I was terrified of actually talking to girls when I was growing up. I was the fat kid. I was a spaz. I wasn’t good at sports. I was a complete and total geek whose particular forms of geekery weren’t cool and probably still aren’t. I raced R/C cars. I played collectible card games. I frickin’ played BattleTech against myself.
All of those things were secondary, really. All of those things were the excuses I used to explain away my anxieties and fears. All of those things allowed me to blame somewhat outside forces and avoid admitting that, deep down, I pretty much thought I was a completely worthless human being. I didn’t like myself at all and I couldn’t imagine why anyone else would, either.
I desperately wanted validation but I didn’t know where to go to find it. I didn’t know how to ask, either. I got good at self-deprecation and fishing for compliments. I couldn’t believe other people when they praised me and I took any insult more than a little too personally, even insults that were obviously not intended as factual statements. I took everything and balled it all up inside of me into a bundle of self-directed hatred.
Church, as I’ve said, was actually my salvation for a bit. I was a smart kid and I was desperately looking for a way to be accepted and being good at church seemed like a fairly easy route to acceptance. All it took was knowing the appropriate way to pray and being able to toss out some Bible verses at appropriate times. Do that with a certain amount of gravitas and people eventually start saying, “Hey, that guy gets it.” Attendance is key, too. If there was a church thing going on I was at that church thing. People begin to think of you as reliable and valuable.
The problem is that I still couldn’t figure out how to talk to girls. I was still terrified of them. Starting in the seventh grade I’d pick some girl to have a thing for and pine over her and decide she was the best thing ever and wax poetic about her qualities while trying to be her friend and desperately trying to avoid letting her know that was how I felt and basically trying the Nice Guy angle.
I wouldn’t have admitted it then, even though I eventually began to suspect it, but I began to resent the girls who never seemed to get around to falling in love with me and giving my life meaning. It didn’t make Christianity any easier, either. My conception of the Cosmic Jackass God started here. I became convinced that since god had some sort of plan for me and it obviously didn’t involve the perfect girl I used as the object of my obsession that I would find out god wanted me with some hideous, disgusting hag. God was an asshole like that.
I fell back on the easiest excuse to use as a Christian. I started telling everyone that I thought god had given me the gift of singleness. Boom, problem solved. Except for the bit where I didn’t actually want to be single. But I had to maintain a cheerful demeanor and be totally on board because otherwise I’d lose my status as a true man of god or whatever. It doesn’t surprise me that I basically had a complete emotional breakdown and nearly blew all my mental gaskets while I was out at Western.
Amy showed up while I was picking up the pieces of my bout with insanity. I was considering dropping Christianity completely at the time, so it was interesting, to say the least, that I met her right then and there. She was smart, she was cute, she could hold her own in conversation, and she seemed to think I was pretty damn cool. All of those things I’d once thought were impossible were suddenly right in front of me. Everything was completely awesome for, like, a month. Maybe three.
My doubts, fears, and insecurities crept back in. It was inevitable, I suppose. She had her own shit to deal with and when it got right down to it we were pretty bad for each other. We were too similar in places where we really needed to be different. We were too stubborn in places where we were different but needed to find common ground. I honestly don’t think that any of our problems were insurmountable, but there was a definite insurmountable obstacle: neither one of us was particularly emotionally healthy and we took our shit out on each other all the goddamn time.
I remember that during the summer where everything was actually working we had a lot of conversations about social position. We used the alpha/beta/whatever positioning system and discussed what was up. Both of us were convinced that we were some variety of alpha and both of us were convinced that the other one was an alpha. Thinking about that now I see a whole forest of red flags flapping in the breeze. At the time it seemed like the most perfectly natural and acceptable thing to worry about and/or claim to be.
I didn’t know what Men’s Rights Activists were at the time. I didn’t know what Pick-Up Artists were, either. I’d heard the various ideas thrown about and I’m sorry to say that I bought into a few of them. I was certainly worried about making sure that everyone knew I was an Alpha Male. I wasn’t sure how to get what I wanted any other way.
