Thursday, September 20, 2007

Getting Out: Your Guide To Leaving America

Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America by Mark Ehrman (Process Media 2006).

Straight single men are people, too.

Not that you’d know it from reading travel books.

Straight women’s concerns on the road are well documented. Wanderlust and Lipstick bills itself as “the essential guide for women traveling solo.” It competes with Go Your Own Way: Women Travel The World Solo, Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik: One Woman’s Solo Misadventures Across Africa and The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2007, to name three books from different branches of the travel writing tree. The oldsters have their own book, called A Foxy Old Woman’s Guide To Traveling Alone. Watch out, boys, the Widow Corrigan is ringing the bell and buying everyone a round!

If you’re a gay man, you can select from a rainbow-colored inventory including Spartacus International Gay Guide, 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places To Live, Utopia Guide to Asia and Gay Travels In The Muslim World, the last of which sounds interesting whatever your sexual preference. Damron publishes a lesbian travel guide, although I would rather read Tales of Travelrotica For Lesbians.

If you want to take the kids on the road, you have literally hundreds of books to choose from. Turns out, places other than Orlando are happy to host your kids. My house is not one of those places.

What about single straight men? Despite the fact that we constitute at least the plurality of solo and long-term travelers, our specific concerns are rarely addressed. In fact, if you do an Amazon search for “solo male travel,” the jillion-dollar algorithm spits out a list dominated by books about women traveling by themselves. When the world’s most extensive book retailer can’t find a single title tailored to the needs of unattached male travelers, something is wrong.

Consequently, I don’t want to be too hard on Getting Out: Your Guide To Leaving America by Mark Ehrman. The book is a symptom of the problem, not the cause.

Still. The book devotes 340 pages to the topic of becoming an expatriate; in those pages, the concerns of women, gay men and lesbians are discussed at length and on a country-by-country basis. Well and good. That’s not my complaint.

My complaint is that the issues which specifically impact straight single expat men are ignored. What is the male-female ratio in the capital city? What is the attitude of local women to dating Western men? What is the prevalence of pre-marital sex? Do dowries have to be paid and, if so, how much? Are pre-nuptial agreements enforceable?

So far as Getting Out and thousands of other travel publications are concerned, these questions do not exist. The travel literature industry appears to have internalized a belief that issues of concern to heterosexual unmarried men are somehow sexist or exploitative.

The author and researchers of Getting Out manifest this misandrist attitude to an absurd degree. In writing short profiles of “The Top 50 Expat Meccas,” they took the time to learn the laws in 50 countries regarding abortion, homosexuality and “women’s issues,” but they could not be bothered to report whether there are any social or legal impediments to marrying a local woman. I am not saying the slight is intentional; it may have been completely subconscious, but the slight is there.

Floating on the surface of Getting Out is a pernicious gender-based double standard found throughout contemporary travel writing: The belief that it is acceptable for women to move to another country to increase their romantic prospects, but that it is not acceptable for men to do so.

“I, a short, somewhat chubby woman of 38 years, was about a six in the U.S.,” said Tracy, one of the many expats interviewed in Getting Out. “Apparently, I am more like an eight on the Greek sex appeal scale.”

British men are “less in thrall to the Barbie doll/cheerleader model of beauty,” said Ellin, who moved from New York to London. “Not only did I feel I appealed to more British men, just as importantly, more of them appealed to me.”

Again, well and good. But the male perspective on exactly the same issue is not offered by Getting Out. In many books and publications, the idea of a Western man moving to a foreign country to increase his odds of dating or marrying is automatically dismissed as perverted or desperate. Turnabout is not deemed fair play.

Getting Out has other problems as well. The book is poorly proofread, with distracting typos. Some of the information, like the list of countries which do not have extradition treaties with the United States, is unsourced. Certain recitations of law are technically accurate but incorrect in practice. (For example, while Singapore has a law on the books outlawing male homosexual conduct, it is rarely enforced.)

Getting Out is sadly reflective of this moment in travel writing. Overly political. Thinly researched. Convinced that the plurality of travelers – single men – are not worth writing about.

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Blogger Gayle said...

Loved your review. . . so write the book yourself. You've got a way with words!

By the way, is Buenos Aires one of the book's meccas? Should be.
I suspect you'd be a 9 or 10 on the attractiveness scale to women in Argentina. And if you are not divorced, getting official permission to marry should not take too long.

Best wishes from Gayle, the Californian in the Pampas

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go easy on the book, mate! Its about leaving america and makes it fairly clear ( in many cases ) that if your leaving the country for the sole reason of sex, then have you problems. I think this is a really good thing to communicate to a growingly compulsive and excessive society.

10:19 PM  

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