In this episode, comedian Alonzo Bodden joins Peter McGraw to talk to Craig Wynne, the author of a new book called The Happy Bachelor. They discuss how the book is different than other books in the single living space, what the term masculinity means to them, and present some tips for being a happy bachelor.
Listen to Episode #47 here:
The Happy Bachelor
In this episode, Alonzo Bodden returns and we talked to Craig Wynne, the author of a book called How to be a Happy Bachelor. We discussed how the book is different than other books in a single living space, what the term masculinity means to us, and present some tips for being a happy bachelor, including why dating is optional. Please keep telling people about the show. That’s why the Solo community is growing. I appreciate your encouragement. It makes the hard work producing the show worth it. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Our guest is Craig Wynne. Craig is a professor of English at the University of the District of Columbia. He researches and writes about societal perceptions of singlehood. He joins us to talk about his new book, How to be a Happy Bachelor. Welcome, Craig.
Thanks for having me. I am glad to be here.
We’re joined by a return guest, Alonzo Bodden, the winner of season three of NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Alonzo was a touring comedian and a regular on NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! You met him on episode 24 Married to Comedy. Welcome back, Alonzo.
Alonzo was a touring comedian. He is now a psyllium specialist, unfortunately, but thank you.
There will be a time where people read this and you’ll be back on the road regularly. You said something in episode 24 where you said, “You don’t pay me to perform. You pay me to travel.”
I get paid to travel. I tell the jokes for free. In my normal business, that’s how it feels. Also, that’s harder work. I don’t know how much you guys travel on, but dealing with airlines, especially now, that’s the work?
The real work is traveling with a family and the three of us as happy bachelors, we don’t have to do that, which brings me to you, Craig. How do you become a happy bachelor? Once you’ve answered that, Alonzo, are you a happy bachelor?
There’s a long story behind that, but I’ll try to give you the abridged version. I spent a lot of my twenties just in and out of relationships in various dating situations and I was in a long-term relationship for three years. After that, I found that it wasn’t the best fit for where I was going in my life. It was back to dating. After one situation, that came to an end. I was feeling down about being single as a 36-year-old guy. I happened to be on Google and I was googling being single as an adult. I found Bella DePaulo’s work. I know that she was one of your first guests.
I found a bunch of her internet articles and her book Singled Out and I ordered that. This happened during the summer and that entire summer, I went down a rabbit hole of reading about singlehood and a number of Bella’s books or articles. It inspired me to start a blog, The Happy Bachelor, where I wrote about my own experiences, observations, or reactions to things I’ve read about singlehood. I found through the act of writing about singlehood, I was able to come to terms with being a happy singleton. I’ve been doing this for years and the way the book came to fruition, How to be a Happy Bachelor is at my old university.
I was in a meeting with my department chairperson and a representative from a publishing company came to our office wanting to talk to us about designing a customized textbook for our first-year writing courses, English 101 and English 102. I was teaching a themed course where students were writing essays, the assignments that you do in first-year writing courses, but they were themed around marriage and singlehood and they were reading DePaulo’s book. I was talking to them about those courses I was teaching. I mentioned to them that I had been tapping out with a book for single men because a lot of the literature out there, most of the books about how to be happy single that doesn’t revolve around dating are geared towards women. I had yet to find any that were geared toward men. I thought, “Why don’t I try to fill the gap?” I talked to this representative about the idea and he looked at me and he said, “I think I want to publish that.” This is the serendipity right there.
We’re going to get back to that idea about what the books in the genre look like. Alonzo made a face when you said, “I came to terms with my singleness.” I think that’s such an interesting way to phrase it because, at its core, it highlights the tension that exists being a bachelor is that it is non-normative and unconventional. That it’s something that you’re not meant to do unless you come to terms with this “I’m different” idea. Is that where the face came from, Alonzo?
The face came from the word singleton because I’ve never heard that word. That word was funny to me. My experience is different in the sense that I’ve never felt any pressure to marry. One friend of mine, who we’ve been friends since high school and he married his high school sweetheart. They had been married for many years. There was a time when his wife kept trying to fix me up. He was like, “Leave him alone.” I never received pressure from my family. People who know me, know me as single. As Peter knows, I’m married to comedy. Comedy is taking up my time and creativity. I truly love it. She’s a demanding mistress.
I started doing stand-up when I was 30. You were talking about being in your 30s. In my early to mid-30s, I was working for $50 a night as a new comic. I’m not thinking about getting married or starting a family because I didn’t want that pressure to cause me to have to get a job. I was pursuing this dream. I’m lucky that I never had this. Also, I may be programmed this way because I’ve talked to therapists about it. She was a good one who was identifying things. She gave me this one personality test and it came up I am totally an introvert. Another thing is a relationship test and it was like, “Your relationship style is avoidance.” It’s almost like I’m programmed to go solo.
Look for Alonzo’s book coming out in 2021, Married to Comedy.
I wish I could take credit for that. That is a Lewis Black line that I heard that I identified with instantly. He is a guy you should talk to, Peter. Lewis has never been married.
That would be great. Do you think he would do it?
I’m looking for people more famous than you and Neal Brennan to get on the show. Craig, let’s talk about terminology. Alonzo said he had not heard this term singleton before. You used the word bachelor. Give us a little bit of a rundown on the language, the descriptors of people like us.
I’m not 100% sure where the term singleton came from. I can’t remember if it was mentioned in Singled Out. Bella, if you are reading this, you can probably give me some better insight on it. I’m part of a Facebook group that you’re part of it too, Peter, the Community of Single People Facebook group or CoSP for short. The term singleton is we’re essentially a group of people who are single and it’s a variety of us. We have a lot of different topics come up in conversation where we talk about how happy we are as single people. Some people want to vent about being set up or receiving some microaggression around singlehood. We also talk about policies having to do with businesses and jobs and things like that. Those kinds of things that essentially favor married people that give a marriage that privilege.
