Monday, December 18, 2006


A friend's recent male-related troubles have given me pause and gotten me reflecting on my own recent issues.

Boy I Was Dating Last Year has recently started IMing me again. He did this once before but it quickly became apparent he was seeking sex, so I excused myself from the conversation and made it clear I had no interest in such advances. Recently he says he'd like to be friends, and he's not looking for anything more.

For some inexplicable reason, I want to try to be friends with him if I can. I don't really know why... looking back on our "relationship" I actually think I don't like him too very much anyway. He's vaguely sexist (as most men are -- no offense guys, but you just are. Those of you who at least try to work on it get minor kudos). He's lazy. He has a weird laugh. He's a little deluded/full of himself (which, in fairness, you kind of have to be if you're a struggling "actor"). And on more than one occasion while we were dating, he disrespected my religious beliefs. Frankly, I should have dumped him long before I did. But, I guess we all do stupid things when we're dating. I imagine my desire to be friends with him stems from the fact that it's a challenge. The closest I've come to being friends with an "ex" is being vaguely friendly with a guy I went on about two or three dates with in law school. So it very well could be that I just want to prove to myself that I Can Do It. But I can't help but begin to think that this guy might be the wrong one to attempt this with.

Anyway, I agreed that this weekend we could meet for coffee. He suggested watching the football game together (he remembered my favorite team... this worries me). I said no, we would stick with coffee.

I asked if he still had my number and he said he didn't. Another red flag... it means either he was hurt when we broke up (which leads to a complicated post-relationship-friendship), or he's lying (which is bad for obvious reasons).

The hattrick? As he was signing off of IM, he said "bye bye sugar pie." I quickly responded with a "???" and rather than answer, he signed off.

Ohhhh, this was not a good idea.

He called yesterday afternoon while I was in an exhausted stupor from throwing a party the night before and cleaning up afterwards, which is no simple task. I was awake enough to answer the phone, but I knew it was him and opted not to. He, quick on his feet, left a message saying he could no longer do coffee that day because he had suddenly gotten busy, but I should call him back if I wanted to meet up with him before I left for Christmas vacation.

All signs point to "don't speak to him again." I don't want to be a bitch, but... I don't want to be an idiot, either. It's obvious he doesn't want to be my friend. Frankly, I'm not sure if I want to be his, either. But I know I definitely don't want to be anything else to him.

Sigh... I really really wish girls weren't socialized to be so damn nice. If we weren't, this really would not be a difficult situation for me At All.

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At December 18, 2006 at 5:31 PM, Blogger Andy said...

I would offer advice, but as I'm 32 and single, clearly I have no fucking idea what I'm doing.

At December 18, 2006 at 9:12 PM, Anonymous prairielily said...

If you don't want to talk to him, don't talk to him. If he brings it up with you, say you were busy that week and then forgot.

It doesn't sound like you run in the same cirles anyway, and if you're not sure you want to be friends with him, it's going to be tooth-grinding agony having lunch or coffee with him once in a while. Everything about him will start pissing you off more because you don't even want to be there, right?

It's up to you, of course.

That was all advice from the prairielily school of passively avoiding people.

At December 19, 2006 at 6:49 AM, Blogger Michele said...

Eh, I wouldn't bother talking to or seeing him. It doesn't sound like you would get anything out of being friends with him and it's always exauhsting to be in friendships where there is no reward or enjoyment. Stick with being friends with people that make it easy to be around them - you shouldn't have to think that hard!

At December 19, 2006 at 8:34 AM, Blogger T said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At December 19, 2006 at 8:36 AM, Blogger T said...

Maybe I'm just crabby, but I wanted to respond to two comments of yours.

Whether most men are vaguely sexist? I don't know whether I have a problem with that because of the effort I make to not be sexist, or just that you spend time with a different group of men than I do. It's entirely possible that you have a better persepective than I do, but I think that statement is over inclusive.

As to how women are 'socialized to be so damn nice' - I think you are going a little far in blaming the patriarchy on that one. It may very well be true that women are generally socialized to be nice, but as an individual who is aware of that socialization, I feel that you only really have two legitimate choices:

1) Accept that you are a generally nice person who tries to get along with others, rather than creating or exacerbating confrontation, and 'own' that method of interpersonal interaction; or

2) Decide that you don't want to put up with any more bs, and don't. Speak up strongly when you feel that someone is disrespecting you, taking advantage of you, ignoring you or whatever.

