The Ampersand - M.M. LAFLEUR

@GSElevator used to be like that obnoxious but harmless kid on the block that everyone made fun of but no one took seriously. But then the anonymously authored twitter feed (which purportedly affords us entree into the twisted world that is the Goldman Sachs elevator) teamed up with mainstream media (in this case, Business Insider) to publish “The Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide To Being a Man,” and things took a disturbing turn. At first I laughed it off, but when I witnessed guys unironically sharing it on social media accompanied by comments like, “Actually good advice here,” I cringed. For some, the heretofore ridiculous @GSElevator had suddenly become a trusted source for genuine life advice. And via Business Insider, it had the power to inflict its ignorance on a much broader audience. I could not stand idly by and watch this happen. Here’s why.

On a first, and perhaps more “harmless” level, reading this guide feels like being talked at by the lamest and most self-righteous guy I know. Having watched American Psycho 100 times, he’s now convinced that he’s got everything figured out—and it starts with his physical appearance.

  • “Do 50 push-ups, sit-ups, and dips before you shower each morning.” 

  • “Buy a tuxedo before you are thirty. Stay that size.
”
  • “It’s better if old men cut your hair.  Ask for Sammy at the Mandarin Oriental Barbershop in Hong Kong.  He can share his experiences of the Japanese occupation, or just give you a copy of Playboy.”
Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

Next, the list ventures into the realm of women and romantic relationships (or shall we say, romantic arrangements). Here, women are treated as accessories, there only to enhance the lifestyle that the “real man” is carefully curating for himself.

  • “Pretty women who are unaccompanied want you to talk to them.” Really? Maybe they’re confident enough to be alone, or maybe they’re just on their way to work.
  • “No selfies. Aspire to experience photo-worthy moments in the company of a beautiful woman.” So that you can use her to further broadcast your narcissism.
  • Hookers aren’t cool, but remember, the free ones are a lot more expensive.” A really classy dichotomization of the female population: “hookers” and “free ones.” You’re right, there isn’t any nuance. Thanks for clarifying, @GSElevator.
  • You can get away with a lot more if you’re the one buying the drinks.” This could not sound more sketchy. What do you plan on getting away with once you’ve intoxicated everyone around you?
  • One girlfriend at a time is probably enough.” Hilarious. But in all seriousness, good luck finding even one woman willing to associate with you.

Paramount Pictures / The Wolf of Wall Street

But moving on. Beneath the vanity issues and misled misogyny, this list has a dark underbelly that is the real cause for concern. Points like:

  • “If riding the bus doesn’t incentivize you to improve your station in life, nothing will.”
  • “Time is too short to do your own laundry.”
  • “Throw parties. 
But have someone else clean up the next day.”
  • “Act like you’ve been there before. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the end zone at the Super Bowl or on a private plane.”
  • “There’s always another level. Just be content knowing that you are still better off than most who have ever lived.”
  • “Ignore the boos. They usually come from the cheap seats.”
It is here that the entitled Wall-Street-boys-club mentality comes shining through. It’s the idea that, once you begin pursuing money, your goal should also be to escape reality—so much so that taking public transportation feels shameful. It threatens the vision that the “Goldman Sachs man” has painted of himself.

corporateheadshotslondon.net

And while the models-and-bottles mindset of the early noughts may have subsided, it’s given way to an even more insidious and specialized form of elitism. For many aspiring Wall Streeters, Instagraming their private-jet ride has become de rigueur. As such, this list is an elaborate exercise in vanity, predicated on some misguided, entitled illusion of manhood as viewed through the lens of the current “masters of the universe,” to harken back to Tom Wolfe. I know many of these guys. They still quote Gordon Gecko. They are also being entrusted with important decisions, being promoted, and increasingly assuming positions of real power, both at work and in society.

They take the fact that their “ties are rolled and placed in a sectioned tie drawer” to be a symbol of self-worth. And yet they require an internet list like Business Insider’s to remind them not to sleep with their friends’ exes. A real man would probably know this intrinsically (and a real woman certainly would). But here, those actual human qualities are de-emphasized in favor of Bateman-esque posturing: do push-ups, hire people to clean up your party, and secure a woman who will enhance your status without “costing” you too much.

And sure, this list is potentially meant to be read in a tongue-in-cheek manner. There are even those who have celebrated its cleverness (Refinery29 got a kick out of it, claiming, “We’re Totally Stealing the Goldman Sachs Unofficial Guide To Being a Man”). But for those of us who know the type of self-serious guy who is promoting this on Facebook as “Great advice!,” this guide is a hard pill to swallow.

So here on The Ampersand, I am calling this bullshit. And every real man (yes, they do exist) and woman of purpose, should consider doing the same.

- Tory Hoen

[UPDATE] After we initially published this post, @GSElevator himself responded with some lively feedback (see comments section below), and New York Magazine‘s The Cut picked up on the back-and-forth. The Cut has since published a lengthy Q&A with GSE, (in which he writes far more eloquently than he did in our comments section!) about his positions on satire vs. advice-giving, women, and Wall Street culture.

Through it all, GSE continues to equivocate. First his list is a joke (which, according to him, I “clearly took far too literally”); but then it’s actually meant to be taken seriously (or in his words “seriously but not literally”). First, he’s putting a price on various types of women (“hookers” versus “free ones”) and then claiming it’s actually out of respect to the women:

When I say, “hookers aren’t cool, but remember, the free ones are more expensive,” I really mean that men should be in a relationship for the right reasons. If a man doesn’t want to be in a loving, committed, respectful relationship, then he should just go get a prostitute or prostitute-equivalent.

He then goes onto say that he’s only superficial because everyone is superficial. And he wouldn’t be surprised if we judged him “based on the shine of my loafers, the firmness of my tie knot, or the stitching of my suit.”

Deluded as ever, GSE still thinks his worst offense is that his shoes are intimidatingly shiny. He badly wishes that we would stop, mid-argument, to “judge” (i.e. admire) the firmness of his tie knot, so that he can get his bearings and figure out who he really is: satirist, evangelist, apologist, or just a normal iBanker with a whole lot of inner conflict.

In short, it appears GSE is just as confused as we are about who he is and what he’s saying. And there’s nothing wrong with confusion, until, that is, you start publishing decisive guides that preach to others about “How To Be.”