
By Virginia Heffernan
Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor.
By Rick Marin.
284 pp. New York:
WHERE have all the good cads gone? Though old-school playboys are now popularly reduced to victims of ''intimacy issues'' -- and there is treatment for that -- I was sure I would find a big-time jerk in Rick Marin, whose memoir purports to divulge the machinations of a lady-killer under a title of no less than ''Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor.'' Excited, I steadied myself for the rough rhythms of seduction and betrayal: brides jilted at altars, the wives of friends ravished, doe-eyed teenagers left pregnant and penniless.
And then . . . nothing. Marin, by his own admission, is one of the world's ''congenital law-abiders and reflexive rule-followers,'' with ''an innate aversion to unauthorized situations.'' Not an auspicious heartbreaker, and, indeed, Marin is no cad in ''Cad''; rather, he is a bright New York City man in search of a wife. And, though he carps, ignores women's tears and -- the gall -- fails to return some phone calls, Marin, disappointingly, comes off as a good-enough guy, frustrated only by his own banality. He fairly disgraces the long line of Lotharios and Don Juans and Casanovas who give cads their good bad name.
''I had the horn-rims,'' he ventures, and this much cannot be gainsaid. As his memoir opens, Marin, then 28, is on a date, making a plea for sympathy by alluding to his moribund marriage. Newly separated (a Canadian, he had married partly for a green card), he now savors the seductive possibilities of being a horn-rimmed divorcé. Such possibilities abound. Almost instantly, Chloe, Marin's date, yields to his feeble ministrations (''Another Cognac for the lady''), and the two end up in bed. However, before sunup Marin tires of Chloe's perfume and, on a handy pretext, sends her home.
Thus begins our less-than-rogue's progress, an arc of self-discovery that takes Marin from just separated to almost remarried. Along the way, he gets and blows a deal at MTV; builds a career as a magazine writer and cultural critic (at one time he was a style reporter for The New York Times); spends long hours with his friend Tad at a strip club; and dates a dozen or so kooky, broadly drawn women, many of whom strike him as insane. Chloe, for instance, ''was nuts''; another is ''a Rabbit Boiler''; still another is ''something out of 'The Bell Jar.' '' Marin's curse, it seems, is to date women whom he then considers mentally ill: ''I used to joke that my number was on the wall of the women's room at Bellevue.'' (''Cad'' is stacked with one-liners; ''it's co-me-dy,'' he snaps at one girlfriend.)
Marin retails his minor misdeeds to Tad and other drinking buddies, who cheer him on with you-devil-you huzzahs. They also log miles on something Tad calls the ''Reference Train,'' a form of allusive, observational small talk, much of it about pop culture. Although Marin quotes Byron and apparently once aspired to be a Romanticist (he wrote a master's thesis on Wordsworth), his male characters, with their staccato interjections and their snickering camaraderie, recall the cynics of David Mamet. Wally, an insurance salesman, is described in shorthand as ''pure 'Glengarry Glen Ross.' '' After a date, a friend asks, ''Did you 'close'?'' And, throughout, one Mamet play wields mighty influence: ''Sexual Perversity in Chicago'' (1974). Marin and a pal, the New York Post columnist John Podhoretz (most names are changed; this one is not), seem to banter virtually in tribute:
'' 'So she whips out this, this . . . thing. Then what happened?'
'' 'I looked,' I said.
'' 'No you didn't,' Podhoretz said.
'' 'What else was I gonna do?' . . .
'' 'So what did it look like?' Podhoretz asked.
'' 'What did what look like?'
'' 'It. What you saw when you looked.' ''
Among other things, ''Cad'' is billed as a guidebook for women who find men opaque, and several passages serve to explain the ways of man to woman. These explanations have an urbane authority. ''No man enjoys morning-after brunch,'' we learn, as well as ''Men have two personalities'' (good and bad) and ''Sex is not enough.'' Marin, and most men, long to be like Michael Corleone from ''The Godfather'' -- ''the battered idealist, the ruined romantic.''
