As if the all-too-prevalent image of that lonely single woman waiting sadly by the phone for the call that never comes isn’t pathetic enough, now there’s a new phenomenon sweeping our Singular Nation:
According to the newest breed of relationship experts, mixed signals, refusal to commit, disappearing and reappearing acts—classic signs of what used to be called commitmentphobia—are not, in fact, indications that men are (choose one):
•conflicted •scared of being hurt •intimidated by our fabulousness
Nope. There’s really a much simpler explanation for all the ambivalence and inconsistency in men’s behavior: They just don’t like us very much! And apparently we need a whole slew of pundits, talk shows, and magazine quizzes—complete with both multiple choice and essay questions—to tell us so.
When I first heard about this newfangled spin on the oldfangled topic of Men Behaving Badly, it seemed like a splendid idea to me. I’m all for giving people the unvarnished truth, and, wimp that I am, would be more than happy to have a bestselling author do my dirty work for me. But I know myself. And I know lots of women just like me. And something about this whole idea just rankled me, and I couldn’t put my finger on the reason for my skepticism until I did a little digging on Amazon.com. And then it hit me:
Hidden beneath that innocuous-sounding “he’s just not that into you” message lies the subtext that every smart, professional, well-educated single woman is really just a delusional would-be stalker. Is this true? Is today’s average woman so addled by love and blinded by desperation she hallucinates relationships that never existed, reads amorous subtext into every innocuous comment, and fixates so relentlessly on some ephemeral fantasy of romantic bliss that she’s poised over the stove, match in hand, ready to light the flame beneath a giant kettle of Family Pet Stew at the merest flicker of polite attention?
Nah. I’d say it’s far more likely that she believes a relationship is there because she’s been led to believe a relationship is there. She hears that amorous subtext because there is an amorous subtext. And she’s caught up in that romantic fantasy because someone has been feeding that romantic fantasy. And who could that someone be? Hmmm. I wonder who. Could it be…the Big Fat Asshole who led her on in the first place?
Where’s his book?
Now, over the course of my dating life I’ve done my share of rationalizing and making up excuses as to why some men have treated me badly. But the operative phrase in that sentence is “treated me badly.” In other words, the delusions and rationalizations I may harbor about any given man who may have disappointed me are usually in direct response to some sort of misleading behavior on his part. But, according to the conventional new wisdom, it’s not really his fault at all: Even the most notorious players are actually deep-down swell guys who are just as lovelorn as the rest of us. They simply have yet to find their Soul Mate. And, what with “men being men” and all, anything they say or do in search of said Soul Mate, no matter how thoughtless or inconsiderate, is not only to be excused, but should actually be expected. The only inkling we ever get that there might be something wrong with the man in the equation is generally a parenthetical reminder buried toward the end of whatever book or article happens to be dealing with the topic that, yes, some guys are, in fact, beyond redemption and best left to their own devices.
Oh, and by the way? They’re just not that into us either!
I think even the original proponents of the “he’s just not that into you” hypothesis would agree that bullies, abusers, and freaky sexual deviants are indeed Big Fat Assholes. But what no one else seems to grasp is that a lot of these other so-called “nice-but-conflicted guys” are really Big Fat Assholes too.
So how can you tell the difference? In case you’re still having trouble figuring out if he’s worth it or not, allow me to further clarify for you:
The guy who insists on giving you his phone number but never bothers to return your calls? Big Fat Asshole.
The guy who only calls you when he’s drunk and disappears the moment the sun comes up? Really Big Fat Asshole
The guy who’s been living with you for five years and constantly weasels out of setting a wedding date because he’s “just too busy at work?” Say it with me people—Big Fat Asshole!
The guy who promises to call after a really great first date but never does? Big Fa—oh. Wait a minute. Actually, he’s probably not a Big Fat Asshole. More likely, he was just telling a polite little white lie so as to not hurt your feelings and end the date on an awkward note. That was actually kind of nice.
But as for the rest of them…
There is something very wrong in a world where women must be constantly warned to not trust men. Where we are scoffed at, patronized, and condescended to because we have committed the unpardonable sin of actually believing the men we fall in love with are honorable and noble. Where we have to buy books—dozens of them!—to disabuse ourselves of the expectation that someone who may only be interested in us on a physical level might actually be a decent enough person to understand that it’s not nice to exploit our feelings by pretending to feel something that’s not there just to get us into bed, and who therefore will refrain from doing so.
Instead of constantly having to play defense, wouldn’t it be nice if, just once, we could actually hold people accountable for the promises they make—explicit or implied—rather than shrug our shoulders saying, “Well, that’s just the way men are. We can’t expect any more from them, and if we fall for their line it serves us right because we should have known better.”
True, we rationalize bad behavior on the part of those we love all the time. It’s a defense mechanism for getting over heartbreak, and we do it because it makes us feel better. Why obsess that someone broke up with you because he thought your nose was too big and you laugh like Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey when, instead, you can just tell yourself he was so overcome by your charm and wit he felt too unworthy to be in your presence for one second longer? Left to your own devices, you’ll get over it and move on to someone who appreciates you, donkey-laugh and all.
But the key to recovery is being left alone. And any guy with any shred of integrity whatsoever will respect that. Because, believe me, they may be confused or ambivalent about a lot of things, but there are two things they do know: They know they don’t reciprocate our feelings, and they know that to pretend otherwise is just a cruel and terrible lie.
So if he’s still stringing you along with a lot of vague promises or relying on you for a surefire ego boost when he’s feeling down, I recommend you give him my book.
No, not this one.
The one entitled, Don’t Be a Big Fat Asshole: The No-Excuses Guide to Behaving Like a Decent Human Being.
With my compliments.