100 women in a year? Blogger nerd has big task ahead
By Ritva-Liisa Snellman
Who believes that the following story could be true? In September last year a computer nerd makes a bet with his friend for EUR 10,000 that he can woo 100 women in a year.
The nerd trades in his boring Volvo for a red Alfa Romeo and undergoes a ladies’ man makeover - even though he has slept with only three women in his life up to that point.
In addition, he reports on his progress under the name Teppo M in the blog that he is keeping, called 100 naista (“100 women”), which boasts a weekly readership of more than 10,000 readers.
Women especially like Teppo M’s sharp-eyed observations on the bar scene and coupling, and the blog is being bought as a major attraction of the plaza.fi women’s pages.
In November the writer is offered a publishing contract, and in June a book based on the blog appears in bookstores.
Its rather obvious title is Sata naista (“One Hundred Women”), and it only has the 23 first seductions, as the bet does not end until September.
The narrative sounds like the screenplay of a B-movie, except that it is a true story in 21st century Finland.
But what kind of Finland? Explaining that would require the services of some very diligent expert in the social sciences. Some kind of a shift has actually happened in the attitudes and values of the Finns. A few years ago anonymous fame would have seemed like an impossible concept. Now increasingly intimate questions are discussed in public, behind the protection of a pseudonym. Thousands of people are reading each others’ confessions and commenting on them without knowing if the stories are true or fictitious.
And to top it all off, the most interesting blogs are turned into books, which people pay for, even though the same content is available online for free.
It would be easiest to allow the writer himself to explain what Teppo M is writing about.
But who is this Teppo M? Throughout the autumn speculation was rife on Internet message boards on the name and even the gender of the mystery person. Many were convinced that the writer had to be a woman, because men would never use such imagery.
Others were equally convinced that Teppo M is a man, because his writing is so good and to the point.
The main character in the blog, Teppo M, is a 37-year-old innovation expert from Helsinki with glasses, two children, and an ex-wife, a receding hairline and an expanding waistline.
The real Teppo is neither Anna-Leena Härkönen, nor Katja Kallio. He is a man, but not Tuomas Vimma.
He has ample dark hair flowing down to his neck. His jawline sports a fashionable short beard. His grey suede jacket looks expensive, as do his jeans. He wears a legible T-shirt reading The Rock Side of Life. Like most men two metres tall he walks with his shoulders slightly hunched forward.
The real Teppo has more exes and fewer children than his alter-ego, and he is not really an innovation director. He has his own company, which produces “expert services”, but he has also worked with a leading company in the mobile trade.
He does not want to disclose the real make of his car, or the community where he lives.
In fact, he does not want to say anything at all, but he talks profusely as only those originating in the east of Finland can. Naturally the bet is real, but Teppo M is not Teppo. Undoubtedly, some of the facts in the blog, and in the book are “facts”.
Now it’s time to put Teppo on the spot. “Does your mother know that you write about your sex life to the whole nation?”
“She does. My mother is my most enthusiastic fan. She has read the blog from the very beginning. I was the first to tell her about the book. She is proud of her son.”
Sata naista is an enjoyable read. It tells about Helsinki nightlife in a gently cruel manner. The rules governing approaching women are the same as those for life on an African savannah. You need to observe the group dynamics of the herd before attacking. Who is the star and who are the wallpaper girls. When the star - that is the woman who is always talking, is there, it is not easy to make headway with a wallpaper girl (the one who is silently listening) because the star girl will torpedo the attempt.
The Supernovas are so self-assured that they do not need any wallpaper to back them up, but it is a good idea to try to hit on the supernova at the night club right away, because that is how a man will define his worth in the eyes of the other women, in much the same way that the value of an awful looking handbag will skyrocket if it has been seen under the arm of Angelina Jolie.
One should never start with the least attractive bird in the flock, Teppo M explains.
