- Published on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 22:15
- Written by Book Reviewer: Dr Glenville Ashby
Chénelle Taylor blazes a trail of despair and disappointment in “50 dates with 17 Mr. Wrongs.” It's a bruising attack on Jamaican men, their misplaced values and blaring disregard for women. Taylor's work is anecdotal - her personal experiences with a band of scoundrels bent on honouring the machismo script to the hilt. She’s raw and authentic, snidely ascribing a moniker to each male disaster - The Snake, The Captain, Mr Affluent - just a few of the rotten apples presented. And the tales of woe flow, unceasingly. She tells how a once promising romance dovetailed into an abyss of misery; how her “Love” became verbally abusive, launching into wild tirades. “He accused me of being condescending, silly, overly analytical…He could not understand my need to be refreshed with courting and romance, or my need to meet his mother…”
A forensic psychologist, Taylor well understands that her undertaking is far from empirically definitive. She concedes that much. Yet, she is convinced that there is something wretched, damning about her fellow countrymen. She lays down her rules. Her counsel to other women is lucid, stark. Beware, think, tread lightly. And for men, she is quite blunt: Mend your ways.
Who can argue with her advice? She writes : “It is safer to avoid getting involved with a man who is about to leave the country…All that glitters is not gold; all sweet talk is not Prince Charming.” Later, she warns, “Avoid men who are a financial liability,” and “A significant age gap with the person you are dating calls for serious consideration in the prospect of sustained compatibility……Maltreatment on the first date is irredeemable. If the first date is bad…do not agree to the second.” She then admonishes the guilty, “Much of the distress you cause the unsuspecting female is avoidable. Learn the virtue of honesty.”
This is Taylor's vent, her catharsis. Curiously, it adds a perversely hypnotic appeal to her work. Her dates are either self-absorbed, duplicitous, financially hamstrung, immature or predatory. Taylor's ride has been a tumultuous one. And her work loudly reflects that of a wounded soul. No doubt, her revelations will rally women - jilted on not - to coalesce around her cause. Such is the populist appeal of "50 Something Dates." After all, male bashing is today's zeitgeist. And Taylor honours that marauding spirit with a sentient knife that cuts through just about every page.
But Taylor, like other women should also be in our sociological cross hairs. What do clinicians say about women who repeatedly fall for less than worthy men? And to what extent is the women's liberation driven by social forces bent on effacing natural sensibilities and maternalism?
Taylor concedes that her driving ambition and independence may have contributed to what she terms her “dating inurement.” These are loaded words upon which women should reflect. Are the so called traditional roles of women inherently anachronistic...an albatross that robs women of their self worth…a reminder of “dark days?” Traditionalism and modernity need not be irreconcilable.
Not that male culture ought not to be reexamined. With all its emotional ranting, Taylor manages to raise some ontological and psycho-sociological questions that transcend Jamaican society. Today, men are being reined in. Some bend to watchdog groups; others become mired in a social limbo; while others lash out, sometimes with deadly consequences. Paternalistic cultures are under relentless pressure to change. But can they, or will they? Are men, by nature just different? Remember the contemporary maxim: "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus?"
Of course, there is no excuse for venality and treachery, but as an academic, Taylor must look deeper at the social institutions that spawn these rejects. In like vein, we are all called upon to look within and find our own happiness. Taylor promises a sequel. Hopefully, she will pursue the sociological angle. Who else is more qualified for such an undertaking? Regrettably, assailing the Jamaican man is a reflection of a society turned on its head. Taylor has not only revealed a personal wound, but has invited a debate on culture, gender politics and the changing role of women. Well before she offers her prescription for the ills of Jamaican men, readers are hooked. But, all this is pales to "50 something Dates," as a strident call that should provoke the conscience of a nation.
Rating: Interesting Read