Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Nice Guy

Everyone loves a nice guy right?  All the ladies sit around in coffee bars and pubs and their friends’ home watching some soap and drinking wine saying they’d love to meet a decent man but bemoaning the fact that there are no decent men left anywhere.  But, at the same time, we all know that decent guys always come last don’t they?  They’re the ones who get overlooked, ignored, messed about, side-lined and, generally because they’re too nice perhaps, women feel they can always depend on them to be there but at the same time aren’t taken too seriously at all.  The nice guy always comes back, is always there on time, is always friendly, is always sincere and genuine when he says he likes you and wants to take you out and is nice and dependable…  and boring!  Isn’t that the downside ladies, the nice guy is too nice, always dependable and quite frankly rather boring just because he is such a nice guy?!  That’s the perception I get from women anyway, from reading magazines and looking at websites and just from being around many women in the past in colleges and universities and friends’ houses.  Women like a bad boy, right?!  They love someone exciting, mysterious, perhaps bringing with them a frisson of danger and unpredictability, someone who won’t be told what to do and won’t pander to a woman’s sulks so she can control him or get him to do what she wants and when she wants, a bloke who takes control and takes what he wants and is devil may care even dismissive of the woman he runs around with, and it seems with this type of bloke, women fall hook, line and sinker.

In some ways, I have often been a nice guy, someone who thought the best of everyone and was naïve completely to the ways of the world and the ways of people too.  I was put upon, bullied and pissed about by friends and women I used to meet.  But, I am not going to give you a sob story here because I haven’t always been a nice guy either and have not been a saint either and there are things I have done I regret, although nothing terrible, and there are things I said as well to other people that I deeply regret but can’t really do anything about now.  I think most of us can be nice sometimes and at other times not so nice.  Few are genuine saints anywhere.  And I can also say that at times I could be very cruel and sarcastic and vitriolic towards other people, usually if they riled me or upset me in some way, partially because I got fed up with being hurt and treated badly by people.  I developed a hard shell to protect my vulnerable soft centre and my very easily hurt feelings; I think many people develop this and in some senses think it natural and even acceptable as long as our hardness does not become callousness or an excuse to be cruel or even indifferent to others.  The person bullied should never become a bully, in other words.


It is true that nice people in general get taken for granted, even women, and are seen as an easy touch or someone to poke fun at or just someone to rely on that someone can use and generally not take seriously.  And if we are honest, most of us have treated someone else like this once or twice in our lives and have taken people for granted, and many of us have also been taken for granted by people we knew or know and even by friends in the past and maybe even presently.  For many of us, being mistreated or generally taken for granted for long periods of time can leave us feeling hurt, angry, mistrustful of others and even bitter and resentful towards the people who hurt you and sometimes people in general.  I have felt all these things and more before today and it developed in me a sense that I seemed to meet, not always, people who would hurt me and abuse me or just generally treat me like crap and that I would continue to do so, so I became withdrawn and a bit of a loner.  I suppose I still am a bit of a loner really, to a point.  But like most people I need company and when I was younger and when I was a kid I had lots of friends, some close and some not so close and others just acquaintances that passed into my life briefly and then passed out again just as quickly.  I am not a natural loner I think, just someone who got used to it reluctantly and then accepted it to a degree.  I still have friends but don’t see them that often at this time and I am still single too.  That is frustrating to me somewhat, yet how do people meet people these days to genuinely fall in love with someone?  Go to pubs?  It never seemed to work.  Go to nightclubs?  Well, if you can speak over the absolute din of the music, what can you really say to someone who just wants to dance around their handbag anyway?

