On becoming the right man
by Rebecca Daniels
A "date night" excitement pervaded UPAC's theater in Kingston last Saturday, April 8. Typically dressed in jeans and leather jackets, 20, 30 and 40-something couples, many of them holding hands, lined up to see Mike Dugan's one-man show, Men Fake Foreplay. The Emmy award-winning comedian met their expectations. He had the large crowd laughing from beginning to end of the 90-minute show, with occasional time outs for some of his more sobering observations on male/female relationships and sexuality.
"Where did I go wrong?" "What do women want?" Until twelve years ago, 48-year-old Dugan didn't have a clue. After a series of painful breakups that started in adolescence, his confusion and suffering finally led him to a spiritual retreat where he began to look at things differently. One of the first lessons he learned from his teacher was that human beings are like heat-seeking missiles. "We're designed to make mistakes and correct ourselves," Dugan says early on. "This show is about trying to find our way back to the heat."
By introducing his humorous yet pointed commentary on men's shortcomings in this way, Dugan immediately created space for the men in the audience to identify with his journey toward relationship enlightenment instead of comparing or becoming defensive. Standing before his peers, in his gray shirt and beige pants, Dugan was an ordinary, nice guy in his 40s who'd been through it all. He was safe, one of them; he even had love handles named Ben and Jerry.
Citing the thousands of relationship books geared towards women and the scarcity of those for the opposite sex, most of Dugan's comments were about and directed towards men. Nevertheless, he managed to make the women in the audience feel included. At times it felt as though we were being made privy to male secrets, which made it that much more fascinating. For example, according to Dugan, men really do discuss the details of their sex lives with their friends. And he unabashedly admitted that men cheat. Not that they're the only ones. "Women cheat to end the relationship through catastrophic intervention," Dugan says. "Men cheat preemptively."
According to Dugan, men base their sexual and relationship decisions on fantasy - "a bad combination of selective memory and euphoric recall." They have a hard time committing to a relationship because "they want to have sex with every woman there is." Men have been vacationing in a sexual fantasy world their whole lives, says Dugan. "We're afraid that as soon as we're in the church, standing at the altar and saying, 'I do,' a supermodel will run into the vestibule screaming, 'Am I too late?'"
He gets serious when he talks about lying to a woman he loved, telling her that he hadn't cheated when he had, acknowledging that he had interfered with her sense of trust, both in him and in her own intuition. When he finally admitted his casual indiscretion to her because the wall between them had grown so thick, she told him that she couldn't feel safe with him again. The pain of that breakup kicked his ass into being teachable, says Dugan. He started facing his feelings for the first time and having relationships with women that were not about getting laid.
"Women want men who like women," his landlady/mentor/friend told him. This observation launches Dugan into a diatribe against the disrespect towards women that has become so common in the media. "Sex is becoming an escape from intimacy," says Dugan. "Without a mature set of feelings, I'm led by adolescent impulses and appetites... Our feelings are the guidance system that brings us back to the heat." Ultimately, Dugan says, what all of us - men and women - want is to feel safe. Foreplay, when it's real, is "the things we do to make people feel safe." Dugan discovers that he didn't have to figure out women in order to be happy. "It was never about finding the right woman. It was about becoming the right man."
Dugan, who lives in Los Angeles, has been touring his stage version of Men Fake Foreplay for the past several years in the United States and Europe. He is anticipating an off-Broadway run of the show in the near future. In the meantime, you can read his book by the same title. For more information, visit his Website at www.menfakeforeplay.com.