Friday, December 12, 2014

Confessions of a Nice Guy

Early-80's Tears for Fears would like to wish you and yours a Happy Holidays!

After all my self-righteous indignation about Assholes and the supposed failures of Feminism, I have to come clean: I ain't no Nice Guy. On multiple occasions, I've treated women with something less than chivalry, and all because I was desperate to get laid. This is the tragedy of the Nice Guy. I got nowhere with women, and I blamed my Niceness for holding me back. I should've blamed my shyness. ("Confessions of a Shy Guy" might be a more apt title for this.) But, temporarily, the Niceness got the old heave-ho, and I became what I claim to despise: an Asshole.

The Nice Guy Theory of Virginity was an easy answer, which is why I embraced it. It was self-aggrandizing to think that I was too nice instead of too shy. I could cast myself as the victim of Woman's Inhumanity To Man, instead of the victim of my own personality, cowardice and grim visage. I didn’t have to look in the mirror or do any of the hard work it takes to improve oneself.

I didn't lose my virginity until I was 31. Even 6 years later, I'm still hesitant to share that. The shame I felt about it was staggering. But I certainly wasn't a late bloomer in terms of my interest in girls. I had some smooching sessions with a girl (Ah, Naomi.) in first grade and enjoyed them very much. Then middle school came along and destroyed my self-confidence and my relationship with my parents.

The Nice Girls who had been so nice before puberty didn't seem interested in dating me. (There's a good chance they were, but my low self-esteem blinded me to those possibilities.) The only girl I asked out in high school (over the phone, of course) said she'd "have to think about it." (Yes, even 18 1/2 years later, I still remember her exact words.) Even though we had a class together every day, she never gave me an answer, and I never mentioned it again. This was a painful betrayal and resulted in a long-standing grudge against Nice Girls. That's another problem with being a Nice Guy. If the few times you ask a girl out don't go well, you become even more reluctant to stick yer neck out.

Predictably, college kicked off with a couple (tacit) rejections to wipe out the uncharacteristic confidence with which I'd arrived on campus. There were probably many opportunities to sow my wild oats, as is the custom, but my self-esteem had been knocked down to its previous, miserable condition. As I progressed through my 20's, the shame and anxiety about being a virgin kept growing, which obviously didn't help my nerves around the ladies. I carried my virginity around like a cross, hoping no one noticed the gaping hole in my adulthood. It contributed to my nervous breakdown at 27. To recover, I cemented a few strong friendships and repaired some of my relationship with my parents. After that, I wasn't as anxious about it, but I was still extremely eager to throw off the psychological burden.

Ironically, I think the gentlemanly way to do it would've been a casual hookup, as long as I was upfront about my intentions. But that would've required a boldness and straightforwardness that I lack in spades, so I took the "easy" way out. I found a girl on an online dating site, tricked her into developing feelings for me and then dumped her after we'd had sex a few times and the guilt became unbearable. It's a story as told as Time. This happened in November 2008. The joke I came up with later was that, after a black man was elected President of the United States of America, the Universe figured anything was possible and finally let me have sex.

Granted, I'm being very reductionist and kinda hard on myself, but that's it in a nutshell. She was very nice (in the real sense), but I didn't feel a strong emotional connection with her. I expressed affection for her, most of which was feigned. It wasn't totally fake, but a lot of it was just the warmth I would feel for any decent, pleasant human being. I also let myself get swept away in many "tender" moments. I take some solace in the fact that, after a month, my conscience was killing me, and I broke it off as honorably as I could (over the phone, of course).

A year later, I went through a similar, month-long routine with another woman. I could've ended it better, but it wasn't a total mess. It didn't really matter, because I wasn't interested in being friends with either of them afterward. I didn't think we had enough in common even for that. I just wanted the sex. In the parlance of the streets, I "hit it and quit it."

As disingenuous as it sounds, the truth is I'm a hopeless romantic. In elementary school I could cry at the drop of a hat. But middle school taught me (and many other boys) that crying is for girls. My heart was filed away and only brought out on rare, safe occasions. Anger took the place of sadness, and my sensitivity was replaced with a hard shell of apparent indifference. I really haven't had a good cry since I was 12.

Failing to get a girlfriend or get laid eventually turned me into an (internally) angry, bitter, resentful Asshole. I gave up on romance and took the easy (or sleazy) way out to rid myself of the stigma of virginity. Of course, having sex didn't fix my emotional problems. I was still desperate to have a girlfriend, to be in a romantic relationship and feel that love, warmth and intimacy (both physical and emotional) with a woman.

This was largely a result of my broken relationship with my parents, especially my mom. I think the yearning for sex was really a need for unconditional, unguarded love and emotional intimacy. I don't know why it was redirected as sexual desire. Perhaps to distract me from its essentially emotional nature, so I wouldn't have to think about the real problem. It's also much safer emotionally; sex without love exposes far less of the heart than love alone.

I think I’ve taken care of my issues with my parents, but I still have a ways to go in fixing my abandonment issues in the wake of losing touch with many close friends. This essay is a good step in that process, I think. It feels like a moral and emotional "cleanse,” like something someone in Los Angeles would have done periodically at a clinic for a ridiculously inflated price. But I don’t have that kinda money, so instead I blog about embarrassingly personal things. You could call it the Confessional Cure.

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