An experiment gone awry: a British writer places a lonely-hearts ad and embarks on an ambitious program of dating the respondents, apparently to learn something of the American male.
Morton’s countryman D.H. Lawrence once opined that “the essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.” Morton adds a few more adjectives to the list: whiny (or, in Britspeak, “whingey”), cheap, and self-absorbed. She learned these lessons by placing a personal ad in newspapers in Chicago, New York, Miami, and Atlanta that read, “English female 30s, slim and attractive, seeks professional male for fun times.” Overwhelmed by thousands of responses, Morton resolved to date every third caller to her voicemail box, unless that caller seemed outright psychopathic or otherwise creepy. Recounting mornings, noons, and nights of meals out and other meetings, she details the flaws of a phalanx of losers (from tormented souls seeking a counselor for the price of a soda to married men seeking a fling) who announce their penis sizes and promise endless hours of pleasure—all to no apparent avail. (After she rebuffs one offer of penetration, Morton, poor girl, seems surprised and even indignant that in the US, the phrase “for fun times” is a code for sexual liaisons.) Of the 100-odd American males from 20 to 70 who appear in this chronicle, only a few are anything but repulsive, although those few strive heroically to redeem their sex and nationality from charges of hopelessness. For her part, Morton plays the British sophisto card a few times too often, proudly remarking how stunningly attractive her accent is to her hapless American dates. Still, her narrative is an entertaining curiosity, if perhaps a pointless one—except, that is, as a catalogue of male awfulness.
That catalogue may be draw enough for some readers, who’ll find their worst suspicions about every Tom, Dick, and Harry confirmed in Morton’s pages.