Dear Elliot (and Ben),
I’ve addressed this letter to both of us, lest the thought ever crosses my mind (or any other reader’s) that I’m such a great guy because, hey, I didn’t go on a shooting spree and kill innocent people because I was upset about girls. You’ve effectively lowered the bar for a “good guy,” at least in the minds of those of us who want to think about ourselves as “good guys.”
Before we start: a little bit about me. I’m twenty-five, and I am also a virgin. I have also never kissed a girl, or held one’s hand. I’ve never had a girl ask me out, or taken a girl to a dance in school, or had a girl send me a Valentine. In my life I’ve gone on two slightly awkward dates. There’s a lot going on in your video, so I can’t address everything. Here are a few thoughts for you.
I know your pain. We’ve all grown up being told that relationships are in our future. We’ve been told, over and over, by our parents, friends, mentors, and the media, that we should expect relationships, that they’re owed to us. This is not true. We are not owed anything. We are not promised anything. It’s just not the way the world works.
We’ve been lied to. I don’t think they were malicious lies – the people who love us are confident that we will find a fulfilling relationship, and so they tell us so. Unfortunately, as we’ve both discovered, that confidence is often misplaced. The real test of your character is not whether you feel entitled to the relationship you want, but how you respond when you realize that your entitlement does not match up with reality.
Elliot, I don’t know you, so I have no idea if you ever really, truly grasped that you were not entitled to love or sex. But I suspect you did, that the thought had at least occurred to you, even if you dismissed it. I believe this because I think fear is more powerful (and painful) than anger. Anger plus fear – fear of never having something you desperately want, something you think you can’t survive without — is more likely to cause us to lash out than anger alone.
Your anger and fear caused you to lash out against others. My anger and fear has caused me to lash out against myself. I wish I had your confidence, Elliot. You’ve obviously got a little bit of swagger. I have no swagger, and I grew up hating myself for it. My response was less wrong than yours. But neither response – turning anger and fear into violence against others or violence against yourself – is the right course of action.
I know the pain of rejection, of being ignored, of being convinced that you’re going to be rejected, whether or not you even try. I know what it’s like to have passionate feelings for someone who will never feel the same way about you. The feeling of weakness, of emasculation, of being powerless, of having your emotions dictated by someone who might not even know you exist – that’s the kind of pain that drove me into the depression that nearly destroyed my life.
The pain is real. But so is recovery. That’s the world I live in now. It’s not fun, but it gets better. It could have gotten better for you.
Quite frankly, Elliot, a lot of the things you say about girls have crossed my mind, as well. As I said above, I’d like to think of myself as a “good guy.” I browse through Facebook all the time and judge the guys I see girls with. Despite my lack of swagger, I still think women are blind to my amazing qualities. For me, the scariest part of your video is how easily I can identify with parts of your thought process.
But here’s the thing. You still have a lot to learn. I’m only three years older than you, so I can’t claim to have that much more wisdom. There’s a lot going in your head and your heart, and there’s a lot to address. I’m sure other people with address some of the other subjects you bring up. So let me just suggest that you consider this.
When it comes to relationships, no one is ever just a victim. There are amazing women on your campus, hundreds of them, who feel the exact same way you do. And you know what? Most of them are probably fixated on those “slobs” in the same way you’re fixated on those hot blondes. But there are probably some of them who would have been interested in you, who would have given you the affection you wanted, the sex you wanted, the love you wanted. But if they had asked, you would have said no.
I’m not saying this because I’m assuming you’re a stuck-up asshole. I’m saying it because that’s just the way relationships work. There is no “should” when it comes to attraction; human attraction doesn’t follow any kind of logical rules. Whatever you’ve been raised to believe, there is no such thing as “fair” when it comes to relationships.
Those two awkward dates I mentioned above? There were never any more was because I never asked that girl out again. It was my decision. Did that girl deserve better? I can’t say. Not because she wasn’t a great person – she was friendly and fun and warmhearted and pretty damn cute. But I can’t say whether she “deserved” another chance because the language of “deserving” is totally wrong for talking about relationships. You know that phrase, “the heart wants what the heart wants”? I absolutely hate it, for two reasons: first, because it’s such a cliché; and second, because it’s true. I hate the fact that romance does not follow logical rules. But that’s the way it works.
Part of the reason why I’ve never held a girl’s hand, or kissed her, or (oh god) brushed her hair back behind her ear? Me. I have desires; I have standards. For example, I will never ask a quiet girl out on a date. It doesn’t matter how physically attractive she is, or how much we have in common, or how deep or kind or compassionate or funny she is. It doesn’t matter how attracted she is to me. That’s a standard I have that I won’t give up. Is it fair? There’s no answer to that question. It just is.
The world we actually live in is not the same world you and I were raised to believe we were going to grow up into. It doesn’t work the way we want it to. It’s up to us to come to terms with that.
It’s easier to always be the victim. But you aren’t always the victim and neither am I. Admitting that doesn’t make the pain go away. But it does teach us to act like adults, to extend the same empathy toward women that we extend toward ourselves.
Unfortunately, you will never read this letter, and neither will a younger me, who could have been spared a lot of pain and wasted time. But maybe another guy will.
Grace, truth, and peace,