Bastard on the Couch: 27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings about Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Freedom

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The husband of The Bitch in the House responds with a collection of original essays in which male writers describe what men desire, need, love, and loathe in their relationships and in the world today.

Cathi Hanauer's bestselling The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth about Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage spurred a national conversation about the level of friction in contemporary marriages and relationships. Now her husband, Daniel Jones, has rallied the ...

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The husband of The Bitch in the House responds with a collection of original essays in which male writers describe what men desire, need, love, and loathe in their relationships and in the world today.

Cathi Hanauer's bestselling The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth about Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage spurred a national conversation about the level of friction in contemporary marriages and relationships. Now her husband, Daniel Jones, has rallied the men for the "literary equivalent of The Full Monty," in which twenty–seven thoughtful, passionate and often hilarious men, lay it bare when it comes to their wives and girlfriends, their hopes, and fears.

Enough with pop psychiatrists telling us why men lie, cheat, and want nothing more than to laze around the house in front of the TV. Enough with women wondering aloud–at increasing volume–why the men in their lives behave the way they do. The time has come for men to speak for themselves.

Many of the husbands and fathers in these pages contemplate aspects of their personal lives they've never before revealed in print–they kick open the door on their marriages and sex lives, their fathering and domestic conflicts, their most intimate relationships and situations. Yet unlike the average meat–and–potatoes father who still rules the roost, these men are grappling with new ideas of manhood –– some they are going after and grabbing, and others that are being thrust upon them by a changing world.

Powerful, heartfelt and irreverent, The Bastard on the Couch is a bold, unprecedented glimpse into the dark corners and glaring truths of modern relationships that is guaranteed to amuse, entertain, enrich, and provoke.

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Editorial Reviews

London Free Press
“I loved the book. . . . the essays are powerful, passionate, poignant, and funny.”
London Free Press
“I loved the book. . . . the essays are powerful, passionate, poignant, and funny.”
Publishers Weekly
Last year's much-ballyhooed The Bitch in the House, edited by Hanauer, collated essays by women on their frustration and rage. Now Jones (Hanauer's husband and a novelist and journalist) offers the male version, wherein guys discuss how they feel about their standing in today's shifting cultural landscape (that is, if they care at all). As Jones notes, "The fact that women are in charge of their own birth control and reproduction may be a gigantic cultural shift, but I've yet to hear a single man complain about it." Divided into sections on "Hunting and Gathering," "Can't Be Trusted With Simple Tasks," "Bicycles for Fish" and "All I Need," the essays vary from somewhat revelatory to unsurprising, but they are almost uniformly entertaining and well written. There are several pieces in the vein of Christopher Russell's droll snippet about being bossed around by his Type A wife. Despite her "officious way," deep down, Russell knows her fussiness is often necessary. Some are more visceral, like Robert Skates's display of his jaded humor about the pain of divorce ("Punching doors seems to help. Throwing phones through windows ain't bad either"), or Jarhead author Anthony Swofford's wry tale of beating up a guy at a bar who was molesting Swofford's passed-out girlfriend. While precious few entries stray from the rested maunderings of educated professionals-there's no real scoop on what guys on the assembly line think-the book still manages to open a window into a place many women are pretty convinced doesn't exist: the male psyche. Agent, Amanda Urban. (June 1) Forecast: While men may not buy this book, women may pick it up in hopes of learning what goes on inside their husbands' heads. Essays from the book will be excerpted in GQ, Elle, Glamour, Real Simple, Redbook, Parenting and the Washington Post Magazine. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060565350
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/31/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,465,390
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones has edited the Modern Love column in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times since its inception in October 2004. His books include two essay anthologies, Modern Love and The Bastard on the Couch, and a novel, After Lucy, which was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award. His writing has appeared in several publications, including the New York Times, Elle, Parade, Real Simple, and Redbook. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wife, writer Cathi Hanauer, and their two children.

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First Chapter

The Bastard on the Couch
27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings About Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Freedom

Chapter One

Confessions of a Boy Toy

Panio Gianopoulos

I've always loved older women. Though she looked a little like a canary, for years Benjamin Hunt's mother was the most desirable woman I knew. Animated and attentive, with an amused trill to her high-pitched voice, she was endlessly fighting off Ben's attempts to draw a mustache on her face. It was as if he hoped, with one cartoonish black curl, to disguise just how extraordinary she was. But there was no disguising it. None of my other friends' mothers were tiny and blond and thin-waisted; none of my bland elementary school teachers preened prettily in the mirror of their Saab convertible before zipping out of the garage; and certainly no girl in my sixth-grade class ever did anything as oddly beguiling as cooing "Blame It on the Bossa Nova" -- and even dancing a few of the steps, until her husband got annoyed -- in the parking lot of Super Scoops, the local ice cream shop.

