Norah Vincent, author of "Self-Made Man," left her job as a nationally syndicated opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times to research this book. For 18 months, she dressed up as a man at work and in social situations. She even went on dates with women. Vincent said the experience left her with a greater appreciation and understanding of men -- their emotions, their expectations and their relationships with women.
Read an excerpt of "Self-Made Man" below.
When I told my proudly self-confessed trailer-trash girlfriend that Ned was joining a men's bowling league, she said by way of advice, "Just remember that the difference between your people and my people is that my people bowl without irony." Translation: hide your bourgeois flag, or you'll get the smugness beaten out of you long before they find out you're a woman.
People who play in leagues for money take bowling seriously, and they don't take kindly to journalists infiltrating their hard-won social lives, especially when the interloper in question hasn't bowled more than five times in her life, and then only for a lark.
But my ineptitude and oddball status notwithstanding, bowling was the obvious choice. It's the ultimate social sport, and as such it would be a perfect way for Ned to make friends with guys as a guy. Better yet, I wouldn't have to expose any suspicious body parts or break a heavy sweat and risk smearing my beard.
Still, in practice, it wasn't as easy as it sounded. Taking that first step through the barrier between Ned the character in my head and Ned the real guy among the fellas proved to be more jarring than I could have ever imagined.
Any smartly dressed woman who has ever walked the gauntlet of construction workers on lunch break or otherwise found herself suddenly alone in unfamiliar male company with her sex on her sleeve will understand a lot of how it felt to walk into that bowling alley for the first time on men's league night. Those guys may not have known that I was a woman, but the minute I opened the door and felt the air of that place waft over me, every part of me did.
My eyes blurred in panic. I didn't see anything. I remember being aware only of a wave of noise and imagined distrust coming at me from undistinguishable faces. Probably only one or two people actually turned to look, but it felt as if every pair of eyes in the place had landed on me and stuck.
I'd felt a milder version of this before in barbershops or auto body shops. This palpable unbelonging that came of being the sole female in an all-male environment. And the feeling went right through my disguise and my nerve and told me that I wasn't fooling anyone.
This was a men's club, and men's clubs have an aura about them, a mostly forbidding aura that hangs in the air. Females tend to respond to it viscerally, as they are meant to. The unspoken signs all say no girls allowed and keep out or, more idly, enter at your own risk.
As a woman, you don't belong. You're not wanted. And every part of you knows it, and is just begging you to get up and leave.
And I nearly did leave, even though I'd only made it two steps inside the door and hadn't even been able to look up yet for fear of meeting anyone's eyes. After standing there frozen for several minutes, I had just about worked up the gumption to retreat and call off the whole thing when the league manager saw me.
"Are you Ned?" he asked, rushing up to me. "We've been waiting for you."