The Bitter Pill (or "Swallow This")

Composed on the 29th of January in the year 2007, at 12:08 PM. It was Monday.

I'm pretty happy with my dating life right now, but I still obsessively check in to a dating site called okcupid because they promised they would announce the test results of a test that I won, and I eagerly await the follow through on this promise, so that I may enjoy the accolades and the envy of my peers. This may be the only contest I've entered, and if it isn't, it's still the only contest I've ever won, and this time, the irony of them apparently discontinuing the whole contest effort right before validating my sole successful contest effort is a little irking.

Regardless, I keep checking. One of the things I left on my account before I stopped using the service for anything but masochistic ego adjustment was a setting that prints out "journal entries by users you might like". "Might" has been the operative term so far, but it's exactly the kind of voyeuristic reading sludge that makes me love the internet so much. The okcupid journal section was a late comer to a site that attracted geeks via tests, dragged them into its dating features, then slapped a journal on a couple of years ago, creating a set of journals that directly do what most online journals were always coy about, which is say semi-bold things to attract mates. That's certainly what this blog has always been about.

The unclothed context of the journal overpowers the standard masquerade covering online self-promotion, whether or not the authors know it, but the friction between the effort and the medium leads to many more or less interesting entries, more or less bitter comments, and more or less screaming condemnations of one gender or the other, or some feature of dating in general. Many are rehashing the same angsty points, and this one in particular is my favorite Siren's suicide limerick:

Nice guys suck.

Well, yeah, the way this is usually meant. There is huge confusion over what "nice" actually means when applied to "guy", and this little essay showed more confusion than usual. Enough to write about, even.

Let's examine the nice guy of legend: He's shy. Not just shy. Painfully shy. According to the lingo, to be nice is to be shy. And not just shy either; the nice guy is a spineless, whimpering puppy attempting to compensate for some social or imaginary failing with a delusional interpretation of romance. We're talking worse than the plucky comic relief in an 80s romance. Worse than Hugh Grant. What we're really talking about is when girls say, "He's a nice guy," with that little faux-empathetic sigh that is the sound of the door drifting shut on the chance of the speaking girl ever even considering sex with the subject in question.

Well, yeah, this nice isn't going to get far. But it's okay, because these nice, emotionally traumatized guys can find their nice, emotionally traumatized girls. Or abusive girls, but hey; the world must be peopled.

I've closed the book on the nice guy debate. What's really going on has nothing to do with nice and not nice, or looks, or personal values, or even how people act most of the time. What really caught my eye in this post was the following line:

You wonder why she's out with the tattooed motorcyclist who jumps off bridges naked while reading Camus and snorting coke?

Tattooed motocyclist who jumps off bridges naked while... wait, what?

First, biker. Not motorcyclist, biker. Please. Motorcyclists smoking marijuana cigarettes is what I expected next in this sentence, but no, I got hit with Camus and a pounding case of cognitive dissonance. Where is this coked up biker nudist existentialist?

I thought this post was written by a girl, and this was, basically, her hipster fantasy. Coked up bikers reading Camus aren't really bikers, they're coked up college undergrads with trust funds. I'm not saying no coked up biker has ever cracked Camus, I'm just saying this isn't a category of guy; this is a freak event. And this vision of guyness is presented as the alternative to the lamentable nice guy. Tossing in Camus takes this vision way beyond the bad boy mystique. Really, if you think about what this picture entails, it's deep into fantasy land. Go with what you really want: now he's a Ph.D student who rescues virgins and runs a secret war against the secret police, talking to his Russian contacts through a cell phone propped against his shoulder while snorting coke off supermodels draped over his Harley doing a buck forty on the Autobahn. This is a Tom Robbins character, not a generalization to pit against the already losing nice guy.

So imagine my shock,1[1] when I trace this back to the source and find out it's written by a guy. This gave me pause. I could take this from a hipster chick. I hear them say much more annoyingly white things every day. But where did a guy get the coke-biker-existentialist hard-on? In service to you, my readers, I cracked another beer and dug deeper.

Let's see... 26... straight and single, yes, I expected that... Ohio... white, predictably... no drugs, no smokes, no alcohol, shame that... hm... nothing... nothing... boring... atheist, power to him... picture doesn't say much... he looks upset about something... ah, interesting: "I ask no quarter, I have no quarter". I wonder if this is a pun that I don't get, or a misunderstanding of "give no quarter".

