Why Is It So Hard to Like Nice Guys?


After getting over a series of one-sided relationships, Susan Sontag reminisces in a diary entry from 1968: “I always fell for the bullies—thinking: if they don’t find me so hot they must be great. Their rejection of me showed their superior qualities, their good taste.” She expands later on: “Of course, I don’t love myself. (If I ever did!) How can I, when the one person I ever trusted has rejected me—the person I made the arbiter, + the creator of my lovableness. I feel profoundly alone, cut off, unattractive—as I never did before. (How cocky + superficial I was!) I feel unlovable. But I respect that unlovable soldier—struggling to survive, struggling to be honest, just honorable. I respect myself. I’ll never fall for the bullies again.”

I never identify with people like Sontag who say they don’t love themselves. I love the way my nose turns up a bit at the end, my weirdly bent back that makes my arse stick out like a shelving unit, and I think I’m smart and funny and blah, blah, blah. I just wonder why no one else can see my loveliness. But that’s not love, is it? Because if I need someone else to prove it then I can’t truly think it. That’s why I’m attracted to men who aren’t interested in me, because then it’s like I’ve proved myself deserving, I can love myself for the love I inspire in them. I don’t know when this loss of my sense of self-worth started. Maybe boys at school calling me “Annie Red Face.” Maybe a therapist would say it was my parents (because everything seems to be about that). Or, maybe, as with Sontag, it is to do with the ending of my relationship, of having the person I thought loved me the most leave, the one I relied on for my self-esteem. 

I had another date planned on Sunday but I bailed on it, because his WhatsApp picture is him sat behind a plate of sushi, which made me think, Why, as a man, are you getting your friends to take pictures of you at dinner? But also, because I think I need to work on liking myself before I’ll ever accept someone who likes me. I spend the time I would have spent asking him how many siblings he has, hearing about the annoying flatmate who always leaves half-empty mayo bottles in the fridge, on my own at the Natural History Museum. I walk past the ginormous whale skeleton, through the rooms filled with stuffed animals, up through the red-hot planet where there’s all the stuff about volcanos. Apparently when volcanos explode, the ash they give out burns down everything in its path, destroying crops, buildings, roads. But as the ash breaks up, it creates a material that is excellent at bonding with organic matter, creating nutrient-rich soil. This soil is also low-density, porous, and good at storing water, making it ideal for growing crops. I wonder if I could be like one of those plants, growing from the wreckage of something that fell apart.

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