“If you have to say what you are, then you aren’t that thing.”
That little morsel of wisdom was heard in a Facebook thread about women judging one another and one declaring to others how she is superior by virtue of “showing more class.” As my friend Chuck St John stated: “If you have to use the word ‘Class’ to describe yourself… you have none. Class is a word only other people can ascribe to you.”
It got me thinking about the labels we give ourselves as we travel through this life, evolving through perceptions of ourselves and the world around us.
Specifically, I was talking to a female friend who was quite dejected about re-entering the dating scene after leaving her fiancé after giving him a second chance to cheat on her. One fellow, she said, was there for her in the tough days right after that breakup, but when it became apparent that she did not return his feelings of attraction, he became hostile and raged at her.
If we, as men, complain about being “stuck in the friend zone”, then we aren’t really friends, are we? We’re just pissed off that we were unsuccessful in leveraging friendship to achieve an intimate relationship.
Actual friendship is not this sort of deception but rather, something that should be freely given without conditions that it must ultimately lead to getting a girlfriend out of investing time. Any guy who becomes hostile because a woman isn’t interested in dating him is a guy who was expecting more than just friendship from the beginning.
That guy is a creep.
THE NICE GUY SYNDROME
Forgive me. I know this article is going to ramble from this point forward. My thoughts are all over the place on this topic.
The last time a woman told me I was a “nice guy”, I responded that this was a terrible thing to call a man. She meant it as a compliment, but “nice” often carries connotations of “boring” or weak. Besides, I am just as capable as any other man of being selfish and using another human being for temporary gratification. I simply choose not to most of the time because of that whole Golden Rule thingie.
Since becoming single again, I realized it is wrong to feel a sense of entitlement because you are a nice guy. It’s misogynistic to advocate for yourself based on behaving the way you should be acting anyhow. Just because the bar has been set so low by the modern guy, that doesn’t mean we are ACTUALLY nice guys IF we are manipulative others enough to use that to guilt them into sex or a second date or whatever.
What does it even mean to be a nice guy anymore? People have told me I’m a good father. I guess. I love my daughter more than anything, but I’m simply doing the things that any proud and protective dad should be doing. It’s only because of low standards for men generally that I seem to be an extraordinary father in any sense. I appreciate the admiration, but I’m not sure I am particularly deserving of praise if I’m only earning it by virtue of not being a selfish asshole. Is Donald Trump suddenly deserving to be president if he starts holding his tongue? Thank God boys in this country finally have a positive role model (sarcasm).
MEN AND A SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
Men may feel that women or “the world” are somehow “unjust” if the opposite sex gravitates toward so-called bad boys. As writer Suzannah Weiss argued in an article, “the whole concept of fairness is irrelevant when personal choices are concerned. Human beings are not rewards for kindness. (Women) do not have to be an equal-opportunity dater.”
Men cannot allow ourselves to feel persecuted or rejected by the whole of womanhood simply because we feel that we deserve the attention of a woman who was attracted to a jerk instead of us. That’s nothing more than throwing a pity party for ourselves. Women are naturally attracted to guys who have confidence, displayed as a certain level of swagger. The “nice guy” self-proclamation is like declaring we lack the confidence to just be ourselves and let the chips fall where they may.
The very best thing a man can do to boost his romantic performance is not care so much or try so hard – to work on improving ourselves instead of our sales pitch. When we stop posturing and simply have fun with whoever we are around, it is magnetic.
QUID PRO QUO?
Some men feel they are entitled to sex if they buy a woman a drink or a meal. But if we asked them out, we’re pretty much hosting them for getting-to-know-you time – not bartering. I withhold any judgment of a female who decides she wants to become intimate on a first date (and any expectation that I’m deserving “a piece of ass” if I took her out to a fancy restaurant and spent money on her).
I wish I had more clarity of my point in this blog. I guess the bottom line is that I am not always proud of my gender, even though I know there are parents out there doing their best to raise quality young men who keep their word and know the difference between right and wrong.
I feel for women when they are “slut-shamed” for exploring and enjoying their sexuality in a way that I am free and even encouraged to do. I sympathize when girls are shamed for their bodies and treated like sex objects to be groped without their permission if they dress in a certain way. That’s the kind of thinking that puts women in veils in the Middle East and reduces some men in that region to undisciplined hounds who feel they are free to do as they will as long as a woman is not hiding her body from our eyes.
THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO WOMEN
Comedian Louis CK said, “The courage it takes for a woman to say yes [to a date with a man] is beyond anything I can imagine. A woman saying yes to a date with a man is literally insane, and ill-advised. How do women still go out with guys, when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men? We’re the number one threat! To women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. We’re the worst thing that ever happens to them!”
I can feel the eyes in the back of their heads when I leave my apartment building in the morning, trying to keep my distance walking behind a woman who doesn’t feel safe in broad daylight. It is silly for me to argue that she has no right to pre-judge me as a potential predator based on my genitalia because the world can be ugly and cruel and unjust. Women have a right to feel what they feel, and men need to respect their need for space and be aware of the vibe we might be putting out around them.
I heard an NPR story about expectations of ethical behavior between the sexes and how one classroom of students gasped when their professor revealed that the shameless deems of one attorney were performed by someone they had presumed, while listening, would be a man.
My point is not that men are bad, women are good. Not universally, anyhow. Generalizations are always a bad idea. As the father of a teenage daughter, I worry for her. I can only hope that I inspire enough caution and common sense for her to cope with what’s ahead for her as a young woman.
EVOLUTION AND EPIPHANY
My views on these matters have gradually evolved over time, just like they have for many Americans. Before Anita Hill, it didn’t seem threatening for me to rub the shoulders of a female workmate, but now I am aware of how an unsolicited touch might be perceived as something she might grudgingly endure rather than accept as a friendly, harmless gesture.
Part of the problem is that men say what we mean, generally speaking, and have the expectation that women will speak up rather than trying to be nice and keep silent to preserve the peace. I can think of nothing more pathetic than a woman rolling her eyes when she hears me coming, actually dreading me because she finds me repellent. I’d rather have the cruel truth, please, even if I’ll resent you for it. With an assertive, career-minded mother and sister, I’ve spent much of my life around women who don’t mince their words.
Men are criticized as weak and indecisive if we too accommodating of what women want. It can be confusing when we’re simultaneously told by women to be assertive, to be “manly”. Nice guys are wusses, right? Yet Men have to learn that “no” from the lips of a woman isn’t always false modesty and making us jump through hoops to get into the promised land. Silence does not imply consent. We presume it’s all part of a game, part of a dance, unless we are told “NO!” in no uncertain terms that we are unwelcome to put any part of our bodies near any part of theirs, then we dismiss them as “bitches” for being unnecessarily harsh – or, worse, we ignore them and try to wear down their resistance.
Not me. Not anymore. These days, I keep my hands to myself and assume the default response will be, “Eww! Get away from me, you creep!”
A woman who is interested in me romantically must make herself unambiguously clear about what she wants before I attempt to engage her on any level of physicality. Consent must be expressed in a tangible, preferably notarized or videotaped format. This presents definite challenges to any female who does like me but wants to avoid appearing too eager or slutty. Believe me, if a woman makes the first move, I am relieved.
I restrain myself, assure her that I pass no sweeping moral judgments as long as she’s a decent human being, and try to be a nice guy. Like, you know, for real.