We talk about those varieties of topics and I think the term singleton comes up a lot in that group. We describe ourselves as a singleton. Essentially, that’s a person who is happy being single. That’s the best definition I can discern from it. There are also a couple of other terms that we use. From hearing the two of you talk, you might fall into the category of what Bella would call single at heart. That means you live your best life while you’re single. It took me a long time to realize that that’s how I’m wired and I had spent a lot of time. When I was a teenager, I fell into dating and romantic comedies and things like that. I became conditioned to the idea that you have to couple up or partner up in order to be a full human. I bought into that belief for a long time and that led me into relationships that I didn’t belong in for quite a long time. It took me meeting DePaulo’s work and becoming acquainted with the CoSPers to do a little bit of self-reflection to look inward to realize that I am happy as a singleton.
I’m also an introvert myself. I work in a job where I’m working with people all day long, students, other faculty administrators, and I love the work that I do. I love working with them, but at the end of the day, I like to come home to my own space, where there’s nobody around and I can enjoy my alone time. That switch is hard to do if you live a more conventional lifestyle coming home to a spouse and children and some people thrive in that type of situation. Some people do better in that type of situation, but I’ve come to learn about myself that that’s how I’m wired and I’m okay with that. I’ve had to learn some self-acceptance.
I don’t want to come home to a place that has any extra pillows. I always think, “This is the perfect number of pillows for this. No extras I have to put on the floor before I go to sleep.”
What I wanted to ask you about, Craig, do you find that you have to justify being happy? Does it come up often that people are like, “Are you really happy?” That’s not my experience.
It used to and this was long before I discovered singlehood or happy singlehood. I’m trying to think back to situations. I’ve had people try to set me up in the past based on the fact that I’m single and this other person is single like, “The two of you should get together.” Looking back on that now, I might ask, “What else do we have in common besides the fact that we’re both single? Why do you feel that we would make such a good match?” When I was more in my 20s and early 30s, I used to get little microaggressions from family members and colleagues. Nothing too harmful, but little things like, “You’re not married, but did you even have a dog?” I didn’t quite know how to respond to them at the time, but I’ve become more aware of who I am. I have found that those kinds of things don’t happen so much to me anymore. Maybe because I projected a different aura or there’s also the fact that that’s become my trademark.
You’ve written a book, How to be a Happy Bachelor. People are like, “He’s probably not a good candidate for my friend Susie.” Alonzo, you play in a different world as a comedian. I also think there is something that you get to a certain age as a man and the questions stopped coming. They’re like, “He’s just not into that.” As a result, you get released from it all. I think the ladies have it hard when it comes to this issue. It’s why there are many solo books related written by women and related to women. Before I get to that, let’s talk about the term bachelor because you didn’t say the happy male singleton as the topic of your book. You said the happy bachelor. I like the term bachelor. Alonzo knows this because we’ve discussed it, but let’s talk about the origins of that term. Why do you choose to embrace it and to co-opt it?
It comes from ancient times where a bachelor was meant to refer to a man who had not achieved a knighthood or had married. It was a knight in training, squire, or a young man in training. I didn’t even know the origin of it until I was researching for the book. I knew of the term bachelor as the term for a single person. I had proposed to my publisher to change the title of the book to How To Be a Happy Single Dude. I thought that it might be a little more contemporary, but my publisher suggested to keep the title because the sound to act happy bachelor. I was convinced so I said, “Let’s go with it.”
It is interesting that the term goes back to the 1300s. The first writing about it is in The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. He uses the term bachelor. He gets credit for that as far as I can tell. It has that slightly negative connotation like you haven’t quite arrived. It’s this liminal time in your life as you’re achieving before you couple. There’s a little bit of that idea that remains now that you’re not quite complete.
I see it more like what Craig was talking about, that it’s considered an old-time. Now it’s single. People don’t use bachelor other than on game shows. That’s where you hear it. Everyone knows what it is. I don’t know if you guys have ever encountered this, but the gay component of it. In other words, are you undercover gay with that term? I don’t think it’s taken on that meaning, but I wonder about that when you talk about the negative connotations of it because it is unusual. It’s not the norm. There are people who try to figure it out, “What do you mean by bachelor?”
In the ‘50s, there was a term, “He’s a confirmed bachelor.” It was code for, “He’s gay. He will never marry.” Nowadays, it doesn’t have that going on as much, but it is a better term than what the ladies have because the ladies don’t have any good term. The equivalent of bachelor for women is a spinster. Ironically, spinster was a positive term back in the day, but it becomes negative. If a woman was a spinster, it meant that she was good with a loom that she could create clothing and because it was a valuable skill, she could make enough money to live on her own as a woman, without a man or her family. In many ways, when you look back on that, a spinster is a compliment. “She’s an independent woman. She makes her own money. She brings home the bacon and fries it up in a pan.” Nowadays, I don’t think any woman who is called a spinster would necessarily welcome it.
Even if a woman worked at a loom, she wouldn’t want you to call her spinster.
Craig, you teach a class that you said is focused on marriage and singlehood.
