I recently had a patient, a black guy from the worst part of Detroit, let’s call him Dan, who was telling me of his woes. He came from a really crappy family with a lot of problems, but he was trying really hard to make good. He was working two full-time minimum wage jobs, living off cheap noodles so he could save some money in the bank, trying to scrape a little bit of cash together. Unfortunately, he’d had a breakdown (see: him being in a psychiatric hospital), he was probably going to lose his jobs, and everything was coming tumbling down around him.
And he was getting a little philosophical about it, and he asked – I’m paraphrasing here – why haven’t things worked out for me? I’m hard-working, I’ve never missed a day of work until now, I’ve always given a hundred and ten percent. And meanwhile, I see all these rich white guys (“no offense, doctor,” he added, clearly overestimating the salary of a medical resident) who kind of coast through school, coast into college, end up with 9 – 4 desk jobs working for a friend of their father’s with excellent salaries and benefits, and if they need to miss a couple of days of work, whether it’s for a hospitalization or just to go on a cruise, nobody questions it one way or the other. I’m a harder worker than they are, he said – and I believed him – so how is that fair?
And of course, like most of the people I deal with at my job, there’s no good answer except maybe restructuring society from the ground up, so I gave him some platitudes about how it’s not his fault, told him about all the social services available to him, and gave him a pill to treat a biochemical condition almost completely orthogonal to his real problem.
And I’m still not sure what a good response to his question would have been. But later that night I was browsing the Internet and I was reminded of what the worse response humanly possible. It would go something like:
You keep whining about how “unfair” it is that you can’t get a good job. “But I’m such a hard worker.” No, actual hard workers don’t feel like they’re entitled to other people’s money just because they ask nicely.
“Why do rich white kids who got legacy admissions to Yale receive cushy sinecures, but I have to work two grueling minimum wage jobs just to keep a roof over my head?” By even asking that question, you prove that you think of bosses as giant bags of money, rather than as individual human beings who are allowed to make their own choices. No one “owes” you money just because you say you “work hard”, and by complaining about this you’re proving you’re not really a hard worker at all. I’ve seen a lot of Hard Workers (TM) like you, and scratch their entitled surface and you find someone who thinks just because they punched a time card once everyone needs to bow down and worship them.
If you complain about “rich white kids who get legacy admissions to Yale,” you’re raising a huge red flag that you’re the kind of person who steals from their employer, and companies are exactly right to give you a wide berth.
Such a response would be so antisocial and unjust that it could only possibly come from the social justice movement.
If you’ve delved at all into the issue of Self-Proclaimed Nice Guys versus Online Feminists, you know exactly what Alexander is doing with the above, fictional, story. In his mind, he’s just demonstrated how awful women are who mock and demonize men when they complain that they can’t get a date whereas every a-hole in the bar has no problem taking a woman home.
If you’re into this type of thing, by all means read Alexander’s post. As usual, he has a lot of interesting thoughts and he links to all kinds of examples for his claims. I have only three points I wish to make:
==> Even though Alexander thought he was shaming the merciless feminists with that analogy, he actually convinced me that they are right (though still obnoxious and arguably horrible human beings). For if indeed there were an able-bodied man with average intelligence, complaining to me that after years of effort he was unable to get a job better than minimum wage, I would tell him he had to be doing something wrong. If he kept going through life blaming society at large, or racism, for his condition, then he would never get to the underlying problem.
==> For a dozen years I too had been bamboozled by the theories that “women love a-holes” and “nice guys don’t get laid.” (There was even a book that seemed to lay it all out for me, which someone showed me in college.) But these aren’t correct. It’s not true that women love a-holes. Rather, a much more precise statement is that insecure women are attracted to a-holes. This is very noticeable, however, because often the most insecure women are drop dead gorgeous, as they starve themselves and spend 3 hours getting ready to go out. If you’re a dateless guy in a whiny mood, you simply overlook the dozens of examples of perfectly nice guys dating perfectly cool and pretty girls staring you in the face. Furthermore, it’s not that nice guys finish last, but rather timid guys who do. There is an overlap between guys who are confident and guys who are a-holes, and between guys who are nice and guys who are timid. If you feel horrible about life because you’ve fallen for one of these (false) theories, think about my nuances and re-evaluate your own observations.
==> In his post, Alexander says how he went through life with very little dating success, and seems to think he just got lucky by meeting the right girl (his girlfriend as of the time he wrote the post back in August). She chimed in in the comments, saying how great he was, and that she bets he was great before she met him. I don’t know Alexander, of course, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that he had no idea how to recognize when a woman was interested in him.
Think of it this way: If you are a shy, lonely guy, and you get a crush on a girl, what do you do? Do you walk up to her and say, “Hi, I am very attracted to you, I was thinking we could go to a movie and maybe make out?” Of course not. Indeed, you take great pains to hide the fact that you like her. But, if she’s really attractive and has all kinds of guys developing crushes on her–and that’s just the kind of unattainable girl you like to pine after, isn’t it, you self-destructive idiot?–you expect her to “read the signs” and know that you say moronic things around her because she makes you nervous.
OK great, but now imagine that there are women in your past who had crushes on you. You think, “They don’t exist, women at best think I’m their big brother who is always there for them when their boyfriend cheats on them,” but remember, when someone really likes someone else, the first move is to hide it. So just because you don’t recall any women walking up to you and saying, “Hi, I’m really attracted to you, I was thinking we could go to a movie and make out?” that doesn’t mean no one has ever been interested, does it?
The reason I had such epiphanies is that I first saw it in other people. For example, a guy I hung out with in grad school one time was pseudo-flirting with a girl working at the reference desk at the NYU library. The first few minutes, I thought she was miserable and wanted us to leave, and as time passed my shock at my buddy’s rudeness escalated. But then suddenly she relaxed and was laughing at his jokes etc., and I realized she had really liked him and was super nervous in the beginning. In my own adventures through near celibacy, I would never have gotten to that stage; at the first sign of discomfort I would have run for the hills, thinking I needed to work on my comedic intro.
So in conclusion, I’m saying that one of the biggest differences between “nice guys” and those who are “good with girls” is that the latter can tell when a girl is interested, whereas the former literally don’t even know what it feels like to be making progress.
Last thing: I have absolutely no idea how to categorize this blog post. I will pick “Great Depression” in homage to my grad school days.