Bachelor Machine

The Bachelor Machine website is devoted to bachelorhood and to bachelors, to the solo art of living a good life.

Sounds almost celebratory, but, disappointingly, the purpose of the website was arrived at by eliminating what it would not be devoted to, typical of my process of affirmation. But the process of winnowing down the affirmative often involves pursuing all negative options first. I won’t get into the pointless task of defining words while I use them. I leave it to you to use your dictionary and interpret words like “devoted”, “solo”, “art”, “good”, and “life”. Why? Because you’re a grown-up, and being a grown-up (actually, relishing adulthood) is one of the defining characteristics of any bachelor. Bachelorhood is not an extended or second childhood. A bachelor is a grown-up, first and foremost.

For just a minute, the Bachelor Machine was going to be devoted to the Capital “B” Bachelor, kind of the Platonic bachelor. This ur-bachelor approach had to be disposed of owing to a couple of problems. First, even the term “Platonic” has been hijacked by puritans, people who say they really like you but would prefer not to sleep with you. These people should simply be avoided (a topic for another essay). Friendly abstinence is a perversion of Plato’s philosophy, which actually runs quite salty, not to mention that he’s a very funny writer and deserves better. Second, if we do run with this otherworldly Bachelor, Platonism demands that the world of ideals contains only one of everything (one table, one tree, one jukebox, etc.), all other versions of that thing (you and me, basically) being copies, and inferior ones at that. That Bachelor, being that there’s only one of him, would be left with no one to compare notes with, which, it strikes me, is the purpose of the internet. That Bachelor would have existed only to be admired, which is not even worth pursuing conceptually or for fun. Don’t try it. Finally, the painful clincher, in formulating the Capital “B” Bachelor, it’s an all-eggs-in-one-presumably-Platonic-basket situation. We are trapped by our own unrealizable ideal. What horror it would be to have every bachelor in the world looking in the mirror each morning, all of them seeing the same face. This is not even to mention the creepy Frankenstein factor, as in a monster that we create who ends up consuming us. So, better to jettison the Capital “B” Bachelor. Just thinking about it was a dead end (a useful dead end, but dead all the same).

An ideal can be handy, however, if just for a reference. If I spent an average day, for example, getting thrown out of an airplane, then somehow managed to land near the hideout of a madman, was attacked by his fantastically well-trained corps of female bodyguards, disabled a satellite which would have enabled him to launch a series of near-miss nuclear strikes against nations that he could then play off of one another, and then slept with some random, impossibly beautiful woman whose smutty double-entendre name I never even asked about, never mind remembered, then why would I pay to watch a James Bond film in a theatre? It would make no sense. Do you want to see your daily life on the screen? No, you don’t. The ideal, then, for the actually existing bachelor is to skew less Walter Mitty and more James Bond, while appreciating that a dash of Walter Mitty makes us whole and, hopefully, avoiding at least a few of the stupid gaffes that the Bond aesthetic has foisted upon us. How his shaken vodka martini, for example, ruined the innocent pleasures of that drink for several decades, an aberration from which we are all just now recovering, is another topic for another essay.

One thing I think we can say is that the bachelor is a product of modernity. And as such, we like modernity. Autonomous individuals existing in a state of free agency seems to be a recent-ish post-industrialization thing, and existing in a state in which we’re not treated with suspicion and hostility but like regular people is even more recent. The era of clannish or tribal decision-making, the totally inflexible class system, the shotgun wedding, the idea of staying in one place your whole life, reproducing not because you want to but because you have to, all of these things seem to be slipping away as the years fly past us. A lot of people bemoan these tendencies as being “unnatural” or against custom or whatever. Beware anyone you meet who talks up the “natural” as if they’re great friends with it (again, another topic for another essay). The bachelor celebrates these trends and wants such agency as we take for granted to be enjoyed by anyone who wants it.

Another thing the Bachelor Machine is not devoted to, just to get back to negative affirmation, is lamenting the sad lot of the bachelor struggling to get by in a society biased in favour of coupledom. Woe is not us. Bachelors enjoy being bachelors, and the Bachelor Machine is devoted to encouraging this enjoyment. The bachelor doesn’t need or want approval, disapproval or group affirmation. What we resolutely don’t want is a website full of stories about “table for one” or sad accounts of the pitying look in some acquaintance’s eye. You can’t help what people think. Try telling a bunch of people who know for a fact that the world is flat that it’s actually round. See where it gets you. It’s hopeless. And don’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s a waste of time during which you could be enjoying some pity-free fun. You are not a victim. Repeat that one time and then forget it. This is not a self-help thing.

So that’s the objective: a devotion to bachelorhood (the process) and to bachelors (the multitude of single people). There is no end game, no ideal, just an enjoyment of and appreciation for the bachelor life. Bachelors are, I like to think, people with a subtle attitude towards life who appreciate paradox, who know that the superficial contains the profound (more often than the profound contains the profound), that there’s a sense of the eternal about the ephemeral, and occasionally vice versa. So, the first thing to get straight before we start talking details is that there is no such thing as the Capital “B” Bachelor. You, the bachelor reading this right now, are it.

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Marcel Duchamp photographed by Eric Sutherland at Walker Art Center, October 1965