Those courses are freshmen composition. Students write essays, they learn about rhetorical strategies on how to structure an essay, how to structure an argument, but the theme is marriage and singlehood as part of their work. They have to write about those topics, marriage and singlehood. The first assignment was a reflection, at the age of 30, would you rather be single or married? They have to justify their answer to that question with details and examples. This is at the beginning of the semester. Students have the opportunity to get creative, think in the sense of the future. “What would my life look like if I were single versus if I were married?” I find that the majority do choose the married option, but there are quite a few students who would rather be single because they want their freedom. They want to focus on their career. I even had one student who mentioned that he never had romantic feelings for anybody, which I thought was interesting. The student did quite well on the essay. He argued well, but it stood out to me.
I had a previous episode on asexuality. About 1% of the population, as far as we can tell is asexual. They have no interest in intimacy in that way. There’s this notion of aromantic. These are people who we don’t hear much from them, but it’s a real phenomenon, whether it be you’re at a stage in life where that happens. I know of people who go through divorces and they never have sex again. They never have a partner again. They don’t seem interested in it. There are some people who their entire life, they don’t feel that attraction although, they may have bonds with people, close friendships, important relationships, and so on. It sounds like that student recognizes that about him or herself and figuring. It’s interesting because you did this internet search. There’s an equivalent of that for asexuality. That work is also new. It started in the ‘80s and ‘90s where I started to pick up.
I did some research into asexuality and aromanticism as well. My own thought is that there were a lot more people now who identify as asexual than when I was growing up in the ‘90s. Back then, it wasn’t even part of the register. I think people from our generations, a lot of them got married, had children when they were aromantic or asexual it is because it was not expected.
Also gay. This is how much pressure there was to marry is that gay men and women got married and had children. That talks about not walking the path that was right for you.
That was also because it was a much better cover story. If you go back to the ‘60s, ‘50s and earlier, there was no gay. That category didn’t exist. The best cover story was to get married and live out of your life in the closet. That’s what they did. Craig, I want to ask you something because you talk to young people like your students. I see them in social situations, coming up to comedy clubs, and going out. It’s interesting to me that you said they want to get married because I don’t see them dating traditionally as much as I see them in groups. I even joke about it that this generation of guys is smarter because ten of you go out and everyone pays their own bill. They hook up with the girl at the end of the night where we were dumb enough to have to take her out and pay for her food. I was like, “You guys are geniuses.” I find it interesting that they still say they want to get married because I don’t see them socializing in a traditional way.
I find that interesting as well. I think 40, 50 years ago, it probably would’ve been every student saying they want to get married by the age of 30, but because there are many options these days and more people are opting not to marry, to stay single or to get into alternative types of relationships. I use the term alternative as alternatives to marriage. They’re becoming exposed to it. They’re realizing more that, “There are some other paths I can take here and that’s fine.” I didn’t do an official study on this, but what I did find is that those students who opted for single tend to come from more urban areas or more progressive types of areas.
At the school where I finished teaching, before I started at UDC, a lot of those students come from conservative households, from affluent families where they’re used to seeing the nuclear family model. A lot of them assumed that’s where they’re going to go and have to go. To be fair, if I were eighteen years old and I received an assignment like that, I probably would have written for the married option as well because I grew up in a suburban New York, surrounded by nuclear families. That was the path that I assumed I was going to take because I thought that was what was expected of me back then.
I want to make three comments. The first one is it’s great that you’re able to teach this class that has a balanced perspective on marriage and singlehood. You’re doing your students a huge favor that they get to consider it as a choice rather than as destined. They’re having to come to terms that they’re not going to reach their destiny. The other one is at eighteen, I don’t want to say you don’t know shit, but it helps to have fallen in love, to have had the heartbreak, and to struggle with relationships to see that it’s not like the rom-coms or fairytales that you have almost no experience with that intensity and duration of a relationship to figure out whether it’s right or wrong for you. Asking someone to do that at 30 or 35, there’s a reason why someone who might identify as a lifelong bachelor, a confirmed bachelor not coated. They don’t come to that realization typically at 22.
I’m amazed by those students who have that same realization at that age. I was not as self-aware as some of those students.
I would say I was ambivalent at that stage. I wanted to fall in love. I wanted a girlfriend. I wanted to experience all those things, but I know I wasn’t gung ho to get married. I know I wasn’t gung ho to have a kid in part because of my own personal experiences. I didn’t come from that super healthy, happy nuclear family. I came from the opposite of that. I never associated marriage with my path to living my best life. I saw it a little bit like you did, Alonzo. I thought there was a big world out there and I wanted to do everything. I wanted to travel the world, to work on my career, and to be an athlete. Any time I entered into a serious relationship, it created a lot of tension where I felt pulled away from the things that I was excited about. I felt guilty that my girlfriend was unhappy that I wasn’t always around. I wasn’t willing to drop everything in order to spend the entire weekend together.
I’m grateful for the fact that I’ve been able to have some maneuverability in that area. I’ve had a career that moves me to all these different places around the country. I got my Doctorate in El Paso, Texas. I had my first academic job in Hampton, Virginia and I just moved to Washington DC. It’s been great being able to live in these different environments and explore all of these different cultures. There are academic couples who do that, but I know for me, it would be a lot more challenging with a spouse and a child.
There’s a term in academia, Alonzo, called the trailing spouse. It’s essentially reserved for the less famous of the two academics who often have to compromise on a job because a place wants to hire the partner.
That’s obvious in the entertainment business. Other than those publicity couples, usually, there’s somebody quiet in the background, but quite often that person is running the business. The famous person’s business is run by the spouse in the background.
That’s a phenomenon in pro sports too where the spouse takes care of the household.
That’s a whole other show though because when you look at pro athletes, these are guys who in no way should get married at a young age and get married at a young age, more than the general population. If you’re a 24-year-old pro athlete, the odds of you staying faithful to a spouse is 10% simply because of opportunity that ordinary men would never see. This is part of your life. Yet, they’ve married that high school sweetheart or the girl in college because they trust her. If she understands, it is fine, but usually, she doesn’t and it ends up in a divorce. We see these cases of how much money they’re paying out in child support and this and that.
