Not John McClane but not Atticus Finch either

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.

19 thoughts on “Not John McClane but not Atticus Finch either

  1. maybe this is myopic or… stupid… of me, but it’s like. meet someone on the internet. the internet was invented for people like you. people who may not look like models or whatever, and might be socially stunted, but are very funny and charming on paper.
    i know you’ve put at least one personal ad up, but it is like a regular thing? how much effort have you put into it? have you already given up? is there some huge glaring error in my logic or what?
    sorry if i’m being a total jerk.

    1. You’re not being a total jerk.
      I write about my situation, which is being stuck. I do try to get unstuck, and I do things about it, not all of which are reported here.
      I end up writing about stuckness a lot because that’s where I am, andI see the world through a distorted and self-centered lens. When I sit down to write about it, the world gets refined self-pity. At least for now.

  2. Well, I always get Lysander and Demetrius confused
    Those guys generally don’t laugh as loud, nor are they remembered as vividly. But nobody can forget Bottom, or Cyrano, or Caliban.

      1. Re: Well, I always get Lysander and Demetrius confused
        Geez, I just gotta watch more of the “OC” to keep up with all these characters!

  3. the girlfriend
    i have a similar experience with many of the guys i like. in the past couple years, this is my experience with single guys: they will have a fling of some kind with me but will not end up with me. they will make it clear during the course of the fling that they will not end up with me and taht we are friends, but we are not Together. the reason they cite for this most often revolved around Time.
    examples include: the Time is not right. it’s not a good Time for me to be in a relationship. i need Time to myself. etc etc etc.
    other guys i like will already be in a couple. they will be with The Girlfriend. in my circle, she is pretty but not too drop dead gorgeous. she is slender, but not athletic. she shops mostly at thrift stores. she has a job and possibly a career, but earns under $35-40,000 per year. she is sweet but not a pushover. she likes art and music but doesnt actively participate in either. she likes cooking and takes pride in her ability to cook. while not by any means helpless, she doesnt ever strike anyone as being overly capable. she’s smart but not an intellectual; she’s interesting to talk to but not terribly funny.
    i assume that later on, the guys i had the fling with will suddenly discover that the time is right when they meet a girl who is like the Girlfriend. and i assume that the guys with the girlfriend, will go on to marry her.
    funny. when i was growing up, i was always taught to be extraordinary, and i was always taught that i was not average and that being average was quite possibly the worst thing you could ever be. i’m in a band, i DJ, i make good money. i graduated phi beta kappa cum laude with two degrees from a UC. i’ve traveled the world, read acres of books, speak two languages, drive a nice car, can cook a few meals reasonably well, and work out five times a week.
    if i was a man describing myself as such, i’d be getting more ass than a public toilet seat.
    since i’m a woman, it is this very ability to stand out that makes me less desirable than The Girlfriends. friends/flings/wellwishers have offered comments such as: “you’re too smart to date, kristina. i will never go out with you,” “no guy wants a go getter,” “you’re intimidating” or “you’re too independent”. “you’re not feminine enough.” “you just need to act less capable; men like to feel needed.” “guys dont want a girl who surfs” “guys dont want a girl who makes more money than him”
    the people who tell me this are self-described liberals, advising me to act like it’s 1950 and that no man will want me if he feels he might have to stand in my shadow once in awhile.
    fuck them. if these guys are too scared to have a woman who is a true partner and an equal to them, i dont want them anyway. we are better off without eachother. similarly, if these women you are describing comfortable with beige, let them have beige.
    eventually they will intermarry and what will remain are the interesting, quirky people with things to say and opinions and stuff that makes them different.

    1. Re: the girlfriend
      Oh, man. The “Time” thing. Every time someone uses that line, God should reach out of the sky and slap them. It’s such a clumsy lie.
      I’ve always liked extraordinary women, whether they’re my friends or I’m chasing them romantically. The girls without opinions who tilt their heads to one side like dogs while listening give me the creeps.
      And as much as I’m a bundle of anxiety at times about my sexual worth and attractiveness, I’m pretty damn secure about my own professional and financial and life experience “scores”. I’ve never understood the need of some guys to be yoked to a woman they consider mediocre just to avoid mediocrity themselves.
      I’m sorry more guys don’t agree and I hope you get to meet and click with one who does.

    2. Re: the girlfriend
      Shit, I’m a married woman and I want to go out with you, after hearing all that.
      fuck them. if these guys are too scared to have a woman who is a true partner and an equal to them, i dont want them anyway.
      Amen. There’s just no accounting for stupid.

    3. Re: the girlfriend
      As a guy, I must confess I never understood the whole “settle down with someone who doesn’t threaten you” thing. There’s still a lot of pressure, in modern culture, for men to vie for alpha-maleship in a number of different ways: sports, academics, job titles, money, social relationships, and so forth. My personal theory, which is probably crap, is that personal relationships are an easy arena where an insecure man can set himself up as a powerful figure by deliberately choosing unequal participants. You know the type… if some guy was raised to be competitive but is now failing by his standards — unhappy with his job, not making enough money, few future opportunities, whatever — at least he can still have a private domain where he can get a certain degree of unalloyed respect. Unfortunate but understandable, and probably entirely subconscious for most guys.

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