I, too, believe the theory that all people are ruined by their first love, even if they do end up marrying and toting the title of “high school sweetheart” or “kissed on the playground at six.” While I watched, Cody from Sister Wives talk to his daughter about how kissing leads to attachments that should be kept separate for a future husband, I was scoffing, no less. And then I thought about it and kissing is terrible for the human psyche, at least if you’re playing those “adult” games.
I used to be really good at these when I was young and wild. I think it came from being a good liar as a child, I could work a chess board of dating emotions with the best of them. I was a black widow of dating, per Iggy. It could also be the obscene amount of Brandy and Monica I listened to, but really, we can’t blame them, they were playing a game of their own.
I try not to play those games anymore because I got burned from my own sick game which taught me a valuable lesson about honesty. And now, I’m probably too honest, to the point of the negative connotation of it, “blunt.”
It’s these games that cause us, as American dating millennials, so much trouble. We picture our future marriages to a guy who just smiled at us, we window shop in online dating and swipe left every time he has an out of place freckle, and we madly text almost-love messages and then get bored four weeks later. It’s actually a disgusting way to date, I like to call it the “date and discard.” I find this is the case with a lot of my single friends (now that I’m in that category and I’m restudying my kind). One of my best friends would rather call the dating scene for late twenties-early thirties, “dick pic and discard.” (Thanks, Tinder).
And if we get an emotional response (wait, we still have those nerves) we quickly find a reason to self-sabotage and chalk the whole thing up to another Taylor Swift downfall. Heaven forbid, we set ourselves up for that “marriage” thing that all our other friends who are no longer cool on a Saturday night have. Every single girl knows, she jumps up and down at the engagement of a friend and then goes home to paint her nails alone and thinks “man down.”
This isn’t the Sex & the City. We’ve cloned thousands of Samantha’s and their walking around attached to cell phones and pretending to read books and all dressing like their from Portland. This is actually a long way to set-up the review for Another Bad Man by Miranda July out from Scribner on January 13th. A fitting date for this strange pursuit at a novel.
I should preface this with, I’m obsessed with Miranda July. She’s like the coolest version of Zoey Deschanel, except she’s actually artsy, and she pulls off an Annie wig hairstyle, and she has the eyes of an anime character. She’s got that “dark and mysterious” thing going on that my cousin claims is the only thing a girl needs to hook him. (Another disgusting thing about millennials is that we don’t actually want to know each other, we just want our significant other to look good on paper…and on the face). Jamie Veron had all this right in his article for Thought Catalog.
I say all this, longwindedly, to say that I think this idea of adult dating as sick game play is at the heart of Miranda July’s newest novel. A forty year old woman is searching for her own life through ideas she believes from her past lives. For example, she must date Philip because they were a cave family together, and she looks in the faces of babies to see if they are really her soul-children. I know this all sounds strange right now, but it all ended up being for good by the end. I’ll admit, a little bit into it, when she started going to the therapist for this imaginary globus stuck in her neck, I was a little worried that July was way off base.
A quick summary: Cheryl (the forty year old) takes on a fresh-out-of-teenagehood house guest and they begin an adult game of their own which alters Cheryl’s life forever, and quakes the lives around her own (though she did have few friends).
It’s really a story of love and strength at any age, but it has some strange romances, or blips of romance because that’s the only way us millennials can date. I think Cheryl is a woman stuck in between this idea of a lifetime marriage, and a blip of dating/cougarhood. And it takes the entirety of the novel for her to figure out where her soul fits in this mess called life.
“None of them had been pursued. I had not flown to Japan by myself to see what it was like there. I had not gone to nightclubs and said Tell me everything about yourself to strangers. I had not even gone to the movies by myself. I had been quiet when there was no reason to be quiet and consistent when consistency didn’t matter. For the last twenty years I had lived as if I was taking care of a newborn baby” – Cheryl in The First Bad Man by Miranda July.
I think the quote above establishes my favorite part of this novel because it sets everything that we believe on ice and forces us to realize that life is going to happen, whether we join in, whether we’re playing some game, or whether we actually win. Dating will happen, or it won’t. Saturday nights alone will happen, or they won’t. Therapists will give good advice and then immediately follow it with terrible advice that we always follow, friends do this too. I once told my best friend to stand outside of a grocery store in her pajamas to beg for a boy to talk to her. Not sure what dating cycle I was in at that point in my life, but it obviously was not a good one.
The characters in the novel all work at a self-defense agency making videos that women can use to get exercise, but also use as tools to fight off attackers. They come together when Phil (one of the board members) presents a secret to Cheryl and Cheryl takes on her not-so-teenage houseguest, Clee. Clee causes Cheryl to unwind and live a life that isn’t so plain jane, but she also rocks her world with unanswerable questions and even more unanswerable life situations. These are the three main characters, I would argue, but others pop in with advice, rich characterization, and just overall weirdness. I’m still a little unsure about the weirdness in this novel. It took about halfway for me to invest enough in it to ignore all that.
This is why I’m going to not recommend this to the masses. I think it’s more for a pocket of people that will understand that we all make really strange decisions, (and sometimes those are closet sexual decisions) in order to just get by. If you can’t face that main Google fact, then I’m not sure this is really a book you should pick up. It’s like watching really bad dancing (like doing the 1990s worm with a stomach bulge), and hoping it will get better, but then it doesn’t get better in the way that you think it will, instead it gets better in this odd new way.
I feel like I’m not making sense. This is a really hard book to review in any sort of adequate way because it’s so….its own. It’s original and quirky and a little brilliant. Just don’t blame me, if you feel weird while reading during parts of it. I guess this is basically a dare. I dare you to read this one and try not to be completely weirded out. Let’s get strange!
I am a writer, educator and genuine creative living on the coast of NC. Our house is built on sunshine with my husband BJ, dog named Tucker, and our two very sassy cats: Fromage and Jasper.