Go to the corner of Clark and Washington in Chicago on pretty much any given weekday and you’ll see this guy. He stands there holding up a sign that indicates he’s on a hunger strike. He wears a vest that says he’s been on said hunger strike since 2006. The vest also says he’s an outlaw wanted by the FBI. That part always makes me giggle, since I’m sure that the FBI wishes all of their wanted outlaws stood on busy street corners holding up signs to the effect whilst weakening themselves through not eating. Really, criminal underclass, that’s just polite behavior.
The guy’s reason for his wanted-outlaw-on-hunger-strike status is that he hasn’t been given any visitation rights whatsoever for his child since, apparently, 2006. Every time I see him I can’t help but think that there’s probably some sort of correlation between him being the sort of guy who can stand on the street corner in downtown Chicago day after day after day after day engaging in silent histrionics about his lot in life and being the sort of guy who’s not allowed to be around his children. This is obviously armchair psychoanalysis of someone I’ve never once talked to, but there has to be something in that story about how the dude is creepily obsessive about things and has no sense of proportion and is also not allowed around his children. He could also be some sort of pathological liar or something. Again, I don’t know. I tend to ignore the dude.
The last time I walked past him I found myself thinking about another guy I know. I met him several years ago and ended up talking to him a lot, because he’s the sort of guy who will stop you and make you talk to him for ten minutes. The subject is always, always the same. It’s about how his ex-wife is an emotionally abusive bitch who took his kid from him and won’t let him have visitation rights. One time he even pulled me aside and told me the statistics about child abuse. They apparently skewed pretty strongly to the direction of men = gentle, loving, and unfailingly kind, while women = emotionally, mentally, and physically abusive crazy people who probably shouldn’t be around children at all.
Eventually I learned that there’s a term for that particular guy: Men’s Rights Activist. He would color my interactions, such as they’ve been, with MRAs since then, especially after I learned that the stats he threw at me weren’t even an example of lying through statistics so much as they were an example of flat-out lying.
Other people I know also know that second guy. Through them I recently found out he wrote a book. I briefly handled the book, what was extremely obviously self-published, but I didn’t read it and don’t want to. I was told, however, that he refers to himself time and again in said book as a nice person and a kind person and a patient person.
I was also told by someone that knows me and that other person that his stories of his crazy ex-wife reminded them of me and my beloved stories about crazy girls. A year or so ago that sort of comparison would have bugged the shit out of me. I’d rather not be compared to that guy, since he’s obviously an angry, overly fixated individual who wants the world to know that his problems aren’t his fault and everyone else is out to get him. I’m not like that at all, since I’m, y’know, me. And I’m different. Because I said so, that’s why.
Since I’m being introspective about things these days I took that comparison in stride and I actually thought about it. The fact is that there are things I have in common with that guy. There are things I have in common with the crazy dude who thinks the FBI is out to get him due to his child custody issues. There are things I have in common with the MRAs and the Nice Guys of the world. It’s important to recognize what those things are and how to not be that person.
Before I go on, however, it’s important to bracket off a thought. There are actually people who have a raw deal. There are men out there who have gotten screwed by the justice system in custody hearings. There are women out there who have taken the kids and run for the border. There are guys who have been screwed over by genuine bitches. It happens. Life sucks like that sometimes. My intention here is not to minimize that. My intention is to point out, though, that I don’t think that it happens nearly as often as those poor victims of abuse at the hands of crazy bitches would have you believe.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a, for lack of a better term, matrix of beliefs/attitudes/qualities that go in to creating one of these guys. In no particular order:
Externalization of blame and responsibility
Basically, it works thusly: guy meets girl. Guy decides that girl is the greatest thing in the world. Guy hopes that girl sees the same thing about him. Guy sits around and waits for girl to realize it. Eventually guy decides girl won’t realize it and decides that means that girl, like all girls, is a total bitch.
I also genuinely believe there is a certain type of woman who recognizes this personality type and takes advantage of it. I think some are actually calculating bitches who use men, but others just kind of do it due to their own particular set of emotional issues and/or damages. As such, I think there is a germ of truth to the passive guy’s whole, “Women are just bitches who want to take advantage of me,” thing, because they’re more likely to find themselves in the thrall of bitches who want to take advantage of them. It’s a bit of a tautology, but I don’t think I’m just making that up.
That’s where the Pick-Up Artist/Nice Guy dichotomy comes in to play. Take a Nice Guy and let him stew in his own juices of failure and lack of sex long enough and he’ll be ready and willing to flip that switch from “passive” to “aggressive” (or, really, “passive/aggressive”) and that “helpless” switch to “asshole.” That black-and-white categorization means that they’ll think there are two types of men in the world: Nice Guys Who Never Get Any and Jerks Who Get All the Poon.
You stay in that place through self-absorption and self-deception. You are right and don’t need to change and everyone else is wrong unless they disagree with you. The only way to fix that is through honest self-assessment and realization that the world is a lot bigger and more complicated than you want to think it is. That’s a tough thing to do. It’s also a lot less satisfying than just saying, “Women iz bitches who be out to get me. Fuck them. Literally, if possible.”
Anyway…yeah. Those are some thoughts that I think are important to put on paper. Or, um, computer screen. They also lead directly in to a bunch of honest self-assessment I’ve been doing for the past few weeks that I kind of want to articulate in the near future, especially since a lot of it then transfers over to the Dancing Monkey Project and my increasing realization that said project might actually be a really, really bad idea as conceived.
In short, I think it was meant to solve one problem in a way that actually probably creates and/or reinforces another problem/series of problems. The problem it solves is more of a symptom than an actual disease. So, uh, yeah. Hopefully I’ll be able to explain this in a way that makes sense.
For the non-Chicagans out there, Clark and Washington marks one of the sides of Daley Plaza, also known as “across the street from City Hall” and “that big public plaza what has the Picasso statue.”
I just got a brilliant idea for the next season of Burn Notice! Are you reading, Matt Nix? Also, if you are, I’m sorry about that whole thing with The Good Guys, dude. The show had major flaws, but it was deeply enjoyable, sometimes in spite of itself. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go listen to some Foghat.
I am going to be as circumspect as possible in this description, so be warned.
Y’know, the more I think about that, the weirder it seems. Unless his child custody stuff actually stems from a federal indictment I have no fucking clue what the FBI has to do with anything.