Book review of My Life as a Mexican Pirate: A True Story by Mark Zolo.
Mark Zolo always took things a bit too far. Back in the day I would check his site, Naughty Nomad, for its city reports before taking on a new international gig. I liked to know beforehand whether dating would be possible there, and whether this would get my head cut off.
I did minimum two year contracts. It’s a factor. Don’t come for me.
But when I went on a week-long trip somewhere, I really could not be bothered trying to pick up girls and find a place to take them in a hostel dormitory. The one time I went to Russia (Saik! I’m not Russian), I was far more interested in hiking and seeing historical sites than bedding local women. Between finding a place to stay, avoiding pros, and bringing along clothes suitable for a nightspot, it didn’t seem like it was worth it.
To Mark, it is always worth it.
For me, [traveling alone] meant doing just enough sight-seeing to stave off guilt, then bar hopping and chasing tail.
The places he’s been and the things he’s done to experience danger and pick up hoochimamas are astonishing. As a result, this is the most bizarre and extreme travel book you’ll ever read.
I remember back in the day, he published an unusually thoughtful post wondering why he was always seeking out more girls and riskier situations. I replied something like, you’ve proved whatever you wanted to, take it easy.
Next I heard he was in another war zone.
I was worried that this book would be like an extended blog post – reports of bedding African princesses, exploding shells, and drunken debauchery. And there’s lots of that.
However, read on and we encounter a young man beginning to learn more about himself and the world.
Mark’s MO is to dress up as a pirate with a bunch of friends, go to dangerous places, get drunk, pick up girls, and write about it. He is not known for pulling his punches:
I was sexually sated. The night before, I’d savagely yanked my mattress up to the attic and violated every orifice of an Israeli girl.
He starts off like this:
I was on a mission to “capture the flag.” (. . .) I desired to sleep with women from both . . . the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and get a few bonus points in while I was at it. A little immature, you might think, but I was young and felt external pressure to engage in this little game at the time. I was drafting my first book, and I’d started a men’s travel blog to build up an audience.
Finally, after an experience too disgusting to relate even on this blog, he realizes he’s overdoing it.
Who was I trying to prove myself to? My friends? My readers? Myself? (. . .)
From now on, I’ll only count flags, and try to keep my standards high, I said to myself.
With all the positive re-enforcement I received online in comments, emails, and forums, my efforts to capture “flags” peaked. In a fourteen-month period, I bedded 20 new nationalities (not to mention repeats), and each triumph that I announced got me virtual high-fives from men the world over. As a young man it felt cool for a time, but my sexual appetite became insatiable, driven by ego as much as libido. Despite my perceived “successes”, I still felt something was missing.
Captain Columbo explains it best:
Late bloomers are always spiritually incel, no amount of internet dating app abuse or Thai sex tourism can change that. Imposters, never comfortable or satisfied, they swallow pussy like black holes, their essential nature unaffected.
I was like this in Tokyo. No matter how many girlfriends I had, I always wanted more. I was perpetually thirsty. Not horny, just trying to fill a self assurance-sized hole in my heart. It took years to get over that, and not dating at all for two years in Africa was what finally, and unintentionally, cured me of my need for female validation.
As you know, it is easy enough to bring home a lady in the Third World so long as you have some cash handy. Mark is happy to sleep with whores, but not to pay them. Convincing them to come back for free because you’re just so dreamy is called ‘shoring’, and many of the scrapes in the book are a Groundhog Day montage of scenes where the girl agrees to sleep with him for free, demands money in the morning, then threatens him with male acquaintances or sharp implements when he tries to leave.
. . . the idea of paying for sex grosses me out. It would bruise my ego so bad that I don’t think I could even maintain an erection. (. . . ).
However, once he realizes that he’s been had, I can’t understand why he doesn’t just cough up the fifty bucks and get out of there safely. You’re mortal, mate – is your ego really worth losing your life over? Because, while we laugh at his adventures and he laughs along, he could easily have died a dozen times.
And then there are the occasions he’s getting caught in between girls fighting each other.
“Listen carefully,” I said. “I think Haadiya has hired some men to have me killed. Check outside the window. Is there anybody outside the gates?”
This is why I didn’t date in Africa. In places where it is normal to use connections to get rivals arrested or shot, it doesn’t hurt to forgo the odd root in order to avoid trouble.
Inevitably, one day Mark catches feelings:
I love you.
Her words were so overwhelming, I had to escape to the bathroom to control my emotion (. . .) I broke down. Like a besotted teen, I started singing along with the lyrics my voice cracking as I wept with joy, like a giant, blubbering vagina.
Knowing how this story ends, I want to quantum leap back in time and slap myself.
When he finds out that his beautiful, talented, well-traveled and fascinating lover has the highest n-count he has ever heard of, he gets a weird, uncomfortable feeling, and we see his brain grow three sizes in one day.
Through his nocturnal adventures, the reader begins to see a problem. For example:
I boldly propositioned a tall French Asian at a late-night taco joint. She was already on a date with some other dude, but we built up so much attraction that she ditched him and came straight home with me. The lads and I were sharing a dorm room, so I threw my mattress out of the door, slammed it shut, and banged her right there in the hallway, pirate style!
T’was a good trip.
First, how is this tall French Asian girl ever going to be a loyal and devoted wife?
Second, how is Mark ever going to be a loyal and devoted husband, when he’s probably seen more of the raw, unleashed female id that any man on Earth? He knows that any fine fellow, working hard, stacking cash, and being respectful, might in a moment lose his beau to a passing young foreigner dressed as a pirate.
I’ve seen less than a tenth of what he’s seen, but that’s enough to haunt me.
But muh bring back conservative patriarchal values, right? He reports the case of a rich guy who seduces a bunch of Gulf Arab girls in Dubai into a drunken, drug-fueled orgy with a hundred grand.
I was speechless.
The idea that an Arab virgin would debase herself that way blew my mind. It was one of those rare moments when my faith in humanity was flushed down the toilet.
In the final adventure, Mark and his friends go for a trip to sunny Somalia.
So many people had seen us entering the hotel.
What if somebody has spotted us and informed kidnappers or Al Shabab?
Having lived nearby, I know plenty of people who’ve had to work in Mogadishu for money, and I’m familiar with the security precautions they had to take. His thought was not paranoia. I’m not sure if he realizes it even today, but this stupid action took him very, very close to death.
After rushing to see the remains of a suicide bomber:
The only thing that really stuck with me was the feeling I had on the plane home to Ireland, a sense of hollowness.
Back home, Mark starts to get it.
. . . but as the fires of my ego began to smoulder, whatever hole I’d been trying to fill re-appeared. My peers considered me “the man”, but I still didn’t feel good about myself. I’d faced every war I could but ran from the one within.
He realizes that there’s no long-term reward to shagging as many women from as many countries as possible. He’s degenerate, in debt, and out of shape. One by one, he starts fixing the real issues in his life, and starts to feel less shallow.
Today, he is a very different man.
And yet . . . and yet . . . there’s one line that haunts me:
Perhaps a sex addict is just a man with options.