Dateless-Man vs. “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”

If there’s one movie within recent memory which seems to be heralded as encapsulating the plight of older male virgins, it’s this Judd Apatow movie from 2005. Not only was it Apatow’s directorial debut, it was also the first film that Steve Carrell starred in after joining “The Office” and co-starring in the first “Anchorman”. Ever since its debut, it’s the term used to describe older guys who are virgins. Younger men bring it up as something to avoid. Within the community of older male virgins online, it seems to represent the closest the mainstream comes to capturing or dramatizing their fate. At least that’s the impression of it that I always got.

Up until this weekend, I’d never seen the film. I was still in college when it debuted, and likely in denial about my own status. I was still in my early 20’s, I thought I’d crack that nut (pun intended) sooner or later. I may have just not been interested, period. But, fate and a late night run at my local Rite Aid brought me into contact with an extended edition of the DVD for about $7. Now I was older and fully aware of my own identity as an older male virgin, and finally curious enough about this movie to see it and judge it for myself. Going into the film, I was wondering if it would upset me unexpectedly as some movies occasionally can (such as the first “Back to the Future“). Having finally watched it, I will say that while I enjoyed it overall, it was quite an experience and I certainly had some issues with it.

In a way this post may be a bridge between this blog and the sorts of things I write elsewhere online. I have written many a movie review for some message board postings, and I do comic book related reviews for a website online (I found a new site after the closing of my old one a few weeks back). This will be the first review type post I do here, and it isn’t something I plan to make a habit in the future. However, I thought my thoughts on this would be an appropriate topic for the blog, as well as add something a little different from my usual flashbacks or whining.

In recapping the plot, I find it amazing how many comedic actors had cameos in this movie who would go on to star in their own flicks and/or TV shows later on. Carrell stars as “Andy”, a 40 year old stock manager who works at “SmartTech”, which is a knock off of chain electronics stores like Best Buy or RadioShack. He’s a socially awkward man who collects action figures and avidly plays video games, and is wound tight and barely sleeps. When word gets out that he’s a virgin, his collection of rowdy co-workers share their own views of sex and women with him in the aims of “getting him laid”. Andy goes on a series of misadventures until he runs a fellow middle aged person in Trish (Catherine Keener) who runs an eBay retail store who forms a genuine connection to him. Trish initially forbids sex until the 20th date for her own sake, and Andy spends the time getting closer to her and two of her kids (including a 16 year old played by Kat Dennings). There is a happy Hollywood ending, but it certainly comes after no end of raunchy skits and “edgy” humor.

Two of Andy’s co-workers are played by Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd, and while their characters have names, it’s more fun to just refer to them by the names of the masked vigilantes they’d play later on: Green Hornet and Ant-Man (respectively). Romany Malco’s “Jay” is arguably the most “cool” one of the lot, even if he does play into quite a few stereotypes about black guys. Jane Lynch also plays Andy’s oversexed and weird supervisor. Other notable comedians who had cameos here are Mindy Kaling as Ant-Man’s ex Amy, Kevin Hart as a ghetto stereotype customer, Jonah Hill as an eBay customer, and Elizabeth Banks and Leslie Mann playing two crazy women that Andy has misadventures with before things get settled with Trish.

Besides the cameos, it was weird seeing this because in many ways, it really is a movie which could only be made in 2005. “Survivor” is name dropped plenty of times as a new thing, and eBay is still this new and mysterious thing that some people need outlet stores for. But the biggest sign was a notable bit where Andy explains to Trish that VHS is “a dying format” and DVD was the future as he tries to sell her a DVD/VHS combo machine at SmartTech. The fact that Ant-Man still had VHS tapes (albeit of his porn collection) helps cement this as a movie which could only take place 11 years ago. It feels weird that it’s been that long ago, as if suddenly the presence of video tapes means this is a period piece now. For the record, while most of the American anime distribution companies abandoned VHS as a format in 2003, most major studios waited until roughly 2007-2008 to abandon the home video format completely after a reign of overĀ 25 years.