IN the context of Marin's pervasive flippancy, this final ego-ideal comes as a surprise. Perhaps to live up to his title, Marin emphasizes his sang-froid, rarely hinting at a capacity for romance, to say nothing of idealism. But a note of ''Godfather''-tinted epic does enter ''Cad'' when Marin interacts with his polished, ''effortlessly dapper'' father, whose many distinctions include his having fought on the republican side in the Spanish Civil War. During the action of the book, Marin's father lives in Canada in exile, an emeritus professor of Spanish at the University of Toronto; Rick uses his father's successes ''to impress dates'' -- and he is unabashedly impressed himself. After all, Marin the Elder knew Federico García Lorca; did time in a French concentration camp; published many academic books; and has been married for 35 years. Marin the Younger, by contrast, has encountered no war, imprisonment or literary stars; has had no long marriage; and is pleased merely to have increased his freelance rate to $1.50 a word. Moreover, Marin notes: ''For him and his generation, history had consequences. For me and mine, there were no consequences.'' This, to Marin, is ''another way I fell short in my compulsive scorekeeping.''
The shallowness of Marin's own experience means he falls short of what, though? Wisdom? Humanity? No, not at all: instead, what Marin laments for the duration of his memoir is his inability to strike a convincing romantic pose. Wordsworth is now in his past, and -- short an appreciation of history, women, art -- Marin sketches in this thin book a genuinely sad existence: one in which he cannot love, cannot fight and cannot get off the Reference Train. He has ''binged on junk culture,'' as he puts it, and that might in fact be romantic ruination, of a kind. But it is not the ruination of a high-flying cad, one whose memoir would scandalize where this one bores. That cad, if he is living right, is not brooding on his shortcomings; he is too busy ruthlessly breaking hearts. Isn't he?
Virginia Heffernan is the television critic for Slate.com.
Published: 02 - 23 - 2003 , Late Edition - Final , Section 7 , Column 1 , Page 15
Misadventures of a 'Cad' lead to an irresistible book
Friday, February 14, 2003
By JOHN MARSHALL
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER BOOK CRITIC
Enough of the gal date books. Guys date, too. Guys fall, guys fail, guys endure horrors on their side of the great sexual divide. Guys, contrary to widespread evil rumor, do not always have it made.
It's just that guys are not as prone to kiss-and-tell. Especially kiss-and-tell between the covers of a book. That doesn't make guys better than gals, just different. As writer Rick Marin makes martini clear in his hilarious new memoir, "Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor" (Hyperion, 284 pages, $23.95).
Marin, now 40, recounts his misadventures a decade ago as a newly single guy trolling through a portion of the Manhattan dating scene that is definitely not the glam territory of "Sex and the City." His locus operandi is the freebie party circuit in which the aspiring free-lancers hover like vultures over the gratis treats while all the while hoping to spot, if they're lucky, a "C" list celeb or two.
Marin is the classic social observer, the brainy fella who was a "closet shut-in" as a kid in Toronto and later developed an austere look that manages to be both stylish in a Rat Pack 1950s way and nerdish in a techie 1990s way. He is someone who admits to "rehearsed spontaneity" in dating encounters, although he also possesses a well-honed "ability to talk superficially about anything." But Marin is also witty and wise-ass and women find him, if not irresistible, then at least not dull as toast.
So there is no shortage of dating fodder for the rising free-lancer who is soon advancing up the writing food chain to national publications, including TV Guide, Rolling Stone, Newsweek and ultimately the style section of The New York Times. His increasing writing ascent past the Vanilla Ice line (subject of one assignment) does not necessarily translate into success in the clinches of date world skirmishes.
It's just that the gals Marin meets, or at least the women he pursues, are from the artsy fringes. He describes them as "the unpredictable, the unstable, the Zeldas. Neck-snappingly beautiful or heartrenderingly wan. Prone to poetry and drama. Instantly seductive, with a genius for X-rated eye contact and outrageous outbursts, shaming public scenes, cryptic disappearances. Wild and (so the fantasy goes) wild in bed."
So this is how the bachelor guy found himself in the company of the gal who worked in "gift muffins." Or the gal who aspired to be "a professional jewelry photographer." Or the gal in the T-shirt emblazed with Shakespeare's mug and the Olde English letters that said, "Will Power." ("She might as well have been wearing a Mensa baseball cap," the writer quips.)