There’s a funny term, but I don’t know what the term for it is, but it is like, “You shouldn’t get that much credit for fidelity if no one wants to have sex with you.”
Chris Rock did a bit about it like, “We’re as faithful as our opportunity.” He was faithful before he was on TV, then his opportunities rose as his fame rose. Getting back to what you were saying about a young age, it’s interesting. I moved out at eighteen and started my career in aerospace, in that world. Like you Peter, I was totally ambivalent about a relationship, but then after about 3 or 4 years, and I joke about it, I felt like, “It’s time to find her.” I found this girl, look like her, felt like her, but it wasn’t her. It turned out to be a disastrous relationship and the pain from that affected me for some time. I know another guy who did the same thing. He said, “I felt like it was time to get married. I married the girl I was with.” It ended horribly for him. I was going to ask Craig, in your experience, have you heard that because of the pressure to not be a bachelor, to not be single, do people say, “I’m 31. I should get married?”
I’ve seen it with a lot of people. I know a lot of friends of mine who were like, “I’m 31, 32. I have to check off this box. This is the path that I have to go through in order to be considered an adult. If I don’t do this, then people are going to think there’s something wrong with me.” There are a lot of people my age and even older who think that way. I know quite a few people who’ve been in toxic, dysfunctional relationships for years. They’re afraid to leave their partner because they’re afraid of being on their own. It’s something that they can’t fathom or comprehend.
In one of your episodes, you said something that struck me, “A relationship that ends isn’t necessarily a failed relationship, but a failed relationship is when two people who are miserable are sticking it out so they can be in the relationship.” I know a lot of people who are in those types of situations. I’ve even had one male friend who said to me, “I hate being single. I hate being on my own. I don’t think I can do it.” That’s more than likely the reason he is with his partner. I’m not judging him for it, but there’s a lot of that thinking because of societal perceptions of singlehood that it’s not seen as normal. If it’s seen differently, then it’s bad. I’m not going to go there.
What a terrible reason to live your life is to not disappoint other people. You don’t get to live the life that’s best for you because you’re worried that other people are going to judge you. In part, you can never make people happy anyway. They’re just judging you for something else. Let’s talk through that point that you brought up. My point as always is, I don’t think that being single is right. I don’t think that being married is right. I think it’s a match. You can match your lifestyle and beliefs and values to whatever path that works best for you. The marriage path is more complicated because you also need someone else to align with you.
One reason people do it is because that’s just what you do. There’s a scene in Fight Club where Tyler Durden is telling a story about, “I graduated from school. I called my dad, ‘What do I do next?’ He said, ‘Get a job.’ I got a job. I called my dad, ‘What do you do next?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. Get married.’” He’s questioning this serial progression through life check. There’s then the friend that you mentioned, Craig. I’m sure Alonzo, you know guys like this, which is they can’t be on their own. They don’t have the skills to be on their own. Not only is it that they are worried about being judged, but they are grown-up children as part of a household.
I think that your book, Craig, and some of what I’m trying to do in the show is built around this idea, which is how do you take care of business? How do you take care of yourself as an adult, not only just survive but to thrive? Before we get into that, I want to run down these existing books. As you were saying, there are not a lot of resources out there. One of the best places to find out about this is if you have a friend who’s a bachelor and is thriving because that guy knows what he’s doing. He’s battle-tested. These books for women as I see it, there were like, how to be alone book that’s often written by a woman for women. It’s a little bit resigned.
There is then a solo traveling book. There are no solo traveling books for men, but there are solo traveling books for women. I can imagine all the reasons why that exists because traveling alone as a woman has more challenges than as a man. Issues of safety and so on especially when you go outside the United States to certain places. There’s then the Bella DePaulo style books. These are pop-science books. There are a few of these. I’m highlighting some of them in forthcoming episodes about the rise of single living, the demographic, and psychographic reasons for it. This last book, I find it most infuriating for women, which is like, “Your single and I know it sucks. Here’s how to get through it and find the right guy for you.” The most infuriating one is titled Marry Him. It was like, “He’s not perfect, but get it done, ladies. Stop holding out for something better. It’s not coming.” The books for men are these pop-science style books and there is a crossover. There also is the manosphere books. Alonzo, are you familiar with the manosphere?
No. Is it the incel world?
It’s a complex world, but the incels are part of the manosphere. Craig, you talk about the manosphere in your book. Let’s give the audience a little brief primer on the manosphere because what worries me about it is if you’re a man and you’re interested in thriving as a single man and you go searching, you find the sludge on the internet.
I went down that rabbit hole in my research. There are a couple of movements. One is the incels, which consist of online groups of men that are essentially angry at women because they won’t sleep with them. I don’t know if you heard about the name Elliot Rodger. He went on a killing spree at a UC Santa Barbara back in 2013. He recorded this manifesto to YouTube ranting about how women wouldn’t sleep with him. He killed all these people and then he killed himself. All these incels looked at him as a hero. He was essentially an embodiment of all of this anger that they were feeling toward women.
There’s also the MGTOW Movement, Men Going Their Own Way. Their whole philosophy consists of, “Women are bad. We don’t need them. We can go our own way. We can be happy on our own.” They have some good ideas. However, their ideas are based on the hatred of women. That’s not what I’m about in trying to help readers be happy as a singleton. There’s even a section about how you can be platonic friends with a female. It is a hetero person that says that you can be friends with a female and dating doesn’t necessarily have to lean anywhere. A date can just be a date. Even if it doesn’t necessarily lead onto that relationship escalator, you can end up meeting a good friend, somebody who you can network with for workplace. Even if you don’t see them again, at least maybe you can explore a new restaurant or learn something new. Essentially, I’m trying to teach men how to be happy as singletons, without having to develop this whole philosophy of hatred and anger.
