Monday, June 28, 2010

"His designs were strictly honorable, as the phrase is; that is, to rob a lady of her fortune by way of marriage."

The rake is basically a traditionalist when it comes to marriage. Not in the sense that he adheres to the marital bonds of constancy and fidelity, but more in the way that he demands a sizable dowry when taking his bride.

In order to secure such a sum, the rake must marshal every tool of deception in his arsenal, so asto fool the poor* bride-to-be and her family into thinking that he is an upstanding citizen of exceptional moral character. Which, of course, he is not. He should take every opportunity to speak to the girl's father of business matters and political happenings of national importance in order to impress upon him the appearance of a well connected and concerned citizen. On the other hand, he should subtly flirt with the mother of the bride, engendering a latent attraction in her, and increasing her desire for him to join the family.

Simpletons subscribe to the theory that impressing the father is of primary importance, and indeed it is the father who has the power to bestow or withhold the dot. However, the rake knows that every normal man's opinions, no matter how strong they may be, are ultimately ruled by his wife. Thus, having the mother on one's side is absolutely essential in securing a cushy fortune for the future. The same can be said about sisters. (N.B. Affairs with sisters should be kept discreet, for although they are extremely enjoyable, if the family catches wind of such an affaire de coeur, your chances for success will vanish as quickly as the first drink of the day.) Brothers are in fact your greatest enemies, as their natural protectiveness will lead to suspicion, and they might expose you for the fraud that you actually are. They should either be treated with indifference or chumminess, as the situation requires. You might consider setting up any single brothers with particularly talented former paramours, and so winning them over to your side. Also note that a close relationship with a beloved pet may work silent wonders in terms of your status in the family's eyes.

If, either through deliberate investigation or mere happenstance, the family catches wind of your true character, the hammer will almost immediately begin to drop. This is crisis mode. The solution is, with your most honeyed words and lying blandishments, to convince your fiancée to elope as soon as possible. Tell her that every moment that you spend not united to her in the bonds of holy matrimony is to you an aeon of agony. Tell her that you cannot imagine ever loving anyone in the world as much as you love her. Tell her anything--just make sure that she's at the nearest drive-thru chapel before any mention can be made of a pre-nuptial agreement. If this mad dash is successful, you can then divorce her immediately and recoup half of the marital assets, which will undoubtedly keep you living in style until your next sham of a marriage. Indeed, if properly executed, the only marriage that will be shorter and happier than yours is the glorious marriage of gin and vermouth known as a Martini.

However, if one is unable to elope and a pre-nuptial agreement is enforced, the rake must give a jurist's attention to the terms. **

In the worst-case scenario, you have already earned the family's opprobrium, and the girl refuses to elope. This is where prior preparation pays off. Over the entire duration of your engagement, you will naturally have been storing up as many family secrets and risqué private photographs of your fiance as possible. Store them with more care than pearls, as they are your last ticket to cash in on this courtship. Putting the bite on old dad generally doesn't pay as well as a dowry, but a bit of hush money can tide you over until you find the next unsuspecting target. It may be necessary to move to a different city, taking your secrets with you. For this reason, a rake never pursues his first marriage in the city that he would eventually like to inhabit.

* Please note that we mean poor in the unfortunate sense of the word (as in, unfortunately about to be jilted by you), not in the economic sense. A potential bride should never under any circumstances be economically poor.

** In a classic bluff, I once shocked a wealthy fiancée and her family by preemptively forcing her to sign a pre-nuptial agreement which included terms so strict that she became convinced of my "wealth." She not only was forced to maintain a certain BMI, but she even had to pay rent! She was so confused that she never got around to making me sign the document that her lawyers had prepared. You would be well-advised to take a page from my book.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hospes nullus tam in amici hospitium devorti potest, quin ubi triduum continuum fuerit jam odiosus siet.

Unfortunately, for the typical rake, entertaining at home is usually out of the question, as his home is almost guaranteed to be small and slovenly, and is even likely to be structurally unsound. Why, just the other day, for reasons that will not be discussed here, Alisdair was forced to move from his garret apartment in a Harlem tenement to even meaner habitations. He now occupies apartment 1 1/2 of a tumbledown hovel in an economically depressed area of Staten Island. You may well wonder why his apartment is so unusually numbered--a walk-through or a sublet, perhaps? No, the truth is much darker: my friend has been reduced to living in a cupboard underneath the building's staircase, adjacent to the rubbish bins. Alas, though, I can't say that I'm faring much better: my current lodgings are accessible only between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM, which, coincidentally, are also the operating hours of the Manhattan Mini Storage facility on New York's West Side Highway. So, you see, dinner parties are but a quixotic dream for us rakes. It is not very charming to open the door for a comely female guest when your door is made of bright orange corrugated steel.

As our loyal readers will now know, restaurants can be full of peril for a rake. Imagine the embarrassment of hosting a party of young bon vivants at the city's regnant dining hall, only to have them loudly informed of your habitual scurrilous check-dodging by the head waiter or maitre d'hôtel. Besides, it is wise never to be seen eating in public, for reasons discussed here. Rather, then, you will be required to convene your salon in a more private setting.

Therein lies the problem - if your quarters are as squalid as A's or as cramped as mine, you will not be quick to extend any invitations. So what to do? Simply use the home of another! A few guidelines:

In summer months, during the weekdays, it is possible and even easy to live luxuriously in the vacation homes and cottages of your employed friends. Simply head out to the house in question and locate the key under the mat or in the outdoor shower. As these chum(p)s are stuck in the office all week, they will be none the wiser.

When these friends head out to the Island for the week end, simply head back into town and use their apartments for anything from a quick shower to an elaborate fête! Here, it is essential to be on intimate terms with a good locksmith, or at the very least a few common burglars.

Next, in one of the most sinister and cunning techniques of which I have ever made mention, you should give as many framed photographs of yourself posing with friend X as gifts, for most mundane of reasons*. Not only will friends X be flattered and impressed by your generosity and kindness, but when your dinner guests see photographs of you all around the apartment, they will not think anything amiss.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should keep your social spheres separate. Invite your richest friends to the most humble and shabby apartments - they find it "charming" and "cozy." Invite your poorest friends to the the most expansive and opulent of your temporary residences - they are equally as charmed.

One last note: while Alisdair and I make it a daily habit of taking long, brooding walks, we are not, in general, outdoors types. Nor do we compost our own waste or indulge in dendrophiliac perversions like a lot of young wastrels shuffling about all over the place. But there is one philosophical tenet that we share with the granola-eaters, to which we adhere dogmatically: Leave No Trace. You would do well to do the same with regard to any homes you happen to borrow, or risk seeing a lot of B&E warrants signed by a lot of former friends. Special care should be taken with liquors: For every ounce of clear liquor (vodka and gin) taken, replace with a solution of 3:1 water/rubbing alcohol mix. For rums, the same solution with a teaspoon of sugar (ad a drop of red food coloring for dark rum) will do. For whiskeys - well, if there is any whiskey left in the place when you're done, then you have no right calling yourself a rake. Have you ever heard of the Whiskey bandit of San Francisco? He is I!

The insightful among you will have already guessed at some of the material benefits of inviting guests into your home. Opening your sanctum sanctorum--or at least what appears to be yours--will signal (falsely, of course) that you trust them, and that you are yourself worthy of their trust. The intimacy of private bread-breaking will put them at ease, and will only add to the warm and tender, if one-sided, bond you are forming. All this will make it much easier when you touch your guests for a short-term loan, as inevitably you will.

*"My friend, I heard your sister finally got married. Congratulations! Have this picture of the two of us."