June 07, 2007


Millions of Women Are Waiting to Meet You. By Sean Thomas. Da Capo. $24.

      Self-important, self-centered, sexist, oversexed, and so full of himself that there’s unlikely ever to be room for anyone else in that semi-mind of his – if that’s your type of guy, you’re going to love Sean Thomas. Of course, he can’t be entirely the empty-headed, always-fornicating twit that he seems to be the vast majority of the time, because the first and last chapters of his book – the framing tale, as it were – show that he appears capable of forming a real relationship with a woman, to the point of asking her to marry him. Or maybe she just has colossal bad judgment. Or plans to sell the rights to her story next time.

      Millions of Women Are Waiting to Meet You proves that everything you thought about Internet dating is true, and then some – if you happen to be Sean Thomas, who picks up genital crabs from an Australian girl, is convinced (by his doctor, no less) that all Aussie females are total sluts, offers a long pseudo-intellectual discussion of sodomy when one of his Web dates requests it, and, lest we forget the story of his first sexual experience, exposes himself to his parents’ cleaning lady. Nice guy. And not entirely without self-awareness: “I didn‘t get where I am today – in dire need of Internet dating – without being incredibly shallow.”

      Actually, that’s not quite how he got there. Thomas is a British freelance journalist, and the basis of this book is a request that his happily married 37-year-old editor made to the single and promiscuous Thomas when Thomas was also 37: try Internet dating for a year and write about it. And oh boy, does Thomas write about it, and about the women in his life in general. “In Provence we fell for each other. Helplessly. I’d like to say this happened in a very romantic way; I’d like to say it happened as we talked about Cézanne over the tapenade or watched shooting stars from the lavender fields. But it didn’t. For me, the clinching moment was when Eleanor became the first girl to give me head successfully.” Or: “It turned out that Ellie liked to be spanked. Vigorously. And to be handcuffed. She wasn’t afraid of a belt, either. Or a gag. She also liked to have sex in broom cupboards where we might be discovered. And in royal parks right across London. And on the verge of a motorway with juggernauts racing past and honking.”

      That is one woman. There are lots of them; Thomas, who has “had some periods of quite profound promiscuity,” is a (self-professed) expert at this. “Casual sex should be wordless, sudden, unvoiced, spontaneous. Casual ‘loveless’ sex should be a sudden and wonderful recognition of each other’s pressing and identical needs. I’m talking clothes thrown over the stairs. Panties lassoed over wine bottles. Broken zippers. Remember?”

      Thomas remembers very well, thank you, and is a skilled enough journalist to have chronicled many, many details of the many, many encounters (most of them too short to be called “affairs”) that he has with the many, many women he meets online. Or maybe he makes some of the stuff up – there’s no way to tell, just as there’s no way to tell how much truth there is in an online-dating post. Thomas happens to write very well, as you can tell even when reading about his umpteenth sexual encounter (actually, there are more than umpteen). The problem is that he’s never a likable human being, especially when he’s trying for introspection: “I don’t want to go back to my utterly ruthless womanizing ways, at least probably not. Well not for long. OK, I do. It would be fantastic.” Presumably the women Thomas meets and quickly discards – and who discard him – are equally interested in throwaway lust and non-relationships. They do not appear to be exploited by Thomas, or he by them. But the superficiality of Web-based dating is scarcely news. You will learn almost nothing new about the online-dating scene from this book, but it has to be said that you will learn that almost-nothing very entertainingly, so long as the many sexist asides and the constant self-inflation don’t bother you. What was Thomas’ wife – whom he met, yes, through his online dating – thinking when she said “yes” to him? (To marrying him, that is?) Thomas gives good hilarity, true. But for any genuine insight into the latest twists of the mating game, turn somewhere else. Almost anywhere else.

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