I wrote an email.
After an important romantic relationship ended in my early twenties, I wrote an email with the intent of getting my ex back (or at least make her think about getting back together). It was a bad idea, and I shouldn’t have done it. It was one of those embarrassing, painstakingly composed notes that’s meant to indicate how much of a more put-together person you’ve become (I think I mentioned all the pull-ups I’d been doing, which, wow, that was an insane thing to talk about in the context of a relationship where communication had become the central dilemma), how you’re in a better place and aren’t as depressed as you were before. Again, this was enclosed in a private message, sent from one Gmail account to another a few weeks after the breakup. Still. Bad idea.
But wow, my bad ideas are nothing compared to Robin Thicke’s, who is a 37-year-old adult male. He’s recorded an album to win back Paula Patton, his wife of nine years. (The couple separated earlier this year amidst allegations of Thicke’s infidelity.) He’s calling the album Paula, and in doing so, expanding the horizons for bad ideas. There should be a specific word for this.
Some potential words (and phrases):
Narcissist. The neat trick of Paula is that, though the album is named after Paula Patton and includes songs titled “Get Her Back,” it’s really all about Thicke. In the video for "Get Her Back" Thicke is the injured party. (He's literally scratched and smeared with blood at one point.) But if Thicke cared about Patton, he wouldn’t be making music that publicly pleads for her forgiveness. He’s @ing Vevo in his Tweet’s about Paula (and Paula). As my colleague put it, “Paula found out that he was fucking hoes, and everyone felt sorry for her. Now he wants the attention and wants people to feel sorry for him.” Thicke’s going to make an album that sounds like walking on your hands and knees, which will have the effect of allowing terrible people to call Paula terrible names—Aw, he’s so apologetic; she’s being such a bitch—when she does the right thing and stays all the way divorced from him.
Bad listener. One of the many terrible things about Thicke’s album—and this is just theoretically speaking; imagine how much worse it will get once we have all the lyrics and music videos!—is how the thinking fits in with men’s rights ideology. Men’s rights activists could be described as men who don’t believe in the meaning of the word “no.” Paula Patton has separated from her husband, but now it looks like her husband doesn’t get that. The idea that a woman can be coerced into any act or relationship through some man’s will power and focus needs to stop. (Also, remember that consent and the lack thereof was a hallmark of “Blurred Lines”: “I know you want it.”)
Businessman with unique ability to compartmentalize. If Robin Thicke doesn’t actually think he could reunite with Paula Patton via an album called Paula, if he’s only doing this for the publicity (and sales) it will garner, then he’s got really great business sense. (Not much in the way of a conscience, though. Evidence: @Vevo.) This is an effort with the support of a record label to change one woman's “no” into a yes.”
Teachable moment. The idea is that if we keep talking about sexist, misogynistic behavior, if we keep revealing how ideas that seem to have sprung from the very ground—“Of course, you try some grand gesture to win back your love, dude. That’s what women want!”—are actually warped and creepy and wrong, maybe things will get better. We could all ignore what Robin Thicke is doing. Or we could keep talking about why he’s wrong and maybe that will help.
And might I suggest that if he does realize he's made a mistake, he could always apologize over email. It's very discreet.
Ross Scarano is a deputy editor at Complex. He tweets here.