- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

A week has passed since St. Valentine's Day, and some women already may have found out that their date impeccably dressed, well-versed in wines, a sparkling conversationalist is a cad. Maybe it was a failure to return phone calls or some other cowardly letdown. Maybe he was forthright about his lack of serious expectations for a lasting relationship.

Either way, the cad's brushoff stings all the same.

Cad: (1) an omnibus conductor; (2) a man who acts with deliberate disregard for another's feeling or rights.

Apologies to the omnibus conductors inadvertently smeared by this definitional coincidence. It's (2) that concerns Rick Marin, whose new book, "Cad," was published last week by Hyperion Books.

Formerly a feature writer for the New York Times and Newsweek, Mr. Marin was a TV critic for The Washington Times from 1987 to 1991.

Part confessional memoir, part roman a clef, "Cad" follows Mr. Marin, a self-described "toxic bachelor," as he disentangles himself from a short-lived marriage and barnstorms his way through Manhattan's singles scene sort of like a whistle-stop political campaign, except he is not after women's votes.

A compulsive dater, Mr. Marin wines, dines and beds a bevy of women, then offloads them like so many shares of Enron. But being a cad doesn't necessarily mean you still can't be a gentleman: He changed names and locations to protect the not-so-innocent.

Mr. Marin, 40, says he wrote "Cad" as a counterpoint to the feminine, hand-wringing culture of "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "Sex in the City" as "a view from the other side of the bed."

Valerie Frankel, former articles editor of Mademoiselle magazine, offers a word in defense of such "chick lit."

"Often there's a male character who is perfect and wonderful," she says, pointing out that Bridget Jones had a choice between a cad and a decent man and, as in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," she eventually realizes the difference between the two.

"Bridget Jones's Diary" may not dump unfairly on men, but neither does it explain how they think, as only a male writer could. "Cad" offers a view into a guy's decision-making process all the sexual circuitry between the male id and neocortex.

Things are more complicated than women generally believe.

The "clean little secret" about men, Mr. Marin says, is that their wants and needs are just as nuanced as those of the fairer sex. "The difference is that we don't talk about what we want all the time," Mr. Marin, who is writing a movie version of "Cad" for Miramax, said in a telephone interview.

The digging, at least in the initial phase of a relationship, should not involve incessant phone-calling. "If the man is interested in her, he'll be happy to get three calls a day," Mr. Marin says. But if he is undecided, "it suggests to him that the woman has no life of her own. That's a turnoff. You want a woman who's got as much going on as you do."

Men naturally avoid conflict, he says. "Our passive-aggressive way of getting rid of women is not returning calls."

Of course, the phone-call blowoff means the man is the bad guy. But what's worse, Mr. Marin asks: not returning a call, or pretending to be interested and hurting a woman's feelings later?

He writes in "Cad": "Women blame men for acting fake. But women are the ones speeding from zero to intimacy like a Ferrari. Which is more artificial?

"I really think men get a bum rap for superficiality. Somehow, men became the villain in all of this."

"Every woman starts off a relationship with high hopes," says Miss Frankel, whose sixth novel, "The Accidental Virgin," is due out early next month from HarperCollins. "She might not want to get married, but she's certainly thinking maybe. Expecting something to fail doesn't mean it doesn't hurt when it does."

But Mr. Marin thinks the hushed truth about women is that they prefer the cad to the nice guy.

A thought experiment for the female reader: Would you be more interested in, as Mr. Marin puts it, the "soulful, knapsack-carrying" guy who spends hours in therapy? Or the "unreflective but fun-loving cad who will take you out for a night on the town"?

In other words: Alan Alda or Hugh Grant?

For those who prefer the sensitive type, Mr. Marin says, it's fairly easy to know beforehand if a guy is a cad. His reputation should precede him.

"The truly successful cad does not alienate his exes," he says. "He has sort of a coterie of admiring females who still enjoy his company."

A girlfriend might warn you gently about a cad, but she wouldn't be stern and forbid you from dating him, said Mr. Marin. That's because cads are not out to break women's hearts, even though they may bruise them temporarily.

"Good luck to the cad who can do that," Miss Frankel says. "The cads in my life just want to keep you on a string between girlfriends."

Mr. Marin says this is all part of the cad's "eternal quest for the woman who's right for him. Once he finds it, hopefully he has the wisdom to latch onto it."

If a cad lets the right woman get away and ignores his "expiration date," he says, he runs the risk of becoming a dirty old man, a past-his-prime player, a wrinkly Lothario think pre-Annette Warren Beatty, or Bill Clinton or Mick Jagger.

The outdated cad is not something men aspire to be, Mr. Marin says, despite what "lad mags" like Maxim might suggest.

Spin magazine's Dave Itzkoff worked in the belly of the beast Maxim, that is for three years and came away disenchanted by what he believes is a cynical myth.

Maxim is "reinforcing this very Neanderthal idea that women are out there, and they want you to grab them by the hair and drag them back to their cave," Mr. Itzkoff says. "Women don't operate that way, and men don't operate that way."

Mr. Itzkoff's own memoir, "Lads: A Memoir of Manhood," is due out next year.

He chalks up the celebration of caddish behavior to the increasing independence of women. Maxim and other lad mags such as Gear appeal to guys' inner cavemen as a sort of defense mechanism, a refuge from sophistication.

"One of the realities of living in a large metropolitan area is that women can be more choosy about their mates," he says. "It has contributed to a crisis of confidence that men are facing."

Luckily for women, men even one-time cads can be reformed, said Mr. Marin. The seemingly irredeemable cad has the potential one day to be a responsible dad.

"The right woman can make an honest man of him. If he has sown all of his wild oats, I think he's happy to settle down and let the younger cads take over."

Settling down shouldn't connote a dull marriage, Mr. Marin says.

Take it from the man who wrote the book on cads. Mr. Marin is giving marriage a second chance. He and his fiancee, Ilene the one name he didn't change for "Cads" are planning a spring wedding.

"The key is to make monogamy as much fun as being single," he says. "That's the challenge."

So, ladies, if the man in your life is someone new and unproven, don't write him off if you suspect he's a cad. But whatever you do, do not call him more than once tomorrow.

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