Brief reflections on The 21Convention: “It’s a man’s world, except when it isn’t.”

I’m back from Austin. The 21Convention was an extraordinary experience, and I may write more about it sometime soon. There’s this much for now:

I hadn’t realized how much I was putting my head into the lion’s mouth until well into the first day of the conference. Anthony Johnson, who built The 21Convention, had told me about its history in the world of pick-up artistry, but I hadn’t realized that history is on-going. I don’t know how many people at the conference have read Chapter 10 of Man Alive!, but they were all uniformly sweet to me.

Meanwhile, the lion’s head I expected never manifested itself. Yaron Brooks of the Ayn Rand Institute spoke at the conference, as did Eric Daniels. I have had nothing but trouble with official Objectivists, so I was expecting to take grief from that corner. But, even though I ended up presenting twice, the Big-O bigfeet ignored me.

I had a great time talking, though. Man Alive! is a short book, but it has the whole universe tucked in there between the covers. I can expound on the ideas in the book indefinitely. The video for the address I delivered on Saturday was eaten by electronic gremlins, do I had to do a redo on Sunday. I had a lot of surprises in Saturday’s speech that I did not want to repeat, so Sunday’s talk was substantially different. Not that big a challenge: I could have done a different show 30 days in a row. It was fun for me, though, because I got to explore a lot of theory that I had left out on Saturday.

There were many impressive speakers, which is why I may write more about the conference, but one who blew me away was the first man on the line-up, a blogger called Socrates who runs Manning Up Smart, a weblog devoted to helping adult men manage their relationships like adult men. Many of the ideas he discussed meshed with topics raised in The Unfallen, as we will see in the extract appended below.

I made this book available on now because of this conference. I knew in a general way the audience I would be talking to, and The Unfallen is romantic fiction that gives men a fair shake. I hope I get a chance to speak to The 21Convention again, because I know now how to tailor a talk for that particular audience.

Here is more from The Unfallen — it’s a man’s world, except when it isn’t:

She said, “You promised to tell me about your divorce, but all you really told me about your was your marriage. Not even your marriage, really, just about how marriages go wrong. On the night we met, you said your divorce was ugly. How was it ugly?”

He took a deep breath and let it out very slowly. “Okay, there are three kinds of divorces in the United States. One, he capitulates instantaneously and pays a lot of money in child support to see his children almost never. Two, he fights like a dervish and then is ordered to pay a lot of money in child support to see his children almost never. Three, she sticks him with the kids and pays nothing in child support.”

“Is that your situation, number three?”

“No, I’m the fourth way, a statistical anomaly. I was headed for number two, except the almost unprecedented happened: I won. Did you see all the dads and kids at McDonald’s?” They had eaten at a McDonald’s in Danvers on their way up, at Hunter’s insistence. “All the non-custodial daddies with their non-custodial kids? I see them everywhere. It makes me very sad. Probably a lot of those guys didn’t know what they had while they had it, but they sure know it now. They get to pay thirty or forty percent of their income, after taxes, and if they’re really lucky they get to see their kids fifteen percent of the time. It’s not as bad for the kids as growing up without a father, but it’s not as good as growing up with one, either.”

“What was different in your case?”

Devin smiled. “I had two inestimable advantages. Nicole was very stupid and the judge was very smart. Understand, I was a sure loser. I have testicles – you’ve told me how ugly they are. In divorce court, there’s a fifteen yard penalty per testicle on every play. If you think feminism is a joke, try living in a man’s world. It’s a man’s world except that a married man spends eighty cents of every dollar he brings home on people other than himself. It’s a man’s world except he’ll die fifteen years before her, work himself into the grave, and she’ll live those fifteen extra years on money he salted away. It’s a man’s world except that the thing that makes a man a man and not just an overgrown adolescent – his fatherhood – can be taken from him at any time, and he has almost no power to resist.”

“But I’ve heard that fathers win in something like seven out of ten cases that go to trial.”

“That go to trial. Almost no divorces go to trial. All the preliminary proceedings are designed to break him financially, so he’ll capitulate. The tiny number of contested divorces that go to trial are almost all sure winners – she’s a drug addict, she’s a nymphomaniac, she’s in prison. And even then, fathers still lose three out of ten. I know there are a lot of bad fathers out there, but there are a lot of bad mothers, too. Put a good father against a bad mother, and the mother wins. It’s a man’s world, except when it isn’t.

“Anyway, custody battles work like this. She wants out of the marriage – three fourths of all divorces are filed by women – and she by now despises her soon-to-be-ex-husband. She wants to hurt him, hurt him as badly as she can, but the only weapon she has left is the children. So she asks for some insane restriction on visitation. He’s going to have to pay huge child support and he will never be permitted to see his own children. Perhaps it happens that men do this vindictively, too, but I’ve never heard of it happening that way. Anyway, his choice is either to sue for peace – more money for some access – or fight for custody. If he fights for custody, he’d better have something pretty compelling to say, because her lawyer is going to invent some whoppers about him. I told you I’m a fanatic about the truth. It’s because I’ve been lied about so viciously. So a dad fighting for custody has to have something very serious to say, and he has to be able to prove it beyond all dispute, because as long as those testicles are hanging between his legs nobody cares.

“I had nothing to say. Nicole’s okay as a mother, and I’m okay as a father, and that means I lose. She had been adulterous – which counts for nothing – but her new lover lives in New York. An old boyfriend, and she’d hooked up with him again by email, very modern. She wanted sole custody of Hunter, and she wanted to move him to New York, to her new boyfriend’s apartment. Again this counts for nothing. In Massachusetts you can do this – at the discretion of the judge. But the judge was a sly old coot just like my grandpa. I knew I was okay the minute I saw him. At the trial, he made it very plain that he thought moving a child away from either parent was wrong. That the state’s interest in the child was in keeping the family together, and that the way to do that was to prevent the child from being moved away. Which did Nicole want more, Hunter or the new boyfriend?”

“A regular King Solomon, your judge was.”

“I thought the same thing. It’s the law at its very best, and I rarely have good things to say about the law. So I was headed for number two and wound up with number three. All she had to do was say, ‘Of course I’ll stay,’ and she would have won. I’d pay some huge fraction of my income to see Hunter every other weekend and Wednesday nights for dinner. Instead she dared the judge to take her child away and he did. I’m the anomaly, a dad who won.”

“And does she pay you child support?”

He smiled derisively and that was answer enough.

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