Thoughts That Never Occurred to Me During My Lonely “Nice Guy” Years

Yearbook signature, Class of Long Ago.

Sample message from a classmate written in one of my old yearbooks. Somehow I read platonic well-wishing like this and did not convince myself they were subliminally asking me to ravish them.

I’ve never understood normal men, let alone the broken ones. Let’s get that out of the way up front.

Maybe it’s because I read the right books and lucked into the right role models. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a sufficiently damaged home life. Maybe I’m lucky that my father wasn’t an active part of my life. Maybe it’s a good thing I never kept too many macho friends for long, or belonged to any particularly masculine cliques. Maybe it’s because I figured out a way for logic and empathy to share harmonic coexistence in my brain. I’m funny that way, maybe.

My first date wasn’t till age 19. My age at the time of you-know-what was years beyond that. In junior high and high school, I never bothered asking any girls out. I knew my odds were slim for a variety of reasons, some but not all of them related to appearance. I wasn’t happy with it. I had my bouts of depression and crushed self-esteem. Eighth grade in particular remains a mental and emotional nadir in my life. I couldn’t figure a way out of it on my own, other than to hope that “This, too, shall pass” would apply to my situation someday before I died.

And yet…for all my dissatisfaction with my lot in life back then, for all my innocuous interactions with the ladies in my young-stupid-male years, none of the following sentences ever popped into my head:

* “That girl was nice to me. I expect sex from her now.”
* “The world owes me a chick.”
* “I know I’m perfect, so it’s clearly not my fault.”
* “Top-40 songs about love and sex are most wise.”
* “Maybe if I insult all women a lot, one will step forward and claim me.”
* “The world owes me a hot chick.”
* “Without sex I’m nothing.”
* “Women love a guy who’s bitter and snarling.”
* “Killing will solve anything.”

…and I’m grateful to the Lord every day that I never adopted anything from this list as my personal catchphrase.

These seem basic to me. Things you’d learn just through the course of ordinary human contact and picking up at least a book a year. I’m not even a genius. But I’ve known guys in my life for whom some of these wouldn’t have been beyond their daily thought spheres. Distancing myself from them was never too hard.

Why is it that some conventionally shaped, ostensibly smart guys, many of whom were accepted to college, can’t figure this out? Are the tangled tentacles of self-preoccupation that ensnaring? When someone embraces any or all of these, as recent disturbing videos and headlines would suggest they absolutely do…is that what happens when manhood becomes our god?

A while back I wrote a distantly related piece called “The Idiot’s Guide to Not Sexually Harassing Women“, in which I tried fathoming how the average male mind works, came to the conclusion that perhaps education is the foundational issue that needs to be addressed, and, instead of merely lobbing F-bombers at any number of specific offenders, suggested practical advice to the undereducated who’ve never had someone sit them down and give them the talk about how other humans aren’t playthings planted on Earth for their use and abuse. I tried to do my part. If it worked and a single mind was changed, I’ll never know.

School systems rush to handle the Birds and the Bees for us, but I’m not sure the subject of proper bird/bee treatment comes up nearly as often as it should. Apparently some people aren’t picking up that lesson naturally on their own. Entire rooms are missing from the “common sense” wing of some folks’ mental palaces. Have we reached a point in human regression where we need to stop taking baseline morality for granted?

Should we maybe expand that unit in health class to include pointers for Getting Along 101? Possible subtopics could include:

* Exchanging pleasantries: why a simple “Hi” to you doesn’t mean they’re propositioning you
* How “nice guy” is a decent compliment to receive, but it does not legally require anyone to date you
* Why women flee your presence when your implied response to everything they say or do is “I sure hope we have sex soon!”
* How the simple state of being in a relationship is not in itself a scientific measurement of manhood, self-worth, happiness, or success at life.
* Why responding to any social awkwardness with “I should go murder” is bad
* Rape threats and other ways to fail miserably at conversation and confirm you had lousy parents

Yeah, I know loneliness sucks. I’ve been there more years than I’d care to remember. But it’s been my experience that sin rarely cures loneliness. If anything, sin is great for creating more opportunities for you to stay lonely.

Revisiting my own memories, I can see how it wouldn’t take much creativity to rewrite my own story at certain key points, spin the outcome of certain events just so, maybe dull my senses with drugs or alcohol through random months as needed, and imagine an alternate universe where I grow up to be a sad, pitiable, hate-filled, lost soul who ends up in too many headlines for all the wrong, horrifying reasons. The whole “killing with guns” thing seems like a stretch, but stranger, awfuller things have surely happened to saner guys than me without detectable cause.

There but for the grace of God would’ve gone I. Not a day goes by that this fat, four-eyed, introverted, icky-complexioned junior high nerd isn’t humbled and grateful that he was allowed to stumble across the greatest woman of all time, and come July will be celebrating his tenth wedding anniversary against incalculable odds. I still insist I don’t deserve her, but we wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t figured out for myself how to avoid the simple mistakes, work on my flaws, and, y’know, not turn all-out evil.

The message I see in most other articles and essays on this subject are of the consensus that maybe guys should stop being raging misogynists and learn how to become, oh, anything else. What I don’t see out there are too many pieces suggesting exactly how. Outside of a mad scheme that would involve mass mind control with myself at the epicenter, I think I’ve used up all my current suggestion lists above, but I’m open to ideas and discussion. And lots more lists, if necessary.

Because if the perpetrators of such tragic headlines and the scribblers of so many years’ worth of ugly internet comments all think of themselves as normal men or even “nice guys”, then their school of thought needs a new lesson plan.

9 responses

  1. I remember your post about harassment and I loved it. I appreciate and love this one too. Education is definitely needed because right now there’s a set exception for what makes a man a man and all this other garbage that’s not real, which you touched on.
    School is tough. Sometimes I think back to guys in school who were nice, interesting but quiet definitely not considered “the in crowd” and I never noticed having a girlfriend and wonder “why couldn’t we have been friends though”. We were all scared of each other or something…

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    • I appreciate the support! Yeah, now that I’m old, there’re a few people I’m still in contact with every now and then that I talk to more often than I did back in high school. A lot of things got so much simpler once I was able to ditch my teenage baggage. I think some people clutch on to theirs too tightly, though.

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  5. Junior high and high school was full of not nice people, boys AND girls, and was a confusing time altogether. I couldn’t figure out how to navigate any of it and spent most of my time reading books. I’m not sure when my sparkly princess personality emerged, but at least I was able to turn my experiences into lessons learned to help smooth my son’s journey through school. I don’t understand where all this hatred is coming from — hating women, children, animals, but it’s all too sad. And scary.

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    • Too, too true. I eventually worked my way up from bookworm geek by adding a little class clown to my repertoire, so high school was a little bit less hair-pulling for me than junior high was. It’s definitely not a time in my life that stirs up much nostalgia, though.

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