You aren't a robot - you are an autonomous person who has a choice about whether you want to be 'so damn nice' or not. Nothing and no one is forcing you to be nice to this ex-bf - *you* are choosing to be nice, or not to be.

Blaming the socialization of women for your inability to tell this guy to fuck off is a cop out. And I think it sets a poor example for others.

You are in effect saying, "You can go to law school, you can suceed beyond what most people in this world could even aspire to, and yet because of the oppressive socialization of women, you are doomed to be plagued by assholes, due to your inability to not be 'nice.'"

And I think that's bullshit. Personally, I'm surrounded by female lawyers, law firm partners, law enforcement agents, judges, negotiators and arbitrators. And none of them could be described as 'so damn nice' - nor would they accept that label if/when society tried to impose it on them.

Either be 'so damn nice' and accept it, or choose another path.

At December 19, 2006 at 10:10 AM, Blogger The Law Fairy said...

Andy, that makes two of us. Except that I'm not quite 32 yet ;)

prairie, hehehe. Right now I'm sticking with not doing anything... I just don't know how to respond if/when he IMs me again. I suppose the passive-aggressive thing to do would be to ignore him ;)

michele, exactly. Why add a friendship I'm not going to get much out of? Seems like a waste of energy.

t, sorry I offended you... interestingly, I was having a crabby day yesterday and I didn't really even know why. I hope you feel better having gotten that off your chest, I know that venting often helps me when I'm in a bad mood.

I didn't mean the "vaguely sexist" remark personally against anyone, and I didn't even mean it to malign men in general. My views on sexism are, I think, pretty far from "the norm." Essentially, since we're all raised in a sexist society, we're pretty much ALL a little sexist. So I guess I should have put in the post that most women are, too. If I can analogize to racism, I have in the past described myself as a "recovering racist." That's the best any of us can be because of how we are socialized. Saying you're sexist or I'm sexist or my grandmother is sexist doesn't mean any of us is a bad person. It means we're raised in a society that has given us some problematic characteristics, and it's now our responsibility to work on them. People who try to do this get minor kudos, as I said. People who actively try to make a difference in the world get the major kudos. Fair enough?

As to your point about me not overcoming, now you're being unfair. I never said in the post that I was planning to see him or talk to him. In fact, if you re-read it you'll see I was leaning toward not speaking with him again. I've done this with men before and I know I'm strong enough to do it again. That doesn't change the fact that it's hard. And the fact that it's hard for me doesn't make me a bad or weak person. I'm just irritated that it is made difficult for me because of how I'm socialized. Does that make sense? I'm not making excuses for myself, I'm just using my blog, as I often do, as an outlet for the irritation and difficulty I feel in making smart decisions.

So it's not fair of you to accuse me of using socialization as a cop-out, when in fact I am not doing this at all. I am discussing the fact that my socialization makes it harder for me to make the right decision. This makes me neither a hypocrite nor a wuss. It makes me human.

At December 19, 2006 at 3:08 PM, Blogger T said...

Fair enough - I understand better what you are saying. Thanks for understanding about the venting, and I wasn't offended...


At December 19, 2006 at 3:53 PM, Anonymous roonie said...

Be a bitch, be a bitch, be a bitch. You know, this whole drama with Boy last week really showed me that I ought to stick up for myself more often. When I told the girls at my book club that I was going to pick him up from the airport after all of this, they were APPALLED. And I realized - from the outside looking in, this situation must look RIDICULOUS. Why couldn't I see that, too? So, pretend you aren't Law Fairy, but Roonie. What would Roonie think of this nonsense? What would your best friend tell you to do? What would YOU tell YOUR BEST FRIEND to do? Do that. Because that's the gut reaction, overriding the girly tendency to give in and be nice. And we ought to listen to our guts - and not our hearts - more often.

At December 19, 2006 at 4:47 PM, Blogger The Law Fairy said...

t, I'm glad you weren't offended. Yay, everybody's happy!

roonie, I'm thinking that'll be the plan. Of course, "being a bitch" now consists of doing nothing. As much as I would like to get irritated with him to his face, that would involve letting him talk to me... and that would mean being nice ;)

But, eh. It's not very mature of me to want a confrontation, I guess. Even though confrontations can be so damn FUN.

