Cultural Imperialist

"Scathing Spats on Shallow Subjects"


Fri Jul 28



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Better Than a Relationship Intern

Greg Piper

If you're that desperate to belong to someone, you could just intern at Goldman Sachs.

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Every good thing comes in pairs, whether Coens or the examples in this sentence.  That's why couples in long-distance relationships need a placeholder - a vicar, if you want to get theological and witness a room-wide synchronized eye-roll.

They need you, the surrogate boyfriend, the highest calling in assisted heterosexuality since Barry White.

This happened to me a few years ago (and fittingly was the inspiration for Cultural Imperialist).  A friend moved away for a yearlong graduate program, leaving behind his girlfriend.  Somehow the lady, who previously had been the subject of my interest, and I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time together.  It was never spoken, but for all practical purposes, I served as the bodily vessel for the boyfriend.  They got engaged months after he returned.

It's truly an honor to be chosen as a surrogate, unless it's for George Bluth.  Like Onan filling in for his dead brother Er before that hot mess, or your cool middle-aged single aunt, surrogate boyfriends fill an essential role in the life of a couple.  They take their charges out to dinner, go shopping with them, and patiently listen to how awful that older woman in HR is.  They give benign physical contact such as hugs and even pecks on the cheek, even if their fast talking southern-gentleman friend objects.  Unlike with gay boyfriends, the surrogate provides the pretense (if not more) of mutual attraction.  Otherwise the couple may fail when the boyfriend returns and his lady has post-romantic stress disorder.

But player-mater that you are, you may ask:  Why should I put a cramp in my dating life or torture myself by playing the understudy for the leading role I deserve with this fair maiden that I want to knock boots with, as Vanessa Redgrave would say?  I would ask in return, what are you, stupid?

1. You'll look better to women you might want.
Months after my placeholding, I landed a chick way hotter than I ever deserved.  When women see you in public entertaining a fiancee-in-waiting, no different than with a puppy, they are simultaneously filled with compassion and envy.

2. It's good practice before you actually land a girlfriend.  When you make a gaffe as a surrogate, that's a freebie that the surrogetter won't hold against you, unless boobs are involved.  Fix it before someone is keeping score of your shortcomings.

3. When the music ends, you'll have a chair.
Should the long-distance relationship go sour, you'll be well positioned to sweeten your swizzlestick.  Or less inappropriately, to provide a shoulder to cry on and a pair of lips to lock.  Think of it like derivatives trading, where you hedge against the success of the relationship in which you serve as emotional fertilizer.

Or you could do it out of the goodness of your heart, for a friend whose shining knight is fighting battles somewhere else.  But we know you're not that thoughtful.  Put it this way:  Can you think of any other way you'll get some?

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The Surrogate Scandal

Jeremiah Lewis


The surrogacy of an ersatz platonic relationship for a romantic one may be the height of self-delusion and any guy who engages in the act deserves the tantalizing but fruitless hope that results.

It's politically sleazy, combining the awkward sensationalism of a John Edwards with the boring workaday existence of an Arlen Specter (defection notwithstanding). The Nixonian dissembling ("I am not a boyfriend") all but signals one's cloying desperation for anything that will allow human contact with a female of the species, but at the same time demonstrates his inability to successfully bond with an unattached girl. And once spotted in the "friend zone" other women will be attracted to the safety of surrogacy. Single. For. Life.

The premise, that a guy can stand in for the absentee boyfriend (normally in the course of a long distance relationship), works entirely for the benefit of the female. While I'm not resistant to the philosophy that a happy woman is a harmless woman, to take on the masculine traits of her distant boyfriend, squeegeeing the emotional dreck that accumulates from a romance yard gap, and generally self-emasculating for the benefit of a girl who will never be yours, is tantamount to the lie of Communism. Sure it's nice in theory. But like the proletariat, you'll be left in the cold while the reigning party goes out and gets engaged to her beau. How is that a good thing?

Surrogate boyfriends endure all the crap of a normal committed relationship (bad day at work bitching, the endless cuddle craving, the messy period emotions), but there's also the additional, unspoken strain of serving the emotional needs of a woman in love without actually being fully emotionally available. After all, how much of your heart can you give to a chick who doesn't even give you tongue?

This places both parties in the awkard scenario of having feelings without a proper outlet. This is why Nora Roberts books get written.

The delicate dance of the sexes isn't to be tread lightly. The course of human interaction is dangerous enough without purposely placing ourselves in harm's way. The benefits of surrogacy may seem plentiful (see Greg's shortsighted column), but they are outweighed by the obvious downsides.

You may cause jealousy, suspicion, and doubt in the missing party. By placing yourself in the role of the boyfriend, you implicitly challenge his role as caregiver, lover, best friend, protector, and source for new indie music. The circumstances of his absenteeism aren't important in this context. Your stepping in is an emotional threat to him, and it could wreak turmoil in the dynamic between him and her.

You risk the woman's heart. Women can be just as mercurial as men in matters of the heart. Do not underestimate the lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life. What might seem like a friendly duty could eventually be received as overtures of something more. Do you really want to be the douche who took some other man's lady?

At the end of the day, if all goes well and you haven't let your guard down and revealed how you'd do anything to be with her, even if that's playing second doomed fiddle, you'll be left holding an empty bag of pointless desires and feckless dreams. She will be with him, and you will be the chump who spent all those hours being someone else's guy. You might think that'll come in handy for when you're with a hottie of your own, but since every person is different, every relationship spawns completely different needs and responses. You'll never use those surrogate skills in a relationship of your own.

If you're that desperate to belong to someone, you could just intern at Goldman Sachs.

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  • Shitty surrogate says:

    I feel like I’m a surrogate boyfriend right now. A really shitty one. Boy, I am as much of a fuck up at this as I am at actual romance.

    She’s very clingy, and I definitely fill a void in her heart, one that I really think should be filled by an actual, honest to goodness boyfriend. She is, however, a very devout surrogate girlfriend in return, and she always cares about me, and constantly seeks emotional intimacy with me, as she had done before with her other (male, and past) One True Friends™. She’s also, in other aspects, a pretty fun friend overall.

    Things get weird when we have these para-marital fights, like when I stopped making up cute nicknames and puns on her name, as I had taken a liking to do at some point, thus spelling the inevitable doom of our “friendship”, or when I wasn’t affectionate enough while thanking her for introducing me to her family, or lacking that intuitive knowledge of how her mind works… that an actual romantic partner should have. Otherwise this has been a pretty normal BFFship between two people prone to get into these sorts of situations.

    But this has been a pretty decent practice relationships, it has shown me that I suck at this boyfriend thing, surrogate or not, as I’m entirely too self-centered to make it work.

    I am currently “trying” to save my friendship with her by just playing chill and waiting it out, in the hopes that we’ll sort of drift apart a bit, but not too much, but I’m beginning to think that a full-on surrogate breakup is about to happen, something I will, somewhat tragically, fail to give enough of a shit about, until I find myself a few hours alone, and take the time to actually digest it, then I’ll be all tears, as the loser that I am.

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