Norah Vincent’s book Self-Made Man is a sort of research report on men and the cultural roles they inhabit. Norah gets a personal trainer, some theatrical makeup, a voice coach, and a flattop haircut, and becomes Ned. Ned joins a bowling league, gets a hard-charging entry-level sales job, goes to a monastery and a men’s retreat. He goes on dates– actually, Norah and Ned both go on dates, for comparison.
Little or none of Ned’s experience is shocking or revelatory (dating sucks, men go to nudie bars), but they’re still insightful and thought-provoking. It’s one thing to know that a lot of men are afraid of being emotional or needy, and quite another to experience it, even vicariously, as Ned. And it’s brilliant to watch Norah become more and more familiar with the social roles and requirements of men. This is a hell of a good story, and it’s told with humor, humility, and style.