Tuesday, August 22, 2017

That guy

I had a seat at a table that offered me a vantage point that not everyone had. By everyone, I meant my work colleagues whom on that night we were all out drinking at some bar that had some drink special on. One female colleague was at the time an entertaining lightweight, getting hostile-drunk incredibly quickly thanks to her small stature and also thanks to her small stature was not particularly threatening in her drunken hostilities.

So I was sitting opposite her when I saw a guy in a group of guys stand up and start grooming, ready to approach my drunk and hostile friend. His own friends, somewhat to his credit actually tried to stand up and push him back down into his seat. Now I can't know anything, but in some way I *know* that this guys agenda was to hit on the drunkest woman at the bar, and he had his sights on my friend for that very reason.

That situation, while not being 'fine' with me, was fine. The scene was public enough that nothing suspicious was going to go down like her leaving the bar alone with a stranger and we her friends were proximate enough to watch her handle the advance on her own, which she did.

But this post is ostensibly about 'that guy', and even though I don't get criticized enough, due to the nature of the forums in which I express my opinion, I suspect one of my critic's common points might hypothetically be that I don't shit on guys enough. Well, today I am going to shit on guys, but I can foresee my conclusions being very much a kind of 'respect the natural order' argument which many possibly including you and me, may not be happy with. You might describe it as 'macho-fascist' or something. I don't know. I don't fully understand ideological nomenclature. Just consider yourself warned.

What was it about a guy that if you asked him what was attractive to him in a woman had him listing 'black out drunk' somewhere in his top three criteria? I'm going to assert that he, quite probably did not find himself very attractive. Perhaps on a broader spectrum, didn't find himself very anything. He was short and overweight, and if I can make a racist generalization about my fellow Caucasian australians, belonged to an ethnic group that is generally found the opposite of exotically desirable, including the accent. And on that point, ordinarily, kudos to someone even having the confidence to approach a woman they liked, but in this case the disparity in sobriety was far too great to sit well with me.

I should disclose that I am a believer in gender roles, not that they should be enforced upon individuals, but that they exist. I'm convinced by the evidence. There's a good Dan Ariely talk on relationships at Google, and he refers to the height-income trade-off. In his example (mitigated somewhat by the search design of the website his data was on) for a 5'9" man like himself to be considered as attractive as a 5'10" tall man, he needs to make $40,000 more. He then asks the crowd that having determined men care about BMI, how much more money a woman with a BMI of 21 needs to make to compete in attractiveness with a woman of BMI 20. For which there is no answer, as men generally don't care about a prospective female partners earnings.

I've put the question about the importance of income to female friends on a few occassions and in terms of self reporting, it's always emphatically that they do not care. This is how I believe in gender roles, I am persuaded by the data (including observed behavior) rather than the testimony.

That example dealing with income and 2 other variables is not an exhaustive one though, but I do believe that for men in particular perform some equation in evaluating themselves and their chances with the population at large or specific individuals. A basic question of 'what do I have to offer them?'

Consider myself and Serena Williams as a couple. Financially I offer nothing, Serena would make more money simply showing up somewhere than I can in a year. Physically I offer nothing, my genes would not make any of our progeny stronger, rather than weaker. I have nothing to offer Serena Williams but my love, if I had founded Reddit it might be a different story.

Fortunately for me, I don't live in a world where I have to compete against every other guy for Serena Williams' affection. There is a significant population of women that I find attractive that find me attractive enough to encourage me to keep trying... nothing. I don't need to devise any strategy, I can simply be myself and be confident that I do have a bunch of stuff to offer an attractive human being.

Thus, I don't feel I am 'that guy'. I might listen to what Alain De Botton has to say about seducing the opposite sex, but I've never felt tempted to buy a copy of 'The Game' and learn the techniques of pick up artists. For me, and I may be an anomoly, the prospect of hooking up with a 'false positive' is far more terrifying than generating a 'false negative' through my lack of pick up techniques.

Which is where I may come across as a bit fascist, or Aryan or something. But here would be my defining trait of 'that guy' - his general evaluation of what he has to offer women is set lower than his threshold of women he is attracted to.

Australia (at the least) has this expression about 'punching above your weight' and the US has that similar sporting analogy of 'out of your league' and I'm not confident that these expressions are tied down to any real specific geography, but they are a common currency in the English speaking world but not quite what I'm talking about when I talk about 'that guy'.

Those expressions work well for somebody whose ambition is greater than their reach, but what of that population of guys that might fit in Louis CK's 'unfuckable' category. When I talk about 'That guy' I'm not referring to when Ryan Phillippe being married to Reese Witherspoon or Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman or Jessica Simpson and that guy she was married to for a while. These guys would do just fine released unto any speed dating event, even if they are the less famous of their celebrity spouses.

