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Friday, August 29, 2014

Boy Talk

(Image from Joyce's Choices)
I overheard a fascinating discussion among the 4 lifeguards at the pool today. All four were young men in their early-20s. Bear in mind, I was swimming laps, so my eavesdropping was limited to time at the wall, and while at one end of the pool during kick sets. I caught bits and pieces, but the situation was clear. Here's some of what I heard.

Some lifeguards. (Image from

After lap 1
Guard 1: You need to just end it, man. You aren't being fair to her.
Guard 2: There's nothing to end. You know, we just hang out sometimes.
Guard 3: You call her when there's no one else around and nothing else to do, but if a better offer comes up, you ignore her.
Guard 2: So? She's not my girlfriend.
(Guard 4 mostly smiled and shook his head through all this.)

(Image from the City of Sacramento Aquatics Program)

After lap 2
Guard 1: So, you have a relationship with her.
Guard 2: No, we aren't in a relationship.
Guard 1: You've talking to her, hanging out with her, and doing things together for almost two years.
Guard 2: Yes, but it's not a relationship.
Guard 3: If you spend time with her, there's some emotional investment, so you have a relationship.
Guard 2: It's not like that.
Guard 4: No one said boyfriend-girlfriend, you just have some sort of relationship, like friends.
Guard 2: But we aren't in a relationship.

After lap 3
Guard 2: You guys just don't understand. I can't break up with her because we aren't going out.
Guard 3: Does she know that?
Guard 2: I can't talk to you guys about this.
Guard 1: We're trying to understand, but you're the one who doesn't get how unfair you're being to her. She sits around waiting for you to call her. And you don't even like her.
Guard 2: She's ok. I mean, I like her enough. I'm not crazy about her.
Guard 4: So why do you keep calling her.
Guard 2: To hang out.
Guard 1: But only when you don't have a better offer.
Guard 2: I'm not talking to you guys about this anymore.

If I wrote that dialogue, the whole scene, and that fairly easy to figure out situation into a novel, how many people would tell me, "That's not believable"?

We--society--have this preconceived idea, a stereotype of young men, especially college boys, being out for one thing. Yes, many are in relationships (defined as boyfriend-girlfriend), and even those, we assume are in them for sex.

Maybe those are only the ones we see and hear about because they're the loudest. Those are the one young women are exposed to because they're making the effort and playing the odds. Hit on enough women and eventually you'll find one to have sex with. The impression, reinforced by movies, television, and even books, is that all 20-something men are these hormone driven lust machines, but every now and then, the rare exception is out there--a nice guy who wants to meet a nice girl (not that being nice precludes sex).

(From IMDB)

Today I saw three of those nice guys. Not only did this discussion show that those guys are out there, but that they recognize and don't approve of the horn-dog behavior of that stereotypical guy! In this case, 3-to-1, favor nice guys.

That observation, that these young men were trying to convince this other man that he wasn't being fair to some girl, raised some questions for me.

1.  Do the stereotype and perception that all 20-something men are like this exist because these guys are the loud, visible ones we're most exposed to when we socialize as 20-somethings?

2.  Why do women, like the one at the heart of this discussion, put up with this behavior? Low self-esteem? Some misguided belief that we can change them? Fascination with the "bad-boy"?

3.  Why do young men (and not-so-young, too!) dread being labeled "nice"? One of my exes, who really was/is a very nice guy, cringed at that term. Said it was "the kiss of death" for a guy. Is that a guy thing, or have women created that negative connotation be picking the bad-boy over the nice guy so often?

All questions to ponder. Anyone out there have thoughts on this?



  1. When the "free love" movement started in the 1960's they neglected one important, crucial difference between men and women. A man can engage in intimacy with a woman he feels absolutely nothing about. That is not true of a woman; in almost every case, physically intimacy brings about feelings of love. So, getting back to your question in #2, "Why do women, like the one at the heart of this discussion, put up with this behavior?" They have been trained to put up with it by the free love movement, i.e. they have been groomed into giving it away with no expectation of marriage. And regarding #3, "Why do young men (and not-so-young, too!) dread being labeled "nice"?" It's not that they cringe at being called nice, they don't want to be thought of as suckers.

  2. Thanks for weighing in on this, Sophie!