I agree with you. Part of this hatred and misogyny is my time in the rabbit hole with the so-called red pill people. They use this Matrix metaphor of taking the red pill and seeing the world for what it is. There are these different groups. The incels are part of this neomasculines as they’ve been called. They tend to be younger and they break two ways. One is this rise of the pickup artist community. What happens is these young men are not having sex. They want to have sex so what they do is reverse engineer these tactics that make themselves in the short-term appealing to women. They put on a different persona and in many ways, trick women into being attracted to them. It’s a short-term focus thing because you can’t build a foundation of a relationship on these things.
MGTOWs are older guys who maybe have been burned with divorce or they have lost faith in the traditional relationship escalator. I have an episode that’s worth reading to about that. There are also the ones that are fascinating, the MRAs or Men’s Rights Activists. These guys are pissed too. They’ve often had child custody problems and alimony. They don’t see the system as being fair when it comes to divorce. I feel bad for these guys because they make the world bad for themselves and they make the world bad for women. It’s easy to hate on them, but most of them, especially the incels deserve our compassion more than our antipathy. I do think that shooting and violence are rare. Most of these guys, I sort of identify with them when I was a teenager. When I was in my twenties, I wasn’t good with the ladies. I had plenty of female friends and plenty of friends and I’m an extrovert. People thought I was, but I wasn’t that good. What I want to say to them is, “Gentlemen, work on yourself. It gets better.” Some of them are young.
That’s essentially what I’m trying to help readers realize through the ideas. One of the underlying themes is that a lot of these problems of the incels, the violence, maybe partially caused by this societal perception that a man needs a woman on his arm to make him a man. That’s where a lot of these problems with the perceptions of masculinity come in and toxic masculinity that a man needs to have a woman by their side. If the person is not married, they have to be hooking up or whatever. That whole perception results and leads to these problems.
I can’t even speak into my own personal life where I’ve had friends saying like, “You’re not married. You must be doing pretty well out there with that little innuendo there.” That’s the assumption as far as that goes, that a man if they’re not married, he has to be hooking up as a symbol of their masculinity. That’s a societal issue. I’m not saying that that’s to blame for this manosphere, but I believe it is a contributing factor.
There are many things that we’ve talked about here that I didn’t get to jump in on. Going back to the men who can’t take care of themselves. I started my adult life at eighteen. I went to aviation in high school and I got hired by Lockheed Aircraft. I moved from New York to LA. Hundreds of guys who I went to high school with did this because Lockheed recruited NMAS. There were a lot of guys who didn’t know how to take care of themselves. They married whoever their girlfriend was. We used to joke about it. We knew more twenty-year-old divorced guys because they brought this girlfriend from New York to LA to do their laundry and whatever, and it fell apart.
When you talk about a man not being able to take care of himself, I have a lot of women friends, and one in particular jokes and she says, “Alonzo, guys like you were the worst because you don’t need a woman. You know how to take care of yourself.” I’m like, “I don’t cook, but figuring out how to get food and do my laundry is not a major accomplishment, but there are many men who feel they need some woman to do this for them.” Whereas with me, my brother joked about it and said, “Alonzo, you go out with women who think the kitchen is where the waiters go.” To me, “I want to see you in 4‑inch heels all the time. I don’t care about the kitchen. I want you comfortable in high heel shoes. That’s more my thing,” and women get on me about that, but I don’t care.
I love that observation. They may be eighteen, but they are men, who can take apart a jet engine, put it back together and the idea of not mixing whites and colors is intimidating.
They felt the need to get married. This thing about the manosphere, I knew it, but I didn’t know it by that name. I have to separate you from you, Peter. I’m not forgiving of these guys at all because I know too many women who are intimidated and attacked by these guys. The thing about these attacks toward a woman, it’s a real thing because they are women. They’re physically intimidated by this and these knuckleheads. The more of them that get together, the braver they become. I don’t like this. There was some guy who was a Navy SEAL and he’s on a plane and shows himself without a mask. He’s like, “I’m not a pussy.” Supposedly, I don’t know if it’s true or not, he was one of SEAL Team Six. He’s one of the guys who got Bin Laden. He is a super alpha male. How much more man do you need to be than a Navy SEAL who killed the biggest terrorist our country’s ever known? Yet, you’re still insecure that a mask makes you a pussy. Alyssa Milano had a great response. She said, “A pussy is strong enough to push out a human.”
I did this questionnaire thing and it said, “What would you tell your nineteen-year-old self?” Peter, I’m like you. I wasn’t a pickup artist. I didn’t go talk to women. It would always be somehow they initiated it or let me know if they were interested or whatever, which is what women do. I said, “I would tell my nineteen-year-old self, ‘Go talk to her. She is shy too.’” That’s what we learn as we get older. We learned that she’s waiting for you to walk over there and we don’t know that. I get what you’re talking about, Peter. I’ve heard you talk about this before, but I don’t give these guys a pass in any way, simply because that anger is threatening to women. It’s like, “You’re not getting laid. Maybe if she didn’t feel like you want to kill her, she would be alone with you.”
I agree with you that the misogyny is doing no one any good. The question becomes where are the roots of it? What is the best way to treat it?
