I’m not Tom Cruise in the literal sense, but I’m speaking metaphorically–and not about the man himself, but the character of Bill Harford that he played in the movie Eyes Wide Shut. EWS was one of Stanley Kubric’s greatest films. There’s been much written about the symbolism and themes portrayed in the movie, and one would have to watch it a few times to have it all sink in when the strong sexual content isn’t distracting you. However, I personally related to Tom Cruise’s character, a doctor named Bill Harford. Harford’s encounters in EWS resonate and parallels very well with my experiences in marriage and dating in America. I wonder if Kubric ever realized the cord he struck with me and a lot of other men in my situation.
The standard view of women is wrong
Like many American men, Bill Harford had a very naive view of women. As far as he knew, women desired commitment and security so there was no reason why he should ever be jealous of his wife, Alice, when he saw her dancing with another man at a Christmas party. Alice is bothered about his lack of jealousy and offended by his insinuation that she wouldn’t be sexually drawn to other men. “You’re quite sure of yourself, aren’t you?” Alice had said. Alice proceeds to burst Bill’s bubble by confessing that, not only did she think about having an affair with the man that she danced with at the Christmas party, but also with a naval officer that was staying at the same hotel they were at the previous summer. Bill has been emotionally wounded by this confession, and Alice continuing to describe her feelings involving the naval officer in exquisite detail is twisting the knife.
Women generally keep their mouths shut about such feelings because the men in their lives would only get upset and Bill is no exception. But to men in the pickup artist community, Alice’s reactions are completely understandable. Women desiring commitment and security is only a half-truth. They don’t desire this from any man, only alpha males. This explains why so many nice guys and beta males spend their nights alone despite demonstrating the willingness to provide that commitment and security. They’re not alphas. Alice’s reaction to Bill is rooted in her disgust with Bill’s lack of display of alpha behavior. He should be jealous enough to protect his mate and he wasn’t. In evolutionary psychology, this is called mate guarding.
You would think that despite these revelations, Alice would still respect Bill. Nope! Alice breaks into a laughing fit when Bill shares his views with her on her own fidelity but he attributes it to her being high on the marijuana they’ve been smoking. It becomes clear throughout the movie that Alice doesn’t respect Bill at all despite all his merits that should make him a good catch: financially secure, good looking, successful, well-connected, loyal, etc. Not only does she not respect him, but openly mocks him to his face while devoting her time to their daughter. Any married men that have found yourself in a similar situation, raise your hand. Thought so. Moving on.
Bill’s journey into the female psyche
Needless to say, Bill is angry. But he is called to the home of a patient that has recently died later in the evening before he and Alice can finish their conversation. His departure from his home in Central Park West takes him on an erotic journey that rattles him and entices him at the same time while slowly and utterly demolishing any preconceptions he might have about the sexual nature of men and women.
- He arrives at his recently deceased patient’s home where his patient’s daughter attempts to seduce him despite her being engaged to another man. Bill declines the advance and dismisses it by attributing it to grief-induced lack of judgement. In this incident, Bill is still trying to remain noble and adhering to his ethics as a doctor and a married man.
- Bill later encounters a group of men while walking in the street who are crudely describing a recent trip to a strip club or recent sexual encounter when they accuse Bill of being gay and bully him. Bill is genuinely puzzled by the encounter. Considering that I’ve been bullied on a number of occasions, it was obvious to me that some men try to build alpha credibility by bullying others and bragging about sexual conquests. Women tend to have more sexual interest with such men. Men who don’t are accused of being gay and Bill must have subconciously telegraphed this vibe. Bill is most assuredly not alpha material.
- Bill later encounters a prostitute named Domino who offers to take him to her apartment for some fun. At this point we see Bill starting to abandon his principles. He is also still mad at Alice and figures some revenge sex might be appropriate. We also see throughout the movie that Bill is used to using his professional credentials and generous gratuity to get what he wants out of life, so paying a prostitute seems to be right up his ally. However, it appears this is his first time hiring a prostitute because he doesn’t know what he’s doing and it’s making things awkward in her apartment. Domino is nice enough to talk him through it, but before things go too far, Bill gets a call from Alice. He lies to Alice about where he is at, but is now overwhelmed with guilt and decides not to go through with having sex with Domino. He pays her anyway for her time.
