As mentioned before, I’m reading Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, a collected of essays regarding pop culture from a Gen-X perspective. In his first (awesome) essay, This Is Emo, he mentions how he was able to translate a Woody Allen schtick into romantic success.

It got me thinking of something I’d been meaning to write about since I told Barry that I would a long while back. I can’t entirely remember what he had to do with it, but in my drafts is a note to myself to write about “Need a hook — for Barry.”

When I was coming into high school, I asked my older brother Oliver what the secret to girls was. My brother Mitch and I had never had a whole lot of success. Mitch had been able to muster up girls for dances, but he seemed to be stuck in the role as that sweet guy that girls got to know and like but didn’t seem to date. Maybe he just never actually asked them out. Ollie, on the other hand, always had a girlfriend from about the tenth grade on.

When I asked Ollie the question, he sort of shrugged it off. It was as though I had asked him how to drink water. You just put it in your mouth and swallow. You just ask the girl and if she says yes then you’re good to go. Presumably he was aware that they could say no, but I don’t think that they ever did. I told him about my difficulties getting to know girls to ask out and he said that they always just kind of hung around him. “The answer to your question,” he said, “is to be really good at basketball.”

It was a frustrating answer, but in its own way it was one of the most stunningly accurate answers I ever got. Be good at basketball. He was good at basketball. Girls befriended him. He asked girls out and they said yes. Mitch and I were both actually good at basketball in our own right, but not in the stand-out way that he was. Had he not stopped growing at 5’10”, he could have played at the college level.

Of course, the secret to success isn’t to be good at basketball. A lot of guys who aren’t good at basketball get girlfriends. But the grand truth behind Ollie’s answer is that the secret is to have something that makes you remarkable. He was a jock. Then, in college, he was a former jock. So he had the kinds of girlfriends that hung out with former jocks.

One of the reasons that fuels the whole notion that Nice Guys Finish Last in love is that a lot of guys that identify as Nice do so because they haven’t much else to rely on. They’re not former jocks or writers or musicians… they’re nice. Often too passive to aggressively declare a personality. Sometimes so eager to fit in they wear an identity that doesn’t fit them. At all.

That’s not to say that they are actually dull people. Sometimes they are quite interesting to certain groups of people. But they are interesting in ways that that are utterly unappealing to girls. I know one guy that I can talk about computers with forever and I think he’s a great guy and would make a great boyfriend… but I have no idea what he would talk about to a girl unless she was also into computers. There’s a scarcity of supply to meet that demand.

Anyway, contributing to the whole notion of “girls like bad boys” is that bad boys quite frequently have a hook. An angle. An identity. So while the actual number of girls interested in that sort of thing actually may be somewhat limited, they’re easy to identify. There are a lot of girls that Ollie could have asked out in high school who probably would have said “no”… but those weren’t the girls that generally hung around him.

One of the bigger mistakes that I made when I was younger was not to do a better job of forming a solid external identity. You could say that I wanted to be all things to all people, but it was more a case of not wanting to be the wrong person for the wrong people. So in some ways I came across as a rather bland fellow. I suppose I still do, but it doesn’t matter anymore because I’m married.

The points at which I had the most success were those in which I was able to play on my home field. Not simply “be myself”, but to play to (and accentuate) my strengths.

When I met Clancy, she had read portions of the blog that I was writing at the time. A blog not too much unlike this one, actually. The most conventionally attractive women that I was ever with (the one that was the most “out of my league”) was attracted to the fact that I was a prolific (if unpublished) writer. Despite all of this, I was always relatively slow to mention the fact that I wrote and even slow to draw attention to the articulate and intelligent aspects of my personality because I felt that both were unhelpful.

And to a lot of people, of course, they were. Willie (and no doubt others) came to the conclusion that I was a pseudo-egghead who was preoccupied with sounding smart. And coming across as anything but down-to-earth has liabilities with a substantial portion of the female population and so my creativity was its own liability.

What I failed to truly appreciate was that these things were liabilities to the wrong people. They were people that I needed to write off in search for right people. I was so scared to death of writing people off that I failed to attract people that would have been interested in the me that it’s most easy for me to be.

It all harkens back to my post a little while back about Drake Mathers and Kenny Chesney. There is a lot to be said for knowing your market. Not only what your market is, but also what it isn’t.

Of course, you have to be careful that your market is some number greater than zero. This is not about “being yourself” or any of that feel-good claptrap. If who you are is somebody that does not cultivate any desire from anybody, you need to change who you are. If your interests are utterly mundane and of no interest to most women, it would help to get some new interests. For one thing, it’s one of the easiest ways to meet people. For another, it helps to have something to put under “interests” that doesn’t repel female-types.

But I think that you have to find something that you are genuinely interested in doing or genuinely good at.The answer for Ollie was basketball in high school. That isn’t the right answer for 99% of most guys. For me it might have been the school paper or {gasp} honors classes. I was somewhat fortunate in that the guy that I naturally became without even thinking about it (a heady-in-cloudy geek with enough social skills so as to avoid embarrassing anybody when meeting friends and family) had its own market. It wasn’t a big market, mind you, but in the end it only takes one.

This post didn’t exactly turn out like I had imagined. I don’t think I even got around to the part that involved Barry (whatever that part was). And it didn’t have quite as tight a central thesis as I might have liked. But such is life, and inexplicably being laid back and patient is one of my hooks.

Category: Coffeehouse

About the Author

10 Responses to Be Good At Basketball

  1. Linus says:

    Uhm, does this post have anything to do with Basketball? Think this is an accidental re-post.

