Short Story Review: The Bachelor

The Bachelor, by Joseph Epstein. Posted at Standpoint Magazine Online, July/August 2018 edition. Read the story in its entirety here.

One of the literature and arts websites I subscribe to is Prufrock, which is published by the Weekly Standard. This short story was included in the latest edition sent to my inbox. Because it is a short story, easily read in 20 minutes, it would be really enjoyable to me if any of you inclined to click over and read it would come back here and share your thoughts.

The Bachelor is written as a first person narrative whose titular character is of course, a bachelor; a lifelong one. At 52-years of age, he is a successful attorney thoroughly enjoying his freedom. The minor things that most of us marrieds have concluded are well worth sacrificing for our beloveds and the families we’ve built are no longer minor sacrifices to the bachelor, and life is good.

Despite the fact that he genuinely enjoys women, he simply hasn’t found one worth the trouble of giving up his autonomy. That is, until he meets Laura Ross.

That’s as much as I can offer without spoiling the story, so click over and read it.

I liked it.

Content advisory: It’s a clean story in so far as it is free of any gratuitous sex or language, but it’s a very adult story and our bachelor is living the life of a healthy, red-blooded, secular bachelor. It’s not a Christian morality tale.

14 thoughts on “Short Story Review: The Bachelor

  1. SMK says:

    E: the story feels very relevant in the America of 2018.

    LOL, I have never read a less relevant story to modern times! Truly, no man could be so dumb…I’ll put some more comments up. Quick read.


  2. SMK says:

    Good fiction has to be true. That is, the characters gotta match reality and make sense. This story was pure fantasy, female feminist porn.
    1. He’s sensitive/cultured…yet clueless about chick he’s proposing to? He would know the response.
    2. Why propose? Companionship? Family? Makes no sense.
    3. No character development. What are they, robots? Career at 35? Please.
    4. 50+ successful man marry a 35 yo lawyer? Huh? That’s hard up.
    5. The only time the story felt real was the good-looking competition. But again, no man of his sophistication would be there…hell, slept with her 4X & lots of time.
    6. Why is he pursuing marriage at all? Conquest? It sure ain’t the “closeness” (he’s got that). It sure ain’t the sex (35 yo!). It sure ain’t the family (35 yo!).

    As I said, simple feminist porn. Women & men both have a lot to offer each other, but in this story nobody offers anything to anybody…since they all lacked for nothing. The anti-people.


  3. Elspeth says:

    A guy wrote it and are you kidding me? George Clooney married a 38 year of lawyer whom I assume he was sleeping with. Ditto Prince Harry, and I know many “lesser” men who have done similar.

    You are reading this story from a men’s sphere meme or Trad Catholic perspective. That’s not what it is. On the ground in mainstream America, this story is quite relatable.

    The one thing that is feminist fantasy is the woman turning the guy down then expecting things to keep going on as usual. That’s just like a dumb chick mentality. His reaction is why I totally believe a guy did indeed write this. A woman wouldn’t have ended it that way.


  4. Elspeth says:

    Oh yeah. You missed why I thought it was relevant.

    Person (male or female take your pick) deems 90% of everyone they meet not worthy of the risk or sacrifice. When they FINALLY find someone they think is perfect enough…that person doesn’t think THEY are perfect enough to warrant the risk or sacrifice.

    That is a relevant irony in my book. You’re getting stuck on the details.


  5. hearthie says:

    Ja. People have too many lists for the person that will fulfill all-the-things. Without making themselves worthy.

    And companionship becomes more valuable over time. I’m perfectly capable of living by myself, but I wouldn’t like it. Our society has been set up so as to cut people off from community, particularly older singles. There’s no “you belong to this family” thing for most of them. But society likewise feeds the lie (hardcore) that financial security is the same thing, maybe even better. Protagonist had the latter, didn’t feel the need for the former until the former didn’t pinch the little luxuries of the latter.

    In other words, protagonist met someone who didn’t set off his “I can’t hang with her, she’ll stop me from doing X” alarm (because X was more valuable to him than companionship) and so his hidden hunger for that companionship came out of hiding. But oops! She didn’t have a matching hunger, because she was still young enough to believe the lie society told HER … the same lie he believed at that age. (She’d already decided not to have kids). There lies the irony.

    It’s not a feminist trope because the feminist didn’t win particularly. And the protagonist didn’t really lose. He just went back to business as usual, which he said in the beginning was awesome. If anything, the woman is likely to have the same moment … probably earlier than 53. And she’s going to have a lot less to give at that point.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. SMK says:

    George Clooney married a 38 year of lawyer. Ditto Prince Harry, and I know many “lesser” men who have done similar.