It’s rooted in resentment. As you talked about, Craig, it’s because you start living on the internet and you start believing this. To me, the internet or Facebook has always been like a high school. There’s the popular guy and this and that. You believe that this guy is getting laid every time he goes to the club. He’s not, but you believe it. You compare yourself to that idea and all you have to do is talk to a woman because she knows he’s full of shit. The older you get, the more that comes out. I have a big problem with the insecurity of these guys and the threatening behavior as a result.
I do try to address that in some parts of the book where a big theme is to learn how to be comfortable with who you are and learning how to be comfortable in your own skin to develop your own life, your own hobbies, your own interests, your own identity outside of a potential relationship or hooking up or what have you. I taught a course on how to be single and happy, which was a one-credit seminar at my old school. Students do read some of DePaulo’s material, but there’s an assignment where students have to go out to have a meal by themselves. To avoid the whole #MeToo situation, students can’t bring a buddy with them to sit at the opposite end of a restaurant if they’re concerned about safety, but they have to go to the restaurant to order a meal by themselves, and they have to write about the experience.
Another assignment is they have to go to a movie by themselves. In the same situation, they can bring a buddy. I get a real variety of reactions. Some people take to it pretty easily and some find it challenging because they’re thinking, “Everybody’s looking at me.” What I do try to encourage them to do is if you’re thinking about the path of singlehood or even if you’re not, it’s important to be able to develop your own identity outside of a relationship and going out to do things by yourself. It is a good exercise in that. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll get with it.
I liked that your homework assignment is live Alonzo and Pete’s life for a week and see how it goes.
I was going to say, “Live the life of a comic.” When the world was open, it was more unusual for us to go to the movies with someone. Comics go to the movies during the day alone and it’s like, “What am I going to do? There’s a show tonight. I’ve got to do something in town. I’m going to see six movies this week.” We would be great movie critics.
I want to talk about this idea of masculinity because, at times, the notion of it is under attack. You mentioned the term toxic masculinity. At times, toxic masculinity is two words, but at times it feels like one word that is that masculinity equals toxic masculinity. I want to get your guys’ thoughts about what does masculinity mean to you? When someone says masculinity, what is the way that you think about it? As soon as you talk about being a bachelor, that idea of masculinity goes hand in hand with it.
For me, the idea of masculinity is being comfortable with who you are and recognizing that as a person you’re always going to grow and change. Part of masculinity is being a person. It all around a good person trying to do right by you and right by other people.
By that definition, then femininity and masculinity are the same things.
I think so.
I have some ideas and definitions of it. Part of it is what Craig says, in my opinion, of being comfortable with yourself, with who you are. A man never has to prove you’re a man. You do some things, for instance, physical strength. The fact that, “I know I’m stronger than you so I’m going to carry the suitcase or I’m going to open the door.” Toxic masculinity comes from thinking that because I’m a man I’m superior to you. That’s a different thing. We joke about this, my buddy Mal Hall, a young guy, he always says, “I don’t know how to do man stuff. I don’t know how to jumpstart a battery or change a flat tire.”
It seems funny, but that is something that women expect a man to know how to do. It’s a basic understanding. They’re like, “That’s old fashioned,” but it’s still true. It’s okay to be chivalrous at times, but not controlling. You see that in the old days that men were in charge like, “Sit down little lady.” It’s like, “No.” I joke about this, I said, “I love a strong woman because the stronger she is, the less I have to do,” but allowing her to be who she is, that’s probably the most difficult thing for men to do now because women are expanding their role, their definition, and what they do. Allowing them to do that is part of being a man now versus being a man in the ‘40s or whatever.
I’ll tell you another thing culturally, where I have an edge over you guys in the black community. My mother used to joke about it during the women’s lib thing in the ‘70s when it was big. She was like, “White women fighting the work. I’ve been fighting to not work.” In the black community, women have always had to work and had to do things together. As a man, you protect your woman. Dave Chappelle said something that I thought was profound and I’m not going to be able to do it as well as he did. He said, “When women are complaining about men and our sexual advances and all of that, don’t forget that that same thing that drives us to want to bang you drives us to want to protect you.” Both come from the same place. You have to figure out how to do it, but that is part of being a man.
I know you guys have heard this because I’m bigger physically and stuff, but women love to feel safe. They love a man that makes them feel safe. It’s not anything you have to do. You don’t have to go out and beat up somebody, but it’s your existence. Craig, this gets into where your comfort with yourself, where you’re not going out proven you’re a man. You’re not at the bar starting to fight, but you’re comfortable with it. The woman feels like, “This guy next to me, he got me. I’m good with him.” Those are traits of masculinity. Part of being a man is how a woman feels around you and doing things, but the toxic part of being a man is thinking you’re in control, that old caveman mentality, and your women are only good for one thing and all of that. That’s the toxic part.
I’ve been workshopping these ideas more on the show than I have with my own writing. First of all, I do believe you can’t have masculinity without femininity. Anybody who wants to destroy masculinity is saying, “We should be feminine. There’s one way to live.” That’s a bit of a problem. I realized that I’m dancing into dangerous territory as I talk about this. As I see it, the ideal form of masculinity has confidence plus congeniality. The idea is that there’s an assertiveness, which you’ve been referring to in some ways, Alonzo, but then also an easygoingness that is, “I can step back. I can have a partner who’s going to assert her independence.”
The best form of masculinity is the man who has those two things and can pull those levers as necessary to get along in the world. You use the word chivalry, which is an interesting one. This goes back talking about squires and knights and so on. If you think about a knight, on one hand, they have that assertiveness confidence. They’re slaying dragons. There’s nothing more manly than slaying a dragon with a sword. At the same time, he is there to serve his lady. He doesn’t treat his lady the way he treats a dragon and that he makes that distinction in the world. The world is a much more complicated place than King Arthur’s court, in part because women and men have different expectations.
