Thursday, 26 November 2015

No More Mr Nice Guy

(This mini-series was inspired by reading Robert Glover's Nice Guys Finish Last, which you don't have to pay to read if you know where to look. This is Part One.)

Robert Glover’s book is one of the underground references for the Sphere, along with Deida’s The Way of the Superior Man, Mystery’s The Mystery Method and Warren Farrell’s Why Men Are The Way They Are (or you can choose another of his). Glover is a therapist and while the book was published in 2000, he says it was written over a period of six years, and so is based on therapeutic ideas from the early 1990’s.

The Nice Guys you think he’s talking about are regular Joes who always finish last and don’t get the girl. You would be wrong. Judging by the examples, the Nice Guys he’s really talking about are men from chronically dysfunctional families: alcoholic parents, extreme religiosity, absent and demanding fathers, emotionally exploitative mothers. These kinds of dysfunctions have a number of effects, from pre-teen drug use to adaptive behaviours (controlling, rescuing, people-pleasing, retreating into fantasy, or focussing on study or sports training) that help the young man manage his life. As a result, he will have no idea how to deal with regular people, who will feel uncomfortable with the way he handles them, even if they don’t know why, and he will have acting-out or compulsive behaviours. These aren’t regular Joes at all, but they do tend to finish towards the back of the field and certainly don’t get the girls they want, and they do tend to come across as manipulative and unsympathetic.

Very few people are going to pick up a book about those people. But tell them it’s the fault of feminism, absent fathers, 9-5 commuting from suburbs and a truly awful lack of male teachers (this is an American book), nod to Robert “The Drummer” Bly and initiation ceremonies, and you can make it seem that it’s about people who might not be going to Anonymous meetings. Well, it isn’t.

Glover is a married therapist (who therefore doesn’t have the armour of an MD or PhD) who practices in the USA. He must therefore impose upon his patients a highly vanilla flavour of the ideal life.

Discussing his idea of the Integrated Man he promises that you won’t be ashamed of your wants, needs, desires, faults, prejudices, bad skin and tendency to fart after eating broccoli. Much more than this, he promises that people will respond more favourably to your open presentation of yourself, than to the fearful, managed and bowdlerised version you are currently presenting. Ah. Except. When he said “wants, needs and desires” he didn’t mean the cocaine, pornography, booze, promiscuity, over-eating and debt-financed consumer status purchases… you understood that, right? He meant the natural needs and wants and desires. And you should probably keep your anti-Diversity and other non-PC opinions to yourself in working hours and around minorities (like women) at any time. Also could you not eat broccoli anymore? Because, you know, farting? Gross? So when you read it that way, of course everyone likes your Integrated Man - because there’s nothing to dislike about it.

The Protestant Work Ethic gets in via the idea of living a Meaningful Life, in which you Follow Your Passions and do something interesting. As a job, of course. The idea that you might just take a day job to pay some minimal bills and then go live your life afterwards? No. You will be a productive member of the economy and society and work hard in your dream industry or with your dream skills. That is, after all, what it means to have a meaningful life. Right?

The second most lunatic moment (the most lunatic moment involves something called “healthy masturbation” and is a real hoot) is the Pop Quiz about sexual guilt, where he wants us to believe that there are people who: a) had a “joyous" first sexual experience which they could share with family and friends; b) talk openly and comfortably with their partner about masturbation; c) are comfortable revealing everything about their sexual experiences, thoughts or impulses with their partner. Failure to agree with any of this means you have sexual guilt. Seriously? How about the idea that for the men he’s talking about, it would be incredibly unwise to reveal anything that could be used as ammunition against them, because that’s what frakked-up partners do to each other. Nope, in Glover’s world, all partners are trustworthy, broad-minded, experienced, and generally all-round cool. Yeah, right. And who, in the name of all that's realistic, ever had a "joyous" first sexual experience? Nobody. Ah, which means we all need to buy his book or be his clients. Badabob badabpoom, all the way to the bank. Listen, a guy has to make a living.

He is right to point out that Frakked-Up Guys do tend to believe that If I can hide my flaws and become what I think others want me to be, then I will be loved, get my needs met, and have a problem-free life. It doesn’t work like that. But then, neither do his suggestions. At best, his advice will help some men shake off their false assumptions. But Glover doesn’t really have anything but the usual inspirational fantasies to put in their place, and I'll discuss what those are and what should go in their place later.

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