The Complete Guide to Life. Chapter 12.
The other day, a friend of mine was complaining about her relationships. "All men are jerks," she sighed wistfully -- albeit through clenched teeth. "Why are there no nice guys?"
I've heard the complaint before. We all have. Oprah built a career on it, and daytime talk shows have turned it into a cottage industry.
I sighed, as well. And also clenched my teeth. But for a different reason. What's wearying about relentlessly hearing the complaint is that the answer is so clear and simple.
Mind you, I'm not suggesting men aren't jerks. Good lord, some of us are Olympians at jerkdom. Many men have transcended the jerk norm and turned being a jerk into an art form. There are guys who are such jerks that you cringe when getting within 200 paces of them.
Of course, the overall premise of dismissing an entire gender has two flaws. The first is that it presumes that women are never jerks. And the second is that nobody likes to get tarred with the very worst of a species.
But still, none of that resolves my poor friend's lament. Or the laments of the countless other women who have sighed the same, time after jerk-laden time.
So, back to my friend, sitting there with scrunched-up shoulders. Her woeful Life Problem unresolved. And ongoing. And endless. The eternal complaint. "All men are jerks. Why are they no nice guys?"
One has to tread carefully here. After all, at that very moment, my friend was a combination somewhere between "I really need a hug right now" and "You are all the enemy, pigwipe." Guys know this is the signal to avoid direct response. (Actually, it's really the signal to immediately say, "I forgot, I'm supposed to call my mother" -- and get out of there fast. But for most guys, thinking to call your mother just doesn't naturally leap to mind. So, we're left with the all the lesser alternatives.)
Disagreeing or even agreeing at that moment is a losing proposition, either way. Instead, I came up with a parable. Everyone likes a good story. Especially when the point that answers everything is clear and simple.
And so, I leaned over in my most comforting way with my most comforting face and in my most comforting voice and said, "Let me describe a situation for you, and you tell me if this sounds at all familiar."
It's a tale I've told often, in situations precisely like this. After all, as long as there are men and women in the world, there will be no end to supply of women complaining, "All men are jerks. Why are they no nice guys?"
Okay, I said, here's the situation.
One day, you go to a friend and say, "All men are jerks. Why are they no nice guys?" And so your friend fixes you up with a nice guy. You go out on a date, and when your friend asks you how it went, you say, with a bit of hesitation, "Wellllll....he was a 'nice guy,' buuuuuut.... He just wasn't my type."
Then you meet a guy who's sort of a jerk, but being a jerk he's also sort of cool, and edgy and fun and unpredictable and really outgoing, and you go out with him for three months. And then, being a jerk, he starts to act like, well...a jerk. And you break up with him -- though it takes a couple more months.
And pissed off yet again, you go to your friend and say, "All men are jerks. Why are they no nice guys?" And your friend knows another nice guy and fixes you up with him. You agree to go out, and the next morning when your friend asks you how the date went you say, somewhat haltingly, "Wellllll....he was a 'nice guy,' buuuuuut.... He just wasn't my type."
And so, you go off on your own, and one day you meet a guy who's sort of a jerk, yes, true, but being a jerk he's also sort of cool, and dark and fun and really take-charge and exciting and has great eyes, and you go out with him for a few months. And then, being a jerk, he of course starts to act like a jerk. And you break up with him -- three months later.
Finally annoyed at this, you go to your friend and say, "All men are jerks. Why are they no nice guys?" And your friend fixes you up with a nice guy, you go, and your friend calls to ask how it went. "Wellllll...." you say hesitantly, "he's a 'nice guy,' buuuuuut.... He just wasn't my type."
And then you start dating a jerk, who's cool and sarcastic and edgy and wears great clothes...
I usually repeat this about three more times. But for literary purposes, you get the idea. However, just to be clear, six times is generally the proper requirement.
And then I stop. And look over inquiringly, full of innocence, and ask -- "So? Does this sound at all...oh, familiar?"
Of course I know the answer. Because I've got through this scenario numerous times. And the answer is always the same.
My friend sighed. A really deep, knowing sigh this time. And then she rolled her eyes. And sardonically laughed. "Oh, yes," she said. "Oh, yes."
"Oh, yes," is what everyone says. Always.
And then I looked at her closely, and made sure we locked eyes. And in as kind, warm, honest and thoughtful a way as I could, I said - as I always say:
All men are not jerks. You have just chosen to go out with the ones who are.
And she agreed. "I know."
As they all agreed.
And the next time, they go out with a jerk.
Until they finally realize what they really, truly, actually want is a nice guy.