There are women who want doors open for them and appreciate that. There are women who feel like that’s an affront to equal opportunity. As a guy, you have to figure out a way to navigate that in a way that’s comfortable and respectful, and you might have to have some conversations. The thing about toxic masculinity is when we don’t have the easygoingness when we don’t have the congeniality. Toxic masculinity is confidence, assertiveness, aggressiveness, strength, and without boundaries.
There are no dragons left to slay.
We live in a different world.
That’s what I was alluding to. The easygoingness, being comfortable that you don’t have to try to prove yourself, that you’re you.
Your point is exactly right. Not wearing the mask on the plane is an act of insecurity. Secure people wear masks. They don’t have to prove anything because they know that they’ll be fine. Let me put a bow on some of this stuff. We’ve been dancing around a lot of how the world is pushing you away from being a bachelor and a happy bachelor. One of the reasons that it’s difficult to be a happy bachelor is also then living up to the stereotype of the bachelor. You’re supposed to be a womanizer, have your bachelor pad, and do all these kinds of things, which doesn’t seem right. That’s not the reason why a lot of guys don’t end up partnering up. The idea that dating is optional. Date if you want to and date as you like. You’re not dating with the goal of coupling up forever.
This other idea which I want to return to is it is a different world. You’re not part of a partnership. It is important to be able to take care of yourself because you’re on your own. You certainly don’t want to feel the pressure to partner up because you’re struggling to take care of yourself. There are much better reasons to partner up than you’re having trouble taking care of yourself. I want to ask you two. This may sound crazy because we’re good at this, but not everybody’s good at it. What are the basics of being a single man and being able to take care of yourself as you see them?
The way I see it is nobody is born with every single skill out there, but you have to be willing to learn. You have to be teachable. Alonzo said that he doesn’t cook. I certainly don’t judge people who don’t cook, but you need to figure out how are you going to get food into your mouth?
It’s not food. Food is easy. It’s healthy food.
How are you going to get healthy foods into your house? Are you going to be capable of doing the research required to outline a healthy diet? Will you go to the internet? Will you see a nutritionist? You need to know how to navigate those things on how to increase your knowledge fair. If you don’t know how to jump-start an engine or change a flat, then you have to be willing to learn or at least to read the manual in the glove compartment to figure out how to do that, or to have somebody help you or show you. Essentially, it ties back into a lot of that comfortable masculinity, being comfortable enough in your own skin to admit that you may not know everything. You may need to seek out a source of education on how are you going to learn how to do those things. If you need help, then don’t be hesitant in asking for it.
I want to ask Alonzo about this healthy food thing. I want to respond to this changing a tire or charging a battery or whatever. We have a great luxury now, which is if your car breaks down, you can call a tow truck and pay someone to take care of this for you. I don’t even know if that one’s even that important, to be honest.
I’m going to tell you why it is. We talked about these incels with guys who can’t pick up women, how many women are excited by a man who can use tools? I’m not kidding about that. They see that it reminds them of their dad or whatever psychological thing goes on. Honestly, Peter, I had this experience with a woman. It’s not any woman I was dating. She was somebody. She ran a club and I worked at the club. We’re going to do press, the car got a flat. She was like, “I’m going to call AAA.” I looked at her like, “Why?” I got out and I took the jack out of the trunk. In less than ten minutes, I changed the tire. She was like, “That’s amazing. I didn’t know that men could still do that.”
I’m not kidding about this. If you talk to women about this, some women will tell you, “When my man is working on something,” that’s like a man seeing a woman cook or a woman do something like that on some primal level. When it comes to the eating thing, what I was going to say regarding eating healthy and all that, it’s also age defined. In our twenties, we can eat anything. Our metabolism is such. There’s no Taco Bell commercials show in 50-year-olds. In your twenties, you eat like that. As you get older, you learn like, “I’m going to have to add some vegetables to the mix.” You start going to adult places that serve you vegetables. Instead of going to McDonald’s, you’re going to Tender Greens.
You can afford better food too that goes a long way.
It’s age-driven. I learned to do laundry by watching commercials. Separate the colors and the whites, put it into the machine, throw in the little pod, and walk away. That’s it. It’s not like the old days. Laundry used to be a science. For our mothers, laundry was a thing. Now, it’s idiot-proof. If you want to sit there and add fabric softener, you can, but what do they give us? They give us a pod and a cloth sheet. They’re like, “Throw this one in the washer and in the dryer.” If you can’t figure that out, then we shouldn’t allow you out. You talked about calling a tow truck is simple. These basic life skills were not as difficult as they used to be. I think you guys will back me up on this. Dating inspires you in some ways because when you do bring the date home, if the sheets aren’t clean, your odds are dropping. You then learn like, “I can’t leave the sheets on the bed for months. I’ve got to wash and change these occasionally and so forth.” It’s part of maturing and becoming an adult, but you will also learn it as a single man. You’ll learn it out of necessity.
I want to make a couple of comments and then turn it over to Craig for the next topic. The key with healthy stuff is you have to get honest, the good healthy food is going to be more expensive and ideas that you want to invest in yourself, that’s money well spent. It’s the best money you spend is to invest in your health. The other one is to have these rules and habits. When I eat out, I don’t order dessert. You make your decisions at the supermarket, not at home. You don’t buy the things that will tempt you. The laundry one, it’s embarrassing that we have to talk about this. I was doing laundry at fourteen because I had a single mom who was working three jobs. If I wanted clothes cleaned, I had to do it.
