Does a drink cadged from a stranger taste far superior to one earned by the sweat of your brow?
Are you immune to the slightest twinge of guilt when your girlfriend picks up the tab? Do you find yourself telling outrageous falsehoods, even when the truth would serve you better? Does the idea of dating one woman at a time seem a vulgar waste of your charm and talent?
If so, a career as a rake may be your calling. With our expert help, we can transform you from a lowly rummy to a dashing debaché in a few easy steps.
A Rake By Any Other Name
Rake is a distillation of the old English word rakehell, born of the assumption that one would have to scour hell with a rake to find such a dissolute fellow. Surfacing in print in the 15th century, the word was initially used to describe a particularly distasteful member of the lower classes. Over time, however, the word became interchangeable with cad, and was liberally applied to high-born sophisticates who also happened to be black-hearted drunkards. Shortened to rake, the term has since evolved into a backhanded compliment in some circles, and a much sought after title in others.
Much sought after, yes, but rarely won. It is not just a matter of earning the disapproval of others, you must earn their disdain with style and panache. Years of shiftlessness and bad behavior can be squandered by a single misstep. You will watch the title rake flitter from your fingers and find yourself labeled a scoundrel, ne’er-do-well, or the lowly, half-competent heel. At which point you will have to accept your fate or move to another city to try again.
The stereotypical English rakes of old possessed many advantages that we presently lack. They generally possessed Oxford educations, small fortunes and a great deal of leisure time to pursue the debauched art. The contemporary rake, lacking those resources, must try harder. Just as Sunday School taught us a man has to row especially hard against the current of human nature to float into hell, you must labor mightily at achieving the status of rake. You must learn the tricks of the trade. That’s where I come in.
Fall In Love With Yourself All Over Again
One of the cornerstones of becoming a cad is an overwhelming sense of self-importance. Sadly, modern society has wrung the self-centeredness from most men, we are now taught to fret about the feelings of others, to grok their pain, even if their pain causes us pain. You must shuck aside these oppressive emotions and turn your attention fully inward. Focus on your needs, your desires, your goals, your next free drink. At all times a single question should linger at the forefront of your mind: “What’s in it for moi?”
The Wardrobe of Deception
A vain outer appearance is tremendously important. When you walk into a bar, those gathered must immediately recognize you as an inebriate above the ordinary, a fellow who enjoys the finer things in life, especially if they’re free. There was a time when rakes made an occupation of hoodwinking the finest tailors of Savile Row into clothing them. Due to the casualness of dress found in most bars these days, however, you need do little more than climb into suit jacket, slacks, white shirt and tie to stand out. If you are truly in a pinch, you may purchase the entire package from a thrift store for under thirty bucks. Keep in mind you are attempting to capture the look and manner of a wealthy young fellow who has fallen on hard times and heavy drinking, most likely because a woman betrayed you. This look is effected by dressing up, then dressing down. Put on your suit, then pull it apart. Pop the top button of your dress shirt and loosen the tie to the second button. Pomade your hair perfectly, then dishevel it. Insert a pint of whiskey in an outer jacket pocket and you’re William Powell in the midst of a five-day bender.
Accessories After the Fact
Rakes were once quite dandy fellows, and a measure of that tradition survives. Cufflinks make the man. A silver hip flask can prove the dashing finish to a perfect ensemble. Consider an eye patch, it will add a decidedly dangerous element to your appearance. A cigarette case engraved with a suitably mysterious endearment will win the approval and admiration of many. A monogrammed lighter is essential. While a cigarette holder is a flamboyant touch, a rake must recognize he’ll be sacrificing a measurable amount of his perceived masculinity. Hunter S. Thompson (a hillbilly rake if there ever was one) may pull it off, but it took decades of strange and violent behavior to secure that privilege. Consider a pipe instead. It will not only add twenty points to your assumed IQ, it also serves as an excellent pointer — directing its stem at your conversational adversary will send him into fits of irritation, lending you an immediate intellectual advantage. Snuff is also an acceptable alternative. Realize, that as a rake, you must use tobacco in some form: How can you pass yourself off as a devil-may-care hedonist without casually and constantly inhaling that charming slow poison?
What’s That You Say, Old Stick?
Cultivate an English accent. This is nearly essential. Rakes from around the world once descended on London in droves for no better reason than acquiring a properly superior tone to their speech. If you cannot afford a tenure in London, force yourself to watch twenty straight episodes of the The Avengers. You’ll be lilting like a legless rotter in no time.