- Bill visits with an old friend that is playing piano at a night club. Bill discovers that his friend has a gig later that night, but it’s in a secret place. Bill’s interest is raised further when his friend lets slip that there are attractive women there looking to hook up. Bill presses his friend for enough information about the time and place since he believes he can infiltrate the event with a costume and mask since he has already heard the password. At this point of Bill’s journey he is actively seeking a sexual encounter instead of being a passive recipient of sexual offers. I’m thinking that Bill is aroused at this point after two aborted sexual encounters so whatever guilt he has is easily being supressed as he keeps dwelling on what Alice has told him.
- Bill goes to a shop to rent a costume that was owned by one of his patients only to find that it has been a while since they last spoke and discovers that somebody else owns the shop. The merchant is willing to open his store in the middle of the night when Bill offers to pay extra. But their transaction is briefly interrupted when the merchant discovers that his daughter is fooling around with two Asian men. Since his daughter is underage, the merchant detains them until he finishes helping Bill so that he can call the police. The daughter flirts with Bill before the merchant angrily sends her to bed. Bill doesn’t know what to make of the incident. He certainly won’t try to chase after the daughter of an angry merchant and he’s in a rush to get to the secret party so he quickly forgets about it.
- Then things get weird. Bill arrives at the party’s location after a long taxi ride. He gains entry simply enough and finds himself attending a pseudoreligious ceremony with other people in costumes and masks. The masks don’t prevent a couple of the attendees from noticing Bill (perhaps because he’s wearing a costume that they don’t recognize from previous parties), but they don’t seem to do anything about it. The women then disrobe during the ceremony and pair off with the men to start an orgy. One of the women chooses Bill. She apparently notices that he doesn’t belong there either and tries to get him to leave. But she is distracted by another attendee and Bill’s curiosity keeps him at the party. Bill only remains long enough to enjoy the view before getting ceremoniously ejected from the party with a warning that harm can come to him and his family if he speaks about what he saw. Bill is in an environment where sex is given away freely and the most erotic fantasies a man can think of are being played out before his eyes. But he doesn’t get to participate. I can’t picture him feeling any guilt at all at this stage from such a sensory overload.
- Bill finally gets home, but gets no sympathy or sexual release from his wife. In fact, he finds her giggling in the middle of a dream she is having in which many men are having sex with her while Bill looks on–much like Bill was looking on at the party he was just thrown out of. If he was angry before, this should make him furious, but is it only a dream, or are Alice’s true desires bubbling to the surface from her subconcious?
- The next day, Bill tries to find his friend pianist the following morning at the local hotel to discover from the attendant at the main desk that his friend checked out really early in the morning and left no messages. The attendant also happens to be gay and flirts with Bill. This is the second time Bill is mistaken for being gay.
- Bill returns his costume (but seems to have lost the mask) and discovers the merchant on friendly terms with the two Asian men he had threatened to have arrested for fooling around with his daughter. It seems that the merchant pimps out his daughter and was probably upset that they were trying to have sex with her for free. He offers her to Bill for the right price, but sex with a minor seems to be too much for Bill and he declines.
- Bill actively tries to reach out to the daughter of his deceased patient and the prostitute Domino who were sexually receptive the previous night. However, the daughter is with her fiance and Domino’s roommate informs him that Domino is HIV positive. So it’s a no-go. He also tries to revisit the place of the previous night’s orgy only to be rebuffed with a second warning. One of Bill’s wealthy patients contacts him and tells him that he was also at that party and saw everything that happened. He reiterates that Bill shouldn’t inquire anymore into the matter, or he can be in serious trouble.
- Bill returns home to discover the missing mask he had rented with his costume placed next to his sleeping wife. He is overwhelmed with guilt and confesses everything that has happened to Alice. Alice feels that the best way to move on is to consider everything that happened the past couple of days as a dream and “to fuck as soon as possible“
Bill completes his erotic journey within a day, but for me it took many years. Apparently, I was a slow learner. It’s not that I found myself attending orgies or having underage girls hitting on me. My journey was largely a symbolic one but very similar to Bill’s. I shared the same naive views of women that Bill did in the beginning of EWS. I believed that women were naturally loyal and sought monogamy, companionship and security in their relationships because this was what I was taught from my family and even other girls that I was acquainted with. Women were just waiting for a guy like me to rescue them from the lecherous, over-sexed jerks that they were dating–so I’ve been told. So I invested time into my studies so that I can be a success and provide for a girl while playing the nice guy card a lot. Of course, women still rejected me to sleep around with the jerks, but it was explained to me that they had low self-esteem. These were just pretty lies and I was in denial about it for a long time because I wanted to believe it.
