A relationship book called Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb has been the topic of much blog discussion in the last few weeks, thanks to its controversial suggestion that women should throw out their list of dealbreakers, settle and marry the best guy they can find. Also on bookshelves? A far more entertaining and hysterical book about, in part, the very guys Gottlieb might implore you to settle for. Comedian Julie Klausner’s I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated is a hysterical series of essays about the “lessons learned from romantic disappointments.” Klausner began chasing boys early — she describes a certain epiphany she had, mid-blow job, as “I remember thinking the moment I felt Nick’s goth penis in my mouth that I. Was. Home.” — eventually accumulating a treasure trove of tragically hilarious dating tales. After the jump, Klausner answers some of our more pertinent questions…The Frisky: A standout part of the book is when you talk about the impact the Kermit/Miss Piggy relationship had on your impressions of male/female relationships — can you explain?
Julie Klausner: Well, Miss Piggy was my idol growing up. And while she was also an icon of super-femininity — all blue eyeshadow and feather boas and rings over gloves and chocolate bon-bons — she’d also cut a bitch and karate-chop you in half if you pissed her off or got in her way. Recently I realized how Piggy’s relationship with Kermit — who was hugely appealing and lovable, obviously, but inarguably meek and more soft-spoken than Piggy — kind of resembled the romantic experiences I’d had in my 20s. I’d seek out skinny guys who seemed more interested in their projects and hanging out with their friends than in anything more serious than hooking up, and they seemed to sort of take it for granted that I would chase and conquer them if I was interested in them romantically. Like, I’d be all “Hi-YA!” if I wanted them, while they’d maybe rather be playing the banjo on a rock.
So, in the book, I talk about how maybe my infatuation with Piggy, as a little girl who didn’t take the satire of The Muppets at anything beyond its face value, ran parallel to a generation of guys who wanted to be like Kermit. And Kermit was awesome, but he was also always more concerned with how his show was going that night, or flirting with the guest star, or taking care of his friends than he was about Piggy. He was terrified of her, even though she was funny and fabulous and had those eyelashes and everything. Anyway, it’s just a theory. I’m not like, “Boycott the Muppets!” I love the Muppets. And my s**tty dating life is not Jim Henson’s fault.
The Frisky: You can recount many, many horrible and hilarious stories of dating some real schlubs — but do you regret them? Did you “learn” something from each of those experiences or are there some that you really wouldn’t mind wiping off your “did it” list?
JK: I don’t regret them, no. I think regret is sort of a useless form of feeling bad. More so than guilt even, in that it’s not an emotion you take into the future; it’s just a way to bemoan things you can’t change. Put that on a bumper sticker, and then buy the one that says “Who Farted?” instead because it’s a better bumper sticker.
The Frisky: I found myself thinking, “Julie Klausner, how do you know so much about my dating life?” Because the stories in your book, while crazy at times, gave way to feelings that are still so incredibly relatable, I think, for many women. Why in God’s name are so many women drawn to, well, losers?
JK: I’m glad you related to it! I don’t mean to disparage men as losers and I don’t think I characterized a majority of the people I wrote about in that way. I also don’t think there’s much purpose to a generation of ladies standing around scratching our heads trying to figure out why we all go out with or sleep with men who aren’t as great as we are, so what’s wrong with us and let’s scrutinize our mental unrest. I think it’s more often than not a matter of the odds being against women more than anything.
The Frisky: Have you received any feedback or concern from the guys you wrote about in the book? As someone who blogs about dating and relationships, dudes have had a serious, uh, problem with me writing about them, even when I completely conceal their identity. How do you grapple with that?
JK: I blogged about this recently, because I kept getting that question, to the point where I became sort of incredulous at how concerned people seemed to be about the subjects of my book, when I’m really the one putting myself on the line. It’s my book, I’m using my real name, and I protected everyone I wrote about by using aliases and changing details. It seems like a double standard when you have male memoirists who write about their sex lives and aren’t asked, “Have you heard from the women you wrote about?” as much. It’s all, “Wow, you really put yourself out there!” Unless you’re writing about your sex addiction, in which case you’re the star of the show because you’re a victim of a disease.
The Frisky: What’s the biggest thing you learned from calling phone sex lines as a 14-year-old?
JK: That nobody says the word “twat” out loud. Except for British people when they’re insulting each other, foppishly.
The Frisky: What’s your opinion on the modern day “Peter Pan”-type of guy — the guy who, at 35 to 40, has no urge to settle down and get married or spread his seed?
