The era of the nice guy ended as I hit puberty, and action heroes owned the Alpha Male role for my adult life. So being the romantic lead was out. That belonged to action heroes. The top roles all went to suburban tough guys in lifted trucks with Sex Wax stickers, and they were welcome to it.
There was an alternate role I tried to assume. Most of the women I like have had the same kind of guy, a type I just call The Boyfriend. He’s always reasonably tall and slender, and has close cut hair, often curly for some reason. He almost always has glasses. He’s in shape but not an athlete, educated but not a scholar. He wears very clean t-shirts and jeans, and athletic shoes. He’s a very nice guy, thoughtful and a good conversationalist. He has a good job and his car is always clean when he gives you a ride. He looks completely normal, like he’d fade into the background, but when you get to know him he’s interesting and has some obsession with the arts.
After meeting about ten of those guys in a row I realized that was The Boyfriend, and I had to be him. Never got there. I was too skinny and then too fat, my shirts were stained, and I talked fast in paragraphs about strange things. I could tell great stories that entertained The Boyfriend and The Girl, and they always both liked me, but I was outside their sphere somehow. I wore my geek on my sleeve, and he kept his more private.
I never could really click as a friend with The Boyfriend, as nice and smart as the guy was. He was just too beige. There was something Stepfordian about these dudes, the way they all looked so similar and had similar lives. They were mass-produced in the college classes we didn’t take, maybe. Or they’d all been to some training program on how to be a boyfriend that we hadn’t heard about.
All the women I was interested in and some I got close to, all of them had The Boyfriend eventually and most of them married him. Probably a good choice. Action heroes always turn out to be drunks and wifebeaters, but Atticus Finch is a straight arrow and a reliable life mate, and he’s not an idiot or an asshole.
I had my Sunday afternoon experience again today: a parade of prettier, happier, more successful people all coupled up. Friends moving on with their lives, people I had not seen in a while popping up to show their progress, and not a few of The Boyfriend, especially of course at Trader Joe’s as I was finishing my grocery shopping tonight.
I couldn’t be you, Atticus, but I respect you for not being John McClane. The role I got was either Caliban, or Bottom, or maybe Cyrano. Stop by any time and I’ll tell you funny stories.