A Long Way to Go for a Date
reviewed by J. Steven Svoboda
A Long Way to Go for a Date. By Henry Makow. Winnipeg: Silas Green, 2000. 128 pp.
Former University of Winnipeg English professor Henry Makow found himself approaching fifty and having been single after his marriage had collapsed a number of years earlier. He wasn’t meeting any likely prospects for marriage. He wanted something simple: a wife who would love him and obey him and be subservient to him. In return he would protect her and support her and love her. It is a deal that countless millions of couples have struck over the years, a non-“equal” but mutually beneficial arrangement. It is a deal that is set forth in simple, forthright, courageous terms in Makow’s epilogue entitled, “In Defense of Heterosexuality.” The only contingency: finding the right woman. Evidently, this is easier said than done, even by someone with the wherewithal to travel to third world countries to meet potential brides.
Makow presents lightly edited excerpts from his journal, over a time period spanning his entire experience from finding advertisements on the Internet, to contacting a number of potential women, to visiting the Philippines, and continuing through to his eventual decision to propose despite his serious reservations about his wife to be, Cecilia.
Unfortunately for Makow, his concerns about Cecilia turn out to be justified in spades. She is an only child, allowed by her parents to have whatever she desired, and basically brings her unexamined spoiled brat background intact to her marriage to Makow. While autobiographical sources are notoriously unreliable for obvious reasons, Makow does seem genuine in his desire to accomodate and please Cecilia. She, on the other hand, quite inexplicably, is constantly trolling for other suitors before, during, and after she is married to Makow.
Makow seems a likable enough fellow who just doesn’t get enough respect in any quarter. Most of his friends and colleagues criticize his desire to marry someone three decades younger than himself. His forthrightness about his traditionalist gender views, while intriguing to many of his students at the University of Winnipeg, predictably irritated a vocal minority who succeeded in getting him unceremoniously ejected from his professorship.
A Long Way to Go for a Date presents an fascinating, if ultimately regrettable, story. At the end of the tale Makow is back on his feet after his second divorce, en route to Mexico to meet a more technically literate yet, he hopes, also more traditional Mexican woman. One cannot help but admire Makow’s fearless (given current reigning ideologies) disclosure of his own desires and limitations and bumps on the road to true love.
Somehow, Makow’s short, easy-to-read book fails to totally satisfy. The refined diary style lends itself to a certain immediacy, but also to a certain limitation of vision and a telegraphic style of writing. A bit more polishing of the language and some added perspective and philosophical thought about the whole experience would have been welcome.
Still, we should probably take Makow’s book as we should take Makow, which is as he offers himself and as he took his bride: at face value, appreciating the benefits, and not whitewashing the shortcomings that are inevitably going to crop up. In the end, that is all we can do, with each other and with ourselves. Books of such honesty, bravery, and insight into oneself are rarities, and any reader who tracks down A Long Way to Go for a Date is sure to be engaged, entertained, and even stimulated by Makow’s story.
J. Steven Svoboda is a performance artist, poet, and a human rights lawyer who is Executive Director of Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, which he founded in 1997.