There are some skits and segments which I did find a little outdated or disturbing. There are a lot of borderline racist segments involving two Middle Eastern characters played by Gerry Bednob and Shelley Malil which get old fast. There is fairly liberal use of the “N” word for a mainstream movie of the 21st century. Leslie Mann’s major scene involves a skit where surviving a ride with a dangerously drunken driver who gets into several accidents is seen as something which is supposed to be funny and not scary. Overall I was reminded of a DVD commentary that Mel Brooks did once where he said that too many recent comedies were just individual skits bridged together at a minimum by a plot, and don’t always work from within it, and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” certainly does qualify as that. It’s not as bad in that regard as some recent comedies (such as the “Scary Movie” line of films) but there was plenty which could have been cut and not effected the plot in any way. An extended bit includes Green Hornet and Ant-Man rattling off “How I know you’re gay” disses, which nowadays would seem very homophobic (much as the plot of “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” plays as pretty transphobic now). Naturally the main draw was Carrell’s portrayal of Andy and trying to make guys like him seem human while still having some fun with them (since it is a comedy).

I didn’t relate to every aspect of the movie (nor did I intend to), but some segments hit close to home or did draw on my fears. In the first act, Andy accidentally reveals his virginity when he’s pressured into going to a poker game with his coworkers by Green Hornet, Ant-Man and Jay and he’s trying to fit in with their stories revolving women and sexual conquests. I have long known the pressure of such things, which may be part of why I became more solitary. Most of my major friends know my secret and there’s an unspoken agreement to never bring it up or urge me for any details about my own love life. And even this is only about 6-7 people if I only count those who live in the same city as me. But I certainly have coworkers and they certainly do talk about similar things on occasion (especially since most are younger than me). As embarrassing as it is for such a secret to be blown (because Andy could not accurately describe what breasts felt like, because he never touched one), I must say a scene where Andy flees the store mid-shift because the guys had told EVERYONE there was pretty much something I’ve feared. It’s hardly my worst fear or the worst thing that I could imagine realistically happening to me, but it’s in the top 10. That’s one of many reasons why I am vague about a lot in this blog. Andy’s explanation of of his virginity as, “It just never happened,” was also pretty good I felt, even if his circumstances were different. Unlike me or a lot of older virgins, technically Andy did have some opportunities (and had at least kissed someone once); just for comedic effect all of the girls he encountered in his youth were scary (i.e. a girl with large braces talking about blowing him). One bit where Andy’s pals trick him into going to a speed dating event I could relate to, since I’d gone to approximately four of them over the last six years. Even the reasons were similar – the belief that one could cram years worth of missed opportunity into a couple of hours.

While there is a lot of fun made of Andy’s plight (i.e. his inability to put on a condom, his refusal to even masturbate), the film is also fairly brutal of mocking his jerky co-workers who are supposedly experts in the field of women and showcasing that their “experience” hasn’t exactly made them any happier or wiser despite how they may act. Jay has a steady girlfriend who he mercilessly cheats on, until she catches him in the act and he discovers she’s pregnant; Jay then breaks down into a sobbing mess about being insecure despite his bravado. On the surface Ant-Man seems like he’s the closest to understanding Andy since he talks a lot about feelings, love, and connections, until more is revealed about him. He’s been broken up about a girl he dated for four months for two years, to the point of obsessive stalking or bad mouthing her once he talks about her for longer than few seconds. Ant-Man also has a giant box of porn which he “donates” to Andy. I found chunks of Ant-Man’s focus disturbing if only because he was closer to the mark of how many guys seem to be; obsessive, focused on porn, and with endless axes to grind over their ex’s, even if they only dated them for four months. Green Hornet arguably comes off as the wisest, even if he’s essentially a pot-headed wanna be writer, and his advice is less about swagger (like Jay) or feelings (like Ant-Man) and more about “talking to women” without really talking to them. Andy trying Green Hornet’s “answer every question with a question” advice works exactly once. Arguably the best thing Andy’s pals do is set up the opportunity to talk to Trish. Because he already bikes and exercises, Andy didn’t have to go through the “everything will work out so long as you LIFT, BRAH” wing of advice that many older virgins get.

