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SELF-MADE MAN by Norah Vincent Kirkus Star

SELF-MADE MAN

One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again

By Norah Vincent

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 2006
ISBN: 0-670-03466-5
Publisher: Viking

A fascinating, truly weird account of a female journalist who dresses in drag for 18 months in order to feel men’s pain.

What prompted Vincent, who notes that she is not a transsexual or a transvestite, to undertake a cross-dressing experiment as the 35-year-old nerdy Ned, who stinks at sports, is attractive to women, frequents strip clubs with new blue-collar buddies, brings a refreshing “emotional awareness” to a Catholic monastery and excels as a high-testosterone door-to-door salesman? Fascinated by the “unspoken codes of male experience,” Vincent bets that becoming a man will allow her to “observe much more about the social differences between the sexes.” With great seriousness she undertakes the creation of Ned’s persona: Consulting a makeup artist, she fashions a credible five o’clock shadow (it gets a little nasty when she sweats); cuts her hair into a fade to emphasize a squarer jaw and dons rectangular glasses; wears a binding sports bra and pumps weights to bulk up her shoulders; and learns to modulate her already deep voice (men, she learns, don’t talk in torrential prattle, but “lean back and pronounce with terse authority”). As Ned, she joins a working-class bowling team, who offer touching fatherly tips, and while she genuinely likes the men, revealing her identity to them after months of friendship seems a violent and traitorous blow. In chapters entitled “Friendship,” “Sex,” “Love,” “Life,” “Work” and “Self,” Ned undergoes the rigors of male conditioning, though it is finally while participating in a men’s-movement group that Vincent recognizes that most men in fact live in disguise—hiding rage, pain and shame.

One of the curiouser books to appear of late—sure to attract attention.