JK: I think my book pretty much beats that territory into a meringue, but I certainly think it’s a very real thing that manifests itself generationally now more than it ever did. That said, delaying the urge to settle down isn’t exclusive to men — women are also getting married later in life, in part because of our ambitions to do everything while we can at once. But I think when it comes to men taking their time choosing a partner, it has more to do with the odds being in their favor atop a fundamental fear of compromise. As though if they marry young, they could be missing out on some kind of career advancement or life actualization of “mama told me you better shop around”-ed-ness. Women, meanwhile, have biology and entitlement limitations that ensure that waiting around or single-tasking isn’t an option. I know, it’s funny hearing a Jewish woman from Scarsdale talk about limitations on entitlement. Soon I will speak about how much I hate Nordstrom.
The Frisky: To change or to not change a man — can it be done and should it be done?
JK: I think any person can change under the influence of another, but that person has to want to change. I know that’s not a very sexy answer, but I feel like the question is sort of a better headline for a women’s magazine you get at the drugstore. Those [who] are one-stop shopping for rhetorical questions like “Is your lipstick making you fat?” and “Does your man hate sex things?”
The Frisky: Tell us about the guy you went out with who was arrested for kidnapping.
JK: Yeah, that was a dealbreaker, ladies! It was our first date and he just got everything out of the way all at once about his criminal record and his ex-girlfriend and it was just too much dirty laundry from too much baggage unloaded at once. And all over a mixed metaphor!
The Frisky: What do you think the biggest mistakes you — and perhaps other women — make/made throughout your dating history?
JK: I guess writing people off after judging them too quickly or based on shallow criteria is a mistake-y thing to do. And sometimes I think I could have protected myself more throughout the process so I wasn’t as hurt. But you know what? Maybe I couldn’t have. So never mind!
The Frisky: One of the things I related to the most in the book was when you talked about dating guys you didn’t really even like.
JK: Well, it’s like that phrase that moms love — how “if you want something done, give it to a busy person!” If you want to date people, go on dates. It’s good to put on clean pants and leave the house and be charming, even in the company of someone you’re not bananas and coconuts for. That said, I never compromised … in a relationship. I had s**ty dates, but that’s like going on s**tty interviews, and then turning down the s**tty job. How do you like how many times I used the word “sh**ty” in that sentence? I didn’t even mention my s**tty résumé.
The Frisky: You write a bit about those ’90s dating tomes like The Rules and He’s Just Not That Into You — what do you think is some of the worst advice that’s been given to women that they should totally ignore?
JK: Don’t they tell you in The Rules to avoid eye contact with men? That seems like something you do with aggressive dogs.
The Frisky: How do you think modern technology — social networking sites, Twitter, blogging, online dating, etc. — has impacted dating?
JK: I think it’s easier to reach out to somebody now, without working up the bravery to talk to them if they pick up the phone. And it’s easier to think you know somebody before turning them down, because there’s no face-to-face. Pros and cons!
The Frisky: You discuss feminism a bit in the book, writing that women who “rode on the wings of feminists’ entitlement” ended up being stuck with guys who “don’t quite seem to know what’s expected of them.” How do you think this happened and what the hell do we do about it?
JK: I think the influx of increasingly confident women and feckless men who are terrified of them has a lot to do with the aftermath of feminism and there not being a male equivalent movement with corresponding discourse. And I also think that everybody being confused about what to do when it comes to courting and falling in love and sexing up one another big-time in the sack and what have you comes along with the postmodern shtick of nebulousness. Like, how we don’t know which traditions we keep and which we ditch, what we’re supposed to do, all of it. Or maybe it’s vaccines? It is probably not vaccines! As far as what to do about it, I think it’s a good idea to balance our “take our daughters to work day” stuff with a good dollop of making sure we raise the next generation of boys to become men, and not just guys. In a way, we’re dealing, I think, with a body that has one hugely strong arm (the ladiez) and an arm that’s ignored and sort of scared or confused or pissed-off (dudez). And even though men inherit status and entitlement from past generations, we want to make sure they’re better dudes before we overhaul the whole gender strata, which, by the way, isn’t going to happen outside of a lesbian sci-fi film.
Seriously, pick up a copy of Julie Klausner’s book, I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated — it is piss-your-pants funny. And check out her blog, where you can find out when and where she’ll be performing and/or doing a reading next.