We’re all flawed human beings. As a single male constantly on the lookout for female companionship, I can readily admit one of the flaws inherent in the hetero-sexual Y-chromosome community is we, that is men, are easily manipulated by looks. It only takes a few months of puberty to go from painting No Girls Allowed signs on our tree forts to suddenly noticing the pretty faces and shapely bodies quickening on the other side of the sexual divide. But we spend the rest of our lives learning, or trying to learn, how to deal with the consequences. That knowledge doesn’t come easy. To this day, at age 51 and even as a hard-nosed cynical skeptic, I occasionally find myself wanting to give a pretty girl a pass for behavior and actions that wouldn’t be available to other ladies and certainly denied to my fellow man.
At least I’m aware of it, I know it’s a weakness, and as any recovering alcoholic or reformed gambling addict can attest, recognizing you have a problem is half the battle. So I wonder, are women as equally aware that they have a similar weakness for jerks?
Years ago I was a lifeguard for a summer in a water park in Central Texas called Schlitterbahn. It was a pretty good job for a college student. Lots of girls wearing next to nothing. Lots of other people trying to skirt the rules and kill themselves. You have to be attentive as a lifeguard, 99 times out of a 100 you get false alarms, but that one real one will leave a memory.
I remember one time watching a kid treading water, which was kind of weird because it was only three feet deep where he was, there was little danger, but something about the way his eyes bulged and the way he was moving his arms jumped out at me. Then a little trickle of blood appeared by his face. I yelled at a nearby adult, who turned out to out be his father, to check on him. Everything turned out fine, but the kid was epileptic, he wasn’t’ treading water, he was having a seizure. Another time a little girl disappeared below the ledge in front of my stand, she was gone for longer than she should have been. I was just starting to climb down to look when another guard on the other side suddenly dove in and swam over, the kid had somehow wedged herself between the ladder and the side of the pool. Her lips were as blue as a pair of jeans by the time we pulled her out. Fortunately, she started coughing and breathing on her own as soon as we laid her out on the side. Between stuff like that and the usual crap, kids running, people trying to sneak in beer in glass containers, you had to pay attention.
Almost everyday groups of young women would sort of congregate around my stand and chat me up. Under any other circumstances, a flock of hot young babes wearing bikinis would command my full attention. But as a guard, I had to keep scanning my section, occasionally blow my whistle and call someone out. And I noticed a funny thing for the first time: the girls chatting with me would almost compete with that duty for more attention. It was as if not being able to pay full attention to them somehow made them more interested in getting it. And in the process of thinking about that I learned a cardinal rule about dating.
It’s not that women are pathologically attracted to tire-slashing wife beating-assholes, but if you give them too much attention, too soon, it does seem to turn them off. OTOH, if you remain distant, forget the occasional birthday, if you are less emotionally available, or at least preoccupied, they tend to respond by seeking more communication, greater openness, IOW, they seem to like you more. Sad to say, being new and back in the dating world for the first time in years, I forgot the hard won lessons of past youthful summers, and the consequences won’t come down hard just on me.
I was dating a girl over the last few months who lives in another town. She had just gotten out of a long term relationship with a bit of an asshole and, thanks to him, her self esteem was in the shitter. Which made me sad, because she’s awesome. So I was extra nice to her. At first she seemed to return the favor, but pretty quickly she started acting distant, didn’t call as much, didn’t seem interested in getting together as much, in short displaying the signs that she had either grown tired of me or met someone else. So, being in the nice phase, I deftly let her know several times that if she wanted to just be friends that was OK, that if she found someone else I would be happy for her. And every time I did that she denied her feelings had changed, said she wasn’t seeing anyone, and claimed she wanted to keep seeing me.
Until, a few nights ago, I get this weird, creepy message from her Facebook account that read, “She’s been lying to you and leading you on, she’s been with me the whole time, she’s passed out next to me in bed right now.” Someone had gotten on her account and sent that to me. Later that same night I got a weird email with a bogus return addy from the same guy that made it clear that he knew all about me, and he had info about our history he could only have gotten from her.
So, I was cool and calm, no big deal, I sent a note to her work email with the text so she would know what happened, what was said, and that this guy was doing creepy shit. I confidently expected an explanation, instead, she went some kind of shtick about how we guys are all assholes and I was being weird and she thought we were just friends. In short, she chose to stay with some clown who jacked her account and got pissed at me for asking what the hell I had been dragged into. That’s how it stands, my guess is she’ll never tell me what happened, or why she felt the need to keep me in the dark, or why this guy knows so much. My guess is she’ll simply not ever talk to me again.
And it hit me, of course. I had been nice. This lady has a lot of great attributes, but she got bored with me as a nice guy and was obviously attracted to a jerk. I had broken the cardinal rule, and not only would I pay the price starting with that awkward encounter and a mystery I’ll never get to the bottom of, she’ll be stuck liking a guy who now knows he can get away with anything and she’ll still come back.
I can’t say why some guys are jerks and some aren’t, because I don’t know. But ladies, I can tell you this, the reason many of us learn to pretend to be jerks is the same reason you learn to starve yourselves or wear uncomfortable shoes: it works. And as long as it works, we’ll keep doing it.