When I was younger I was quite a good looking boy (if I say so myself!) but incredibly shy and would blush red if a girl even talked to me; and then when I hit my mid-teens I kind of became the classic ‘ugly duckling’, somehow not quite right and was teased and even bullied and girls paid me little if any attention at all, and even if they did I was too shy to respond anyway.  Then, as happens to many young men and women, I began to notice women noticing me because somehow I fit my face and found a look that suited me.  But the years of getting little interest obviously affected me, as I know it affects many other people who bloom in their early adult years, and so I remained for a long time unsure of myself and lacked confidence in many things.  I suppose this was also because some friends I had made me feel small by belittling me.  However, if I am honest, we all took the piss out of one another as well, so I am not claiming to be some suffering saint here because I wasn’t.  But for all this, I was never someone who was genuinely cruel to others, it was usually people being nasty to me that got me going back at them.  My first friend was cruel about the fact we were poor and didn’t live in a very nice house and even criticised the food we served him after we invited him to dinner!  Yeah, some friends I had hey?!  But this was when I was a little kid so I can’t hold any anger for that or him, just a slight sense of amusement tinged with a touch of bemusement.  But such is life, and I can honestly say that as a kid I had a pretty decent and happy childhood with few real traumas… until I got older.


What I can say dispassionately is that in my pursuit of romance, in finding someone to love and care about and have a relationship with, women could be as mercenary as men in the pursuit of meaningless sexual encounters and one night stands.  Deep down, I knew early on that I wanted a proper relationship whereas friends of mine, not all of them and not all the time either, often wanted no strings attached fun, and sought the type of women that wanted that too.  Eventually, I understood one thing, that I knew then and I know now: that women can be just as big players as men, and not all women are demure and sweet and looking for long term boyfriends, but want casual flings as many men do, although the oft repeated perception is that men are always predatory and women are the innocent victims of men’s lusts and advances.  I think real life, and the men and women thing, is rather slightly more complicated than that, in fact my experience of the pub/nightclub scene, something I don’t participate in any more, is of all kinds of women and men, some nice, some not so nice, and here I am talking specifically about women and in this case some women were very sweet and nice to talk to, others were coquettish and shy, others were angry and hostile even if you just glanced at them!  I learned, as do most men, to leave those angry types alone.  And of course, as with all people everywhere, there are countless variants and admixtures and characteristics of women’s personalities.  I understand that many women have been mistreated by men, and some persuasive men will tell a woman anything at all just to get her into bed, and have no qualms at all about doing so again and again.  These types of men give all nice guys a bad reputation, and then some of those used women become angry and defensive and hostile, and offload that on to any man who approaches them, and so the vicious cycle continues and the Battle of the Sexes notches up more unhappy casualties; I am one of them.  No matter who ‘wins’ in this vicious turf war, men blaming women and women blaming men, no one ever wins and we all just retreat back behind the lines to carry on our hostilities and attacking each other, sure of only one thing: we will remain bitter and lonely, whilst always desiring someone to love.  We are pulled in two directions, and this is not good for anyone’s emotional state or mental health.

I found that on nights out, and even in colleges and places like that, women when approached might not even be hostile or angry, just indifferent and not even interested enough to be disinterested; but, sometimes when you see the same woman weeks later, perhaps in the same pub or place you saw them before, they seem interested or they are looking at you, not angrily but just what might be deemed curious or even interested.  Women especially seem to blow hot and cold, and not to say this is only women, we all do to a certain extent, we might see someone we were not interested in and then suddenly find we are interested in them; this even goes for friends of the opposite sex too, who we can suddenly or bit by bit start to develop feelings for.  But, speaking as a man, I have found that women can be like this a lot, indifferent almost as a default stance, and for many men this can be off-putting and upsetting.  You may say, well you need to develop backbone and be more of a man in this kind of situation and all the rest of it, but men are no different to women in that we don’t want to be hurt and we don’t like to be messed around and nobody but nobody likes to be rejected.


