As a reader of literature of the edge, I had to pick up Welcome To Hell (on amazon). The author, Billy Pratt, was not prolific but when he wrote about the dating game it drew me in for ten minutes. His book is a journey through the contemporary dating world and an anti-hero’s journey.
It is sad, it does build with pain and for every moment where things look promising, you wait for the stomach punch to end the phase in his life or new, hope filled relationship. Built up over years, you begin to wonder if the narrator is trying to capture the moments as they happen or looking back trying to solve where he made missteps. If I had only done this or that, I’d be happily married with a family and the Cape Cod style home.
There is no chance though, and the narrator seems to come to grips with that by the end. This is hell, and we do what we must to get by. While some of his observations confirm the online red pill squad, he finds new points to poke at those same men with. You make choices. You always can. The hell we live in might be devised by others far from our control but you choose to use dating apps, you chase the partners you know deep down are wrong for you, and sometimes one gets away.
The cover using Casey Anthony seemed so appropriate. Casey is not just a reasonably cute young woman with a coy smile for the cover, a blog banner or even a Twitter profile pic. She was and is so much more. Casey Anthony has a chapter here because all men dating since the ‘90s have run into a Casey. Cute, charismatic and with a child; she’s crossed all of our paths. Some date her because the allure is there, and some warn others not to date her because of everything else.
Other people cover for a Casey’s mistakes. It’s the cute looks and expectations of recovery that are long gone in this new hell. She’s never recovering because she doesn’t have to do so. The final cover up was not just her parents working with her defense to spare her jail despite her murder of their grandchild. It was a jury hearing all of the details, all of the lies and still letting her walk. It was a national approval of all female misdeeds in the sacred structure of our legal system. A get out of jail free card for all those partying single moms because we all know a Casey. She’ll clean up if we give her one more chance. Despite this infamy, gossip sites run blinds that men pay for time with her. We all know and all tacitly approve.
That’s who is out there to date because people took the Boomer advice to date around to find out what you like and not get married too soon. You should’ve married that high school sweetheart. That’s some of Billy’s softest passages. The longing for normalcy that the narrator feels he tossed away. Some of it was the hell that was set up and some of it was him. He wanted to sample the temptations of modern carnal pleasure.
I managed to get married right around age thirty. It was years ago but just as Tinder took off. A couple years in and a friend said, “You got out man. Me, I feel like you got taken up by the Rapture, and I’m dating the villains left behind.” This is why Welcome To Hell is such a proper title. This reads like a cautionary tale for Zoomers from a Millenial who now knows better.
This is why the narrator is an anti-hero. He lacks the normal heroic qualities but is navigating the swamp out there. The book doesn’t end with finding a bride in a white dress because he’s already explained how that’s not possible at his deep stage in the game. He knows his methods or motivations are not pure, but he’s making the best of it. What exactly is “it”? One last robbery, one last job, one last swipe, one last date.