Until a few weeks ago, I'd never heard of Leandra Medine, a 22-year-old fashion blogger known as The Man Repeller. Strange name, but as I read her blog, it all made sense.
Medine came up with the Theory of Man Repulsion when she realized that some of her favourite fashion (like expensive fringed purple boots that resemble high-heeled My Little Pony dolls) drove men away instead of attracting them.
Her theory applies equally well to cars, which have been used by men as rolling aphrodisiacs since the time of Henry Ford – and often badly. As Medine has observed with fashion, exotic pedigree and high price do not guarantee that a product will work on the opposite sex. Had I shown up for my first date with my wife in a Ferrari Testarossa or a black Corvette with tinted windows, our relationship would have ended on that very day in 1983.
Like any product, an image-enhancing car must be tailored to the desires of its target audience, and there are plenty of women that the Testarossa or the Corvette would have worked on. But in my single days, my target audience was well-educated women who tended to resemble Audrey Hepburn and liked philosophy, good wine and music – and in that demographic, over-the-top stud-mobiles are a no-no. (There are plenty of women who assume that if you drive a Testarossa or a black Corvette, you probably frequent online pharmacies and hair replacement clinics.)
So why do men spend so much money on cars that actually turn women off? Group-think and car magazines. After reading Hot Rod for a few years, it's all too easy to believe that an SS Chevelle with a candy-apple paint job and a chromed supercharger sticking through the hood will make you desirable. (It will, but only to other men who read Hot Rod magazine.)
Deluded fashion is a cross-over concept. As I studied Medine's Man Repeller theory, I realized that she and her female friends create self-referential standards of beauty, spend fortunes on pointless accessories, and choose styles that no one likes except them. Medine's fashion tastes run to flowing orange dresses that flutter out from short leather jackets, weirdly-patterned tights and high-heeled shoes that have spikes jutting from the back like velociraptor claws.
And it's expensive. Medine was recently shown carrying a Proenza Schouler Navajo print handbag that costs $2291. I'd say that was ridiculous, except I'm a guy who once paid more than that for a pair of Weber carburetors because they completed my engine-compartment vision.
Those expensive carburetors were part of a car that was a true woman-repeller: a customized VW Beetle with lowered suspension and stiffened springs that made it ride like an oxcart, and a weight-saving, bare-metal interior. The heating system had been removed to improve performance, and there was no radio. My first date with a woman in those days was usually my last.
A man's automotive vision can be unique. And it can keep him single. This weekend, I came across the car of a Toronto man known as Neon Dean, who has spent years shaping an aged Oldsmobile to his particular tastes. (Pink paint, gold windshield wipers, and glowing pink neon tubes that spell his name.) Personally, I kind of like Dean's car, because it's an original that conforms to a powerfully-held personal aesthetic (much like Medine's spiked shoes.) But I am willing to bet that Dean isn't married.
Another woman-repeller car that I quite like is owned by my friend Rex (a professional hang glider pilot and former U.S. Army Ranger.) Rex drives a Ford Transit van with a glider rack on top and black skulls painted on the sides. The interior is packed with gear that may include mountain bikes, flying equipment and crossbows powerful enough to take down a bear. To Rex, the Transit is a perfect vehicle, but most women don't want to ride in a machine that resembles a van driven by the villain from Silence of the Lambs.
When it comes to woman-repelling, the super-car (Lamborghini, Bugatti Veyron, etc.) plays a complex role. Many woman are attracted to them, but in my experience, they're not the women that you want a relationship with. Like Medine's spiked shoes, a car is a filtering mechanism, and super-cars tend to attract women who are interested in money and power. (I don't have either, so this isn't a problem for me.) But for the men who do, a transactional, gold-digging mate can be a real liability.
For the kind of woman I'm attracted to (my wife) the super-car is a turn-off. They assume you got it by raiding a pension fund, and that you drive irresponsibly – traits that kill your chances.
But you don't have to spend a fortune to get a woman-repelling car. Down at the bottom end of the scale are cars like trashed Suzuki Swifts, Honda Civics with Fast and Furious-style oversized mufflers, and rusted-out tradesman vans.
This weekend, one of my car buddies told me about the time he bought a used van to carry parts and building materials. The interior was a bare metal cavern. There was a painted-over logo on the side that read "Guild Electric." His father looked the van over, then turned to my friend and delivered the verdict: "You'll never get married."
Timing is everything, as they say. And fortunately, I was driving a royal blue 1967 VW Beetle when I met my wife-to-be. It struck all the right notes with her – it was un-intimidating, reasonably priced and classically styled. Unlike my previous Beetles, this one had a heater, a comfortable suspension and an actual muffler. There was even a radio. Yes, I had gone soft. But my woman-repeller car days had ended just in time for me to meet the love of my life.
I'm still attracted to woman-repeller cars. (I love the Lotus Exige, but most women hate it. Ditto for the Caterham 7 and the Shelby 427 – both loud, windblown convertibles that will destroy a haircut within minutes.)
I learned about Medine's Man Repeller blog through my son's girlfriend, who studies fashion. My interest in fashion is purely theoretical, but I loved reading Medine's posts and digging into her philosophy, which made a lot of sense: "My blog is not about repelling men," she wrote. "... It's about good fashion. Being a man repeller becomes a process of elimination. If a guy is only really into your outfit and won't date you because of what you're wearing, they are too driven by the female exterior and don't care about your intellect."
Leandra Medine, I like your style. Keep wearing those spiked shoes. And if you see a guy in a lowered Lotus with no heater, that will be me. I've been married for 27 years, and I have another car that my wife actually likes, so I'm now free to do a little repelling.
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