Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How To Spot A Rake, Pt. 2: Know His Habitats

You may have already guessed that the rake's most natural habitat is the bar. Although an inveterate liar and emotionally incapable of true friendship, we are naturally quite garrulous, and are thus drawn to the affability and fun that bars engender. Also, they have tons of booze. The trick is to find the right bar at the right time. In our circles, rising before noon is considered undignified, which is fine, as even your worst gin mills don't open much before then. On a typical day, a rake will putter about his home drinking, reading Balzac novels, and listening to Puccini until at least three, at which point he will strike out for his first stop. This will normally be a restaurant or cafe of middling quality, for the following ingenious reason: at three, the lunch-time rush has subsided. The barmaids and waitresses are exhausted from their shift, and the bright-eyed evening crew has yet to arrive. Feet aching and having worked themselves into a state of tremendous resentment against their employers, the entire staff--particularly the females, though not exclusively--will be unusually susceptible to a smile and a little charm, and can easily be plied for free drinks. Moreover, even if they are unusually scrupulous or spiteful, you can easily duck out on your undoubtedly sizable tab during the confusion of the shift change.

In the evening, rakes tend to frequent bars and lounges where the dress code is semi-formal at least. If you require an explanation for this choice, you clearly have no idea how debonair we look in a tuxedo. Not to mention that, when one's sustenance is primarily gained through unsecured personal loans and lovers' largesse, it helps to seek out the wealthiest possible company. Of course, the stiffs that have the money to drink at such places are usually either in the bag or in bed by 1 AM at the latest. If by that time a rake has not secured an invitation to a lady companion's apartments, then he will wander gamely off into the night, eventually ensconcing himself in whatever rathole he may find, guzzling rotgut with the plebs until the sunlight peeks through the clapboard shutters.

Naturally, these venues are only a few of those in which you should be on the lookout for rakes. If you should happen to meet a hungover Errol Flynn look-alike while you walk your Yorkshire terrier in the park, beware. Similarly, any insouciant charmer that just happens to bump into you outside of an ATM or in your psychiatrist's waiting room should be regarded with suspicion.

How To Spot A Rake, Pt. 1

La constanza? Tiranna del core,

Detestiamo qual morbo crudele.

Sol chi vuole si serbe fedele;

Non v'è amor se non v'è libertà.

Giovanni must be owned the greatest cad ever portrayed on stage, but never has the rake's romantic changeability been expressed better or more succinctly than by Verdi's Duke of Mantua. With this fact in mind, every woman who considers getting involved with one of our ilk should first seriously examine her own mettle. If she be weak, without either the stoicism of Marie-Thérèse or the levity of a Tallulah Bankhead, the affair will inexorably lead to her utter ruination. Of course, by ruination, I do not refer to the loss of what is commonly called her "virtue" or "chastity"; as we have already stated, chastity is nothing more than a contrivance of patriarchy, a shibboleth of prudes. Rather, what will be laid to waste is her entire emotional fabric. Long after the rake has turned his attentions to some other charming thing, the jilted woman will remain, sobbing into her handkerchief, unable to decide whether she wants to gather her beloved back into her arms or to cast him headlong into a shallow grave. This dipole of love and hate will consume her mentally and physically, and eventually she will die because of it (see above picture).

I myself have been the root of several such tragedies, and it is a terrible thing to see. Of course, as I see it, the solution is not to change my behavior--for such a thing is impossible, as we have said elsewhere. Instead, a little bit of informed consent will have to suffice. Thus, over the next five days or so (assuming we don't go on an unexpected bender) I will give to you, ladies, a beginner's primer on How To Spot A Rake. The first lesson will follow later today, with one lesson posted each day after. Learn them well, so that the next time you are sizing up a potential lover, you will be know whether he is a true rake or a harmless impostor. That way, you will be at least somewhat prepared to enter upon the adventure, and I will be freed of any ethical liability!

*NB: We lay out these principles at considerable personal and professional risk to ourselves. If anyone in the raking community found out that we were publishing trade secrets in this manner, we would certainly be fined at least ten cases of gin, and might even lose our membership in the Guild altogether. Consider, then, our courage in this manner as evidence of our devotion to and affection for all of you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Woman's Cause is the Rake's: We Rise Or Fall Together!

It will not come as any surprise to you that Gaspard and I spend most of our time, jointly and severally, meditating on women. No man can deny that, especially if he has a bottle or two of Scotch in him, his thoughts will always sooner or later turn to females. Sometimes these reveries center on particular specimens--like Greta, the charming young second cello whom I've been seeing for a few months--and in such moments phantasies of almost unspeakable erotism play before my mind's eye, often for hours. I imagine her hands--rosin-stained, worn and calloused, testifying to her ardent love of music--rising to her swan's throat for a delicate self-caress. Her blue eyes bore lustily in my own as she reaches behind to the clasp of her performance gown, pausing for an aeon of a moment before releasing her pendulous Teutonic…excuse me. I must leave off for a while. Perhaps later I will have the presence of mind to return to my theme.

Now then. As I said, sometimes my meditations are specific to one woman. But at other times, the mind abstracts and considers Woman more broadly, as a concept and as a class. Too often general consideration of woman's plight ends sourly, as women have always gotten the short end of the stick. Think on it and you will know it is true. Even when women have enjoyed some degree of financial and sexual license, like the grandes dames of the Ancien Régime, their available choices and behaviors have always been severely circumscribed. Remember, in Laclos' masterwork, Valmont dies something like a hero's death, while the Marquise "necessarily" ends her drama disfigured and penniless. And don't get me started on those bastard Victorians: that for a half-century an entire race of people so thoroughly perverted joy in life, nuptive and otherwise, seems almost as if it must have been some sort of sick joke. You may apply this model to almost any period or place, and you will see that everywhere, Woman has been suppressed.

Perhaps some readers will be shocked that female liberation is a pet cause here at the Rakish Life. Our journal is undeniably male in its orientation, and most self-consciously male institutions tend to stand in the same sort of relationship to our better halves: objectify, repress, possess. But Gaspard and I want no part of this gender control. After all, any effort to deprive a woman of her natural rights derives from a man's basic insecurity that, given free choice, she will choose somebody else. This is an anxiety from which we rakes are completely free, thanks to our flawless features, impeccable moustaches, and boundless élan.

Women today, at least in some countries, are undoubtedly accorded more freedoms than ever before, and for this the Rakish Life acknowledges a deep debt to your Pankhursts, your Friedans, and your Steinems. Much progress has been made in the sexual arena: these days, a woman can--and should--take as many lovers as she desires, when she desires (so long as one of those lovers is me). Modern girls take a fierce pride in protecting and promulgating this right, some going so far as to extend their favors to several men in one evening, merely because they can. Such women are treasures.

But there are challenges that remain. Astute readers will be aware of the deplorable statistics concerning equal pay in the workplace. A male office drone might knock off on a Friday with money to burn, while a woman who has done the exact same work and put in the same hours will often leave work with barely tuppence. At such a disgraceful economic disadvantage, how is she meant to pay her bills, service her debts, or buy an evening's worth of drinks for the jaunty, penurious Scotsman at her local bar? Readers, this cannot stand, because I am thirsty.

Women: tear off your shackles! Break your chains! Now is the time to answer the challenge put to you by your mothers, and mothers' mothers! Empower yourself, liberate yourself! I'll be waiting at the bar when you do.