Another core of the dating game and the whole looking for love and romance scene, is the whole issue of rejection.  Even the fear of rejection is so big for many people, for both men and women, that it means we don’t speak to someone and we go home regretting what we could have said but didn’t.  Nobody likes being rejected because it makes everyone feel like a loser and, not to be vulgar, it makes everyone feel shitty and even worthless.  And if you already have issues of rejection or low self-worth or feel unloved for some reason as well, this can be a very painful stumbling block for many of us.  It is the romantic version of the Israelites seeing the Sea of Reeds and seeing no way through.  Rejection is a big problem for me, as I think it is for many people both male and female, and in the past if someone rejected me I often took it to heart and it depressed me, and of course as you go out again to change your luck but only notch up more rejections, it begins a cycle of misery, feelings of worthlessness, a growing anger towards women and the need the week after to go out again, only as you do, week after week, you are feeling more and more dejected and likely to be ignored or rejected anyway simply because you look miserable or angry or disappointed or a mixture of all three.  This can be like an addiction in itself.  I had to quit eventually.  I am in a healthier place emotionally now, but in the first instance I had to suffer these things, these rejections and the emotional pain of feeling and being rejected too.  And as I said, no one but no one likes to be rejected and no one but no one likes to feel rejected, nor may I add does anyone like other people knowing they have been rejected either.  But for the most part, it is something that some of us can internalise to even a very great degree, as I did.  The British way as well, is to drink a lot when we go out, so our emotions are on overdrive and our critical faculties become blurred just like our eyesight!  It’s then that many men make their move, after summoning up Dutch courage, and this is perhaps another problem for men to think about.  Seeking a loving and lasting relationship rarely comes about through people being in an artificial situation whilst being lubricated, especially if you’ve had one over the eight! 

Some may conclude reading this ‘you seem extremely bitter about this, and even bitter about women’ and I am bitter, but at least I am honest, brutally honest and I think we all need to be honest about this subject instead of just hiding behind hearsay and half-truths and stereotypes.  I am at least writing about my personal experiences here.  I believe that until we get honest about this whole dating scene, and the way women and men misunderstand and mistreat each other and basically polarise and blame each other, we will all be walking around blind, refusing to accept home truths until we decide to get real.  This in fact could be said about any such situation like class and racism and inequality and prejudices of all kinds.  A little dose of honest and plain speaking all around may be the fresh air we all need.


Finally, I think the last thing I say will tally with both men and women.  We all go to places like colleges, pubs, coffee bars and places like that and sometimes we see someone all the time that we like and we get the vibe they like us, but somehow etiquette or the situation or something else means we can’t say anything, added to the fear of rejection and the fact that if you are on a course or go to a place regularly for any reason, making a move on someone however politely and nicely you may do it and then getting rebuffed in some way means you will keep bumping into that person again and again; speaking from experience again, this is not a nice thing to go through at all.  And, if suddenly the person who has snubbed you suddenly starts paying attention to you but doesn’t say anything, again you are in a bind; go over and risk making a fool of yourself again, or just ignore them?  Either way, it is painful and nobody really wins.  There’s no happy ending or perfect solution here, because we live in a fallen and hurting world.  I believe our reaction in the end to the complexities, problems and sometimes downright painful realities of dating, romance and meeting someone to love is to be a Christian one.  Nothing more, nothing less.  


Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.  Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.  It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NJB)


Marriage must be honoured by all, and marriages must be kept undefiled, because the sexually immoral and adulterers will come under God's judgement.  (Hebrews 13:4 NJB)


After all, brothers, you were called to be free; do not use your freedom as an opening for self-indulgence, but be servants to one another in love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in the one commandment: You must love your neighbour as yourself.  (Galatians 5:13-14 NJB)


Some links you might like to look at:


Sunday, 8 September 2013

Charity Begins at Home?

Recently it has come out that a number of well known British charities pay their CEOs 100k salaries and in some cases well over this.  For someone who has given to a number of charities over the years, this has come as a bit of a shock but not that much of a surprise to be honest.  It seems that there is always a way to find high wages for the people at the top and in the middle of most organisations, but the wages at the bottom always seem to be low.  Equally, it seems that many positions in charities are also volunteer ones, so it’s fine for a Working class person to stand around on the street rattling tins in people’s faces and not get paid but somehow if the person is from a more affluent background then high wages must be paid.  I have to say that this kind of thing angers me and upsets me for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I have given to a number of charities many times before today and I do not like the idea that money has gone to pay the often very high salaries of people working in an industry that by its very nature is about redistributing wealth to those in genuine need.  Secondly, my idea of charity is certainly not keeping affluent usually privileged Middle class people in foreign holidays, piano lessons and private tuition for their kids and living in an exclusive suburb with a four wheel drive in the garage.  Thirdly, again charity now seems another business that affords professional people a good living and the rest of us without connections have the ‘privilege’ of volunteering with the vague hope, if that, of getting some form of probably low paid employment at some future date.  Of course this doesn’t seem to happen to those in the middle ranking and high end jobs, where wages seem to be very good.  Fourthly, my worries are like many people who feel that if large chunks of money given openly and freely and out of the generosity of often many ordinary people are going in high wages and expense accounts, just how much is actually going to the people who are supposed to be the actual recipients of it in the first place?  And fifthly and finally, how different then is the ‘business’ of charity compared to banking, law, the media, politics, business and many other institutions that are a part of the economic and social infrastructure of Britain?  I don’t see a great deal of difference in any of them now in that wages are very high at the top and afford an affluent lifestyle to those in the middle, but almost always are low waged at the bottom with the added emphasis now of volunteering being often the first option for getting on the first rung of the ladder.  Who does this benefit?  It benefits the people in the middle and the top at the expense of the people at the bottom.  Does this really surprise anyone, if they are being completely honest?  Even charity then now is just another form of easy money that isn’t always being used for what many generous givers think it is being used for.


