I'm not sure why I say these sorts of things, except that I think they sound good. It's not true. I think I might also be subconsciously conflating 'nice' with 'weak.' They're distinct attributes but they are often seen as going together in our society. It's true that in order to show strength you have to be willing to be mean when the situation calls for it, even pacifists have to employ judgmental rhetoric, but 95% of situations don't call for it.
The statement in question occurred during my Tuesday evening writing group, which was a ton of fun. Ed, an aging radical from the 60's, decided to get belligerent about the lack of passion in the group and the strict methodology. He came off as critical and judgmental and self-absorbed (As a somewhat successful art critic he's expected to be all three) and the women in the group reacted with offense and an attempt at understanding. I sat back and watched the fireworks for the most part, using it as an opportunity to advocate for my own case and serving as an interpreter at times. I also interjected with "Fuck the Police" quite a few times. I'd been thinking about the song anyway (specifically the fact that golden oldie stations are going to have to start playing it and songs like it pretty soon, and when my generation tries to relive its youth this is going to be one of the songs they will turn to. How do you rebel against that? How much do songs like this relate to the recent increase in conservatism among the young? Interesting topics.) and it seemed appropriate given Ed's anti-authority rumblings. It became a funny running joke, mostly because I employed top-notch timing. After the meeting John and I went out for some Italian ices so he could sober up and he told me that he thought my writing mas merely competent but my timing was spectacular. I told him that was part of why I wanted to do film.
After the hour of heated discussion about how the group should function the rest of the evening went relatively smoothly. We shared writing for awhile, people got drunk and then stoned (in the presence of a 15 year old kid belonging to the group leader's boyfriend, which is something I'd feel a little icky about but I wasn't doing the drinking or the stoning, and there is a part of me that thinks it's better for parents to be upfront about their vices than to hide them. One can be a functional and responsible person while drinking and smoking pot from time to time. It's just harder than to do it sober.) The only hitch, from my perspective, was that people started to zero in on me, calling me smart and astute. After the session ended two of the women (both Jeweses by the way) discussed me briefly in a conversation clearly meant for my ears. They said "I love him" (Not meant in a romantic sense, the way you'd say you loved a performer) and a couple things about my being smart and funny. I know I should take that as a nice little compliment but those things have always bothered me. A) Because I don't trust them. B) Because I'm not operating at anything near full capacity yet. Things are improving but I have yet to start rolling like I'm capable of. Not comfortable enough yet.
As for the A) option it can be pretty easily explained. For one thing I think compliments like that place expectations and constraints on you. When you're seen in such a positive light you have nowhere to go but down. I want the freedom to be unfunny and strained and say really dumb things ( drederick would say I already exercise that freedom on a regular basis) Then there's the possibility that they're meant as condescending, encouraging, or sarcastic comments. I'm paranoid, and I don't like the thought of being mocked, especially the thought of being mocked and not getting it.
Corollary: Being praised in such a way by women is especially troublesome because of my abysmal success rate with the people from Fallopia. Now these particular women are in their 30's and attached so I don't expect any attraction from them, but being called smart, funny, nice, and even occasionally cute while having absolutely no success in the romantic department is somewhat confusing and disheartening. I think you guys need to get your act together. Come together in one of your grand councils, you know the ones where you create double standards and figure out what new hypocrisy to stick under the great umbrella of feminism, and decide whether a guy is good or not, then act accordingly. I saw a comedian compare this facet of female behavior to a job interviewer telling you "You know, you've got all the qualities we're looking for in a candidate for this position, but we're going to go another route and hire this guy over here. He's an ex-convict with a history of abusing previous bosses and he has a tendency to moonlight at other positions when he should be working for us, but we find him more exciting than you. So good luck, you're never going to get this job, ever, but do you mind if we call you up every now and then when the guy we did hire fucks up and complain about it? No? Thanks."
On the way out of the group one of the women was kissing everyone on the cheek. I sidestepped her attempt with me. There was a bit about this on Seinfeld. The cheek kiss is something no man desires, and we should not have to put up with it, unless we get to touch a breast during. If touching a breast can be on the table then we'll renegotiate.
Yesterday I didn't do much except go out to see The Incredibles with a friend. It was okay, nothing special, probably worth seeing. Elastigirl was hot though, never underestimate the attractiveness of the stern but sweet housewife who's still really into her husband even after he's lost some hair up top, gained some jello in his middle, and is acting like a bit of a buffoon. Also never underestimate Holly Hunter's voice. Husky and sexy with that lovely tint of femininity. Rawr.
On the way to the film we found a cellphone on the ground in the park. Unfortunately it had black duct tape on it so we immediately knew that it didn't belong to a beautiful woman who would meet one of us to retrieve it, have a cup of coffee with him out of gratitude, fall in love with his witty commentary not to mention his already proved trustworthiness, and end up being the love of his life. In fact it wasn't. After a miscue when it turned out that the person marked "Mama" on the phone was actually a pizza place we got in touch with the owner and he turned out to be a wealthy young man who lives on Fifth avenue and was unwilling to meet us to retrieve the phone either now or in the future. In fact he sounded about as excited at getting it back as you or I would be if someone told us that we'd lost the wrapping paper to our sandwich but he'd kept it for us. So not only will there be no beautiful young girl or reward, but it's going to end up costing me postage money and time to mail it back to him. I will anyway, that's the kind of fellow I am. We didn't even call Sweden with it in the meantime. You know what they say about nice guys finishing last? Case and point right here. Case and point right here.
It did set up a good debate between my friend and I though. He claimed that the beautiful woman who falls in love with you isn't even in the top 5 of people you could meet via finding someone's lost cellphone. I said that the love of your life would be #1, followed by someone who would give you lots of money, someone who could help you with your career, someone on a fixed income who desperately needed the phone, and someone you really respect or admire, in that order. We both agreed that bored rich guy who couldn't give a shit about getting the phone back was not high on the list.
What's your list in this situation?
P.S. I finally have a great piece of fiction to write but haven't had time to write it and today I've been exhausted from staying out all night. This weekend should be fun though. I'm going to be working really hard on getting this sucker ready. I might have broken through my writer's block. That would be a truly great thing.