Magazine | July 4, 2011, Issue

Virtual Manhood

Of Anthony Weiner and Internet scandal

Rodney Dangerfield, the late comedian famous for his “No Respect” routine, used to do a bit in his act about how to deal with the awkwardness of the morning after a one-night stand. A guy wants to get out of there as fast as he can, but he doesn’t want to look like he wants to get out of there.

According to Dangerfield, his method was foolproof. You simply turn to the young lady and say, in your best romantic voice, the following: “You know what’s great about today? It’s Wednesday. I don’t work on Wednesdays, so I can take the whole day off. You and me, babe, are going out to a simple coffee shop for a classic New York breakfast. Then, we’re going to stroll Fifth Avenue, go shopping, go to Tiffany’s, go to Saks, we’ll buy you something special. After that, a romantic lunch at the Boat House in Central Park, with pink champagne. And a stroll though the park hand in hand, in the afternoon as the sun dapples the leaves and the light turns golden. Then we’ll have a quiet drink at the Oak Bar in the Plaza, and then to the Rainbow Room for champagne and dancing, and then to a little dive I know downtown for a romantic late dinner. How does that sound?”

And she’ll say, “It sounds wonderful. But today is Thursday.”

And he’ll say, “Thursday??!! I gotta get out of here!!”

He races out. She’s convinced he isn’t really a cad, just a guy who loses track of the days of the week. Problem solved.

Notice, in this little story, what doesn’t happen. No one tweets. No one e-mails or IMs or sends a Twitpic. No one does anything that involves a smartphone or an iPad or Web connectivity. Rodney Dangerfield simply constructs a nice-sounding lie, which he then delivers to the woman in bed next to him, which men have been doing since the earth was lava.

You know where this is going, right? Compare Dangerfield Man to Weiner Man: Anthony Weiner, the sad and smutty congressman from New York, zaps pictures of his privates (clothed and unclothed) to any number of gals across the country. He brags about himself. He sends photos of his big gym muscles and his toned belly and his shaved chest. He tweets his ladies about the size of his manhood. He texts to them about how handily he’ll satisfy them. He texts and tweets and texts and tweets.

And then he quits his Twitter app and goes off to masturbate.

In other words, Anthony Weiner is the lowest, least impressive kind of man. He is a self-made eunuch. A bragging, swaggering virgin. A pathetic joke of a man, unfit to wash Rodney Dangerfield’s (no doubt) sweaty and threadbare boxer shorts.

Anthony Weiner may be the latest casualty in the skirmish politics of our day — you know what I mean: we get one of theirs, they get one of ours; one furious blog post results in a barrage of furious tweets and comments; it’s all utterly irrelevant to the political direction of the nation at large — but in the great cultural sense, he’s created a new kind of male archetype: the Weiner Man. He was caught talking about something naughty that he didn’t have the courage to actually do.

#page#Somehow, it would be easier to take if Anthony Weiner had actually cheated on his wife. In real life. Or, should I say, “IRL,” as “in real life” is known in online communities. IRL, Weiner is married to an attractive aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. IRL, Weiner is a trash-talking, aggressive advocate of liberal causes and positions. IRL, in other words, he’s got a lot going for him. IRL, there are probably dozens of temptations all around him, and with a wife who travels all the time, well, it’s wrong, of course, but it wouldn’t be surprising, or even newsworthy, if he had a little something on the side. He’d be a cheat and a liar and a bad husband — and I’m setting aside the larger question of whether being any or all of those things makes one unfit to serve in the United States House of Representatives — but he wouldn’t be a weirdo. He’d be just one more man who forgot his covenants. He’d be one more man who broke the faith of marriage. He wouldn’t be, as the kids say, a perv.

At least John F. Kennedy, when he cheated on his wife, was physically present in the room. Even Bill Clinton — who seems more and more like a bridge figure, spanning the gap between the confident cad JFK and Weiner — seemed moderately attentive to the social requirements of having a mistress. He bought her gifts. They were stupid gifts, but they were gifts. What did Weiner give to his online squeezes? Pictures of his penis.

It’s not news, of course, that the American male is becoming more narcissistic and body-conscious. Weiner liked to show off his muscles and his hairless chest in a way that suggests a genuine sex-role reversal: He’s doing the striptease, he’s doing the elaborate body maintenance, he’s the object of desire. Anthony Weiner was a porn freak, but he was the one making the porn! Aren’t I beautiful? his texts and tweets seem to say. Yes, yes, the gals replied. You are one beautiful congressman! LOL.

I’m surprised he didn’t try to charge them.

But of course they never met. It was dirty talk, then private time. iPhone abuse, then self abuse. It may make him slightly less morally corrupt. But it makes him immensely less manly.

But that’s the problem with RL. Unlike in the Web space, IRL you have to come face to face with someone. You have to notice how they look and how they smile. You have to accept that they have too many wrinkles or a braying laugh or little patches of dry skin. IRL, in other words, you have to see things for how they really are. It’s a place devoid of abstraction. No wonder a liberal like Weiner preferred the online version.

Rob Long — Rob Long, Hollywood writer and producer, started his career as a screenwriter for the TV show Cheers. He is a regular writer for National Review, Newsweek International, and the Los ...

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