I’m a recovering ‘nice guy’.
Now, this is the point where you say to yourself one of two things: Why would you try to recover from being a nice guy? Or; Oh yeah, I know those assholes. Both of those reactions are correct in many ways. There are a lot of misconceptions and falsities as to what is a right way to behave in a relationship. (Not that I am in any way, shape, or form an expert on relationships; but who is?) Being a ‘nice guy’ is one of them.
You see, ‘nice guys’ are the types of guys who will do anything for a girl, will tear apart their world to make their other happy, and they usually spend a large part of their high school days single. (Like me.) The reason being, well, because nobody wants to spend their life with somebody who just agrees with you about everything, and who doesn’t challenge you. We choose our closest friends because of kinship to them, but also because they make us get up and do shit. They encourage us. They challenge us. We do the same with our romantic partners, except we expect WAY more challenge, typically. And to be a ‘nice guy’, you basically just wash yours hands of everything, and you wash your hands of blame. Speaking from experience, you apologize for everything, even when you know it isn’t warranted, and you try your best to just stay the fuck out of everybody’s way. Because you genuinely (at least in my case) want to stay out of everybody's way. So, that when people don’t accept you, you can continue on with a clear conscience, knowing that it’s the world who’s shitty, not you. But that’s completely and totally fucked up, right?
Look, my intents (and the intents of other 'nice guys', probably) are genuine and at their heart, benign. But, I’ve come to a point in my life where I’ve realized that my intent doesn’t do anybody any favors, least of all myself. My intent is to genuinely be good to people, and to not ruffle feathers and to make everybody happy and alright. Genuinely. I mean, most of the time, because everybody has a bad day, right? But it’s not right, and it’s likewise not right for any projected future partners. It is, at its core, a lack of presence. It is the act of being invisible, because when you’re invisible nobody can then hate you, and it is, in effect, like you’re not even there at all. You might as well of already punched your ticket and walked away from everybody you loved and begun a solitary life living out in the forest, a hermit hidden in the guise of ‘kindness’.
Until, of course, the world does you wrong, right? Which is exactly what’s happened to me in the past, many times. (And it has to us all, obviously, because the universe is apathetic to you.) Without going into too much detail; my past few relationships have ended with me claiming that ‘everything was alright.’ And, usually, at the time, it does feel ‘okay’. Because I just want to please that other person, I want them to be happy. But then the loneliness creeps in, then the feeling that what I had and what I’d built in the identity of my ‘new happiness’ around falls apart and I’m left with what has become disappointment and loneliness...the after effects of a breakup. Duh! And then the flip side of that comes out. Which brings me to second half of this article.
You see, romance novels are filled with this shit. Or at least some of the more popular ones have been, as of late. I haven’t actually read all of Twilight or its highly popular, highly offensive spin-off, Fifty Shades of Gray; but I have read bits of it. And both of these books were written by women authors. Which, to me, is kind of alarming, especially when you take into account that both of the romantic interests in these books are possessive ‘nice guys’, and kinda psychotic; which we’ll get to later. (Gray a little less nice because, hello, the guy fucking rapes her at one point in the book.) It’s as if somewhere in our psyche, most of us want this. If you ask, I'm sure most people would say that they want a want a nice person who will always be there for them and who is pretty uncomplicated. It’s a great idea in theory, and a terrible idea in practice. Because, it doesn’t take into effect the entire spectrum of human emotion; that being that even nice people have days where they want to cram a fist into someone’s unsuspecting face. It’s nice, and it provides us with peace of mind, but it’s not real and it never can be.
So, we create a golem of sorts. Which is why people read these books. I mean, I like watching certain movies because there is a great degree of wish-fulfillment there. Just like, as kids, some of us would fill our world with superheroes. In a world where we were too little, and too scared, we could gain empowerment through the skull smashing of crime-fighters, smashing the faces of their problems; whether it be because their parents were murdered in front of them, or the fact that, like us, they were nerdy kids, just trying to find their place. The world works better in the confines of our minds, because in there we don’t have to face the unpredictability of the world, and of, to a greater extent, the people that inhabit it. In our heads we can order and tag tragedy and the madness of the world, and confine it in its 'proper place' But outside the world is unpredictable and terrifying. People are unpredictable, and that’s scary. In our heads tragedy happens, but we don’t have to face the harsh, flesh and blood reality of it. We can stand behind a fence and and watch it pass and say to ourselves ‘My God, that’s painful,’ and then cry and get back up and continue on with our lives. I’m a fan of a good cry, really I am. It keeps the real pain at bay.
I read a movie review long, long ago that described the saddest scenes in movies the ones where you wanted the characters to cry, but they didn't. They held it in, held their head up and continued on. There's a reason why that's so much more painful. Crying is releasing the problem, holding it in is what we really do. Painting over it, holding our chin up and continuing on. That's why. It's that simple. And yes, I related real human problems to movies, I'm sorry, it's just kinda my thing. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong.
Which is part of the reason why we started this blog. I mean, yes, we did want to write a Harlequin/Romance novel because we figured it'd be a fun, maybe somewhat rewarding writing exercise, and also because coming up with our plot made us laugh, a lot. But the idea of writing about the process came about because we figured that there would be some important things that this endeavor had in store for us. Namely, the mysteries of love, and how we, as people, attempt to solve those mysteries. How we satisfy the parts of our brains that need things, that we don't get in the real world. Look, I know this genre gets a lot of guff from people, and rightfully so maybe, but it exists because it fills gaps, and might just actually be necessary for our sanity. As long as people have been on this earth they've been telling stories to each other to make sense of the world around them, and to comfort themselves from the darkness laying out there, just outside the glow of their campfire.
At one point and time people assumed that comic books had absolutely no warrant and were absolute trash storytelling. Now they're seen by a lot of people (myself included) as highly respectable art-form. And why not. I mean, yes they're a bit silly and they're about super-humans punching away their problems, but like some other forms of 'trash literature' they delve deep into the human condition, with both hands. Maybe there's something here, in this genre of literature that I genuinely have always felt to be absolutely silly trash. Maybe there's something to be found in here that can be quite informative and touch deep at the heart of the human condition; which is, arguably, the purpose of art itself, right?
So, with that being said, I’ll stop. There are a lot of other things we’d like to say about this dynamic, and a lot of things that we’ll reveal about our plot and our own personal 'golem' that will play with some of the built-in constructs of the ‘romance novel’ form. But that’s for a later date. For now we’ll just leave you with this and let you ponder about yourself, and how you behave in relationships and what you seek in them, and where it is you get what you’re not getting from them. It’s a slow process, this is the beginning.
Chad Foltz is a musician and filmmaker living in Ohio. You can read his stuff right here on TMS and over at The Projection List. He's a good egg.