Does this sound like I am bitter and envious and angry?  Well you’re right, I am all of the above and many more and I feel that many more people are too, for many reasons but mainly because somehow affluent people always seem to remain affluent even in institutions that are supposed to be about redistributing wealth from the haves and wealthy, to the have-nots and poor.  It is not even the fact that there are people who will get more than someone else perhaps because they have more responsibility and do a job that requires more skill or education, it is that there are many skilled Working class people with good educations and degrees now and often we don’t get a look in, it is always someone from an already affluent background going on to get a good job whilst the rest of us have to make do with what’s left over. 

I have said this before as well, but I have noticed that many equal rights organisations purporting to fight for fairness and justice are almost always top heavy with privileged Middle class people as well, who seem to always be speaking on behalf of the rest of us not so lucky and privileged but we are deemed not good enough to speak for ourselves and consequently from what I have seen of many such organisations there is nary a Working class person or any kind of person who has endured real poverty or struggle amongst them.  Henceforth, the people who get the good jobs in these organisations are usually Middle class and don’t really know anything about poverty or real struggle.  It also means that it becomes a business, a profession, and far less about actually trying to change things.  I feel that such organisations tacitly and very carefully keep Working class people and poor people out of them because such a person would see much of what passes for those organisations as a sham and just another Middle class talking shop and not much more.  I did actually write to a number of equal rights organisations a while back asking among other things why they curiously enough never mentioned class as an issue when all other prejudices were mentioned.  Only one actually wrote back to me, and when I replied they never bothered after that.  I thought that considering they were organisations purporting to be fighting for equal rights they didn’t really respect my rights at all.  To be honest, I expected them not to get back to me.  I feel that class is one of the major issues in Britain and yet it is both subtly downplayed and constantly ignored by the affluent Middle classes so they can use it to their advantage in the same way they pretend to be interested in Black rights and minority rights and because the Middle class, as we all know, benefit from the unfairness inherent in the system.

My conclusion then is that privileged and affluent people, although some are concerned about poverty and try to make a difference, most do not and even those who claim to do so actually don’t which makes them look dishonest and disingenuous, especially if someone is saying one thing but doing something else.  I would even say this kind of this is prevalent to a degree in organised religion where people get a good position because they are educated and whether they are genuinely Christians or not seems to be less important.  It then becomes like a business, where the actual message is not important but where the only thing that matters is just keeping the organisation going.  Is it any wonder that many of us feel disillusioned with so many things?

As Christians, we know that the world although on the surface appears fair and just and that good people act for the betterment of us all, that the reality is that the world is at best unjust, unfair, riven with all kinds of divisions and every kind of unfairness and that sometimes bad, uncaring and unscrupulous people rise and decent people with morals and consideration and compassion for others get sidelined, marginalised and even ignored.  I don’t say everyone who prospers is bad however, that would be unfair and untrue, nor do I claim that everyone who is poor or struggling financially or in some other way is automatically a suffering saint either, because that would equally be naïve and untrue as well.  But that at times the world is much more likely to be an unjust place than a just one.  Your uprightness is too great, Yahweh, for me to dispute with you. But I should like to discuss some points of justice with you: Why is it that the way of the wicked prospers? Why do all treacherous people thrive?  (Jeremiah 12:1 NJB)