So after more than a dozen paragraphs we probably still don't have a shared understanding of who 'that guy' is, he isn't any guy punching above his weight, any guy who is 'lucky' to be with his partner. That guy is the guy that adopts some tactic or strategy, that markets himself perhaps, or preys upon vulnerabilities to try and overreach his own insufficient sense of self worth.

I'm a haver of morbid thoughts, for example, when I cycle past a bridal party having their photographs taken in the park or in front of a nice building, unbidden the thought comes to me that I'm witnessing a celebration of a woman meeting the man most likely to murder her in the world. I'm not anti-marriage, nor as pessimistic as I sound, my mind just entertains these things. And when I used to waste hours a day on tumblr or instagram looking at models wearing caps and high tops and otherwise skimpy outfits, the morbid thought was trying to pick the point in that models career where somebody offered her cocaine, could you pick the moment the drug abuse starts showing up in the photo sets?

Why does my mind leap to this? Even if I were to believe it a reliable cliche that models wind up abusing coke, why don't I assume that's a function of the models increased disposable income and not some guy offering her drugs for free?

Because I believe that guy exists, vague as the boundaries are, I feel there's a psychological profile of a guy that hangs around models and model shoots, maybe the photographer, maybe the assistant, maybe the caterer that is looking for the currency to ingratiate himself into the models social circle and discovers if he offers her coke he has a pretext for spending time with her.

And drugs are particularly insidious and extreme example, but I've seen it the school yard. In part this is Jonah Hill's role in Superbad. The drug is just alcohol, but it's his way to try and get in (and get reevaluated) by Emma Stone. Admittedly Jonah's character is approached by the girls upon hearing they have access to a fake id, but Jonah's complicit, even eager to play drug mule.

It might be that the pasty, pimply, unathletic, asthmatic, overweight kid has access to a relatively unsupervised bungalow where a bunch of the cool kids appreciate the opportunity to have sex and that guy get's to play benefactor, even patron of the cool kids.

There's one caveat I'd like to articulate though. It's possible that the guys I'm trying to describe overlap somewhat with 'nice guys' or perhaps even eclipse them on a Venn diagram, however, I do not believe so much in a 'natural order' that a young man who is tall and good at sports, smart academically and possessing symmetrical features and stylish hair is entitled to his resentment of an objectively less attractive man commanding far more attention from the most attractive women simply because the less attractive man has more confidence to approach and talk to women. If you are shy or reserved that's on you. If you are charismatic and outgoing then bully for you whoever you are.

I just know there's a point at which some guys get into 'date rape' territory, and the correlated strategies of offering free drugs, free drinks and/or a place to crash. The sexual harassment in the workplace territory, where coercion comes into play. Or adopting a tactic like negging.. or any other strategy that involves tearing someone else down until you feel they are on your level or beneath you.

These things exist, they are done by men to women and they are parasitical and abusive. To engage in such is to be worthy of reprehension.

Just by comparison to 'nice guys' and since they haven't been discussed in a while, a slight recap, but they commanded highest mindshare when someone compiled a 'nice guys of OkCupid' tumblr, of a depressingly recurrent phenomena of men who complained in their profiles about putting years of work into women, treating them like the princess they felt they were and not getting any intimacy out of them, being relegated to the friend zone, blah blah blah. Even though 'nice guys' became a social taboo, there's an SNL sketch from the 90's called 'not getting any' that more or less expresses the same sentiments. The 'of OkCupid' tumblr juxtaposes the complaints with statements from the self described nice guys with statements to disqualify them from being nice at all. (hence the overlap).

However, I extend some sympathy to nice guys (some), on the basis that in part owe their frustration to a prevalent stupidity. That is the gap between what people report they are looking for in a guy (perhaps sensitivity, thoughtfulness, creativity, loyalty, devotion) and what they actually look for in a guy (perhaps symmetrical features, height, shoulder width, smell, confidence, resourcefulness etc) and ad to that owing to the halo effect people often see qualities in people they are attracted to that are to the world at large not actually there. Hence if you look closely you'll find partners of abusive narcissists capable of describing their partners as sensitive, thoughtful and a good listener.

Nice guys to some extent are trying differentiation strategies on faulty market research, they are hearing Sarah say 'I want a guy who isn't afriad to cry' because Sarah doesn't want to be heard to say 'I want a guy with bright white perfect teeth and blue eyes' because nobody wants to look that superficial. Had nice guy asked Sarah's friend what Sarah was looking for though, he may have got a response much closer to the truth, because Sarah's friend is not as invested in Sarah's public image, nor necessarily a love rival so is more likely to base her judgement on what Sarah does rather than what Sarah says.

