Jewish Journal

Hank Moody Syndrome

by Tamara Shayne Kagel

March 16, 2011 | 7:36 pm

Maybe it’s because I live where they shoot the show, but recently I’ve felt like every guy I know in Santa Monica/Venice wants to be Hank Moody.  I love the show Californication and at first, I thought all the references to it had to do with some general wistfulness about just being able to sleep with all the hot girls on the Westside that continually parade through the show as guest stars.  But upon some deeper reflection, I think it’s much more than that.  Hank Moody is the quintessential smart handsome L.A. guy – he constantly struggles to be this man he wants to be and yet, day after day he is forced to confront the fact that the man he is doesn’t quite measure up.

Hank clearly loves Karen - he has her name tattooed on his back!  But he can never get it together enough to have her.  In the meantime, he can’t turn down the bevy of pretty girls willing to ignore his chain-smoking, alcoholic, statutory-rapist ways who can’t get their shirts off fast enough the second they see him.

Recently, I had a conversation with this kid Preston I go to graduate school with, which quickly became embarrassingly revealing which I owe in no small part to his buying me a few shots to lubricate the conversation.  I was feeling a little frisky in my short dress, thinking about this new guy I’ve been seeing whom I was supposed to see the following day and briefly toyed with idea of texting him at 10pm that night and asking him what he was up to.  This was a bad idea for so many reasons and I would counsel every one of my friends against ever doing such a thing.  But at the end of the day, we’re all animals acting on arcane sexual impulses and sometimes even I can momentarily succumb to such desires.

So I was asking his advice which basically meant I was asking his permission to text this guy and thankfully Preston said absolutely not.  He didn’t even want me to give him all the details and back-story and complications which I actually think still made a compelling case for breaking the rule.  In any case, Preston pulls out his phone and tells me that just about every weekend night he gets three or four texts from different girls, checking in to see what he’s up to that night.  He takes his pick of the litter for that evening.  Needless to say, this quickly reminded me of why I never do these things and got that idea out of my head pretty fast.

However, much more interesting than my trifling dilemma, is the fact that a few minutes earlier, Preston was telling me that he was always getting his heart broken.  Maybe this doesn’t seem that surprising but if you knew Preston, you might be shocked.  Preston is one of those good-looking guys that if he were a tad less nice, one might call him a player.  But despite engaging in a high number of trysts, he’s a genuine, sweet, caring person and you can tell one day he’s going to make a great father.  So he’s a great guy in his mid-twenties that happens to be a big fish in a small sea (there are a limited number of hunky affable boys at my Christian law school) and is taking advantage of the opportunities that continually throw themselves at him.  But can you blame him?  If I were I guy, I might be doing the same thing.  Why not?

So naturally, I was rather floored to recognize that pang of heartbreak in his face when he was waxing contemplative that having your heart broken makes you a man.  Of course, it was fairly obvious that he’s currently heart broken because the one girl who has rejected him is the only one he wants but still surprising that he was so affected by it.  Then he surprised me again when he seemed ashamed as he was telling me about how many girls he regularly hooks up.  He intimated that he was almost disgusted with himself.  I was shocked.  I wasn’t disgusted by the number of girls he hooks up with.  I was momentarily jealous that I wasn’t a man.  But yet, being ashamed in no way meant that Preston was going to change his behavior, i.e., soon after our conversation, he left the event early and I couldn’t find him - I knew what that meant.  Like Hank Moody, Preston predictably wants the one girl who doesn’t want him and in the meantime will take a hundred others instead.  And though he may be ashamed or disgusted or self-loathing at times, he still can’t make himself change.

But Preston is just one of the many Hank Moodys in my life.  Take my friend Teddie, whom I adore and is a really quality guy, but we literally can’t go outside in his neighborhood without running into a girl he used to “date” (date is a generous term here).  Last week he was coming off a complete bender – he had been out that week with five different girls and was exhausted.  Not that long ago, Teddie had broken up with a long-term girlfriend which in part explains his current resolve not to settle down.  But despite getting precisely what he thought he wanted by seeing all these girls, he was telling me how unfulfilled he was.  For him, quantity could not replace quality.  Now as a girl, of course this seems obvious to me and fundamental to my most primitive impulses.  But I’m not always sure if all men feel the same about it.  It was comforting to hear him explain how much he wanted not just sex but sex with someone he really cared about.  He said he was cutting all the rest of the girls out of the picture and just sticking with two at a time from here on out.  Although, I’m not holding my breath for this to happen.

The reason I’m so skeptical is that Teddie will actively have to turn down girls.  He’s tall and good looking and as he reminds me often, he has a very cute Poodle which he walks often and all this means girls are constantly hitting on him.  I actually got offended once because he and I were out together and a woman hit on him right in front of me.  But Teddie is in a place in his life where he wants to have fun.  The problem with turning down a girl is that he has to be sure that the girl he has now is better than the potential of the pretty one hitting on him.  And the Hank Moodys of the world can’t do this.

The thing is, I can’t stop loving Hank Moody either.  He’s charming and witty and emotionally honest and wants to be a good father.  But loving Hank isn’t necessarily bad news for me because I would never sleep with Hank.  And I wouldn’t for the same reason I haven’t slept with Teddie and wouldn’t sleep with Preston.  There was only one guy who ever made me feel like a number in a line of conquests and that’s all it took.  That was enough for me to know that no matter how much I like someone, I’m not ok with being Guest Star #500.  Unless I were Karen, Hank and I would be just friends.  To all the girls out there in recurring guest star roles, I recommend you take a good hard look at what you’re doing.  Statistically, almost no one makes the leap from guest star to series regular.  Hank Moody is not going to change, no matter how many times you get into bed with him.  You just have to find the guy that thinks you’re his Karen.  And of course, pray he doesn’t sleep with a sixteen year-old…

Tamara Shayne Kagel is a writer living in Santa Monica, CA. To find out more about her, visit www.tamarashaynekagel.com and follow her on twitter @tamaraskagel. © Copyright 2011.

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Tamara Shayne Kagel is a twenty-something fixture on the Los Angeles scene currently living in Santa Monica.  Currently, Tamara is a successful freelance writer (just ask her...

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