Learning How to Dismantle the Matriarchy on the LA Bus
The day weird misogyny sat next to me.
Los Angeles is a vast landscape dotted with pockets of civilization connected by miles of freeways. In this interminable urban sprawl, you can be stuck in your car on the 10 for hours while attempting a simple nine-mile trip. It’s the reason I’d often take the bus, and the bus is the reason I met Dr. Passion and his revolutionary gospel of the men’s rights movement.
Most of my LA life revolved around the beach near my Santa Monica apartment, but on Fridays I had to commute to my downtown office. The commute could be brutal, and I learned the best way to do it was the Big Blue Bus. On the bus, I could sit in the very back with my big, noise-canceling ‘don’t talk to me’ headphones and either read or work on my laptop. It’s important to appear unapproachable on public transportation to ward off strangers trying to convert you to their incel ideology.
Three days before my fateful bus ride, I was walking back to my apartment, and I passed a stack of books on the sidewalk with a sign reading Free Books. I looked over the titles and one caught my eye, The Master and Margarita. I’d heard of the book but knew nothing about it. I took it home and started reading it that night in bed.
Bulgakov’s book is now one of my favorites, and I carried it with me the strange day I met Dr. Passion. The bus was empty when I boarded, so I took my usual spot in the very back. My headphones had stopped working the day before and I decided I’d buy some new ones over the weekend. Sometimes small decisions like waiting to buy new headphones make all the difference.
I’m reading my book, ignoring the people around me. I’m unaware of how many stops the bus has made or whether we’re on the freeway yet when someone pokes my left shoulder. I assume it is inadvertent and don’t look up. When I feel a second poke, I raise my head to see who’s touching me.
There’s a young man, late-twenties, smiling at me. He’s wearing a mismatched, old suit with clashing patterns of plaid in purple, green, and orange. He’s has black hair with what looks like self-inflicted purple highlights running throughout. His animated, brown eyes bulge slightly and he’s speaking to me, pointing at my book.
“Sorry,” I say and give him an almost-smile.
His points to my book again, and in a thick Russian accent says, “I like your book.”
Shit. The travel gods have cursed me again! First, they break my headphones and then they magically provide a Russian book for me to be reading the day an eccentric Russian sits next to me on the bus.
“Ah, thanks.” I keep my reply brief, hoping to end our conversation.
“Bulgakov is Russian, you know?”
I nod. “I know.”
“I am Russian too.”
I nod again. “I guessed as much.”
He laughs at my non-joke and takes my reply as an invitation to have a conversation. He reaches into his purple, green, and orange blazer and removes a business card:
Dr. Passion: Relationship Guru, Men’s Rights Activist, Web Designer
Moments arise from time to time for which you’re entirely unprepared to respond. I flip his card over and there’s a website on the back. I flip it over again and re-read the front. I look at the Russian and he’s bobbing his head and smiling.
“That’s me,” he says, “I can help you with any of those things.”
“It’s an eclectic mix of specialties you have.”
“Thank you,” he says, taking my non-compliment as a compliment. “Have you heard of the men’s rights movement?”
This is my last available exit from our exchange. I can either cut things short and return to my book or sit back and watch whatever shitshow is about to go down. I’m curious, though, not about his activism or his advice, but about him. How did all of this absurdity come together and manifest next to me on the Big Blue Bus?
I shake my head and the show begins.
Dr. Passion enlightens me with an ardent description of the sad plight of men. Women’s rights and the women’s liberation movement over-corrected society, emasculating every living man. Dr. Passion instructs men how to reassert their manliness and bring these pesky females in line.
Passion envisions a new Übermensch who is a hybrid of Don Draper and an old Andrew Dice Clay routine.
He outlines the basic tenets of his gospel, consisting of men experiencing an atavistic reversion into sex-crazed neanderthals. We’ve had our share of the pie taken away from us as we’ve cowered in the corner like sissies. Passion envisions a new Übermensch who is a hybrid of Don Draper and an old Andrew Dice Clay routine. The gravity in his tone as he explains all this to me is fascinating and alarming.
He describes the talks and workshops he conducts, which sound a lot like the seminars Tom Cruise’s character conducts in the Paul Thomas Anderson movie Magnolia. Men are now the lesser of the genders, forced into placating privileged women. To become fully actualized men, we have to dismantle the matriarchy.
As I cast a few worried glances around the bus to see if anyone else is listening, Dr. Passion begins explaining how his men’s liberation movement applies to dating. Men are sexual creatures entitled to sex, and we shouldn’t have to hide this. Moreover, society shouldn’t force men into antiquated machinations of courtship to obtain sex. Passion counsels his acolytes on how to embrace the man-spirit inside them. I’m curious whether his workshops take place in front of a giant, golden phallus.
He’s done this spiel before. His presentation is tight and flows well, and I sit in the back of the bus gobsmacked by everything he’s saying. At the end of his pitch, he asks whether I’m interested in attending his next meeting.
“No, I’m good,” I reply, “but thanks for the offer.”
He smiles and nods again. “Maybe you’d like to come to one of our relationship seminars?”
“I have a girlfriend.” I shrug.
His smile droops and he becomes a touch more serious. “Do you have any need for web design?”
“Nope, but can I keep your card?”
This brightens his disposition. “In case you change your mind?”
“Something like that.”
I’m actually thinking none of my friends will believe me when I tell them about you. Our conversation ends at my stop. We shake hands, and I exit the bus wondering why I inevitably let my curiosity get the better of me. People fascinate me, especially the odd, misguided ones, but I should have stuck to my book.
I walked into my office and sat at my desk, placing Dr. Passion’s card next to my laptop. I looked at it as I pulled up Best Buy’s website and searched for new headphones. I could order a pair and pick them up from a nearby location that same day. I’d never let my poor ears be naked on a bus again.