Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Two Dogs / Mercury

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Rogue Male Mission Statement

Rogue MaleChapter One of our offering for the newly single man, Rogue Male, in which author Tom Rymour reintroduces concepts like le reservoir.

THE MISSION STATEMENT

This book is for the fellow who suddenly finds himself single again after a life-altering spell of cohabitation. Perhaps it has only been a handful of years before he realised the error of his matrimonial ways, or maybe some decades have passed and it is not out of choice that he finds himself single again. Whatever the cause, his time of co-dependency has past, and he has been cast back into a world of female opportunity – both daunting and exciting.

I recall just such a fortyish fellow, fresh from divorce court. He’d been a faithful husband for 15 years and was a sexual Rip van Winkle, in both the social and technical senses. He had been out of circulation for so long, he’d forgotten condoms had a little bit on the end – what the French call le reservoir.

In the early stages of his post-marital odyssey, our man had a clandestine office romance with an unattached colleague. He confided in me that he felt like a staid Land Rover driver suddenly put behind the wheel of a Lotus Exige, battling to cope with blinding acceleration and hair-trigger steering. At first, he couldn’t quite believe that he was actually in the throes of ecstatic intertwinement, sharing bodily fluids for the first time in what seemed like decades. At a particularly frenzied moment, our man was dismayed to hear his inamorata loudly cry out the F-word. He had often heard her utter it at the office to express frustration or disappointment, so he immediately assumed he’d done something clumsy in bed. Later she assured him that words can mean different things in different settings. And she then went on to convince him that she had been far from frustrated or disappointed at the moment of his misapprehension.

At that time he was a man without a label. Those 15 years of marriage had earned him an invisible badge that proclaimed “Husband”. It was how others defined him. There are many such badges, most of them worn proudly: teacher, entrepreneur, artist, expert, healer, entertainer, boyfriend, father. As the years go by, we come to prize these comfy labels that others bestow on us. If the hat fits, why not wear it? But hats can be blown away and identities thieved. Often the first item to vanish in the winds of change is the tag of husband or boyfriend.

When the court strips you of the husband badge, the parent tag may, in practicality, go as well. Divorce usually slashes fatherly duties down to a part-time occupation, especially in South Africa, where our courts tend to favour women when it comes to deciding who gets the kids. (This is a country where Medea, Cruella De Vil or Daisy de Melker could have won custody of children, simply by declaring a pair of ovaries.)

You will probably surrender a host of lesser badges, too: general handyman, family braai master, household security officer. It happens every day; men are left up the creek without the means to identify themselves to themselves. Time to take stock and redefine yourself, then.

Okay, Meneer. You’ve emerged back into bachelorhood and you’re wondering what comes next. There you sit, on your jaxy, in the middle of the wilderness, like Rodin’s Thinker. Chin on fist, elbow on knee. Pondering. It matters not how you got there, although it must be said that a broken marriage is the least preferable option. Even if it was upon your instigation – and even if the relief was palpable when you packed your bags and walked out the door – divorce can be like fighting your way ever deeper into a thicket of blood-letting thorns. So take comfort in the fact that there are others just like you out there, pondering.

Now, let’s look over the horizon and be on our guard. Divorced, widowed or dumped, you don’t know who you are any more. Some men cannot bear the pain of losing the universally recognised card of identity that marriage and relationship confers. They hate being a nobody without a badge – and they marry again in haste. I don’t recommend that course of action, especially when it enters the “repent at leisure” phase. A life partner must be sussed out with even greater care than a business associate; at the very least, learn this lesson now, rather than after your second divorce. In any case, finding a wife is not like kitting yourself out at the nearest gents’ outfitter. Bespoke marital tailoring is what’s required, dear friend. And that takes time. So exercise a lot of patience, and byt vas.

Equally, you don’t want to follow the path of the outcast ex, who loses all sense of social decorum in a damn-the-rest spiral of self-destruction. That will get you nowhere.

But what is the solution, then? Gentlemen, in my book the only honourable thing to do is to tough it out as a rogue male. You will know this term as one applied to an animal, often an elephant or a rhino, that has been cast out from the herd. He lives independently and relies on himself. He goes his own way, takes his chances and makes his own choices. And you might also consider the adjective “roguish”, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as “playfully mischievous”.

This is not the first book with the title Rogue Male – that was a nail-biting revenge thriller by Geoffrey Household, a 1939 yarn about a courageous and resourceful hunter who works alone to outwit the overwhelming forces ranged against him. But it is the first book – that I am aware of, at any rate – that looks to the outcasts of the animal world as exemplars of modern bachelor living.

But before you charge off in an independent, self-reliant and playfully mischievous manner, I have some bad news for you: it’s a jungle out there. Every street in Divorcé City is a trap for the unwary. The good news is that you get to reinvent yourself, which can be a great load of fun – and takes the edge off the realisation that you’re on your own again. You may dream of becoming another Connery, Schumacher, Iain M Banks or even Os du Randt, but don’t get carried away. First try more achievable avatars: veteran cyclist, weekend archeologist, or jazz-club joller. All those things you’ve been meaning to do but never had the time for…

From there, the female topic can be broached. Feel your way slowly to avoid too many surprises, especially if you haven’t entered an unfamiliar boudoir this millennium. And even if you have (you devil, you), you still won’t have been on the official “newly single scene”. Believe me, it’s an eye-opener.

You may not know this, but you are about to live through an action replay of your young adulthood. Rogue Male will make the newly single man aware of clues to which the married man is blind. It will discuss pertinent dilemmas and illuminate them with appropriate anecdotes. It will reach into our animal DNA – to the real rogue males out there – for an understanding of our behaviour and the behaviour of those around us.

Topics will range from what makes women tick, through condom etiquette to online-dating adventures. Cautionary tales will highlight the pitfalls that lie in your path – after all, other men have already taken this journey, and there are many lessons in their erroneous ways. Those of you who are keen to take advantage of your midlife crises will receive an orientation session on “gerontophile” women, creatures in their twenties and thirties who lust after their fathers’ contemporaries, and who remain invisible until they choose to reveal themselves to the grateful victims of their erotic obsession. Such is the life of the rogue male.

By the book’s end, you’ll know how to survive being redeposited – as in a time warp – in an adolescent sexual marketplace. Never mind your bad back, the love handles and your distaste for contemporary pop music; even at your age, you can relive the ecstasy of your younger years – without the angst and acne.

P.S. A word to the curious woman who might pick up the book and read this far: there’s a chapter just for you, my darling. And I want you to know that if I am ever satirical in Rogue Male, it is with great affection. I worship womankind, and believe that man and woman were made as absolute equals – to bring comfort, passion and purpose into each other’s lives.

Book Details

 

Please register or log in to comment