In Praise of 56-Year-Old Men

So I wrote this satire for Salon Thursday afternoon, but Slate published an essay with the same conceit just before I finished mine. They’re not the same, but Salon can’t run it now, so I’ve published it here.

Two-time National Magazine Award-winning writer Tom Junod has written an ode to 42-year-old women in Esquire Magazine’s August issue. Titled, “In Praise of 42-Year-Old Women,” he believes that in today’s modern, feminist era, 42-year-olds are not the old hags they once were; in fact, some of them are even able to retain their beauty(!) — like Sofia Vergara and Cameron Diaz:

[sultry image of Sofia Vergara, who turned 42 on July 10]

"In our occasional ranking of the ages, we found that this year’s most alluring is not what you’d expect. It’s not 27 (honored in 1999) or 39 (2008) or 86 (1937 and 1983). No, this year it’s 42. Because it’s not what it used to be."

-Tom Junod, 56, Esquire Magazine

* * *

Let’s face it: There used to be something inexplicably special about even the most ordinary fifty-six-year-old man. Though he had less than half his life ahead of him, he was at the height of his power, as the master of his house; the breadwinner— backed by the support of his wife, with a growing sexual appetite for a mistress. If he remained faithful, he was either suffering from sexual dysfunction, or he was emasculated. And if he lost his power… well, then God help him.

Archie Bunker passed fifty-six. And so if you want to see how our conception of fifty-six-year-old men has changed over the last three decades, simply imagine “All in the Family” remade today, with Drew Carey in the part made famous by Caroll O’Connor. Or Tim Kaine. Or Andy Reid. Or Rick Santorum. Or any of the fifty-six-year-old men now leading our biggest corporations. The result might be imperfect, as some of these men would be acting, while some would not. But it would either be about the same as the original, in terms of its satirical intent, or made even sharper, with sexism as subversion or subversion as sexism. In the right hands, it would be funny; but even in the wrong hands it couldn’t get away with what Middle America thought they got away with: unironic admiration of a fifty-six-year-old bigot who shouted slurs. It is hard to feel sorry for a middle-aged man with power and influence when he is told he can no longer condescend to women.

There are many reasons for the apotheosis of fifty-six-year-old men, and some of them have little to do with fifty-six-year-old men themselves. In a society in which the patriarchy keeps advancing, they continue to make up a major proportion of our world leaders. And yet fifty-six-year-old men are making more room for women. A few generations ago, a man turning fifty-six would act on all his prurient interests; now it seems there is no one in our society who has more to hold back. Conservatives still attack feminism with the absurd notion that women use it to withhold sex; in truth, it is feminism that has revealed the fifty-six-year-old woman is just as interested in sex.

Steve Buscemi. Ray Romano. Rick James. Matt Lauer. It is no accident that every man mentioned here has comic as well as carnal appeal, and entices with the promise of lust with laughs. Every generation of American men has entered its fifties frank about sex, but no generation of American men has been as attuned to—or understanding of—the fact that women are just as sexual. Men have had so much going their way for such a long time that their superiority to their female counterparts had become part of the grain of American life, especially in movies and on television; indeed, it may have been said that the best thing that fifty-six-year-old American men had going for them was fifty-six-hundred-year-old tradition.

Of course, they have to work to understand their advantage; they have armored themselves with Rosie the Riveter posters and copies of “What Do Women Want?” even as they joke about the spectacle. Still, what has made them figures of fantasy is not that they have redefined the ideals of male strength but rather their own vulnerabilities. Go to a party: There is simply no one with a more generous wallet than a fifty-six-year-old man in a sharp suit. For all his toughness, and humor, and smarts, you know exactly what he makes, without the advantage of knowing who he is. “You’re a women’s libber, aren’t you?” Archie probably asked Edith Bunker a long time ago. The question, back then, was all that mattered. Now we wait for the answer.

Photo credits: (Steve Buscemi) AP/Richard Drew; (Andy Reid) AP/Charlie Riedel; (Rick Santorum) AP/Rogelio V. Solis; (Matt Lauer) Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

A Hot Ass Poem

This 2001 poem by Jennifer Knox is in the”Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present" but I did not discover it until just today, when my friend Andrew shared it with me. It is now my favorite poem…obviously:

SNL acknowledges diversity criticism

ICYMI, in its 39th season opener, SNL , which just hired 6 new cast members — all white — registered some of the criticism (from myself and, I assume, others) over its lack of racial diversity in a game show segment called “New cast member or Arcade Fire member?”

The legendary Lorne Michaels himself came on the game show and tried to guess which “random white dude” was the new cast member, but failed miserably by guessing, “Is it the black one?” pointing to host and veteran cast member Kenan Thompson. I still can’t decide if that moment was sad or funny or anything aside from jarring, but it is definitely self-something (aware? deprecating?).

Jay Pharoah also commented on the lack of a black female cast member in an interview with the Grio:

If Jay Pharoah had his way, there would’ve been a black female cast member on Saturday Night Live yesterday.

Actually, he’s got someone on stand by for whenever the producers give him a word.

“They need to pay attention,” Pharoah tells theGrio. “Her name is Darmirra Brunson…Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she’s black first of all, and she’s really talented. She’s amazing. She needs to be on SNL. I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year.”

But Pharoah wouldn’t comment on the diversity issue per se, offering only this:

Asked if being black effected his placements, Pharoah jokes it off.

“I can’t say that exactly,” he responds. “Finding my niche and confidence and all that stuff, and being able to be on cue and things like that, that was a little bit of a problem in the beginning. But those are things I’ve worked on and strengthened, as far as a performer. As far as being a black person on the show, there’s not a lot of us, you know? So actually, when you’re on here, it’s kind of cool. What can you say? We’re in a very coveted position.”