Needless to say, Marin's taste in female companionship often led him down the fast road to dead ends. And many guffaws along the way result from what Marin terms his "Year of Living Idiotically."
But "Cad" does rise above just one-linerdom. Marin may still wrest humor from his mis-starts, mis-middles and mis-ends, but he frequently crosses the line into something perilously close to genuine insight into the whys behind the messes people make in the name of love.
Here are a few Marin nuggets:
· On relationships -- "Relationships are all variations on a school-yard dare: 'I'll show you mine, you show me yours.' "
· On one-sided affairs -- "Professed to be crazy about everything about me, but didn't know anything about me because she never asked. Never showed the slightest curiosity about 'the man of her dreams.' "
· On the percentages -- "Dating is a salesman's game. One in ten is a good month. Most of the time, you feel like Willy Loman."
· On blind dates -- "I tended to rule out blind dates as a desperation move, like a personal ad, or wearing a sign around your neck saying, 'I'm lonely.' "
· On whining and predictions -- "She says . . . 'You're going to break my heart and make me cry.' Women should never say those things. They're self-fulfilling prophesies."
· On Valentine's Day. "A fiendish and brutal crucible under the best of circumstances."
· On marriage. "Men will date all types of women, but they marry only a few: the High School Sweetheart (the jejune joint crush that never matures or gets old); the Trophy/Sexual Obsession (a possession he never truly possesses); the Organizer (or human Palm Pilot); the Audience (she flatters! she ego-boosts!); the Nurturer (three squares a day); and the Collaborator (the intellectual/creative rival and/or equal)."
Marin is opting for the Collaborator. Mr. Toxic Bachelor moved on from his hazardous waste days into the state of holy engagement last summer. Ilene Rosenzweig appears near the end of "Cad" as Marin's editor at Allure magazine and subsequently advanced into Rick dateland and well beyond.
Marin obviously has found his true Collaborator. Not only does Rosenzweig appear in Marin's book, Marin appears in Rosenzweig's second book, "Home Swell Home."
May nuptials in Portofino, Italy, are set to sanctify their collaboration.
P-I book critic John Marshall can be reached at 206-448-8170 or email@example.com.
February 21, 2003
In defense of the cad
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A week has passed since St. Valentine's Day, and some women already may have found out that their date — impeccably dressed, well-versed in wines, a sparkling conversationalist — is a cad. Maybe it was a failure to return phone calls or some other cowardly letdown. Maybe he was forthright about his lack of serious expectations for a lasting relationship.
Either way, the cad's brushoff stings all the same.
Cad: (1) an omnibus conductor; (2) a man who acts with deliberate disregard for another's feeling or rights.
Apologies to the omnibus conductors inadvertently smeared by this definitional coincidence. It's (2) that concerns Rick Marin, whose new book, "Cad," was published last week by Hyperion Books.
Formerly a feature writer for the New York Times and Newsweek, Mr. Marin was a TV critic for The Washington Times from 1987 to 1991.
Part confessional memoir, part roman a clef, "Cad" follows Mr. Marin, a self-described "toxic bachelor," as he disentangles himself from a short-lived marriage and barnstorms his way through Manhattan's singles scene — sort of like a whistle-stop political campaign, except he is not after women's votes.
A compulsive dater, Mr. Marin wines, dines and beds a bevy of women, then offloads them like so many shares of Enron. But being a cad doesn't necessarily mean you still can't be a gentleman: He changed names and locations to protect the not-so-innocent.
Mr. Marin, 40, says he wrote "Cad" as a counterpoint to the feminine, hand-wringing culture of "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "Sex in the City" — as "a view from the other side of the bed."
Valerie Frankel, former articles editor of Mademoiselle magazine, offers a word in defense of such "chick lit."
"Often there's a male character who is perfect and wonderful," she says, pointing out that Bridget Jones had a choice between a cad and a decent man and, as in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," she eventually realizes the difference between the two.
"Bridget Jones's Diary" may not dump unfairly on men, but neither does it explain how they think, as only a male writer could. "Cad" offers a view into a guy's decision-making process — all the sexual circuitry between the male id and neocortex.
Things are more complicated than women generally believe.
