Reading Journal Entry: The Self-Made Man, by Norah Vincent

Norah Vincent disguised herself as a man for eighteen months or so in order to provide an inside-out view of the difference between men and women. Now, my DH claims he already knows what it's like to be a man, and therefore he doesn't need to read this book. I don't think that's true. The point is that Norah Vincent, starting out female, will have an entirely different perspective on what it is to be male. Particularly since much of what she learns is something men have known so long that it's ingrained and unconsious.

It's fascinating reading about her initial transformation and her first forays out as 'Ned', the male alter-ego she creates for herself. Vincent samples a selection of male bastions, including of all things a monastery and a bowling league. Then she tries dating. Then she gets a job. It's merciless.

Vincent is six feet tall and kind of masculine for a woman, but apparently still makes a pretty effeminate man. A constant theme is men thinking she's gay. They're right (she's a lesbian) but not in the way they think.

Vincent has some great insights, especially in the chapter on dating, bu I couldn't help wanting something more. Norah checks herself into a psych ward at the end of her experiment after experiencing something close to a nervous breakdown. But she's oddly protective and reticent about the experience.

I came away thinking that Ned has pretty damn big balls, and Norah Vincent as a woman probably still has bigger balls than I do.

That's OK. I'm female.

I've never been so intimidated by a narrator before.


Banana Martin said...

I saw an interview with the writer on a morning show and read about it in the paper -- it is certainly a media-friendly book -- and both made me want to read it.

tim maguire said...

I haven't read the book yet but intend to. One thing that interests me about your review is that the initial set up always sounded a lot like "Black Like Me," a story about a white man who lives as a black man in the pre-Civil Rights South.

You mention that she went into a monastery and also a psych ward. The narrarator in Black Like Me also spent some time in a monastery and, while I can't remember if he checked himself into an asylum, he talked of approaching a nervous breakdown.