When I was 4 years old, I fell in love with Perry Como.
There was something about his smooth crooning, the soothing, kindly way he came into your home each week via the tube and his devotion to faith and family that made the singer irresistible. Being too young to grasp my ardor fully, I did the only thing I could do: I named my toy cash register Perry.
Como was the first in a long line of PBs – Pretend Boyfriends – whom I sure would be horrified to know of my admiration. Indeed, our beloved Waggers can attest that many of my PBs have found their way onto the Wall of Inspiration that is the backdrop to my computer, my thinking and my writing. They range from the dead but still vital, like the Greco-Macedonian conqueror Alexander, to the very much alive, like Peruvian tenor and bel canto specialist Juan Diego Flórez.
This past season, my friend Barbara Nachman, the fashion-mystery novelist, and I had the pleasure of hearing his Nemorino in The Metropolitan Opera’s “L’Elisir d’Amore,” a role that has rich associations with tenors ranging from Caruso to Pavarotti. To hear Juan Diego sing the aria “Una furtiva lagrima” was to understand the meaning of the expression “You could hear a pin drop.” After, the hushed audience burst into such a sustained ovation that he repeated the aria. And the audience would’ve wished him to do so again, but ever the gentleman, Juan Diego indicated that the leading lady, the great coloratura soprano Diana Damrau, was graciously waiting for her cue. This will, however, always remain for me a magical moment.
What is it about men, and why do we love them so? Part of it is that they are for us – as we women are no doubt for them – an uncharted country, an often rugged, ripped uncharted country. Nature has ordained the male to be the prettier of almost every species. We have a little fun with that in this issue, wondering what it would be like if men, and not women, were the primary sex symbols in our culture. (Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen anytime soon.)
Part of the fascination is that of the traditionally powerless for the powerful. Throughout history, men have held the cards of freedom and control. And yet, that very position has often hemmed them in and forced them to give up an idiosyncratic expressivity that no woman would relinquish, as you’ll see in our essay on male virginity.
At times boxed and brutalized, men have not always been compassionate toward women. And yet, we retain compassion for them, perhaps never more so than in the economically recessed present, when they seemed to have momentarily lost their way as leaders and breadwinners.
Still, they’ve had the confident courage of their convictions. In these pages, you’ll meet many of the men we love, guys like hedge-funder turned Bloomberg anchorman Adam Johnson, Wall Streeter turned specialty butcher Ryan Fibiger, car dealer turned philanthropist Malcolm Pray, male virgin Chad David (32 years and counting), New York City Ballet costumer Marc Happel, Joseph Abboud’s right-hand man Tom Beebe, African foodie turned Greenwich chef (by way of Wolfgang Puck) François Kwaku-Dongo.
They’re all unique, of course. But what they have in common is a willingness to imagine a better self and to be catalysts of that change for civilization’s sake.
It’s not that we women haven’t had great accomplishments. But we haven’t always been big risk-takers. (And let’s face it, society hasn’t let us.)
This kind of brass is something we ladies can learn from men – just as we know there is plenty they can learn from us.