Bukowski: My #1 Dating Dealbreaker

If a man tells you he likes Bukowski as a way of telling you about himself, this is shorthand for telling you that he thinks alcoholism and misanthropy are kind of romantic.

Apr 19, 2012 at 3:07pm | Leave a comment

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Dating is a lot like gardening: You need the right hoe for the job.

Sorry, I tried, I couldn’t erase it.

But seriously:

Dating is a lot like gardening: If you don’t pull out the weeds by the root, you might as well not bother pulling at all.

Problem is, we’re not born knowing what the weeds look like. It takes a while to figure out what’s a negotiable in a relationship, and what’s a dealbreaker. In the past three years, I’ve dated a lot of men, who have all eventually been DQ’d from the Vag for various reasons.

Some of them didn’t suck, but I was at a point in my life where I sucked. Others sucked a LOT. Almost all of them are my friends, now, so no ill will is intended, but for humor’s sake, here’s a short, mostly anonymized list of a few of them, stripped of all redeeming charms and boiled down to their purest essence:

-    The deeply depressed, 35-year-old squatter musician, who would drink to the point of unconsciousness at extremely inopportune times. That’s right, that’s what I mean.

-    The very sweet, overly introspective waiter who spoke as if reading from a Philosophy 101 textbook, but the sex was incredible, so I spent a lot of time doing that whole “Let me interrupt you by jumping on top of you” thing. After two weeks of this strategy I could barely walk, so that was the end of that.

 -   The vintage motorcycle enthusiast, who charmed me with his handlebar mustache, propeller butt-tattoos, and our shared affection for forgotten eras, and then proceeded to eviscerate my self worth by way of his violently cycling emotions re: me. We have reconciled, and when he visited me last weekend I told him about this article, so I feel slightly less guilty.

-    Countless one-off dates with marginally intelligent but motivationless bearded, flanneled gentlemen with tattoos of sea creatures wrapping around their limbs. A million projects, no paycheck, and in general, very very depressed.

I don’t have a type, per-se. I’ve dated big and skinny guys, black dudes, white dudes, punks and financial analysts, artists and nerds, southerners and northerners, tall and...Well, OK, they're always tall. So what do all of these idiots have in common?

They all have a total boner for Charles Bukowski. Women-hating, alcohol-soaked, miserable-about-his-own-existence, Patron Saint of the Lost Boys, Bukowski.

Oh, Jackie, you’re saying. Stop being so bitter. At least they READ, right? Shut up, I'm talking.

These men are not reading Bukowski, they are vigorously masturbating to Bukowski. They are desirous of his gross, disaffected life, but they’re not listening to anything but the braggy parts! Bukowski was a pretty sad old man, and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard the argument that “Misery makes you into an artist.” That’s garbage.

That’s like saying “Tofu makes you gay,” which my ex’s uncle said, once. Lots of gay people eat tofu, probably, sure. And lots of artists are deeply unhappy, but go ahead and try and tell me that Mary Oliver isn’t an artist: a woman who is so ecstatic about the world that she is a traffic hazard in her hometown, due to her tendency to be STARING UP AT THE SKY WHILE WALKING. 

The argument about whether or not Bukowski was a misogynist or a satirist is pretty well-trodden territory, and I have my own opinion which i am clearly hiding very well, on account of how professional I am -- JOURNALISM!

Regardless, his fans and critics agree on one thing: His work is honest. Honest doesn’t mean right, though. Bukowski was a pretty big jerk, and this is how he treated his wife.

I’m not advocating against reading his work -- I think any pursuit of knowledge is worthwhile, with a few important exceptions. I’m not even saying that owning a Bukowski book is a red flag, on its own -- I own a copy of Mein Kampf, and  I love Jews!

However, if you are going to advertise yourself as a Bukowski fan, I feel pretty confident that you have a motive outside of sharing your genuine interest in pickled literature. Name dropping Bukowski in a public forum is right on par with:

“I listen to a lot of bands you’ve probably never heard of.”

-or-

“I like watching independent movies with subtitles.”

This is an actual sentence that I read on some douche’s OkCupid profile. Sorry, Max Fischer, but no one likes subtitles. You watch a movie despite the subtitles, because it’s good. Subtitles are extra work, and I don’t usually go into a movie-watching scenario looking to work too hard. That’s why I only got about 25 minutes into Tree of Life before having to take a “chalk” (My made-up term for when I walk and eat a fudgesicle).

If a man tells you he likes Bukowski as a way of telling you about himself, this is shorthand for telling you that he thinks alcoholism and misanthropy are kind of romantic. This is fine, if he is 17 (but then you are committing statutory rape, which the author does not support, because obviously) but ideally this philosophy is left behind in boyhood.

However, if he does name-drop the Buk, he is also telling you that he is very interested in being construed as smart, which may actually be a silver lining: If he’s that preoccupied with his image, he probably doesn’t have time to read books (that unkempt coif isn’t going to tousle itself.)

He’s probably just lying. (Don’t date him, either.)