We live in a society that continuously romanticizes the idea of a brooding asshole who secretly possesses an inner kindness or a hidden heart of gold. Like under that gross attitude and propensity to belittle everyone, there’s actually, like, this really cool guy who just, you know, has feelings and stuff.
It’s an idea that insists that these people are merely waiting for the right person to bring out the best in them, Disney movie style. That they just need you to show the world, and themselves, how truly kind and compassionate they are -despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s a dangerous trope that leads people (specifically women) into believing that someone who is completely shitty to them is in fact redeemable and worthwhile if they are merely willing to dig deep enough and wait long enough. After all, if a boy likes you, he’s mean to you, right?
It’s a recurrent theme in books and movies; think Edward Cullen or Christian Gray (ha, just kidding, everyone knows they are the same character); Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights certainly comes to mind, as well (that man was a hot-mess from start to finish). I think many of us have dated that person – the quiet, contemplative, often moody jerkoff who is hard to predict- and convinced ourselves that underneath all those layers of angst and melancholy is a glittering gem of a human being. They are not overtly unkind, per se, but they aren’t precisely caring, either. They operate on the fringes of what we really want, dwelling in the world of possibility based solely on their inability to act one way or the other. Basically it’s Schrödinger’s Cat, but with a douchebag of a human being.
They’re like this weird blank canvas that we project all our teenage fantasies on or something, forgetting in the process that fully developed adults should have the ability to manage their own shit and shouldn’t need another person to come along and sort it all out for them. Forgetting that adults should have the capacity and desire to be generally decent to people without needing someone else to prompt them. Nobody is perfect, but well adjusted, worthwhile individuals are at least able to entertain the idea of ‘hey, maybe I have some faults and I should probably work on them because it’s not someone else’s job to fix me.’ Or, you know, something similar with less words.
This pervasive idea tells us to ignore the reasons behind why these people are typically loners who mistreat those around them. When someone has no friends at the age of twenty-five we’re probably past the point where we can write it off as schoolyard bullying. They are just misunderstood, right? They just need someone to take the time to get to know them, right?!. Someone willing to pull back the layers of their Shrek-like onion and reveal their… inner onion? An onion is an onion my friend.
We convince ourselves, with the help of popular culture, that they are truly worth our time. That the face they present to the world is not who they really are, that we see something that no one else can. That we are special, and that by putting up with their bullshit we are being selfless, that we are committing some socially required sacrifice on the bloody alter of ‘this will turn them into a better person!!!!’ While simultaneously believing we should be eternally lauded for our wonderful and self-sacrificing nature; sure he forgets my birthday, never calls me back and belittles me in front of my friends, but he’s actually a really great person…somewhere in there. So we cling to this unsupported belief that one day they will wake up and appreciate how much of their crap we constantly had to put up with. Aren’t we just so giving and altruistic? APPRECIATE MEEEEE.
It took me a long time to understand that an absence of blatant nastiness is not proof of hidden kindness. We so often forget that inaction and indifference can be much worse than anger or sadness or frustration. Just because someone has not been overtly cruel to us not mean they possess the ability to be kind. In simpler terms; if someone talks like an asshole, acts like an asshole, and basically claims to be an asshole… they are probably an asshole. Thus, they are not worth your time.