The New Nobility and How to Impersonate Them
It was once de rigueur for rakes and bounders to attach titles to their names; they would become mysterious barons and outcast counts. These enhancements didn’t cost a thing and were especially effective when dealing with the wealthy but insecure nouveau riche. These days, however, royal blood doesn’t carry the same weight and a claim of being the lost Duke of Attenborough will only invite apathy, disbelief or ridicule. Fortunately, there is a new form of royalty existent in the land and, what’s more, they are much easier to impersonate.
I’m talking about musicians, of course. As opposed to going through the trouble of absorbing the protocol and high-born accents associated with being a duke, to appear to be a member of the rock-and-roll royalty you merely need to act arrogantly and expect to get things for free. And when I say things, I mean alcohol and sex.
Be careful of putting too much icing on the cake however. Refrain from claiming to be Lars from Metallica or any well-known band member, this will inevitably lead to discovery and ejection from the bar. Instead, claim to be the bass player for a band they’ve heard of but have never seen. Or, to play it completely safe, make up the name of a band that sounds like it should be famous and claim to have freshly arrived from London. You’ve sold out halls all across Europe, to be sure, but won’t be playing any stadiums in the States until your bloody record label irons out the multi-million dollar promotion budget.
Swilling With Style And Grace
While scotch and gin once reigned supreme as the rakes’s choice of libations, Prohibition and other calamities served to introduce a broad range of acceptable intoxicants. What you drink at home is your business, but a rake’s choice of public refreshment is the foundation upon which he will build his reputation. Whether carousing with the cocktail crowd or pounding with the pugs, keep the following rules of thumb in mind: To order a light beer is to invite speculation that you are a yuppie in retrodrag. Ruthlessly suppress any urge to tell the bartender to “put a cherry in it!” Order a Churchill Martini and watch your public stock rise. A Fuzzy Navel, on the other hand, will only raise eyebrows. The first shot of tequila is dashing, the second daring, the third will lever you into the rank of dressed-up hooligan.
Ordering a corporate lager whose advertising campaigns involve canines or reptiles is to take your reputation in your hands. Try a hearty stout instead.
A proper rake never refuses a drink, at any hour, under any circumstances; it’s akin to a prostitute turning down cab fare. In fact, you should conspire to always have a drink in your hand, even when strolling to the tobacconist’s or taking a shower. Your reputation as a hard and hedonistic boozer must be defended at the least opportunity. You must cast aside those outrageous social norms that frown upon drinking a scotch and tonic the moment one springs out of bed. The morning is the perfect time to enjoy a good brace of scotch, as the palate has yet to be muddled by food, tobacco and idle lies.
Keep in mind that drinking is an art: There are any number of artists, but there are very few Picassos.
Your next stop should be a bar. In fact, at any given point of the day, the only time you shouldn’t be in a bar is when you’re on your way to a bar. The bar is where a rake polishes his reputation and skills. It’s also a good place to get drunk.
While drinking in public, your expression should always lay somewhere between relish and decorum. Dignity and indulgence. Drink as if you were sticking up a bank while being keenly observed by the judge who will eventually sentence you. Grab as much loot as humanly possibly, yes, but don’t behave as the sort of brute that deserves the long end of a 5- to-10 year stretch.
Try to visit as many bars as possible on any given day. Pop in and out with purposeful but unhurried gait, try to give the appearance that your are always returning from strange and exotic lands, always be in the midst of organizing expeditions that will win you fame and fortune. Idly mention your recent drinking bouts with roguish celebrities. Gather such an extravagant and attractive reputation around you that your drinking companions are so enthralled by your presence they won’t notice you have yet to pay for a round.
Work And Money (And Their Tragic Association)
Throughout history, enterprising young rakes have made an art of squandering family fortunes that took generations of outright avarice to build. Unfortunately, there are fewer fortunes available to modern rakes, so we must oftentimes make due with squandering paychecks that took forty hours of grotesque labor to assemble. If the mere mention of honest work makes you break out in fits of sobriety, fear not — there are several alternative methods to keep you in cocktails.
Double Dutch: Lady friends can prove an excellent source of income, especially if you can convince them you are exiled royalty waiting for a long overdue monarchist revolution that will surely sweep you (and certain generous friends) back into the palace. The only disadvantage of double dutching is you risk becoming a kept man, which is only entertaining to a point. That point usually being when you’re shamed off the sofa and into a sink full of dirty dishes. Perhaps you’re better off with paper plates and poverty.