I trolled James Franco and he trolled me back. Touche.

The rape joke is that you asked why he did it. The rape joke is he said he didn’t know, like what else would a rape joke say? The rape joke said YOU were the one who was drunk, and the rape joke said you remembered it wrong, which made you laugh out loud for one long split-open second. The wine coolers weren’t Bartles & Jaymes, but it would be funnier for the rape joke if they were. It was some pussy flavor, like Passionate Mango or Destroyed Strawberry, which you drank down without question and trustingly in the heart of Cincinnati Ohio.

Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question.

Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends—haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way.

The rape joke cries out for the right to be told.

The rape joke is that this is just how it happened.

Good Day LA messes up my Rolling Stone cover parody story and I love them for it


This is the fabulous image that Good Day LA, a local family-run comedy hour that sometimes reports the news, used for its segment on Rolling Stone parody covers (minus the red circle).

It is also the title image used for my recent article in Salon.

Good Day LA did a segment about the parody covers, but had a little trouble finding what comprised the entire content of my post. Actual dialogue: “….wish we had the graphics for that.” (awkward pause) “Guess we don’t.” (awkward pause) “Yeah. Okay.” God I love local news.

(h/t Christian Lynch)

Stay awesome, Nails Y’all

So this is a first: Today I received a Thank You card—(a physical card!)—for a post I wrote on a badass nail salon in Austin, Texas that was doing Wendy Davis-inspired nail art. Being a lot more accustomed to getting racist emails and inspiring blog posts about my (surprising) worthlessness as a human being, this kind of floored me. Best of all, it’s so great to see that even 100 words and some media attention can make a difference! I will be sure to visit Nails Y’all if I ever make it down to Austin. Stay awesome, guys.

#PaulaDeenTVShows goes viral

Perhaps against my better judgment, I started #PaulaDeenTVShows just at the fever pitch of  the Paula Deen— glib racist, ex-Food Network chef, and future reality TV star that she is— phenomenon. I wrote this post on Salon and got the ball rolling with a few ideas:

Within an hour, the hashtag went viral and was the the #1 trend on Twitter in the U.S:


Much fun was had:

#PaulaDeenTVShows “NBC WHITEly News”

— Todd Barry (@toddbarry)
June 22, 2013

Tyler Perry’s House of Payne #PaulaDeenTVShows

June 22, 2013

How I Bought Your Mother (Because Her Haunches Looked Strong For Field Work) #pauladeentvshows

— Adam McKay (@GhostPanther)
June 22, 2013

I’m literally LAUGHING OUT LOUD at the #pauladeenTVshows feed…

— Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ)
June 22, 2013
So basically, I now cover the Paula Deen beat 24/7.
Elijah Wood on the books he’d love to see adapted to film

I recently interviewed Elijah Wood for his upcoming movie, “Maniac,” out in select theaters Friday. He’s a big reader and, of course, starred in “Lord of the Rings,” one of the great modern literary epics of our time. I asked him what other books he’d love to see adapted for the big screen (and act in). Here’s a brief excerpt of our convo: 

One of the reasons “Lord of the Rings” was so iconic was because it was a literary epic. You’re a big reader: Is there another literary character that you’d love to play?

There’s a book called “House of Leaves” by a guy called Mark Danielewski. It was his first novel and from an initial observation, it’s almost seemingly unfilmable: Three narratives and filled with footnotes and additional writings as you’re reading. I mean, it’s an extremely complex novel. It doesn’t really lay itself out in any kind of linear way that would lend itself to a film. I think I’m fascinated by the idea of that movie, or that book being adapted on some level, maybe even in a nontraditional way, but I’ve found the experience of reading the book incredibly engaging and almost cinematic and a bit like a journey, so that’s something that’s always fascinated me.

There’s a book called “Girlfriend in a Coma” that I’ve always loved, by Douglas Coupland, that I think would lend itself to an excellent film. I know that they’ve actually tried to make that into a television series recently, funnily enough. I don’t know quite how it lends itself to a TV series but it’s a book I’ve always loved.

And then there’s a book called “Flicker,” and the reason it was initially brought to my attention was because I think Darren Aronofsky was attached to direct it at some stage and I believe there is a script floating around, but it’s an amazing story about cinema and hidden messages and cults. It’s really amazing. Also a very difficult book to adapt. It’s broad, but amazing. So there are things like that. I don’t know that there’s a “Narnia,” or “Lord of the Rings,” or some sort of trilogy that I grew up reading that I would love to see adapted. I mean “A Wrinkle in Time” is due for an adaptation, I think. That would be fucking awesome.

Yeah, that book was a favorite of mine as a kid.

It was a favorite of mine, too. The thing about “A Wrinkle in Time” that would be great now is it’s very dark and very grounded. Cause it’s a dark fucking book and I think to go, for lack of a better description, the “Lord of the Rings” route, which is root everything in reality and not make it as bright and colorful, I think would be awesome. “A Wrinkle in Time” is awesome.

Also, “The Giver.”

“The Giver!” Fuck, man, you know they’ve been trying to make that for years. Jeff Bridges, for the longest time, has had the rights to “The Giver.” That is a film, especially if you don’t hold back on its darkness, that could be so incredible. It’s a great dystopian story, but there’s also something really hopeful. Yeah, that’s a great book.

Read the full interview with Elijah Wood here.

That time I was mentioned on Fox’s The Five

At 3:16, you will see the best contribution to journalism I have made thus far and probably will ever make in my career. I could die happy now that Dana Perino has said my name on cable television while the indomitable “Fox Five” stuff their faces with twinkies.