The "clean little secret" about men, Mr. Marin says, is that their wants and needs are just as nuanced as those of the fairer sex. "The difference is that we don't talk about what we want all the time," Mr. Marin, who is writing a movie version of "Cad" for Miramax, said in a telephone interview.
The digging, at least in the initial phase of a relationship, should not involve incessant phone-calling. "If the man is interested in her, he'll be happy to get three calls a day," Mr. Marin says. But if he is undecided, "it suggests to him that the woman has no life of her own. That's a turnoff. You want a woman who's got as much going on as you do."
Men naturally avoid conflict, he says. "Our passive-aggressive way of getting rid of women is not returning calls."
Of course, the phone-call blowoff means the man is the bad guy. But what's worse, Mr. Marin asks: not returning a call, or pretending to be interested and hurting a woman's feelings later?
He writes in "Cad": "Women blame men for acting fake. But women are the ones speeding from zero to intimacy like a Ferrari. Which is more artificial?
"I really think men get a bum rap for superficiality. Somehow, men became the villain in all of this."
"Every woman starts off a relationship with high hopes," says Miss Frankel, whose sixth novel, "The Accidental Virgin," is due out early next month from HarperCollins. "She might not want to get married, but she's certainly thinking maybe. Expecting something to fail doesn't mean it doesn't hurt when it does."
But Mr. Marin thinks the hushed truth about women is that they prefer the cad to the nice guy.
A thought experiment for the female reader: Would you be more interested in, as Mr. Marin puts it, the "soulful, knapsack-carrying" guy who spends hours in therapy? Or the "unreflective but fun-loving cad who will take you out for a night on the town"?
In other words: Alan Alda or Hugh Grant?
For those who prefer the sensitive type, Mr. Marin says, it's fairly easy to know beforehand if a guy is a cad. His reputation should precede him.
"The truly successful cad does not alienate his exes," he says. "He has sort of a coterie of admiring females who still enjoy his company."
A girlfriend might warn you gently about a cad, but she wouldn't be stern and forbid you from dating him, said Mr. Marin. That's because cads are not out to break women's hearts, even though they may bruise them temporarily.
"Good luck to the cad who can do that," Miss Frankel says. "The cads in my life just want to keep you on a string between girlfriends."
Mr. Marin says this is all part of the cad's "eternal quest for the woman who's right for him. Once he finds it, hopefully he has the wisdom to latch onto it."
If a cad lets the right woman get away and ignores his "expiration date," he says, he runs the risk of becoming a dirty old man, a past-his-prime player, a wrinkly Lothario — think pre-Annette Warren Beatty, or Bill Clinton or Mick Jagger.
The outdated cad is not something men aspire to be, Mr. Marin says, despite what "lad mags" like Maxim might suggest.
Spin magazine's Dave Itzkoff worked in the belly of the beast — Maxim, that is — for three years and came away disenchanted by what he believes is a cynical myth.
Maxim is "reinforcing this very Neanderthal idea that women are out there, and they want you to grab them by the hair and drag them back to their cave," Mr. Itzkoff says. "Women don't operate that way, and men don't operate that way."
Mr. Itzkoff's own memoir, "Lads: A Memoir of Manhood," is due out next year.
He chalks up the celebration of caddish behavior to the increasing independence of women. Maxim and other lad mags such as Gear appeal to guys' inner cavemen as a sort of defense mechanism, a refuge from sophistication.
"One of the realities of living in a large metropolitan area is that women can be more choosy about their mates," he says. "It has contributed to a crisis of confidence that men are facing."
Luckily for women, men — even one-time cads — can be reformed, said Mr. Marin. The seemingly irredeemable cad has the potential one day to be a responsible dad.
"The right woman can make an honest man of him. If he has sown all of his wild oats, I think he's happy to settle down and let the younger cads take over."
Settling down shouldn't connote a dull marriage, Mr. Marin says.
Take it from the man who wrote the book on cads. Mr. Marin is giving marriage a second chance. He and his fiancee, Ilene — the one name he didn't change for "Cads" — are planning a spring wedding.
"The key is to make monogamy as much fun as being single," he says. "That's the challenge."