To a degree the hardest thing to relate to about Andy for me was that he actually did get plenty of opportunities; he just either botched them or they were with comedic-effect freaky women. That’s always been one of my pet peeves with Hollywood; in TV and films, women will just TALK to the lead shy hero, and in real life that doesn’t happen regardless of the setting. The few times it did for me, it was the “She Likes You Game” and I was being teased.

It is worth a mention that in the flick itself, most of the negative opinions of Andy’s virginity come from either himself or other men. Most of the women who find him dorky or weird don’t detect that it’s from his virginity. At one point Andy reveals his virginity to a health clinic that he takes Trish’s daughter to and that revelation has no effect on her opinion of him (she finds it weirder that he knows magic). Jane Lynch’s character offers to become Andy’s “friend with benefits” after it’s revealed. And Trish ultimately accepts it because it beats the alternative theory of why she thought Andy was weird (thinking he was a pervert or serial killer). I’ve heard a lot of similar sentiment from people online and off, that it supposedly isn’t as big a deal as I make it. I contend that anyone who said that never had to deal with it. Even the movie claims it’s no big deal because it’s less bad than the alternative (thinking someone is a serial killer). I did at least appreciate that the movie chose to make Andy’s “ideal mate” someone who was actually a little older than him.

So, my conclusion? The movie did go through a lot of experiences that I did or feared doing. Some of the “advice” that it offers the hero is spot on (especially the “you need to practice on drunken women you don’t care about before risking sex with someone you do like” line). Yet I am aware that it is Hollywood and a comedy to boot, so I don’t take it like the gospel truth or a documentary. Besides, Andy isn’t even the oldest virgin in comedic pop culture; Principal Seymour Skinner from “The Simpsons” was still a virgin at 44. Although much like Andy, that didn’t last long when he met someone oversexed who liked him.

I can relate to the giant lead weight that my virginity feels like. I would like to just get it over with, move on, and be closer to a normal man and not a circus freak. There is genuinely no way to positively reveal it to someone without seeming like a vulnerable loser, and I could relate to Andy’s angst about that. I didn’t care for the fairly blunt metaphor with the toys and video games, i.e. that his hobbies were just a sign of immaturity that Andy should sell and be rid of when he “grows up” and “becomes a man”. But, it’s just a movie from 2000-frigging-5, so what’re you going to do. It was good to finally see what all the fuss was about. It would be nice to finally lose my virginity, but I have other things to worry about. Sadly, every year that goes on I become closer to living up to this title, and unlike in the world of Hollywood and mass media consumption, nobody finds such a story endearing or charming. They just see a guy who can’t get any.

 

Temporary Woes or Curse from Fate?

I try not to be a paranoid or superstitious person. I am an atheist (although not the kind who spends his life trying to “disprove God exists” or so forth) who went to a Catholic elementary school and whose mother is an ex-Christian turned Buddhist (seriously). Yet I occasionally have moments of spirituality or superstition; usually in the sense that I am uniquely cursed. I’m sure as someone who has mentioned being cynical and pessimistic at least once, that’s a surprise. Yet sometimes I wonder if it is more than just my own defense mechanism or psychological neurosis.

It seems that whenever I seem to be attempting to make inroads in terms of my dating life (or lack thereof), something seems to happen in my life which takes far more priority. As a teenager, I imagine my style was cribbed from the fact that my grandma’s declining health and faculties she essentially lived in our apartment roughly 90% of the time (as well as mother becoming disabled and unable to work by the end of the 1990’s). In college, entire years worth of time were taken up helping mom in her efforts to supervise the armada of home care attendants for Grams in her own apartment and seeing to her care. By the time I graduated college and got my first decent full time job, I was literally spending one to two weekend days a week helping with Grams’ care with mom miles away. Then six years ago Grams died and then came the rush to settle her affairs and apartment and have mother move back home (since by that point she had essentially been living with Grams for over two years). Then came unemployment and the frantic search for work while resources dwindled. Then came a steady but low paying job for years with fluctuating salary.