I will give a tip out there, which is YouTube is an incredible resource. I remember at one point in time, I am struggling. Alonzo knows me well so he knows that I like to be tidy and crisp. I was struggling with how to efficiently iron a dress shirt. I went on YouTube and I watched two YouTube videos. Now, I can out kill it ironing a shirt. I could have a housekeeper do it, but sometimes I want to do it. I need to do it because I want to look good for a talk, a date, a night out on the town, and so on.
One other thing regarding nutrition, I’m going to give you the simplest tip on nutrition that I got from a trainer. She said, “Mix the colors on your plate.” You’ve got to have some green, yellow, brown which might be meat. You hope that the brown is not a vegetable, but she said, “That’s simple. Mix the colors up and you’ll get a pretty balanced diet by doing it.” It’s a matter of making things simple.
I do have an episode called Eating for a Remarkable Life and I’ll make the pitch on that. It’s similar to what you were saying, Alonzo. The last thing is keeping a tidy house. You were alluding to this, Alonzo. I remember reading a subreddit in which some guy talked about having a cardboard box as an end table in his apartment. It was this passionate conversation where some guys were like, “That’s fine. That functions in the same way that an end table functions.” My take on that is you don’t have cardboard boxes as an end table because you want your house to be welcoming to others. The cardboard box as an end table makes not even a date uncomfortable, it makes everyone uncomfortable. There is something about shaping your surroundings that makes your house not only comfortable for you but comfortable for other people if you’re going to have those other people. Craig, what are some other things that come to mind for that bachelor, who’s going to thrive on his own?
My advice for anybody wanting to thrive as a bachelor is to find your own routines, what works for you in terms of eating healthy, exercising, and keeping a clean house.
Alonzo, do you want to add any pro tips?
My lifestyle is different. My routine, especially when I’m working is to eat before 8:00 maybe or maybe not because if I have two shows, then I don’t want to eat before the show. I might grab something between the show. I might be eating late at night, but this is being a comic. The lifestyle is different. If I gave a tip, make it simple. When we talk about cleaning the house, how much of the house do you use as a single person? I remember I had a three-bedroom house and a friend of mine said, “Your house looks like the model homes,” because I lived in the kitchen, the living room, and my bedroom.
I didn’t need any more of the house. I’m not all over the house. Being a single person, you keep it simple. I don’t like cleaning the house. I’m fortunate that I’m able to have a housekeeper come in twice a month and she cleans out. I get out of the way when she does it and when I come home, I’m like, “This place is clean.” That’s worth it to me. It’s not even a matter of being rich or anything like that. It’s like, “What’s it worth to you?” She charges $150. That’s worth $150 to me to have her clean the house versus me do it. It’s not something I particularly like doing.
The thing is to simplify. To tag onto what Craig said about routines, come up with ways to simplify what you have to do, so you know how to do it. If you need help, get help. Even someone at your bank or whatever to show you how to set up these accounts and then you stab it away. You can go on YouTube and learn to do whatever you’ve got to do, and go ahead and try it. You may not need to retile your bathroom. Maybe you don’t want to start out that big. Maybe you want to start out smaller. I was talking to a woman. She said she was going to repave her driveway. I was thinking like, “It might not be a do it yourself project.” I have never done that before, but keep it simple. That would be my advice.
Craig, I congratulate you on your book. It fills a much-needed gap in the marketplace. Thank you for spending your time here. Alonzo as always, it’s great to talk to you and see you. Thank you for carrying me even further. Gentlemen, I wish you the best in your happy bachelorhoods.
- Alonzo Bodden
- How to be a Happy Bachelor
- Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
- Married to Comedy — Previous episode
- Bella DePaulo — Previous episode
- Singled Out
- The Happy Bachelor
- Community of Single People — Facebook group
- The Canterbury Tales
- Marry Him
- Eating for a Remarkable Life — Previous episode
About Alonzo Bodden
A regular panel member on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, Alonzo Bodden has been making audiences around the country laugh for more than 20 years.
In August 2019, Alonzo starred in his fourth stand-up special, Alonzo Bodden: Heavy Lightweight, which premiered exclusively on Amazon Prime Video. In the special, he touches upon a range of topics from slavery, cell phones and the #MeToo movement, to millennials, Kanye West and Taco Bell.
Alonzo’s first big comedy break came when he was on the “New Faces of Comedy” showcase at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. However, it was as the season three winner of NBCʼs Last Comic Standing, where Alonzo was first introduced to America. Since then, he has starred in two comedy specials for Showtime: Historically Incorrect and Who’s Paying Attention. His television appearances include ABC’s Dr. Ken and Fresh Off the Boat, Dr. Phil, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore and Californication.
A car and motorcycle aficionado, Alonzo hosted Speed Channel’s 101 Cars You Must Drive and America’s Worst Driver on the Travel Channel. He’s also joined Jay Leno for several off-road trips on his CNBC series Jay Leno’s Garage. Alonzo was a field correspondent on Animal Nation with Anthony Anderson, and a contributor on the Science Channel’s How to Build Everything.
Alonzo released his fifth comedy CD titled Man Overboard in 2018. He currently hosts the podcast Who’s Paying Attention? (part of All Things Comedy) where he gives his unique take on what’s going on in the world.
About Craig Wynne
Craig Wynne, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English at the University of the District of Columbia and an expert on societal perceptions of singlehood and marriage. He has published in publications such as Teaching English in the Two-Year College, Journal of American Culture, Spark: a 4C4 Equality Journal, and Revista Feminismos. His work has also been featured in Singular Magazine. Wynne lives in Washington, DC with his cat, Chester. Visit his website at www.thehappybachelor.org.
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