Thursday, March 25, 2010

Perspective and Quality

There I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden this article at CNN from an author I've never heard of declares that the "nice guy" is "disappearing". The author, who apparently runs a column called "relationship rant" (a title that might suggest she's chasing the wrong guys), purports to educate the reader about why the nice guy is vanishing:

Today's dating scene has become one that puts focus on the wrong things. It's all about what you own as opposed to what's inside someone's heart. Let's see, we no longer own cell phones, we have iPhones and smartphones. It's not about your home anymore; it's all about the McMansion and how many unoccupied bedrooms you have.
"The disappearing nice guy", Audrey Irvine,
The irony hear is that it is not "the dating scene" that determines who is alive in the world, and whom you are permitted to meet. Rather, it is the decision of daters where to go, whom to approach, and how to evaluate new acquaintances that drives our access to quality people. For example, regional cultural differences (that is, differences in what individuals accept as "mainstream" and "normal" values and behaviors) can create an environment in which non-mainstream dating may be the only way to find people who aren't so maladapted to human socialization that they make plausible prospective lifelong mates. The author even admits as much:
Today's dating scene has become one that puts focus on the wrong things. It's all about what you own as opposed to what's inside someone's heart. Let's see, we no longer own cell phones, we have iPhones and smartphones. It's not about your home anymore; it's all about the McMansion and how many unoccupied bedrooms you have.
In certain cities, specifically Atlanta and Washington, there is an undercurrent of "bling" that undermines the dating scene and the ability for wonderful people to find each other.
But this isn't about "today's dating scene" at all, it's about you when you consider prospective dates. If you want to know how many unoccupied bedrooms your prospect has in the house s/he owns (what? no house? buh-bye!) before you consider whether to go out, the problem isn't the music in the bar or whether men in the town travel in large packs or stroll singly through the park or some nebulous factor created by the "dating scene": the problem is you. If you don't notice the wonderful people because they aren't distinguishing themselves with bling (but are instead distinguishing themselves in ways you choose to ignore, like volunteerism or erudition or kindness), the problem may be that you should stop looking for bling.

I've Been To Atlanta
One of my longest-running friendships is with a gentleman who became enamored of a woman from Atlanta. I knew something was amiss when he was hesitant to introduce her ... I sure introduced him to L as soon as practicable and had him in the wedding ... if there was something about her that he thought made her incompatible with his friends, I wondered what hope there was for the two of them. What had he gotten into?

One fine day, well after their wedding, L and I visited him and met her. She explained that his clothes weren't adequate and that she had replaced them. She made several announcements about how she'd laid down the law on a variety of issues and that he was going to have to learn that was the way things were going to be. She explained that she had learned some folks who didn't work for Georgia's unemployment division, and didn't get mileage reimbursements, had no way to fudge their mileage numbers upward to give themselves a bonus. Imagine!

While this denigration of my friend and his values and his person was underway, I occasionally stole glances at him and I had the sense that he was ... well, not quite cowering, but not exactly bursting with pride in his bride. He understood I was seeing the face she gave the public: brash, loud, controlling. All the attitude one needed to survive in Atlanta at the height of bling-hunting season. And as I learned, that was a lot of attitude.

So J – a card-carrying nice guy – sacrificed several years of his life trying to make himself fit into her life and trying to give her seven and then nine year old boy a chance at sensible parenting. Eventually, he called to take me up on my offer to do "anything I could to help if he ever needed anything" and I drove to Atlanta to pick him and all his Earthly possessions up and bring them to a place where he was not being ground into lubricant for a dysfunctional societal microcosm that prized bling over humanity. He still sends her boy gifts on his birthday, which may be more than he's getting from his father. The gifts are sent to a new address, though: the boy's mother has left him with an out-of-town grandmother so he doesn't interfere with her plans to present herself as a hot commodity and thus bag a better deal for herself in Atlanta, where baggage such as loved ones is a competitive disadvantage.

Back in Houston, J regained work with a respectable national firm and has appeared to find a much higher quality of human for company than he was made to endure in Atlanta. Atlanta isn't small, and Atlanta has to have numerous high-quality people living and working to make the place function without an alarming suicide rate, but something about Atlanta apparently makes it uncool to be a decent human, so for purposes of protective coloration the high-quality people apparently masquerade as heartless grifters. If the author lamenting the disappearing nice guy wanted to find nice guys, perhaps she would do well to find a community that doesn't force them to hide for their own protection.

So my advice for people worried that nice guys are a dying breed is simple: stop ignoring the nice guys. The author that blames nice guys for being willing to be friends with women who think they are looking for life mates is exactly backward: if they wanted life mates and wanted "nice guys" to fill that role, they'd make plain to their "nice guy" friends that they want to settle down with someone who makes them feel the world is a place worth living. Blaming nice guys for being nice, rather than clubbing the girls on the head and dragging them to a cave, is just silly.

They're nice guys. If you don't want a nice guy, go someplace else. Turning them into physically aggressive alphas when they are by preference mentally engaged intellectuals is exactly the kind fo crap that drove J from his bad marriage in Atlanta: the trollop wanted to remake him into an ornament and grind away everything that made him comfortable being who he was. The author of the piece decrying the lack of nice men is falling into the same trap: she doesn't want a nice guy, she just claims she does, then complains it's the fault of nice guys she hasn't got one.

Well, duh.

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