How to be a bachelor, People style

BY JONAS BLANK

Most men spend a lifetime dreaming what it might be like to have just a taste of fame, a shard of acknowledgment of their studliness. But 3L Shawn McDonald didn’t even have to wait until graduation — he’s already joined some of Hollywood’s hottest on People magazine’s “50 Most Eligible Bachelors” list.

Call this the “foot in the door” theory — guys think that it’s their exposure to women, not their actual charm skills, that are lacking. If they could just meet the supermodels and pop icons of the world, guys figure, they could charm their pants off — literally.

But of course, the guys with exposure are the Damons, the Afflecks and Hartnetts. They sure as hell aren’t 3Ls at Harvard Law School. At least, not until Shawn.

Sure, he’s tall, he’s in decent shape and he’s a pretty nice guy. That’s half the male HLS population. So why this guy? What is it that makes Shawn McDonald more eligible than the other thousand or so HLS guys?

He’s clearly practiced giving the modest answer: “A good friend of mine at the law school’s girlfriend is a writer for People magazine. Each writer gets to nominate 50 or so people to be in the issue. So she asked him to name maybe six or ten people from the law school who are friends of his.” The lucky guys sent in pictures, did phone interviews, and passed a background check (“To be sure you didn’t have 40 kids and five felonies and whatnot — I barely passed that.”). They followed that up with an in-person interview. Afterward, they took some photos, and that was that. Mr. McDonald’s eligible bachelordom had begun.

“I wouldn’t say I expected it,” Shawn says of the accolade. “It was fun. It was somewhat surreal. There have definitely been good times.”

After the People piece ran, the random emails started coming. Then the letters. Then those encounters in the club, the “I can’t say how, but I know you from somewhere” conversations. He tries to stay away from the e-mails at least, since he figures half of those Yahoo! accounts are his friends’ hoaxes anyway.

But to hear the Boston Globe tell it, the People story turned the man into a bona fide phenomenon. After one reporter spent a night out with Shawn in New York this summer, the paper ran a tabloid-style spread on him worthy of Prince William himself. The story obsessed over Shawn’s clothing choices, his favorite drink, his random conversations. It even informed the casual reader of how long it takes him for a “quick shower” (four minutes, according to the story).

“I thought nobody would see it,” he says of the story, which ran during the summer. “That’ll give plenty of material to the Parody.”

Though the greater Boston area now knows more about his hygiene habits, the story hasn’t changed Shawn’s life all that much. He still goes to class — two days a week, anyway. He’s still not hooking up with actresses, or supermodels, or rock stars, though he’ll cop to one obsession: “I have a major crush on Nelly Furtado. I’m currently stalking both her and Beyonce Knowles, to no avail as of yet.” He’s trying to get his famous cousin, Mariah Carey, to set that one up.

Thanks in part to Carey, Shawn’s life already reads a lot like a fairy tale.

“Life was totally different before I was 13. I lived in a poor area, my family was scraping to get by,” he says. “But, once I hit 13, Mariah got a record deal and things changed. I moved to Manhattan and I was given the opportunity to go to better schools. I was given the opportunity to succeed, and I take that opportunity very seriously.”

After the eligible bachelor-to-be finally made it to HLS, he says he was pleasantly surprised. “I personally think there are a lot of good looking women here,” he says. “Maybe because I expected absolutely nothing.”

Still, if the pickings get slim, “it’s always good to have your own little outsourced stable here or there.”

But now that he’s made the rounds (a few of them, at least) with the HLS female population, Shawn ought to be in position to give some much-needed dating advice to the 1Ls among us.

So, how is dating at Harvard different?

“We get a lot of flak for being too big of a law school, but if it were any smaller I think I’d die,” he says. “People are very gossipy. It’s hard to fly under the radar a little bit, if that’s your style. And obviously the females are very, very intelligent … you have to come correct.”

And then you do get your lazy ass off-campus, please, please, please, be careful what you do with the proverbial “H-Bomb.”

“In my 1L days, I was known, on occasion, to try that tactic,” Shawn admits. “Girls are skeptical — I’ve seen them actually ask guys for ID.” While he admits that the H-Bomb can melt hearts from time to time, it usually comes off like a bad pickup line.

These days, Shawn contents himself to splitting time between HLS and Manhattan, where he likes to spend most of his weekends. And as far as the whole “eligible bachelor” thing, the emphasis is still very much the “bachelor.”

“Umm, no,” he says of immediate marriage plans. “If all goes well, 30, 31. Certainly no hurry. Life’s too short.”

So is this eligible bachelor just another player in disguise? He won’t tell you that on the record. But he will cop to one rather curious rumor about a certain vibrating couch he has set up at his place in Cambridge.

Finally, he gets a little flustered. “Look, alright, I’m a slacker … no wait.” He tries a different version. “Look, I have a nice little room set up where you can kick back and there’s a button you can hit on the couch to get it to massage you. It’s actually quite comfortable. I don’t use it often.”

Sure, he doesn’t. After all, an eligible bachelor never tells.

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