So, ladies, if the man in your life is someone new and unproven, don't write him off if you suspect he's a cad. But whatever you do, do not call him more than once tomorrow.
Trading his guy card for happily ever after
Can a self-professed cad change his ways? For the right woman -- then he can write a memoir.
Special to The Times
March 3 2003
Ladies, sheathe your daggers. Rick Marin, the budding Howard Stern of the literary world, is out of the cad business.
He was pretty good at it for a while, judging from his new tell-almost-all memoir, "Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor" (Hyperion), which offers women an entertaining day pass into the scary minds of smarmy single guys. And now he's demonstrating one of his techniques of seduction, which, against all odds, involves his thick-rimmed glasses.
This move is called the Pensive Nibble, which follows the Earnest Swipe. It starts with Marin whipping off his glasses like an amorous librarian and looking soulfully, albeit a bit bug-eyed, into the eyes of his quarry as his lips slowly enclose the tip of an earpiece.
The woman at his side bursts into laughter. "That's what you did to me when we met," she says, and turns to an observer. "Wouldn't you have thought that was a joke?"
Ilene Rosenzweig certainly did the first time Marin tried it on her in real life -- and meant it -- six years ago. And it's no coincidence that the two are getting married in Italy in May. Because when it came to beguiling Marin, Rosenzweig did those girls behind "The Rules" tome one better. She didn't just pretend she wasn't interested.
She really wasn't interested.
Ironically, Rosenzweig thought he was too nice. "I never knew he had any of that side of him until the book," she says. "I never would have believed it in a million years. He always treated me like gold. We were good friends, but I didn't think there was a spark in a romantic way. There was intellectual spark, but it really took me a while to mature in the friendship to realize this was love."
If Marin can't help but give away the happy ending to his tale of male misdeeds, it's because his ending comes with him pretty much everywhere he goes. On a recent week, they're sailing through Los Angeles on a whirlwind his-and-hers product promotion tour. One night there's an author reading à deux at Book Soup, with Rosenzweig reading her own dialogue from the book. Later, they celebrate with friends at an intimate party in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont, where Ileana Douglas sings along while a guitar player serenades a cluster of revelers.
The previous night, Rosenzweig was a guest of honor at a launch party for the new line of hip housewares she and Cynthia Rowley have designed for Target.
Fashionistas streamed through a Hollywood Hills home outfitted in brightly hued dishes, sheets and towels from their Swell line, while Tatiana von Furstenberg's husband, Johnny Fava, entertained the crowd with his cheesy lounge singer act that ended with him stripping down to a wig, gold chains and G-string. As the drizzly evening waned, the house was stripped too. Stragglers hauled garbage bags stuffed with oven mitts down the driveway.
For all their "It" couple festivities, the two former journalists are still peering at their shiny new lives through a looking glass. "I'm a long way from the all-access laminate to the VIP room of fame that I fantasized in my book," Marin tells an interviewer. "I still feel much more like a journalist. I think, 'Why are you asking me questions? Shouldn't it be the other way around?' "
But all this could be just the beginning. Could the happy couple give birth to that Holy Grail of the fashion and media worlds -- an actual trend?
Even as the New Yorkers stump around the U.S. promoting Marin's take on high-stress sex and the city, they're saying that it's hip to be wed, that the single life is so, well, passé.
"Ilene was just reading David Niven's memoir, 'The Moon's a Balloon,' and the guy was with only the most fabulous, glamorous people," Marin says, "and they're all happy couples having a good time together."
"Larry Olivier and Vivien Leigh," Rosenzweig adds. "It was all about glamorous couples and the way they'd socialize then."
"As couples," he says.
"As glamorous couples," she says.
Marin and Rosenzweig are already in training. As Marin, 40, slouches on a couch in the Chateau Marmont's lobby, good-naturedly confessing to sins that are safely in his past, he looks like any ordinary guy with thinning hair and dark, bushy eyebrows. (When he appeared on NBC's "The Other Half" last week, host Danny Bonaduce told him, "Lookin' at you, I don't see it." "I think he didn't buy me as a cad," Marin says later. "I don't have his raw, savage good looks.")
