When we first heard that the 36-year-old "neomasculinity" blogger Daryush "Roosh" Valizadeh was papped emerging disheveled from his mother's basement, we were not surprised. The self-described "King of Masculinity"—known for promoting manipulative pickup techniques, explicit misogyny, and, in his most incendiary post, rape (the last of which, he says, was satire)—has inspired more than several men to take up the cause of being bad, and the amount of effort expended on writing blog posts like "8 Things American Women Must Do To Make Themselves More Attractive For Men" and "Be That Guy" is generally directly proportional to one's lameness. Until now, Valizadeh claimed to have been living a nomadic international lifestyle because he feared that someone might make good on the frequent death threats he receives from around the world; his 15 self-published books, which include titles like Don't Bang Latvia: How to Sleep with Latvian Women in Latvia Without Getting Scammed and Roosh's Argentina Compendium: Pickup Tips, City Guides, and Stories, seem to confirm the listicle writer's worldly sensibility.
Today, however, Broadly can confirm reports that Valizadeh resides not in pied-à-terres throughout exoticized versions of Eastern European and South American nations but in the basement of a humble cul-de-sac in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his mother and stepdad, who likes to do carpentry projects in his spare time. The self-published author, a duplicitous Gemini and secret fan of our horoscopes, invited us there.
The front door opened to reveal an underwhelming image: a man who, were he not one of the most despised in the Western Internet world, might best be described as someone who knew he had blown his chances of appearing on the "Hot Dudes Reading" Tumblr long ago. As it is, the stained armpits of his gray T-shirt perhaps better represented his state: unsightly, uncomfortable, vaguely sticky. The Lenscrafters-wearing website moderator ushered us in, gesturing to a line of shoes on the landing where we deposited our footwear next to a pair of Reef brown leather flip flops, without a word. We paused, momentarily frozen in bad memories of high school boyfriends, before descending the lower half of a split-level staircase. Intrepid yet nervous, we paused to consider: Was this a trap? Would there be a sex dungeon? A harem? An elaborate LAN setup? Would we be nudged into giving an under-blanket handjob as Shallow Hal played quietly in the background? Valizadeh padded, sockless as well as flip-flop-less, around the corner into the unknown. "I don't like stuff on my feet," we heard him say, and we followed, noticing as we did a small rustic frame containing the phrase "Home is where the heart is" inscribed in a pink heart.
Given the frenzy surrounding the famed pickup artist's recently canceled international "meetups," where it was assumed that misogyny and pro-rape sentiment would foment, the atmosphere of his mother's basement, which Valizadeh described at various points as his "kingdom" and "man cave," was almost eerily calm. He pulled aside a curtain of beads, careful to hold the path clear for us as well, and spread his arms wide.
"This is where the magic happens," he said.
After an initial survey of the scene, we surmised he must have been referring not to figurative sexual prowess, but to literal magic tricks: A deck of cards, several brightly colored scarves tied together to form a seven-foot chain, and, worryingly, a saw were strewn across the low-ceilinged room. Spots of soft light appeared on the beige carpeting through a glass screen door, which opened out onto a patio where a swing with a floral-upholstered pillow swayed in the early February wind. An HP laptop sat open on a white leather couch, a starfield speeding across its screen; in the entertainment center, constructed perhaps of oak, there were three DVDs—The Matrix Reloaded, Love Actually, and something we couldn't quite make out—a gallon of chocolate protein powder, and a box of baby wipes. The telltale orange-yellow of a Taco Bell wrapper under a beech wood TV dinner stand caught our eye, as did several ketchup packets, both unopened and spent. We were momentarily distracted by a question—does he put ketchup on his quesadillas?—and felt uncomfortable. After another long pause, we told him that we had that laptop in college.
"Do you want to see a trick?" Valizadeh asked, in his strangely soft voice, his eyebrows raised in hope. We almost felt sorry for him then, and we replied, apologetically, that we only support feminist magicians. Valizadeh's disappointment palpable, we suggested he direct us to the restroom and then he could give us a tour of the rest of the house. Seeming buoyed by the opportunity to tell women something, Valizadeh showed us to a small room we had initially mistook for a half-bath. Although the seat was down, several yellow spots of dried urine created an obstacle between us and the toilet, particularly distressing due to our imposed shoelessness. Any sympathy we had mustered for Valizadeh evaporated (unlike the urine) as we squatted and noticed but two sheets of toilet paper. We looked through his shower vindictively: Head & Shoulders, an unfamiliar brand of lavender-scented body wash, loofah, not one but three washcloths? Though we were pleased to note a litter box, we nevertheless considered using his toothbrush to remove some of the beard-length hairs scattered around a bottle of Kirkland Signature body lotion.
After another long pause, we told him that we had that laptop in college.
But we are journalists, and there was the sound of a front door opening, followed by a woman's voice. "Dary?" the woman said. "Daryush? Can you help me take the groceries in from the car?" We watched as Valizadeh dutifully made two trips to the tan CRV in its designated parking space, and then we joined Valizadeh's mother in the kitchen. The plastic bags sat atop a simple table adorned with a "country" plaid tablecloth printed with illustrations of fruit. White cabinetwork complemented a sign featuring a skeptical woman in a 1950s-style bouffant, which read, "I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food!"
"Did you get my Babybels?" Valizadeh asked, forearms deep in the grocery bags, digging. His mother paused before saying, wearily, that she must have forgotten. Valizadeh huffed and departed with a small stomp. His mother called after him: "You need to help me put away the groceries!"
"I have to give them the tour!" he hissed, a slight preteen lilt to his whine. His mother, who, we noticed, was wearing a very cool necklace, sighed and began to empty the bags. Although we were tempted by our solidarity with her, we followed Valizadeh down the oriental runner into the dining room, where one of the most beautiful cats we have ever seen was lounging majestically upon a four-foot-tall golden bed.
Upon the appearance of the gorgeous animal, whose long hair was an unusual tortoiseshell and whose mesmerizing eyes attracted us immediately—perhaps this creature was a source of inspiration for Valizadeh?—Valizadeh, usually even-toned if defeated-sounding, became visibly shaken. He glared sharply at the pet. He said nothing as the cat, which seemed to possess an inner confidence, rose from her throne, glided seductively against our legs, and proceeded through a small flap door we had until then not noticed. The cat flap was itself a smaller version of the pair of grand French doors that remained closed at the back of the room.
We moved towards them, almost unable to stop ourselves, when Valizadeh became panicked. "Wait!" he cried. "You can't go in there. No one goes in there."
"No one," he repeated, looking around nervously. "No one goes in there."
Much could be said about Valizadeh's Internet persona: It's vile, it's arrogant, it espouses a reckless and violent perspective that rallies frothy masculine aggression into a ridiculous mob that clearly doesn't understand the efficacy of the Facebook "Events" function. He does, however, know how to make people want something, though this neutered display was not quite the tactic we imagined he would pull with us. Immediately we were distracted with an all-consuming desire. What could be in there?
"Oh, hush," a voice behind us said. Valizadeh's mother, holding a small plate of cookies, walked towards us and gestured towards the door. "You are our guests. Of course you should come and enjoy some tea with me." We maneuvered around the giant cat palace and emerged into: a living room, decorated in taupes and pinks, with a pleasant hillside scene hanging in a frame above a mantle. Tentatively and against our judgment, we stood to let Valizadeh come in, too, but his mother shook her head no and shut the doors behind us.
"This is the formal room," his mother said. "Daryush isn't allowed in here."