Okay, I'm just teasing, it's all right here:

I'm a reclusive atheist who has no interest in kids, has never met a serious alcoholic beverage he liked, lives in a spoiled rich college town and places a premium on correct homonym usage; thus, I find myself more often forming mental manifestos than having worthwhile conversations.
...I used to say I spent too much time in my thoughts, but that was only when I lacked control of my emotions....

...and a telling moment...

...I have an annoying tendency to play it too safe when I'm infatuated with someone. So if I'm infatuated with you and you're bored, just wait until I get over you, then you'll love me!

...and, to beat a dead horse, a note from prior journal entries...

Well, my attempts at repressing my inner sociopathic asshole are at an end. Like most every community site I am or have been a part of, OkCupid is now largely only used to find things I am disgusted by or can mock.

Oooo... That's kinda what I'm doing. Well, fuck it. Onward.

I assume it's obvious what's going on here. Extreme bitterness turned inward to cultivate a solid kernel of self-loathing that sort of implodes and gets redirected back at the world. We've all seen it. I post all this, not (just) to pick on he guy, but to construct a setting for the biker-coke-camus (BCC) fantasy. I believe this is a construct made from internalized comments about what girls he knew found sexy. Internalized as personal strivings or failings... unclear. An absurd abstraction placed beyond anyone else's reach to make him feel better... likely, maybe. Or maybe he really does know this BCC.

Anyway. The point is not to pick on him. The point is to pick on his point, which continues like this:

It goes without saying that a lot of nice guys are lacking in anything resembling courage.
Nice guys are easily walked over by any and everyone. Door, meet mat. First, they don't want to upset their (potential) partner so they readily agree with/accept almost of that person's actions and statements, even to the point they will subjugate their own thoughts and feelings. Fights don't happen, because nice guys give up their position before it can begin. Because of this, nice guys are rarely challenging in any way. Their affection is immediate and constant, their acquiescence to any whim of the woman a given. That's not much fun, it's not ver engaging and it doesn't help her grow in any way either.

Door, meet mat. Kinda cute. I probably would have written it.

And, maybe worst of all, the nice guy LOVES to talk about how nice guys finish last. Hasn't modern day marketing taught you guys ANYTHING? Perception is reality.

Bingo! Without getting into the ontological issues of perception and reality, this does lead to the point. Which is that this "nice" is first a symptom, and second a caricature of failure that is associated with the failure or the option to measure up to the truth of the standard perversity in normal relationships.

True, this UNG (Unbearably Nice Guy) is boring. He's frustrating. However, there are two nice guys at work in this fantasy; the Potential (PUNG) and the Already In Relationship (call it RUNG).

The RUNG is the sap imagined in the purely hypothetical Nice Guy Meets Girl situation. Oddly, these relationships don't usually end because the guy is too nice. RUNGs achieve their position by finding EDCs (Emotionally Damaged Chicks) or, more optimistically, SNGs (Super Nice Girls who watch Star Trek the Next Generation), and either their mild manners or their crumbling neurosis click, hopefully long enough for satisfactory mating.

The RUNG can only exist in a relationship. The above situation is what actually happens, the RUNG itself can only exist as a failure, so it's actually a paradox: The RUNG cannot get a girl because he is a RUNG, yet the RUNG as a hypothetical construct can only exist in a relationship, which he supposedly cannot achieve. More interesting, the RUNG is almost exclusively imagined by men, either UNGs or BCCs. Women tend not to lament the fact that there are too many nice guys.

The PUNG does exist, but he doesn't fail because he is boring. The PUNG fails because he is scary. If you don't state your intentions, yet linger/stare/approach-and-rapidly-depart, you are, if not stalking... no, let's face, you're stalking. And, stalking is such an issue, and so frightening, a hint of it is going to send the quarry running. And before we even get to fears for personal safety, people don't want to be responsible for feelings they didn't help create, or don't know about. Most people eventually figure out that they're doing what's expected of them, and even if they don't, they get to a point where they stop responding to sudden expectations.

