A repost from 2015 and a reminder to only date people who are worth your time. Special shout-out to The Bachelorette, Rachel, who has encountered a couple of these herself. Back tomorrow with the recap of this week’s Bachelorette episode!
Years ago when I was living in New York, I went on a date with an investment banker. He made snide, self-satisfied comments the entire night about how great he was and how questionable the greatness of all other men was. He was rude to the waiter and warned me to not get the Salade Niçoise, accented with sardines, in case we kissed later. I ordered and ate it with deep satisfaction.
I left that date thinking, “What an asshole.”
And then the next week went out with him a second time.
This guy was not extraordinarily attractive or any smarter than other men I’d been out with. What he did for a living didn’t matter to me and he was even a fan of a sports team I hated.
The only thing that got me to go out with him again? What a friend once called “the asshole factor.”
A man knowing what he wants can be a very attractive quality. That guy might be called take charge or an alpha male, but more than likely at some point he’s also been called an asshole. Confidence doesn’t make a guy an asshole. A man who is self-determined and clear in his vision for his life doesn’t have to be one. But, whether through cultural pressure on men to conquer at all costs or positive responses from potential romantic interests or both, some men take confidence over the edge and crash land in Asshole-ville.
That investment banker survived just one more date until finally during a phone call when he was asking me to go on a third date, I mentally checked off all the things I would rather be doing than seeing him. Painting my toenails and sitting and staring at a wall both made the list. We never went out again.
But, he wasn’t the last guy of that kind I would date. Those guys populated stretches of my 20s. Some were guilty of small infractions (belittling the work I did, critiquing my body, never returning a phone call) and others were guilty of large infractions (standing me up and lying about standing me up, screaming at me during what had been a civilized discussion, going completely ghost after a couple of months of dating because I neglected to offer him a plate of food).
Even nice guys I dated would want to claim they weren’t as nice as they seemed, that inside of them too lurked an asshole.
The thing is inside all of us are less than optimal qualities: pettiness, meanness, dismissiveness. We can let those feelings, and others, take over from time to time. That’s just allowing ourselves to be human.
The difference with these guys is they were cultivating those more terrible ways of being. They weren’t apologetic or ashamed about it. One or two would even say, “You know you like it.” I would shake my head no and suck my teeth at the idea that I liked them being awful people and awful to me, but I did.
At the time, I would cite other reasons why I liked dating any of these guys. I called that guy who screamed at me, passionate. I called that guy who stood me up and then tried to pretend that I had gotten the day wrong and should really be minding my calendar better, afraid to get hurt. Others were challenging, intellectually stimulating, sexy.
I was drawn in by their confidence and stayed through the emotional distance. Sometimes I was looking for a challenge and believed that somewhere beneath those layers of bravado was a man with whom I could make a life.
And maybe I would have taken this confused notion of manhood to a therapist to rid myself of it, except this pattern wasn’t just mine. I was surrounded by women who also dated their share of assholes. We went on dates with them and talked about their varying degrees of terrible behavior, often with laughter, always with cocktails, and then we usually went back for more. In just the last few weeks, I’ve had conversations with girlfriends who are dating assholes. One has an unabating ego and the other is stringing her along when she wants a commitment and then turning the tables to make her feel like she’s the one who doesn’t want to commit. One of the Asshole Jedi Mind Tricks.
All I wanted to tell both of those girlfriends: Stop dating assholes.
Stop wasting your time trying to fix someone else.
Stop making excuses for bad behavior.
Stop feeling just a little worse about yourself every time you go out with him.
And I know, it’s easy enough to say this. It can be hard to do, hard to stay away from those kinds of guys, especially if you get so deep into dating that you develop real feelings for him. And if the sex is good too? Well, Lord help you.
I like to think I’m done dating assholes, that I’ve been cured. I’m certainly not dating one now.
Somewhere along the way, I started recognizing that I could be with someone passionate and someone who challenged me in positive ways and someone who was intellectually stimulating and someone who was sexy and that person could also be genuinely kind.
I stopped trying to manufacture excitement with guys who lied or insulted me or only returned a phone call five months later at 2 am. I realized that there is plenty of excitement in just trying to stay open and vulnerable with someone.
Maybe that was why I dated assholes because I was afraid of having to do the work that real connection demands. Those assholes were never going to be vulnerable and it meant I never really had to be either. Maybe I stopped dating assholes, stopped supporting them giving into their worst selves, because I wanted to figure out how I could be better and I wanted to be with a partner who would help me to do that.
What you have to offer, what I have to offer, is too good to be given to someone who doesn’t deserve it.