Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Nephew's Facebook post:
"Why Do 'Nice Guys' Finish Last With Women? When asked what she wants in a man, a woman will often say, “I just want a nice guy...someone who cares and who listens” but she will then do the OPPOSITE and date a bad boy, a jerk...or a guy who doesn't treat her well. What's going on there?"

Aunt's Facebook response:
"What's going on there is that you have dated A woman (not all women) who really either A) doesn't know what she wants or B) is a liar about what she wants. In either case, consider yourself lucky to have found out now. Grieve, learn, move on. Ultimately - nice guys don't finish last. It just might take a while to find the right one."

Relationships are a tough thing. I'm sure all of us can feel nephew's pain here. If you're a man, you've probably said the same thing at some point in your dating history. And, if you're a woman, you've probably said the female variation "Why do guys say they want a 'nice girl' and always end up choosing the bitch instead?"

You might be thinking that "Well, nephew is young, and he will probably have many more girlfriends before he meets the right one." And, of course, you are right. But that knowledge, nor my platitudes, hardly help nephew as he goes through the disappointment and frustration of trying to figure it all out. And, the experience he has had with this woman colors his expectations and interpretations of the women he has yet to meet.

I suspect that this thing he is experiencing has been going on for centuries. Yet, I wonder if it is in some way different, more pronounced, in this day of our current media. After all, what role models are we giving young people to look up to as they try to navigate relationships. TV? Really? What do we have? On the dramatic front - Desperate Housewives, Gossip Girl, Two and a Half Men. Or, on the reality TV page we have the Real World, the Bachelor, the Marriage Ref. Are any of these something we'd put up as an ideal? Something to emulate? And let's not even get started on daytime Soap Operas or on vampires as role models.

What about real life role models? Politicians? Nope. Celebrities? No. Even ministers? Not really. Everywhere we look we are shown examples of how to lie and cheat and deceive and manipulate in relationship - rarely are we shown ways to do it well. And everyone justifies their cheating and lying. Flying off to meet your mistress in Argentina and leaving your wife and children is fine "because she's your soul-mate." Of course, lying and deceit and manipulation are much more dramatic and make for much more 'salable' TV. I get that advertisers go for what sells. And, I get that adults should all know better and recognize that it is simply 'dramatization.' But do kids?

How many young people watch TV and think that this is really the way to behave in relationship? You lie, you cheat, you deceive - you do whatever you have to do to get what you want. Why does the young girl want the bad boy, the one who treats her like dirt? Is it because media glamorizes him? Portrays him as being 'misunderstood' but really possessing a heart of gold? Let's face it - the reality is the jerk is often just that - a jerk. Change the genders and the generalization still applies.

How many parents monitor their kids' TV watching past a certain age? How many parents have conversations with their kids about what they're watching? Do they discuss what they're seeing -- what is. or is not, good role modeling? I suspect not. I suspect that most people assume that they've imparted good values to their kids and that their kids are smart enough to 'know better.' And I believe that most people are sincere in that. They really do believe they are doing right by their kids and, after all, 'it's only tv.'

What's the answer? I don't have it. And I'm not trying to blame TV for all our social ills. I don't think it works that way. But I would wish for something different on TV (and in the news) - for role models that show that good relationships start with good communication - honesty, sensitivity, compassion. That it isn't just about getting what you want at all costs. That you really do have to be a decent person to grow a decent relationship. The TV might not be as 'dramatic' but I wonder if our relationships would be, at least a little bit, more healthy.

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