    No manosphere angle here, I just distaste poor plot lines. The very reason Harry/Clooney or even Jackman/Bronsman are a “story” is because, well, they are incredibly unusual. Google any of their names you get “wife” as the next popular search word (they are now more famous for their odd marriages than their own life story…google feminist porn!!). Of course each had a “why” but any bio about their relationships must tell this interesting story. The audience is waiting to hear it!

    So: fiction stories about old maid career lawyer marriages to elite men MUST tell “why” in a convincing way. That’s the whole story we are waiting for; maybe he is famous so lonely? Blindsided by irrational passionate love (happens at any age). But “because” she is a smart, independent, old-maid attorney? As if that fact somehow closes the sale?? Crazy stuff. In this story nothing happened at all to his passion to override his 50 years of common sense. Yet he proposed. For what reason? I’m still waiting for it. Even the ending, where he goes about his business, made no sense. It was like he was marrying so nobody would think him gay or something. I might as well be reading Ayn Rand…

    Btw I just finished reading The Prostate Hoax and I’m very happy you reviewed that. I learned bunch in an area I thought I knew about. Thx!


  7. Elspeth says:

    I just finished reading The Prostate Hoax and I’m very happy you reviewed that. I learned bunch in an area I thought I knew about. Thx!

    I am glad you were able to read The Great Prostate Hoax and got something from it. it’s a science heavy book, but it left us with a lot of information that we hope we don’t end up needing, but if we do, we now know how to ask pertinent questions.

    Yet he proposed. For what reason? I’m still waiting for it.

    I thought the why was obvious, but that’s just me. When faced with the prospect that someone else might just decide they want this chick, he decided it best to lock her down. I -sadly- have encountered many men over the course of my life who despite having no real desire for a committed monogamous relationship, married a particular woman for the express purpose of locking her down so that she’s there for them. it’s not that uncommon.

    I don’t think Clooney is all that unusual. Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig, Chris Janson (who married a woman 9 years his SENIOR). Women pull out all the stops these days to look younger longer and a significant number of men -successful, handsome men- fall for the ruse and get caught off guard by irrational passionate love. Even Rush Limbaugh who doesn’t even want kids keeps getting married. To women only slightly younger than him.

    To a 50-year-old man, a 35-year-old woman is young. heck, I’m 47, and since my 40th birthday I have had 50-year-old men strike up far too friendly conversations with me. I’ve had to learn that while my husband’s tendency to smile and engage people’s interest everywhere he goes makes him charming, it makes me appear to be signaling availability. And I’m a decade past 35!

    It might be that my range of social and familial experiences made the reason obvious to me, but who knows? It didn’t strike me as all that unusual. Also, his going on about his business strikes at thee heart of what I said: just wanted to be able to lock her down because he found her enjoyable. Happens a lot I think.

    Last thought: marriage is about far more than JUST sex and procreation (although my husband surely missed the memo about the sudden uselessness of a sex with a woman past 30, LOL). The companionship -as we get older- is increasingly important and adds to quality of life and possibly even longevity.


  8. hearthie says:

    SMK – will totally give you the “propose out of nowhere” was a bit of a plot device. Propose after another year or two? More “normal”. Would still not say feminist, but plot device because this was so short? Yes.

    Most of the marriages of men in that age range that I know (IRL) are to younger women, and a 35yo would be reasonable. Wouldn’t want a younger woman if you were serious about not having kids, you’ve got too much chance of the bio clock exploding.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Elspeth says:

    It was a short story not a novel so we shouldn’t see the proposal as “out of nowhere. Particularly since the author really doesn’t give the reader a concrete timeline of the relationship. We aren’t clued in to how long it was, but we are definitely given an inkling as to what was the impetus for it.

    And yes, 35 sounds exactly right as I noted. To a 50+ year old guy, a 35 year-old-woman is “young”.

    Was it really so random?


  10. SMK says:

    E (& H): I get your drift and am halfway there. I thought the author took great pains to show he wasn’t overly concerned with losing her, esp. when he didn’t hang with her after the rejection. Still not sure of what he wanted nor why.

    One more thing: Clooony/Harry/pickanyone were not rejected. This guy was, & too dumb to anticipate it. Again, a false note needing some hints/forshadowing. I’ve simply never never never met a woman like her my whole life…attractive 35 female lawyers do exist and marry (often hardbod or gay due to their high-T) but rarely to other lawyers (why?) and are basically never pleasant companions for normal men. The author has to somehow bend this reality into the story; It could have been done.

    Harry Chapin’s songs Taxi and Sequel are the only thing that reminds me of this story, but they took a lot of music/lyrics to create the buildup such as the line: half the time thinking of what might have been/and half thinking, just as well.


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