Credit and the Cad: Living beyond one’s means is a rake maxim. Which explains why the relationship between cad and credit card bears an uncanny resemblance to one between sailor and prostitute — they tend to be torrid but tragically brief affairs. Rakes with good credit are as likely as Dom Perignon-swilling alley winos and are to be regarded with immediate suspicion. As for all those annoying phone calls, female bill collectors make for supremely objective sounding boards for whatever sure-fire pick-up lines you might have conjured up. If they are not amused of your light-hearted approach to your towering debt, remind them of rake extraordinaire Sir Edward Biddle’s famous observation: “Loaning a rake money is like giving a drunkard ale in hopes he’ll heave up whiskey.”
Leeching off the Rich: There are rakes, there are cads, and then there are bounders. A bounder is a very skilled form of blackguard who has learned to ingratiate himself with the wealthy and live off their largess. It’s a well-known fact that certain people have much more money than others and it is a bounder’s job — no, duty — to level that inequity.
Of the many varieties of the rich, the easiest to prey upon are those that never had to actually work for their lucre. This generally means the decadent children of the upper classes, whose sole purpose in life is to suckle on trust funds and inheritances until forced to take on jobs as real estate brokers or gallery owners.
There are two approaches a bounder may employ. The first trick is to make them think you are one of them, suffering from a temporary estrangement from the familial flow of money, due to some extravagantly bad behavior your uptight father disapproved of. It may seem ironic, but rich people don’t mind spending money on other rich people, just as steelworkers don’t mind buying rounds of beers for other steelworkers. You must claim to have attended an Ivy League school, or better yet, Oxford or Cambridge. You must spin wild and extravagant tales of jet-set decadency, so that their semi-debauched lives seem a monk’s daily chores in comparison. You must always be waiting for that check from dear old dad.
The second approach is to make them feel guilty about their wicked wealth, then present yourself a willing receptacle to receive their outpouring of reparations. This will hopefully transpire as investments in wild schemes you have invented. Start up funds for a leftist art gallery is a tried-and true ruse, as are fact-finding missions to Latin America to investigate the persecution of the oppressed natives. You don’t have to tell them you’ll be doing your fact-finding in the hotel bar where you will discover the bartenders and busboys are indeed oppressed — by your extravagant demands for ever stronger cocktails. The cardinal rule of bounding, which you must always remember, is to never thank your rich victims for their largess. To do so is to appear their hired lackey, and you are the furthest thing from that low creature. Leech, yes, lackey, never.
Regardless of how you (or, hopefully, others) support your extravagant lifestyle, it is important to remember that a true rake will never admit he works for a living. To do so is to surrender whatever credibility you might have sauntered into the lounge with. Any queries concerning your source of income should be met with a cavalier smirk and a vague, possibly mumbled, remark about “blood money squeezed from my wicked step-father’s estate lawyers.”
Love, War, And Other Adventures
If love is war without bloodshed, then the cad is a commando without a country. Spurning the crude tactics of the Rambo romeo, the cad plots his romantic raids with an eye toward savoir-faire and style. Rather than rush into no-man’s land blindly, he slips in under cover of darkness, dashing from shadow to shadow, promise to promise, hideous lie to hideous lie. A thorough grasp of strategy and tactics is essential to winning any battle, and there are five rules of engagement every rake should know.
1.) Speak her name sensually and often. It is her favorite word and you must pretend it is yours.
2.) Search out weakness. There comes a time in every relationship when you will become privy to a powerful secret, she will tell you something that will give you sway over her emotions. Your average Lothario will beat her over the head with it until the secret loses power. The rake, however, understands the importance of using this information and, more importantly, not using it.
3.) Find her diary. That humble collection of random thoughts is one of the most powerful tools a cad can wield. Read it faithfully. It will give you the power to — literally —read her mind.
4.) Fire and maneuver. Never let her pin you down emotionally. Make vague commitments and scuttle away. Use your mutual friends for cover and concealment. If you do get caught in a crossfire, claim you were drunk or crazy or both.
5.) The doomsday weapon. Do not underestimate the effect of those oft spoken, rarely meant three words on the human heart. It is the neutron bomb of the rake arsenal and should be treated accordingly. First off, be very certain you want to escalate the conflict to that level, the resulting radiation can hang around for a harrowingly long time. Once you have committed, however, don’t hold back — unleash the entire stockpile and bomb her back to her junior high school emotions. Just remember to duck when she finds out you were only fibbing.
Assuming the Mantle
The sure sign that you have attained the status of rake is when you stroll into a bar and the attendant females gather together like vengeful crows to whisper what an absolute rotter you are. Then, as the night wears on, they slip away from the pack, one by one, to buy you a drink. Then you may say, yes, I am a rotter. Rake on!