But this summer, if not since the start of the year, I felt a sense of change in the air. I wasn’t making much but I had gotten used to it. With me fighting a losing battle against time in terms of being an inexperienced virgin (by the time one’s more than a year past 30, they’ve entered what I call “Monk, Circus Freak, or Serial Killer Territory” in terms of social opinion), I’ve felt a special urge to “crap or get off the pot” in terms of dating for months. Yet there was always a hesitancy due to nerves, budget, and a fear that once again some family or financial crisis would arise and make such worries as fretting about being lonely and untouched feel like passing quibbles.

Well, true to form, it happened again. At the end of June the company I work for did a major overhaul of their business model in which my position became obsolete. While not fired, it meant I would have to adjust to a new role with a salary which is lower in the short term and more unpredictable in the longer term. For the last fortnight things have worked out okay, but only because I had a week’s notice to start saving for some bills. I have no idea what August or the fall will look like, and whether I can keep things up in terms of production. Even when I am doing well, there is more stress and pressure to perform than there had been for the last couple of years. This has caused my efforts to find a new and better job to increase substantially (to the point that I am taking two tests for federal/state jobs this month) and for me to have less justification for spending money which I may not be able to count on for anything beyond budgeted items. My biggest “luxury” are comic books and that averages $20 a week (or occasional DVD splurges). Even cheap dates in the city cost enough to take a chunk out of my piddly budget, which is obviously the problem with being broke and why that’s understandably seen as a flaw for men in dating. Unless you’re awesomely handsome or talented in the arts (music or painting especially), a guy who’s broke is seen as a loser. On the plus side, my schedule has become more “normal”.

In addition, the website which I’ve been writing comic book related articles for since 2009 in a freelance capacity shut down. While the money I got for it was always minor, it was a blow to my ego as I liked being considered a professional writer in some capacity as well as being a professional in the business involved with my hobby even in a small fringe capacity did something for me which I can’t describe. It certainly made me more interesting seeming. Losing it was an added blow to my ego at a time where I was worrying more about finances and job stability for the first time in years. I am trying to land a spot on another website in addition to exploring my day job options, and am even considering starting my own blog just to get back in the article writing habit again. But it is something else to deal with right now which has made hopping on OkCupid and trolling for dates a waste of precious time.

So now any plans for dating go on the back burner. Again. And soon the summer will be fall and then winter and that limits options for dates anyway in terms of daylight and cost (as most cheap dates are outdoor dates). Again. And before you know it, it will be 2017 and I will be older. And so the cycle repeats, ad infinitum. Yet what alternative do I have? Try to go on dates and admit right off how broke I am? Blow through finite resources (including a savings account which is in low triple digits) to go on some dates? Burn through time I should be spending looking for better gigs or emotional fortitude I will need for that job hunt in messaging a gazillion women hoping for the one who will talk to me, and then the one out of those who agrees to a date, only to have it end with in all probability in a “meh”?

This is one major reason why losing out on romantic experience when one is in high school or college is time which can never ever be made up. During those times there is usually less stress over finances and job pressure if only due to ignorance or youth or both. Being a grown up means more grown up concerns and priorities. Paying the bills and making sure there is food on the table and clothes being washed and so on takes priority over trivial things like making up for lost time, or even happiness. It’s the curse of capitalism, perhaps.

If it was truly meant to be, if I was truly meant to find some love out there, why would things in my life seem to grow harder and harder and more stressful every time I even considered taking more active steps towards it? I know this is close to “woe is me whining” territory, but this has been a common pattern in my life, and it has always stunk. Every time I ask the universe for a sign, it gives me one; that sign is always one that makes me miserable, is all. But at least miserable is better than dead, or homeless, or so on.

Another lost summer, another lost year. Another lost ember of hope. And officially my second year running what I call “my lonely man blog”. And so I remain…the Dateless-Man. But at least I am not currently the Jobless Man.