You see, I complained a lot in high school of my apparent lack of companionship from the opposite sex that claimed that they all wanted nice guys, and I wasn’t aiming out of my league either. Since the first day I started high school, I knew where my place was in the hierarchy. I knew that all the beautiful girls went after the football players and the guys that had cars. I was aiming lower at girls that I thought I had a shot with, but it was still not to be. I was rebuffed, mocked, teased and even accused of being gay when trying to express sensitivity–which was everything that Bill Harford experienced in EWS.
College wasn’t any better and I was getting the distinct impression that I was being lied to about the nature of women. I wasn’t holding on to the idea that sex was only for marriage, but I still was taught or indoctrinated with the idea that sex was for a committed relationship and that the burden was on me to demonstrate such a commitment. This wasn’t the case at all. Sex after the first date, or even sex without dating was the norm (not the exception). But the apparent ease of sex wasn’t a benefit in college that was enjoyed by all. In college, sexual activity roughly conformed to the 80/20 rule. That means 80% of the sex was being had by only 20% of the people. This means the alpha groups of each gender and this alpha status had little to do with traits such as sensitivity, romance and stability. But much like Bill at the secret orgy, I saw people hooking up at parties and experimenting with all sorts of kinky activities, but I was excluded from participating. This experience (or lack thereof) was quite an eye-opener for me. It’s as if there was a conspiracy to exclude me from these activities or any sort of companionship whatsoever, much like how Bill felt at the orgy in EWS.
Before anybody jumps on my case to suggest that my situation was unique or that there’s something wrong with me, I suggest to you that my time at college was during the mid to late 90’s where the internet was starting to emerge and gain widespread use. Communities were forming online and one of them involved men who were as frustrated with the dating scene as I was. They started comparing notes and tried to figure out how to capture a woman’s heart and desire. They basically tossed out everything they thought they knew about women or what they have been told, deconstructed woman’s behavior, made observations, formed hypothesis, tried them in social settings and reported the results. A lot of what they found would seem to mesh with what Alice was trying to tell Bill in EWS. Hence Game, in its modern form, was born!
I didn’t know about the emerging Game community on the internet at the time. Despite my setbacks in college, I did manage to meet a girl and married her shortly after I graduated. She was a Plain Jane but was very friendly and kind to me and I thought this was the best I could hope for. But within a couple of years, sex no longer interested her. There was other issues in our marriage but they are beyond the scope of this article. But you can imagine my frustration that I couldn’t even get sex in marriage! Bill Harford at least still got to have sex with Alice at the end of EWS! And even a Plain Jane like my wife couldn’t be a solid marriage partner in a lot of other respects so I divorced her after 5 years of marriage. Before anybody condemns my decision to divorce, you should note that women initiate most divorces in the US and for a lot flimsier reasons. Fortunately, there were no children or else I might need to hang on to a loveless marriage for their sake. I got lucky as far as divorces go.
Dating post divorce wasn’t any better. I was still getting rejected by women despite me being on a solid career path and owning my own home. Single mothers were interesting in me as long as I understood that I was second fiddle compared to their kids. Some of the mothers would call their sons little man–something I find to be a little creepy so I was never comfortable with the situation. Other women were what I would call reformed sluts. They were the ones that slept around when they were younger but now their biological clock is ticking and they realize that they need to behave to find a good man. This makes sense to them but not to me because they are making me jump through hoops for something that they used to give away freely to other men when they were younger. No dice. Strange as it sounds I was involved in some groups online and was invited to an orgy! I was tempted to go in the hope of getting something started until I learned that the women there were 40-50 year old fat girls–nowhere near the type that were in the orgy scene in EWS. Pass.
If it sounds like I’m picky now, it’s because I have to be. I’ve grown older and wiser and my standards have been raised accordingly. In retrospect, the best opportunity a woman had to snatch me up was when I was young and stupid but they decided to make out or spread their legs for somebody else. I still look for the serious relationship and serious commitment and I’m willing to give marriage another try. But it won’t be in the US. My eyes are no longer eyes wide shut!