There’s a great moment in the 40 year old virgin where they explain to the Steve Carell character that he needs to stop “putting pussy on a pedestal.” It’s funny because it’s true and lots of guys do this. A lot of guys are nice to women because they believe – whether consciously or subconsciously – that if they’re just nice enough to women for a long enough period of time that they’ll get what amounts to the Western world’s 72 virgins. You can get whatever you want as long as you’re nice, right? There’s research that shows that there’s a lot of flaws with this theory. Robert Glover does a great job of debunking this myth in his book No More Mr. Nice Guy. It’s a very strange theory though. Why do we as men believe that by being nice to women we will have our sexual desires fulfilled. That is the implied reasoning because as we know most guys are not nice guys. Most guys could care less about women when sex isn’t involved just as they care less about other guys because sex is never involved. What we should be thinking about is what motivates us to be nice at all?
There’s empathy, fear of retribution, mentorship, and working for the favors that guide men towards treating men with respect. Many of us are not sociopaths or psychopaths, we do care about other people and if we see someone who we can empathize with we will help them or at the very least treat them with some respect because we can understand how they feel. We also feel fear around certain people or because of certain things. If there’s a 6’5 man towering over you in a dark alley late at night, chances are you’re going to do what he says because you’re afraid of what he might do to you. This same idea is the guiding principle behind the mafia. You’re nice to the crime boss because you care about your well-being and that of your family. There are times in our lives when we want to mentor someone. We see someone who is like an earlier version of ourselves and we want to mentor them so that they can be better than the person we are now. Then there is the favor card, which guides encounters of both sexes. People do things for one another because they have good reasons for doing so not because they are acting in good faith. It would be great if everyone were acting in good faith, but since everyone is self-interested to some degree, most of our actions can be attributed to having good reasons for doing what we’re doing.
There has always been a disconnect between men and women especially when one likes the other, but isn’t sure that their feelings are reciprocated. You hear this when women ask: “does he like me?” You hear this when men say something to the effect of: “hold on, she likes me?” Women try to decrypt the signals that they think men are sending when in reality men aren’t making an active effort to send any kind of signals at all. Men just aren’t that smart when it comes to the opposite sex. I’ve seen men who can climb mountains, but can’t cross the room at the bar. It’s intimidating when you like someone because you’re vulnerable. If you get shot down it can be humiliating and it makes you feel like you’re not good enough. Also, consider how both sexes approach letting down someone who likes them, but they don’t like back. We’re all more than willing to give out our number, but then we’ve got to play that game of: how long before he/she texts me back? Is that a sign?
I have never understood any of this. Then again I have the social skills of a five year old. I’ve had people tell me point blank: “she likes you” and then been completely flummoxed as to what to do about it. Most of the time I don’t do anything about it because I don’t know how. Josh Lyman on The West Wing mused that he must have been absent on that day of class when they taught the whole dating game and mating ritual stuff. A lot of times it goes back to an old maxim that my father taught me when I was young and that is to treat people like you, yourself would like to be treated. Most of them time we’d like to be treated like a friend. This is why we treat women like friends. This is why guys get friend-zoned. You haven’t demonstrated a willingness to be anything other than friends, so how would she ever get the idea that you’d want something different? It’s like going into Starbucks and saying you want a coffee and flipping out when they bring it to you because they didn’t bring you an espresso.
Most of my social problems go back to my Aspergers. I could write a history of my life explaining every single encounter I’ve ever had and how it relates to my inability to read social cues. It’s more than that though. My failure with women is more related to my inability to put myself out there than it is to read social cues. I can read social cues, actually, my brain just can’t process them and tell me what they mean. When someone is acting rude to me I know there’s something more there, but it is I just don’t know. People will get mad at me for what I believe is no reason, but then someone will explain something that I didn’t think mattered as the reason that someone else is acting hostile towards me. I’ve never understood it, but I’ve never tried to understand it either. This is where the Aspergers hits the anxiety.
I have an anxiety problem. I believe – despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary – that I simply am not worth someone else’s time. I think this way when it comes to my work, I think this way when it comes to my writing, and I think this way when it comes to my personal life. Why would anyone possibly want to be around me? I have no idea what they’d get out of it. Yet, here I am still writing, still working, but still reluctant to really put myself out there. I just finished a novel, yet I’m so sure that it’s not as good as it should be that I don’t put it out there. I’m convinced that I’ve got to do even more editing and work harder on the story before anyone else can read it. In the end, I’ll make up more excuses to keep my work from getting scrutinized. What’s crazy though is that I want my work to be scrutinized. As much as I love my writing I know it’s got to get better, but I just can’t seem to get up the strength to put it out there.
All of this leads me to the question: why do we put ourselves out there? Seriously, what do we hope to gain? Strangely enough I know the answer to those questions. We want our life to move forward. We want people to see who we are and what we do not because our ego is so big it can’t be managed, but because we want to know where we stand. This is where life intersects with Steve Carrell putting the pussy on the pedestal. When you put anything on a pedestal it’s going to be really hard to get it. The reason it’s going to be tough to get it is because you don’t even know how to approach taking something off of a pedestal. Unless you’re Indiana Jones you’ve probably never taken anything off of a pedestal and if you’re reading this Harrison Ford there are probably better things you could be doing with your time. When we put things out there and we put them on a pedestal so that they are clearly beyond our reach we are subconsciously telling ourselves that we don’t want to achieve the goals we set for ourselves. If you really want to hang out with someone you make it impossible for them to say no. If you want something come Christmas time you figure out a way to get it. Human ingenuity takes over. The same is true for women, the same is true for our relationships with one another and the same is true for our goals in life. If we want something we figure out a way to get it, we don’t put it up on a pedestal.