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The Reluctant Metrosexual: Dispatches from an Almost Hip Life Paperback – July 27, 2004
From Publishers Weekly
Providing further evidence of the fine line between being a dorky loser and a pop-culture superhero (William Hung, anyone?), this is Hyman's attempt to turn his failures at love, life and employment into a cash cow. What's in it for readers? "Well, very little," admits Hyman, a Manhattan writer and occasional stand-up comedian, but it "beats a kick in the teeth, or being shipped off to fight in Iraq." A metrosexual, Hyman reminds us, is a straight guy in touch with his feminine side, one who appreciates "expensive home furnishings, good grooming, and heirloom tomatoes." Actually, Hyman comes off as an everyman probing the outer edges of modern, mainstream, urban existence, and his essays recount his exploits with startling, often hilarious results. He recalls his appointment with Hans, a gay masseur whose hands get a little too close "to the unauthorized no-man's–land," and an aborted attempt at a ménage à trois that ends up having "all the erotic panache of a Three Stooges episode." Another chapter tells of Hyman's night on the town wearing leather pants, which prompts the astute observation, "sometimes the idea of something is better than the thing itself." Hyman's stories have funny setups, and his conversational, easy-to-read prose carries a weird poignancy.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
It's an urban jungle out there--especially for an arrow-straight male in touch with his feminine side. From flat-front trousers to oatmeal facial scrubs to fine interior design, this wry debut gathers the chromosomal contemplations of a "metrosexual"--a modern-day "X"-man who can't help but wonder "Y." Law-school dropout, former Vanity Fair staffer, and confirmed heterosexual Hyman covets the tony Manhattan lifestyle--the classy girlfriend, the well-appointed co-op apartment, the career that gains him entree into the exclusive Upper West Side. Instead, his world is a veritable dim sum of bewildering social encounters--dates who vomit, a luscious threesome that goes limp, and a handsome massage therapist with a curious "release" technique. All the while, men and women gaze at the author's slight build and natty dress and conclude that he's gay. (A writing assignment requiring him to wear a leather ensemble worthy of the Village People does little to dissuade.) A master of self-deprecation in the spirit of Joe Queenan and P. J. O'Rourke, Hyman takes on contemporary culture with a scalpel and a smirk. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
The essays cover various aspects of the author's city life. The lack of insight and humor would be ok if his life was interesting on its own but it is not. It is a life shared by or familiar to most urban Americans. Hyman's book is like an unsuccessful version of the "recognition humor" practiced by Jerry Seinfeld. (You can imagine Hyman in a club saying "How about that internet dating," getting a few chuckles, and then silence as the follow up observations fall flat).
It is possible that the book could prove of some anthropological interest to some rural or outer suburban readers who are not familiar with city dwellers and for that one star.
The book is a series of essays written about the dating and sexual life of a mid-30s New York writer. Peter Hyman is one of the breed of self-conscious, morality-impaired, culture referencing urbanites who populate shows like "Seinfeld." Except with less wit and barely more insight.
Hyman reflects on his Detroit childhood, his stint at law school, hsi first pair of leather pants, his few years as a fact-checker at Vanity Fair, and his many unfulfilled and realized sexual liaisons. The book achieves its maximum depth when Hyman ruminates on the great, lost love of his life -- a woman who seemed devoted to Hyman, but evidently failed to see enough that was worthy of her continued involvement with him. Hyman was unemployed and searching for himself at the time. But at his (and her) age, with dreams of parenthood dancing in their heads, there is no time to wait for someone who is commitment-neutral, or appears so. Hyman's tale of this tragic "amour manqué" is not deep, not especially revelatory, but had enough pathos to keep me listening.
I often found my attention wandering as I listened to this book. There was not enough detail, cultural insight or fascinating self-revelation to keep me riveted. Then too, Hyman's sloppiness and the boring state of his life were enough to make one long to look away. Sloppy? He compared the pain of a male bikini wax (weird enough in itself) to the rigors faced by "the first Apollo astronauts." At first, I thought this was a gruesome reference to the fiery deaths of three astronauts training aboard Apollo 1. But then I realized that Hyman meant to reference the rigors undergone by the "Right Stuff" astronauts of the *Mercury* program in the early 60s. If you're going to make your living making cute cultural references, at least get them right. Boring? Consider that a halfway socially-engaged human being would have no interest in pursuing anonymous 3-way sex just for the ability to write about it later. Nor spend time on internet dating sites. And let's not forget the aforementioned bikini wax.
There is little about supposed metrosexuals in the book. Hyman portrays himself as a hetero aesthete, but there is little in his life (aside from a few snotty opinions about Italian dress shirts, wine preferences and cocktail-party literary references) to justify this self-identification. Hyman's reading style is a distraction as well. He doesn't seem to grasp the complexities of the sentences he has himself written. His voice does not convey his parenthetical asides in a way that the listener can understand.
Yet, I completed the book, which is (perhaps) to damn it with faint praise. Though I would not recommend "The Reluctant Metrosexual" to any of my book-reading friends, neither would I discourage anyone from reading it. There is a certain fascination in encountering the banality of the life Hyman has chosen, or rather (since he seems to live without purpose) found himself living. His unhappy life -- devoutly wishing parenthood while living in perpetual hedonistic adolescence -- is in some ways a warning.
That being said, I wish Hyman the best in moving on to a new level of maturity that seems to have eluded him thus far. It might make his next book (and there will be a next book) more interesting.
The Reluctant Metrosexual contains more than a few amusing and insightful passages. Some of Hyman's recollections shed light on the contemporary internet dating scene (home to many "serial daters" as Hyman tells it, to use yet another catch phrase of the new millennium). His account of being a lowly (at least as he describes it) fact checker for a magazine if nothing else exposes the social insecurity concerning hierarchy at such status conscious places of employment. Behind his humor, Hyman has a fairly cynical and dour worldview. He constructs a thick wall of blase worldliness around all of his perceptions, but it seems more like a pose than his true nature, which he reveals to be quite sensitive. Unlike someone like Candace Bushnell (author of Sex In The City), Hyman doesn't seem quite at home in the world of urban sophistication but still feels the need to act the part.
I might have liked the book better as a more unified work rather than a group of only loosely linked stories. Some of the chapters, isolated as they are, are a little weak in material. Hyman's life is not especially exciting or unusual. This is not a criticism, as it describes the vast majority of people, but to devote a whole essay to shopping for a shirt in Italy or describing a few items burglarized from your apartment can tax the reader's patience. There is one theme that runs throughout the book, and that is the effect that a recently ended love affair has had on him. He devotes one chapter describing this in poignant detail and often refers to it in other chapters. Whether you empathize with Hyman's nostalgic romanticism or impatiently wish he would just move on will depend on your own nature (I fluctuated in this regard). Peter Hyman is an intelligent writer and he has some funny and valuable insights, and the book has a breezy, engaging style. I'd recommend it to anyone fascinated with contemporary city life.