Glorious Mrs. Hunt was soon followed by elegant Ms. Eleanor, the thirty-something dental technician at the orthodontist's office. You never forget your first crush, but you ought to take a picture of your second, because all I can recall about Ms. Eleanor is that when she gave me my complimentary toothbrush at the end of the appointment, sometimes our hands would touch, and rather than immediately releasing, we would both let the contact linger. It was a moment that, even at fourteen, I could recognize as illicit: the light joining of our thumbs on the studded plastic handle. Why she bothered with such a flirtation still astonishes me; I had some precocious charm -- the insecure child's manic overcompensation -- but I also had pimples, a bowl cut, and the reedy muscle tone of a chipmunk.

The hopeless crushes continued even after a respectable growth spurt: the girls' varsity field hockey coach; friends of my big sister, whose math homework I unsexily volunteered to complete; the saleswoman in the vacuum-repair store; Morgan Fairchild; Ms. Morraine, a bow-lipped French teacher who accidentally sat on my hand after hopping onto my desk to teach us the conditional tense. (I kept my hand so still that there was barely a pulse in the crisscrossing veins; if she had sat there for the entire class, I would've ended up being amputated at the wrist.) While other sixteen-year-olds were cruising the high school freshmen, my friend Aaron and I concealed ourselves in the Haymarket Café in Northampton, trying to pick up Smith College girls. They were dismissive of us at first -- we smiled too often, and our pronunciation of Sartre rhymed with "harder" -- but one evening boredom and perversity convinced a pair of roommates to invite us to their apartment. Aaron slept with one of the girls, while I learned an important truth that night: discount tequila has no respect for the human body.

In all this time, I hadn't entirely dismissed girls my own age; at school I was surrounded by them, cute and flouncy, their ponytails trailing out the backs of their white baseball caps; but just as I was beginning to attain some minor success with a girl in my sophomore English class, I slept over at a friend's house and lost my virginity to his older sister's twenty-year-old best friend. After that flash of erotic insight, there was no going back to the timidity of youth. That arduous struggle for sexual purchase -- I put my hand here, and you move it away; kiss for thirty minutes; I put my hand back, and you leave it for thirty seconds ... then you move it away again -- it was such a tedious dance that at times I considered just forgetting the whole thing. Why did I have to talk a girl into letting me remove her bra, when Helen, the twenty-year-old, had pulled off my boxers with one foot while twining against me? I didn't want to have to persuade or coerce girls. I didn't want to verbally champion sex. I was sixteen years old; there were enough hormones in my bloodstream to kill an adult rhinoceros. I just wanted to get laid.

A few years later, when I moved to New York City, that sense of impatience and frustration was gone. College had bled some of it out of me; like it did for many people, the four years satisfied a lot of deferred adolescent longings. Falling in love and then messily falling out of love had also gone a long way to exacting a little emotional development. All of that strange and deadly seriousness of young ardor, the juvenile earnestness, the heartfelt silliness ... it had thoroughly worn me out. So once the heartache had subsided, and I was ready to begin dating again, I found that, given the choice, I now preferred the company of older women.

Luckily, I was living in a city with perhaps the most beautiful and sophisticated women in the world. And as I started to meet some of them, I discovered what seemed to be a charming, relatively new phenomenon: as much as I and my friends were attracted to older women, they were also attracted to us. It was a little hard to believe. We were broke, we had annoying roommates and incriminating video-game consoles, we needed better haircuts, better jobs, better facial hair -- and just out of mercy someone should have carried our wardrobes into a field and burned them. But the older, richer, more worldly women we were dating weren't complaining. Complaining? They enjoyed the eroticism of slumming it. In the morning, they'd step over the passed-out friend of a friend on the couch and tactfully ignore the copy of The Onion in the bathroom.

Of course, "older" is a relative term. When you're twenty-two, who isn't older? The women I was meeting were in their late twenties or early thirties, hardly Harold and Maude territory ...

The Bastard on the Couch
27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings About Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Freedom
. Copyright © by Daniel Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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