The Pick-Up Artist shtick never appealed to me. I’m baffled by casual sex and I have no idea why I would want any. I’ve never had a one-night stand and I don’t plan on changing that at any point. That means that, at best, I don’t see PUAs as people with whom I have common cause. When I first learned about them, though, I found what they did extremely distasteful. I didn’t like it on a level that seemed far too personal for something about which I didn’t care. It was visceral, though, and even running across PUAs on some web page left me wanting to wash out my soul.
I did a little research and eventually came to the conclusion that I took the PUA thing personally because the PUA thing was directed at me. On some level that meant that if there were guys out there who were being massive creeps it somehow reflected on me. That, of course, is more than a little silly. It’s why my reaction was visceral and hard to pin down.
I’d always thought my problem in the world of dating was that I didn’t know how to talk to women. It was obvious, too, that I was terrified of opening myself up to get rejected. I considered myself a failure of some fundamental level because I couldn’t figure out how to get myself a girlfriend. I’d also always kinda resented the girls in question for not making it any easier on me.
The advice offered by PUAs seemed like a perfect antidote to that sort of thinking. I can basically boil the entire thing down to its essentials for you. First: go out and get rejected so goddamn many times by so goddamn many women that you stop giving a shit. Second: figure out how to make them feel inferior to you and, in doing so, pursue you. Third: go online and tell other guys about how totally laid you got, dude. Simple!
On its face this actually seems like valid advice. At least the first bit does and the second bit is based on a sound psychological principle. If you’re afraid of something the best way to deal is to confront your fears, after all. People value things they have to work for more than things they’re just given. The biggest problem that comes from being a Nice Guy is never actually trying to get what you want and playing the role of doormat to the object of your affection. It’s a vicious cycle.
The problem, then, is one of philosophy. The PUA advice seems to boil down to, “Be a giant asshole and, in doing so, get laid.” That’s the first mark against it. The advice also answers the wrong question. If your goal is to have a meaningful relationship then having lots and lots of casual sex with people you treat like shit doesn’t seem to actually be a step in the right direction. It’s like asking for directions to the McDonald’s and receiving the operator’s manual to a 1984 Trans Am.
The biggest problem with the PUA thing is at its very core, though. If you dig any distance below the surface there’s a strong culture of treating women like shit. Prominent PUAs – and here I always use Vox Day, since I don’t bother to keep track of too many prominent PUAs – obviously hate women. They make no secret of their hatred of women and they make no secret of their belief that women exist so men can fuck them and try to avoid having to give them money because if they get their claws into you, man…it’s over. They get pregnant and then they get fat and your life is over.
I think that my reaction of visceral disgust when I was introduced to the world of the Pick-Up Artists came from this underlying philosophy. That disgust, in turn, was fueled, at least in part, by fear and recognition. I recognized an ugly part of myself in the guys who fell for the PUA thinking and I feared becoming one. I, after all, had always been afraid of talking to women. I always wanted women to give me value. And I resented them for not doing so.
I could see that same resentment in the words and thoughts of the Pick-Up Artists. Had things taken a different turn I could have become a PUA. I really, really didn’t want to confront that inner darkness.
This is actually one of those things that really bugs me. It’s now been more than five years since we’ve talked. I’ve pretty much made it a point, at least for the last couple of those years, to stop talking and thinking about her. As such I don’t like bringing her up and I don’t like opening myself to the armchair psychoanalysis that comes from such things.
It’s also not really about her anymore. Amy doesn’t really exist and hasn’t existed as a real or even somewhat real part of my life for a long, long time. That stretch of my life was a hinge on which an awful lot of stuff swung and I never properly dealt with most of the fallout. So on some level I need to bring Amy up in order to move on. But it’s not actually Amy. It’s a pale shadow of an idea of a person I once held in my mind.
Who does that? Really? Name one other person.
From the perspective of a guy who’d just about lost his damn mind and was trying to decide if god was a thing. From the perspective of not that guy it’s pretty meh, really.
Now, you might be looking at that bit in relation to my admission above that I’d pretty much been a gigantic fucking ball of self-hatred and insecurities since the seventh grade and wonder where the hell I got off claiming to be some sort of superior human. That juxtaposition should make you go, “Hmm.” It should make you go, “Hmm,” quite loudly.