  2. trumwill says:

    Woops. Thanks for the heads up. Corrected now.

    Coincidentally, the actual post itself really doesn’t have much to do with basketball. Had you not added that second sentence there, I would have assumed that you just missed the point. 🙂

  3. logtar says:

    You are and continue to be one of the most interesting people I read. I really look forward to the time when we will actually get a chance to cross paths and have interesting conversations.

    This topic is interesting because it also shines a light into how some of those skills just come naturally to some. Your brother was obviously not trained to use his skill as a means to woman… it really makes me want to post about nature vs nurture, not in this angle in particular, but it does lend itself to a lot of questions.

    Was your brother naturally talented with woman, or just have good genes in the speed department and his talent for basketball make him a more desirable candidate or was it just something in him that made him try harder and get better and then other things just fell into place for him?

  4. trumwill says:

    It’s a shame that we didn’t meet up when you were in Estacado. We’ll definitely have to remedy that.

    Oliver is an affable introvert. He wasn’t all that charismatic, but at least had the ability (and social skill) to avoid putting people off. Another significant factor is that he had a social confidence that I lack and Mitch didn’t get until college. When you’re used to being liked, being rejected by a girl doesn’t take on the same meaning as it does for others. So he could be more fearless and confidently make more mistakes to learn from.

    So liked and relatively popular was he that it didn’t become clear that he even was an introvert until later in life. Since he was (the only of the three of us that was) not biologically a Truman, the nature/nurture angle takes on a new angle.

  5. Kirk says:

    I have to wonder if there is a female equivalent to this post. And for that matter, is there a female equivalent to the alpha/beta thing?

  6. Peter says:

    I have to wonder if there is a female equivalent to this post. And for that matter, is there a female equivalent to the alpha/beta thing?

    According to the Conventional Wisdom of the Blogosphere, looks are the only thing that matters for women, and therefore the 1 – 10 scale is the equivalent to the Alpha/Beta classification. In real life, things are more complicated; some women have much more dominant, take-charge – Alpha – personalities than others, and certainly that has to count for something.

  7. Kirk says:

    Pete wrote:

    “According to the Conventional Wisdom of the Blogosphere, looks are the only thing that matters for women, and therefore the 1 – 10 scale is the equivalent to the Alpha/Beta classification. In real life, things are more complicated; some women have much more dominant, take-charge – Alpha – personalities than others, and certainly that has to count for something.”

    Yeah, but I’m betting there are other components we’re not aware of. For example, did some good-looking women fail with men for years due to their personalities? (Example: “Although I was attractive, I didn’t start getting dates with guys until my junior year, when I distanced myself from my older brother’s neo-nazi grunge band.”) Did some average-looking women succeed due to adopting some habit or other? (“Who knew that I could get dates by following college football rather than womens’ golf?”)

    Although I once lucked into a rich vein of linked women’s blogs, they were all about fashion. The chicks posting were mostly hot, but I got tired of reading about clothes.

  8. trumwill says:

    I would imagine that there is equivalent advice for young women hoping to attract a (quality) guy (for more than a sexual fling). In some ways the topics in this post are even more important because with guys you have to balance developing a compelling personality with learning how to approach women (on which, alas, I have little useful advice for any sons I might have). With women, it’s much more about being noticed and being sufficiently enticing to the right guys (without enticing the wrong guys).

    If I have a daughter that has trouble with boys, one thing I might recommend is some geeky things. Then again, if that’ll help along her success with boys, I may make absolute sure that she does absolutely nothing of the kind :).

  9. Linus says:

    To me, the key to all of this is:

    Be yourself. If you aren’t happy with your social situation, expose yourself (not talking nudity here) to other types of people and keep hanging out with those that interest you. There is no one thing you need, but a good understanding of who you are and what really, truly interests you is always a good start. When it comes to your interactions with other people, practice makes perfect. Don’t try to hard, but you also have to be willing to make some mistakes to improve.

    To me, all of the above is gender-agnostic.

  10. Barry says:

    I suppose you were talking about me, being the genesis of this post? If so, I don’t remember what it was supposed to be about either 🙂

    I think it’s an important observation I’ve made that, on a macro level, there is a girl out there for every guy, and a guy for every girl. Not just for dating or hooking up or hanging out with, but forever. For every guy who loves D&D and ethernet mechanics and warp drive theory and every other esoteric interest, somewhere there is a girl that enjoys those things and likes men who enjoy those things. Same with a girl that likes poetry or interior design or hiking in the mountains or horseback riding or whatever, there is a guy that will share those interests and is attracted to women with those interests.

    What makes it difficult to teach that is that it’s a long-term prospect. I didn’t meet my wife until I was a 2nd-year senior in college. She liked D&D, watched Star Trek with me, loved theatre like I did. I enjoyed the things she liked and was attracted to them. We got married and are still together 17 years later. But from my 7th grade through 1st senior year in college, my dating life was extremely frustrating from a self-respect standpoint. If Future-Barry could have gone back in time and told Past-Barry not to sweat it so much, to not be so uptight and picky and be so frustrated that every girl he crushed on had little to no interest, those years might not have been so tough.

    But Future-Barry hasn’t been invented yet (although who knows?) so Past-Barry remains confused and betrayed by doing the things he thought was right and still being rejected.

    So there is little way to prove to the younger people that, with patience and perseverance and not giving up, good things will likely come your way. Eventually. Someday. Just not today.

    Man, I need to start writing in my blog again….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

If you are interested in subscribing to new post notifications,
please enter your email address on this page.