But look beneath the surface -- and read the labels. Those double-duty glasses of Marin's are Armanis, after all. And when it comes to sizing up the ladies, Marin is merciless. In the book, he dutifully records each Belgian loafer and Loro Piana cashmere sweater of the prospects who pass muster. But heaven help the fashion-impaired, such as the date who showed up in a "pilly V-neck sweater, jeans tapered and faded where they shouldn't have been, and heels that didn't really go," he writes. "That she was no fashion plate shouldn't matter, I told myself. I can get past it, not be so superficial. But I didn't really believe that. Vogue was as erotic a publication to me as Playboy."
For Marin, a former writer for the New York Times Sunday Styles section and Newsweek, style is an aphrodisiac. Not surprisingly, his union with Rosenzweig, 37, could have been a match made at Barneys.
A former deputy style editor of the Styles section, Rosenzweig has crossed over to the other side, from chronicling style to creating it with her close friend Rowley. Her wardrobe is brimming with Rowley's lighthearted designs, and today she's wearing Rowley's white pants topped with a sparkly, striped sweater along with Sergio Rossi's oyster eelskin motorcycle boots, bought in Italy. She wears only a bit of makeup, some sparkly stuff on her eyes, and her dark-blond, chin-length hair is tousled around her face.
Marin deconstructs her style on request. "She likes sparkly," he says. "She'd always have something askew, some imperfection. I tended to like the perfect package. Ilene is a little more unconventional, but I like that. Ultimately, Ilene's style reflects her personality, which is more quirky and unpredictable."
And funny, much like Marin's. Because a huge component of their style is wit. Swell's muse could have been the love child of Martha Stewart and Cole Porter. The line includes striped gift bags emblazoned with the reassuring line, "If you don't like it, you can return it." A trio of bathroom towels is alternately embroidered "Good," "Clean," "Fun." The line of 700 exuberant home products sprang from Swell's successful series of insouciant girls' guides to life, love and home co-authored by Rosenzweig and Rowley, which includes such handy dating tips as: "Not every affair ends up at the Elvis Chapel, but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth the trip to Vegas."
With a party book in the works, the Swell empire has also grown to include other media -- Showtime's eclectic series "A Girl's Guide to Swell Movies," hosted by Rosenzweig and Rowley, as well as a sitcom in development at ABC and a how-to-be-Swell daytime reality show.
Rowley, who has watched Rosenzweig's suitors come and go, says she knew right away that Marin was a keeper. "I was Rick's big cheerleader. Intellectually, they're perfectly matched."
So why not a Tracy-Hepburn for the '00s? Here's the concept. Cad boy meets bad girl at a party, only the cad, who's used to calling the shots with women, is totally ignored. Later, the girl, who's also an entertainment editor at Allure, calls him with a "celebrity emergency." She needs a quick profile of Andie MacDowell, which he whips up in a weekend. They celebrate at lunch, where he tries the glasses move. She nearly spits out her wine. "That's great!" she says. "That thing with your glasses. Austin Powers, right?"
That scene may actually come to a theater near you if the "Cad" script Marin is writing for Miramax has its own happy ending. The book ends at the couple's beginning, which came to fruition because of Marin's relentless but skillful pursuit.
"It was really over the top," Rosenzweig says. "It was like a cartoon of a guy chasing a girl and it was so funny and so comfortable, we just laughed about it all the way through. As I said to him in the book, 'I feel like a big tuna and I'm just watching you reeling me in.' "
He's asked to describe what makes her different from the nutty girls he bedded and abandoned between his first marriage and pending second. Rosenzweig's eyebrows shoot up and she looks at him expectantly. "I always find that difficult to do," he says, "because I'm reminded of Ben Hecht, the screenwriter, who said in his autobiography that he can't describe his current wife because he feels that she's the ink that he writes with."
In their relationship, that's virtually the case. In the book, Marin lists the type of women men will marry: the High School Sweetheart, the Trophy/Sexual Obsession, the Organizer, the Nurturer and the Collaborator. Rosenzweig, he says, is a hybrid, a happy blend of nurturer and collaborator. He credits her with giving him the gumption to do the book, and they're batting around ideas for a show based on a couple like them.
"Much of our relationship is about being creative together," Rosenzweig says. "We really believe in each other and it's great to have someone close to you who's so encouraging. That's why we've been crazy busy in the past year, because we've been egging each other on."
