There seems to be this undercurrent of a**hole-loving lately; my peers justifying their ill-advised decision to partner with people they believe can and will “change.” I’m all about personal preference, but it seems that while the Nice Guy/A**hole debate rages on, no one has stood up for the Good Guys.
When I was younger (whatever age you are when people actually sign yearbooks), there was this one descriptor that people always included when signing my autograph book or what-have-you. ‘Sweet.’ “Stay sweet, Stephanie,” or “You’re such a sweet girl.” It’s funny; I don’t think anyone has called me “sweet” since I was thirteen, probably – but at the time, it was a recurring theme. I was sweet.
I don’t believe I’m inherently “unsweetened” now, but I’ve developed somewhat of an acerbic tinge. I won’t shy away from expressing my opinion (unless I’ve predetermined that my opponent will likely refer to out-of-context talking points that they picked up from Rush Limbaugh – in that case, I won’t waste my breath). I am a master of dirty looks, the silent treatment, and making apparent when someone’s actions are unacceptable. I can, at times, be a raging bitch.
These two polarizing aspects of my personality (along with many others) coexist peaceably. I try to be thoughtful, I do nice things for other people because I want to, I am genuine when expressing emotion (OMG I know, earnestness, gross!). But I also won’t take your crap, and if you give me enough of it, I will peace out of your life and I will not regret it. Count on that. I am capable of being a warm blanket of golden light, but I’m also capable of being a laser beam that will effing cut you. In other words, I am the nice guy. And I am the a**hole. We all are, to some degree.
Which is why, when given the choice, I want to date a Good Guy. I want someone who is a real, flawed human being – someone who, despite those flaws, makes the conscious, ongoing effort to act benevolently toward the people around him. Because there is no such thing as An A**hole and A Nice Guy and if that’s all we can say about these people, what they really are is An Actor. A one-dimensional character whose actions are motivated by the desire to project a controlled, steadfast image to the world.
I do not want to fix someone. I’m too busy working on myself. I wouldn’t want to date someone who isn’t doing the same, who doesn’t see the value in growth. I’m not here to hold someone’s hand while they learn how to grow up. I’m not a pre-school teacher; I’m not a therapist. A man is not an art project to be cut up into little pieces and glued back together. You’re your own fixer-upper, honey; do with that what you will.
I want to be with someone who respects me, someone who I can respect. I do not want to tote around some unruly a**hole, a discount handbag that looks impressive on the outside but is really falling apart at the seams. This would be a reflection of my own bad taste and insecurity, dating some mess of a person who doesn’t use the words, “Please” and “Thank You,” someone who has no consideration for other people. I don’t want to introduce that person to my friends, or to my family – who all happen to be Good People who have a low tolerance for a**holes.
I don’t want to date someone indifferent to themselves or to me. Is it an oddity that I don’t want to be treated like crap? I do not have time to hopelessly await someone’s phone call; I do not have time to place heaps of unwarranted blame on myself when someone or something seemingly ‘disappears.’ I don’t have the time to jump through hoops to prove that I am worthy of someone’s affections, and even if I did have the time? That’s not how I would spend it.
Someone who is capable of letting go of whatever Grave Injustices were done to him, who doesn’t blame the world for his misfortunes. Someone who respects himself, who wants to be with someone who will treat him the way he deserves to be treated. Someone who is nice but not a doormat, someone who is confident but not an asshole. Someone who gets to date a Good Person by being one, not by appealing to a girl’s desire to “fix” their self-perpetuated damage.
So, to the ladies who want a**holes, keep them. I’ll take the sane, emotionally stable man any day.
This essay originally appeared on Thought Catalog.