By contrast, 'that guy' is evaluating himself pessimistically, and perhaps his love/sexual interests rather accurately. That guy is less likely to whine about the game being rigged against him, of wasting time and effort, he is trying to re-rig the game.

Interestingly, while there's an equivalent to 'nice guys' across the gender line, that is simply so normal, so commonplace and so non-threatening that nobody discusses it except in books like 'He's Just Not that Into You' and it's adaptation into movies and Sex and the City episodes, there's no real corresponding 'that girl'. I've heard limited instances of a female partner attempting to keep their male partner drug dependent, but these stories are usually about exploiting some practical concern or control rather than tearing someone down to the point that they would sleep with her.

Perhaps their are women that call their male partners 'stupid' and 'worthless' and keep them 'hen-pecked', but I still don't see that as the equivalent of the guy that says 'Hey Katie, hey Jessie have you ever tried MDMA?' or (arguably) worse 'Do you wanna hear me rap?'

The most obvious reason being, somewhat counter-intuitively, women are not as bombarded with the message that the man you obtain defines your status in the world, even though for much of modern history the only thing a woman could do to get status was to marry a man of status. Instead for some reason if Eugene date's Eustace he knows his standing in the social order will not budge from where he already is, but if he date's Naomi, both men and women will think more of him, see more of him.

You hear far more media stories of a high school kid asking some female celebrity to be his date to a prom or a school dance or something than you do of the reverse situation. Furthermore, men are far more often sold things using completely irrelevant female models. Ad to that the prevalence and availability of porn and you don't so much get a sense of entitlement to a young and buxom sexual partner as an imperative to obtain one.

There would appear to be an easy and convenient workaround to sleeping with people you don't feel you ordinarily would deserve or be able to keep, and that is prostitution. To simply pay somebody more attractive than you feel you would obtain in the meat market on the money market.

I don't like that solution though. I have my misgivings about prostitution and sex work, I'm pro-stop killing them or abusing them on the job, stigmatising them in the media etc. But I'm anti growth of that industry.

What I would say to Eugene the loser, is that he should date Eustace the loser, who would actually be happy to date Eugene and they may be so happy together that they stop caring about whether other people think they are 'losers'. This is much better than Eugene trying to make Naomi feel like such a loser, through psychological attacks or introducing harmful destabilizing elements into her life (ostensibly as an act of goodwill) until Naomi feels she stands lower than Eustace and Eugene.

Which I know, sounds like 'respect the natural order' but I'm assured to some extent, the natural order exists. Criteria may differ between the sexes, and sexual orientation, but apparantly we have a pretty good intuitive sense of how attractive we are - psychological impediments aside like body dis-morphia etc. This is the attractiveness that drives 'approachability' I would say, there's obviously a whole heap of stuff we need to find out about a person to maintain our attraction over a sustained period of time. But this intuitive sense of our attractiveness who we can reasonably approach and who is 'out of our league' makes sense at least to me. Our social brains fairly early in our sexual awakening must process hundreds of thousands of micro-expressions, bits of data that calibrate in our subconscious where we stand. Given that attractive kids get better treatment from adults, it's probably wired in earlier for a lot of us.

But to me, for consistencies sake, if it's a problem that young girls and grown women are bombarded with constant messages that 'this is what it looks like to be an attractive woman' then this is happening behind closed doors in the women-only part of society, and it must be a problem for the male population at large to be receiving that same message. And I take issue with that message that says 'if you are unattractive boy, women equivalent to your attractiveness don't exist, just attractive women and you have to find some way to get one.' maybe it results in relatively harmless compensation techniques, maybe it results in predatory behavior. It's not worth the risk.

I don't have a good answer, but I notice 'that guy' doesn't get talked about much. So little in fact that I don't know what 'that guy' is referred to. His unattractiveness may render him so non-threatening that women don't even notice this is going on. They just quietly state in a rehab session or NA meeting that 'Brody gave me my first hit because I was a popular girl at school'.

Terminology like 'male privilege' and 'entitlement' can foster the image of a powerful male, and that may look like a jock, or a tall guy in a suit with a square jaw. A white guy. Whatever, and I don't exclude jock's from being 'that guy' as they may pessimistically evaluate their self worth much lower than their outward appearance might suggest, predatory behavior, sexual frustration and a sense of entitlement are a common constellation at all strata of the male hierarchy. 'That guy' may allegedly even be a world class photographer.

To me they are uniformly defined by a disparity in some criteria between their perceived self-worth and their perceived worth of their target. That's got to be a destructive social element worth being on the look out for. At the very least something to aspire to not become.

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