So as the reformed cad marched off into the sunset with his cadette, keep an eye out for the sequel -- "Cool Married People," a show with, as Rosenzweig says, "a new attitude about marriage. I think it's important to be able to show in pop culture better pictures of marriage, of commitment, that it can be fun and not dark and cynical and sexless and 'Married With Children.'
"Maybe it's just that we're into every trend we do but we think it's sexy and cool to continue on after you've found somebody you want to be with. It's not just the hunt that's exciting."
Specs and the city
Reviewed by Tim Lott, Evening Standard (23 June 2003)
After reading this book, my first thought was that Toby Young was a much bigger loser than I had previously imagined. Because Cad - a flipsided How to Lose Friends and Alienate People - presents a picture of a young, single, media New York where a divorced, bespectacled man with a limited range of chatup lines has to practically fight women off with a stick (poor Toby was more likely to get hit with one).
Rick Marin, a style and showbiz journalist like TY, is on much the same quest - to get laid by as many glamorous Sex-and-the-City style babes as possible. Following the breakup of his marriage at the age of 28 he hurls himself into serial dating with a manic intensity that makes Samantha Jones look like her one-woman-guy namesake, Bridget.
Simply by removing his spectacles at a key point during dinner, wiggling them seductively, and then talking in heartfelt tones about his recent divorce, he seems to achieve about an 80 per cent strike rate (and make no mistake, strike rate is what this book is about).
In the wrong hands, subject matter like this would make for not only a potentially tedious book, but one that would irritate men and inflame women.
The title - Cad - certainly implies that this is part of the intention. But, in fact, Marin is such a good, observant, funny writer, that he gets away with the outrageous "women I have schtupped" premise. If his charm as a date is as potent as his charm as a writer, then it's no wonder he was a babe magnet.
A "male Sex and the City" is very much the marketing concept behind this book, and that's pretty much what it is - not merely because of the centrality of dating to the narrative, but because of its urbanity and sophistication.
An almost mythic metropolitan scene is conjured. Marin's whole life seems to be parties, gallery openings, lunches, chance sexual encounters and characters out of a latter day Algonquin set.
Like SATC, the dating and glamour is only apparently the point of the exercise. What really makes the thing tick is acute observations about the way people are, and the shape of life in the urban jungle.
This brings another TV series to mind: Seinfeld. As in Seinfeld (and the show's creator, Larry David) Marin riffs brilliantly about everyday stuff.
He has a friend obsessed with loofahs - "Do you premoisten your loofah or enjoy a dry loof?"
He takes a date to a frighteningly expensive restaurant: "I looked at the menu, saw the word penne, and latched on to it." His best (female) friend is writing a book on men entitled You Call This a Gender?
Even with such sharp writing, Cad could have failed in at least two ways - by Marin being even slightly arrogant about his conquests, or slightly self-hating. But he's neither - he just tells it like it sort of is. "Sort of" because the reality is cranked up a little bit (surely this world of cracked perfection and perfect wisecrack doesn't really exist outside of Hepburn/Tracy movies) but there's a big enough core of truth to make the window-dressing convincing.
Marin's women, likewise, are neither demonised nor lionised - though one suspects they are certainly satirised.
The too-young one that insists on calling him "sir", the med student who gets him to deploy gynaecological tools in bed, the pretentious one who spouts about "marvellous bibelots", the sex crazy one who he can't think of a word to speak to, the sharp one who's got his number - "That thing with the glasses - Austin Powers, right?"
Marin's friend, Tad, suggests, without rancour, that women are "chi burglars". Marin asks if this is like Hamburglar, but no - the idea is that women steal your chi, your life force. This seems to be the view that Marin implicitly subscribes to, but, as the book goes on, you sense that this callow world view is wearing out, that the push and pull of desire and disappointment is being replaced by something more mature.
The book is maybe 50 pages too long - like watching one too many episodes of SATC back to back - but the last 10 pages see a surprising change of tone, and shift to something darker and melancholic.
The depth of this conclusion suggests that Marin, who has written a very good, intelligent and funny book, could one day write a great and even serious one.