Readers of the blog are not generally concerned about whether or not the whole story is true. Good stories are always interesting, but the details need to be credible.
For instance, picking up a cousin (seduction 11) on a cruise was seen by many readers to be a slimy fantasy, as well as a scene where a husband has come home in the middle of everything (seduction 16), but is quickly placated, and goes to a nearby bar for a beer with the perpetrator.
“They are true”, Seppo says. “Made-up stories are generally seen to be more credible than real ones.”
A list of random numbers generated by a computer programme is always more random than one produced by a human, but human-made lists are considered more genuine, because they lack the crazy nature of randomness.
Teppo does not feel pressure as a first-time author. How could he, as he wants to remain anonymous?
So far, only his mother and about 20 friends know about his stunt. Pressure came when the blog turned from a private joke into an exhibitionist adventure within a period of a few weeks.
“It is said that I have planned all of this in advance. If I had, my book would be different. Now its tension is declining toward the end, the protagonist is not developing in any direction, and there isn’t really a beginning or an end, but as a first work it is genuine. The only things that I have written before for public consumption have been technical documents."
In his early years, Teppo was a poetic boy, who wrote science fiction for his desk drawer. When computers became more common, he became a nerd. During his time off he spends his time on IRC chat channels and computer games.
Like a genuine nerd, he grew accustomed to living in the twilight zone between reality and fantasy, and he takes advantage of this in his work as well.
This is also apparent in his book. It is difficult to characterise Sata naista - is it a fantasy novel, an autobiography, a partial biography, a handbook for a stud, a documentary about loose sex in the 21st century, or simply a non-book adapted from someone’s blog?
The task has been an arduous one from a purely literary point of view. It is easier to write 300 pages about one woman than just 30.
“I like books in which the writer asks more than he reveals. Significant books for me have been the fantasy novels of Terry Pratchett. The writer says something, but means something else.”
Teppo feels that a novel takes place only when the reader has read the book and processed it.
After a couple hours of yaddayadda, something strange happens. Teppo begins to analyse himself. The blog started as a joke, but it, and especially the book, turned into a way for a man approaching middle age to work through his problems.
“I deal with my matters through my traumas. In the beginning I wrote about them, but now I also feel pain because of my writing.”
Teppo’s traumas are linked with his human relationships. If he does not get constant approval, he feels himself to be unworthy, and then he will do anything he can to get some approval.
“I have never been in therapy, but I have heard about association writing”, Teppo says.
“It is also therapeutic to force one’s self to pick up women when one is almost sober and to deal with rejection. It requires psychological stamina.”
The situation seems hopeless as far as the bet is concerned. There are four more months, and 76 women to go.
On the other hand, Teppo’s status has surged with the writing. He is not a recognised figure in nightclubs, but women who have read the blog approach him and offer him their company.
This is another one of these amazing modern phenomena: people want to be involved in events, be a part of a favourite blog even as someone who is mentioned in just two lines, even if the person’s own name is nowhere to be seen. One can always say to a trusted friend: “Look: there I am.”
“When you write about women, it makes it easy to get women, but I decided at the beginning, that I must make it on my own”, Teppo says.
“Even if I lose the bet, I will have learned plenty. Before I had experiences mainly about rejection, but now I have had so many successes that I have reached a healthy level.”
When a man knows that he can woo a woman if he wants to, it leads to a more relaxed attitude toward the opposite sex.
“Nowadays I also think about whether or not it is worth the bother. Do I really want to go home from some suburb in the early hours of the morning?”
Teppo does not regret making the bet. The goal is ridiculous, but in base-ten, 100 is a nice round figure. Another possibility, a more realistic one, would have been to resort to the binary system. In it, 64 would have been an equally round number.
Even if Teppo wins the bet, he will still have lost money: the average cost of wooing one woman is EUR 100.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 8.6.2008
100 naista (In Finnish)
RITVA LIISA SNELLMAN / Helsingin Sanomat