I ain’t no nice guy (with apologies to Stephen King)

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Never mind Adam Storke in the miniseries, I imagine Larry Underwood would look and sound more like His Royal Shadyness here

You’ll be unsurprised to know that my last date didn’t end with me in a relationship, and as I promised (threatened?), I will indeed write a post here about the kind of woman I want to find.  However, that’ll be post #200 here at “Dave-ros Lives!”, and I want post #199 to be a kind of prelude, as I analyse, hopefully once and for all, what kind of bloke I am, and shatter a few illusions about me being a “nice guy”…

Just to give you some background on my latest phase of tedious self-analysis, as part of my quest to read every Stephen King novel in order, I’ve recently been reading The Stand; alas, I had to settle for the 1990 “extended” edition, even though that means I’m effectively reading them out of order… hey, OCD, remember?  I originally read the “non-extended” version at university in late 1996 (Fresher’s Flu making me think I myself had Captain Trips!), having watched the TV mini-series during the summer, and the King fans among you will probably be unsurprised to learn I empathised with Harold Lauder, the overweight intellectual outcast who built up so much hate and resentment that it was too late by the time he realised that people actually liked him in the post-apocalyptic world, and that he could have been somebody if he’d only realised that his tormentors were all dead (and if he hadn’t let the Dark Man into his head)…

Is that still who I am today, so used to feeling loathing towards other men that it’s a genuine surprise when blokes in my office speak to me in a friendly way?  Hey, don’t worry, I’m not planning to blow anyone up, but I still find it a lot harder to interact with blokes, much as I did in 1996, though on that occasion I somehow befriended the quirky guys in my corridor and played cards with them every night, which made at least my first semester a wonderful experience.  It’s a lesson I should have grasped months before: in March 1996, during my Geography field trip to France, I learned that the blokes in my 6th form class were actually decent after all — even if some of them had made my life miserable when I was 15, those tormentors were (metaphorically) long gone.  I still have the mineral-filled glass egg I bought on that trip, to remind me that I can make friends in unexpected places…

But perhaps I only want male friends who provide me with something, and continue to resent the existence of other blokes, be they young hipsters, Middle Eastern blokes (I still hope that’s just the anxiety talking and that I’m not turning into a UKIP voter)… or overweight and middle-aged.  I wouldn’t have photographed and “fat-shamed” that bloke who became an Internet sensation for having the temerity to dance at a concert, but still I feel nauseated by the sight of him, perhaps because he reminds me of the kind of people I see on the Tube frequently, or the old drinker outside a bookie’s that I once saw mocking a female jogger.  The really strange thing is, I wouldn’t mind him at all if he were American, as somehow that makes things all right in my twisted mind!

I think the reason I empathised with Harold in 1996 was that, like him, I was an outcast in my late teens who had never had a girlfriend.  However, this time reading The Stand, I’ve felt a great deal of empathy with Larry Underwood — perhaps because I imagined him to be similar to my hero Eminem, a rockstar being close enough to a rapper.  He’s a character who lives recklessly and decadently, and it’s a girl he seduces but doesn’t stay with who accuses him of not being a “nice guy”, while his mother states that he is a “taker”, self-centred and immature.  He tries to be a better person, but feels a lot of self-doubt… sound familiar, considering I referred to myself as having a “playboy lifestyle” in recent years, doing what I enjoy instead of behaving like an adult and forcing myself to suffer?

It was at university, thanks entirely to this book, that I began thinking that I wasn’t a nice guy; it was the only explanation I had for my utter inability to get a girlfriend.  Of course, nowadays I know better: it’s being too nice, in the sense of trying to be inoffensive, that’s made it so hard for me to find someone.  I’ve felt too damn humbled by women, thinking that I somehow don’t have the right to tell a woman that she looks nice, because it’d make me somehow evil, yet another sexist pig who treats women like objects.  The result is that even though I’ve been dating a lot these past years, it’s almost always been the woman who asks me out, and it’s almost always been a woman of around my physical age but well advanced on me in mental and emotional years, who assumes I’ll be a “catch” because I’m young-looking and fit, yet is bitterly disappointed when she meets me and discovers I’m just a geeky manchild with anxiety issues.

(To which I would respond, I’m trying to conquer my anxiety issues!)

Thus I hereby announce that I’m going to aim to date women for their bodies, at least for a while — I’m not going to worry about emotional attachments, building a life, or staying within some arbitray age group, I’m going to ask out young women (at least college age, don’t worry), and really go for it like never before.  Which is to say, no more Mr. Nice Guy — I may find the right girl one day, but I intend to have fun with some of the wrong ones in the meantime!  And it’s for entirely selfish reasons that I intend to learn confidence and “the knack”, not because I want to conform to society’s ideal of men being the ones who initiate things: I want some degree of control in my dating life, and not to be taking whatever crumbs lonely thirtysomethings deign to give me.  I can’t fix their lives for them, after all…

And that’s another lesson I learned from The Stand: as Larry has to learn, a sign of maturity is to understand that you can’t save everyone, and it’s a selfish, futile act to try, an attempt to fix something in yourself (much as he has to leave a wounded Stu Redman behind, and felt bad because he hadn’t been able to save his earlier love interest from suicide).  It occurrs to me that I shouldn’t feel bad that I didn’t get into science properly and become a volcanologist who predicts eruptions, or an astrophysicist who spots Earth-crossing asteroids, because not everyone can save the world, and I should be happy just working for money to live my life instead of berating myself for not trying harder to become a hero.  But not in a job that makes me miserable: I shouldn’t force myself to do anything that makes me sick, especially since I have no dependents (for the time being), and I’m earning just for myself.

I decided recently that if I won the lottery (fat chance considering I never buy a ticket!), I wouldn’t give more than a token amount of my winnings to charity, but would instead use the money to help out the people I care about most, and who helped me out during the bad times of my life.  For example, I’d help my yoga teacher friend get his business off the ground, I’d pay my personal trainer much more often (almost to the point of making him my personal trainer!) — and most of all, I’d buy a house for my mother in Surrey, so she could finally escape Worthing.

(I’d probably also move to America and hang out with my body-building buddy whenever I could… and date American women in their natural environment!)

As a rule, I don’t give money to charity (though I do donate items to charity shops, and buy any Stephen King books they happen to have); nor do I give money to beggars, perhaps again my anxiety, making me worried they’re fraudulent.  One time I helped a drunk old man beside Euston Road, but I only stopped to help because I felt sorry for the foreign girl who was bent over his prone form, not for the man himself.  I can’t save the homeless, and have long felt that the best way I can help them is to not increase their number by one; however, I’d never dream of attacking them (as some drunk scumbags have done here in London), and I signed a petition against Hackney council bringing in a law that would fine rough sleepers and beggars for existing.

I may not want or feel able to help everyone, but I certainly don’t want to hinder people… because hey, I’m a nice guy, right?  I guess it’s not out of altruism that I want to overcome my anxiety about certain people, but pure selfishness — it’s so I can move more easily through life, and not be overwhelmed by negative emotions I feel towards people who haven’t done me any harm.  Perhaps it’s the greater anxiety that I might drive away someone who could be of benefit to me, or turn everyone else against me, that compels me to at least try to seem like a better person, to be nice to people even if I don’t particularly like them.

I do want to be a genuinely nice guy, but things don’t always work out that way, so I’ll have to settle for helping the people I care about, and not being an outright monster to anyone else… how am I doing so far?

(Hey, I’m the guy who claims his skin is burning whenever he goes into a church!)

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