A while back I wrote in irritation about a movie convention wherein the woman leaves the nice, safe (booooring) guy in favor of the character that has been a jerk throughout most of the movie only to see a little glimmer behind that rough exterior which makes him more authentic and virtuous than the man that’s been acting like a good man throughout.

Brandon Berg made the following comment:

I’d argue that the opposite trope—the one where the sensitive new-age beta wins out over the jerky alpha—is equally harmful, because it provides a terrible role model for boys who are confused and trying to figure out how to succeed romantically.

To the extent that one believes that being sensitive is a relationship liability, I would say that the bigger culprit in this are the words of women themselves when they say that all they want is someone nice. I say this but (a) reject the notion that sensitivity is in itself a liability and (b) believe that that any statement that begins in “all I want” in reference to a romantic partner is incomplete at best.

That being said, this reminded me of an area where I think that movies and television do have a detrimental effect on teaching young males the way of the romantic world. One of those things is that being a nice guy and a good friend is (or ought to be) enough for the girl of your dreams to fall for you. But that’s a pretty minor one. The bigger problem is he portrayal of persistence as being a positive attribute.

It’s not an uncommon thing to see in film a young woman won over by the sheer persistence of a young man’s pursuits. Nor is it uncommon for you to see a character harboring an unannounced affection for someone of the opposite sex over a long period of time that (a) remains unnoticed and (b) once a chance is taken, it pays off something big because it turns out that she feels the same way that he does.

In my life I have seen or heard of such things happening. Well, one case. Maybe two depending how you count it. One ended happily. The other did not. At all. But since they did actually date, I guess it counts. But by and large, the notion of persistence as a virtue and of discretion as concealment of feelings are the stuff that restraining orders are made of. The only times that I have really seen a guy keep a wrap on his intense feeling for a girl are when she doesn’t notice his feelings because she barely notices his existence (or the existence of his sexuality). It usually comes across more as a heterosexual variation of this, where the secret-keeper is the last to know that it isn’t really a secret anymore.

But the bigger thing is persistence. I can think of maybe a handful of good things that have ever come from romantic persistence in the fact of rejection or being ignored. In my romantic life, 3/4 of every problem I’ve ever had can be related to persistence. Persistence that kept me interested long after a more rational man would have flamed out. Persistence that made me come across as creepy when I was mostly clueless. Costing me not only the lost cause that was the object of my effections, but of any sort of romantic interest of anybody noticing what the heck I am doing because it would be so impossible notice me without noticing the black hole of patheticism surrounding me.

And this is all from the male perspective! From the female perspective it is arguably worse. At least I can look back and say that I had the opportunity if not the ability to quash my interest. Young women are stuck dealing with these guys bent on the idea that if they just try hard enough and keep coming at her that eventually she will buckle down. They are stuck with the guy that wistfully sighs so audibly loud in her presence that the Archangel Michael’s cat in heaven could hear him, simultaneously being assigned some responsibility for his heartache without having the ability to even confront it. Howeverasmuch I was the prisoner of my delusions, that remains being better than the prisoner of someone else’s delusions.

So I hereby resolve to have every instance of persistence in my writing end up in misery for everybody so as not to convince anybody who reads, watches, or listens to my rhetoric that persistence is ever a good idea.

Category: Coffeehouse

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6 Responses to The Delusion of Persistence

  1. Peter says:

    Good points as to the trouble associated with persistence. I’ll have to add, however, that women (unintentionally) encourage persistence on the part of men by their habit of LJBF’ing undesirable men rather than just dumping them outright.

  2. trumwill says:

    I blamed the women for the longest time on this matter. If they’d been more forthright (and I understand why they weren’t) I could have moved on more quickly. But without the suggestions by popular media that persistence helps you win the girl, I probably wouldn’t have been as persistent. There are some things – small things – that we lean on for hope no matter how large the writing on the wall is.

  3. Brandon Berg says:

    I’m not saying that it’s a liability, necessarily; only that it’s not necessary, and certainly not sufficient. Maybe not even helpful, although that’s debatable.

  4. Sheila Tone says:

    Very good observation, Will. Even some “players” talk about the importance of gauging a woman’s interest level before making a move.

    My take on it is, behavior — good or bad — is not very important to whether a person is romantically interested in another person. This applies equally to genders and orientations. People overfocus on the importance of small interactions both for acceptance and rejection. One’s appearance, popularity, success, money, and circumstances matter much more. Only when you’ve cleared that bar does interaction become a factor.

    As for Peter, he’s a great example of why women *don’t* brush guys off quicker — the guy gets angry and judgmental.

  5. Sheila Tone says:

    P.S. I think the whole “He’s just not that into you” thing is a way of sugarcoating the concept of not clearing the bar so that women can take it.

  6. Peter says:

    As for Peter, he’s a great example of why women *don’t* brush guys off quicker — the guy gets angry and judgmental.

    Looking back on my dating days, I bore no anger toward the women who had dumped my outright. Some dismay at the time, especially when I hadn’t seen anything coming, but I got over it quickly enough.

    On the other hand, the women I *do* resent to this day, years later, are the ones who LJBF’ed me. I now see what they did as being cruel even if done with good intentions. In two cases, I spent several months hanging around them and trying to win them over, in other words not realizing that an LJBF’ing is forever. That was time I could have spent looking for other women, time that instead was lost and can never be recovered. The third woman, to her credit, was more perceptive than the others, and after a few months told me very explicitly that I’d never be anything but a friend no matter how had I tried.

    Yes, I know, it was partly my fault for being too clueless to realize that LJBF’ings are forever. To some extent it was wishful thinking, as back then I was never having much luck with women and would grasp at straws, so to speak. But there’s no getting around the fact that I was clueless, and thanks to that lost precious, irrecoverable time.

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