Which provides a link between the following two situations: 1) The nice guy bringing a rose to a girl to whom he's never spoken. 2) The bad boy telling a virgin he's about to cum all over her face.2[2]

This is not just gratuitous graphics; I submit that these would create nearly equal levels of shock and fear.

The fallacy continues. What is this fascination with bad boys? Let's dispense with the BCC, and stick to the average callous jackass. The first appeal is you know what you're getting. You want to get laid, the basic bad boy will do the work and be out of your way before you know it.

The next appeal relies on how men and women peck themselves up and down the bar. Hollywood likes to convince us, in its shallower moments of pretending to compensate for its standard pornography, that it's a double standard for men to be extolled for their promiscuity while women are ostracized. It's not a double standard: men judged by whom and how many they sleep with; women are judged by who wants to sleep with them. Again, this is at the bar, but it washes away a lot of confusion. Of course women who sleep with lots of men are less valued; it takes ten sluts to match the brag value of one hard-to-get chick. Women attack the slut because she makes it harder to make men work for getting sex with the non-sluts and closeted sluts, and though the man may actually want bragging rights on the hard sell, that's only going to outweigh the slut until 2 am, or before his seventh beer. Women project this standard on men and on each other. Men, meanwhile, are not judging by potential desirability, but by numbers, and by getting the woman the other men want. They project this standard on women, and each other, and the irony is that because this is standard based on deeds, and not abstraction, men can lie. Not only can they lie, it behooves them to do so.

Since men want to get laid, and women want to be wanted, what best serves the man is to first make himself passably desirable as a man who dominates other men, engaging the interest of the woman, then make her feel not wanted. This process, more than anything else, elevates the man above other men; it has little to do with how successful or healthy his relationships will be, or how happy he'll end up. It's a show for the men. Not to be left out, the woman will put on a show for the woman: she will want to be wanted by the man, otherwise she loses status among the other women.

I suggest that the entire "war between the sexes" is really just a show put on to cover each gender's internal bickering. The result is men, either subtly or overtly, degrading women so that they have to do more and more to feel desirable. Women, conversely, retreat further, forcing the men to go to ever greater lengths to get their attention, because once the attention is gained, the abuse begins.

Since men have to both show and hide interest in order to attract and degrade women, they create this hot and cold effect. Furthermore, because all the neuroses have set in pretty deeply by this point, they have to keep up the game to avoid boring one another, which in the worst case scenario becomes domestic abuse.

This kind of behavior is addictive. Men who really act this out become bad boys, and walk themselves around women's lives like a drug. Whether or not they're interesting is irrelevant. Boring men can be frighteningly addictive.

It doesn't look good for women so far. The choices seem to be between the addictive jackass and the emotionally offensive shy guy.

Well, that's not the end of the story. This whole idea of UNG vs. BCC is a front put up by people who play the game too well or not well enough. Neither can create healthy relationships, so they set the stage as to make it impossible, and project their assumptions on anyone listening. The world is not nice guy vs. jackass, nor is it ruled by self-defeating sexual infighting.

I would like to say there's a step by step argument to convince the nay-sayers that there's another option, but there isn't. The whole game lives on people codifying their insecurities and assuming everyone has done the same. You just have to grow up. There is no "all men" or "all women", and assumptions to the contrary are symptoms of objectifying and withdrawing from the opposite sex. It's a defense mechanism, and the simple way around it is to figure out what you want and be straightforward about trying to get it. Failing in either of these pursuits makes you slip off the bridge, and whether you fall into emotionally demanding stalker or alcoholic jackass is a flip of the coin, rigged only a little by economic status and relative attractiveness.

1 I wasn't really shocked; more inebriated and catty.

2 Sometimes I look at this and think I'm wrong, but then I remember how awesome I am, or that there's beer in the fridge. I justify this questionable comparison by pointing out that the virgin was just fucking this guy, or at least giving him a blowjob, so it's not like she was just grabbed off the street. That's a different animal.

Do it. Doooo it. What's the worst that could happen?

Hi there! You should totally go buy my book for the low low price of 6.66! It's like buying me a beer at an out-of-the-way dive bar in Brooklyn! Not in Manhattan. Manhattan prices are ridiculous, though there are a couple of decent Irish dives where you can snag a drink for five bucks. Otherwise, you're looking at a two or three book beer.
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