At December 19, 2006 at 4:49 PM, Blogger The Law Fairy said...

oh, and you're SO RIGHT about listening to our guts. I learned that lesson the hard way a long time ago, and yet my good sense always seems to quiet down when my wimpy girliness is loudest :P

At December 19, 2006 at 10:44 PM, Blogger Richard said...

>>> "I really really wish girls weren't socialized to be so damn nice."

This struck me as a bit out of touch. A quick survey of the cultural landscape shows young women today are being socialized to be very aggressive, highly competitive, ruthless if need be, and ruggedly independent. Maybe your own circle of society is just not very broad, and you're not exposed to this, I don't know. But as you look around at the messages being sent women by society, "nice" is not being advocated a virtue.

At December 20, 2006 at 6:41 AM, Blogger The Law Fairy said...

Richard, I think you're taking too narrow a view of things. The fact that there exist role models for girls who are not "nice," does not change the fact that parents and teachers still indoctrinate girls with the notion that "nice girls don't interrupt," "nice girls mind their manners," "nice girls don't sleep around," etc., etc., etc., with the clear implication that nice is preferable (e.g., "boys marry nice girls").

I am not so old that I am that out of touch. As a man, you see the media exposure of certain select women. As a woman, I see the years of childrearing and indoctrination that precede any discussion of Paris or Britney.

Anyway, going out clubbing is not mutually exclusive with being "nice." Everyone knows that only a bitchy ice queen would go out clubbing but be ignore all the men at the club. Really, if she's going to get herself all dolled up like that, she ought to be nice and talk to people at least.

At December 20, 2006 at 7:22 AM, Blogger Drewcatt said...

LF, my own .02... burn his number and move on. If you two haven't figured out how to be friends after a year or so, it probably isn't going to happen.

In my own experience, the transition back to being friends requires an effort on both sides to begin anew. I'm not saying that isn't true here, but comments like sugar-pie aren't encouraging. Of course, I've been wrong before, and I'll be wrong again.... :D

On another note, this is what happens when yo over-generalize. Though I don't deny, for instance, that I'm probably sexist (it's not the worst thing you could say about me), but to say to say that every male is will only get you into trouble I think (as I think has been covered quite adequately before).

As for Richard, I would disagree somewhat there. I can't talk about any one else's cultural landscape, but I can talk about mine. I've seen women, and men, go both ways. Socialized either to be aggressive, independent and tough or to be otherwise. I've seen women groomed to do everything for themselves while shunning others, and women that have been raised to look for a husband as quickly as possible. In my own experience it goes both ways.

Further, you're making the assumption that nice and any of those other 'virtues' are incompatible. I don't think they are.

It would be somewhat odd if the urge to give someone you used to date a call back after they had indicated a willingness to get in touch with you (yeah, I should use short sentences :D), was entirely circumscribed because you happened to be raised to be independent, aggressive, or otherwise.

At December 20, 2006 at 7:36 AM, Blogger The Law Fairy said...

drew, agreed. Although I actually burned the number a while ago... I will see if I can figure out how to delete it from my "missed calls" :)

I'm not sure about the overgeneralizing point... overgeneralizing is done all the time, by pretty much everyone (now how's THAT for overgeneralizing?) ;) That is to say, I highly doubt there's anyone who doesn't dabble in it on occasion. Again, I think people here are taking umbrage because of the connotations of "sexist/sexism." While it's certainly not a GOOD thing to be, for the most part people can no more be blamed for it than for the fact that they feel tired when they've pulled an all-nighter. I don't say it to accuse and point fingers. I say it as a description. I don't want people to take offense at it, but I can't control what other people do or feel. And, again, I did correct myself somewhat and note that it's not just men, it's women too (men were simply the relevant gender in my post).

I forgot to mention a major factor in socialization in my response to Richard: peers. Even if a girl is raised to be strong, assertive, and confident, even if she's loud and vocal, her peers will shut her up pretty quick. How do I know this? From my own experience. I can remember being as young as 11 and having an entire room full of girls literally audibly groan when I started talking. I learned pretty damn quick that likable girls aren't argumentative. And for girls, likability is all that counts.

It's a tough socialization to overcome. Even when you overcome it in your outward life (by, say, becoming a lawyer), this doesn't negate any tendencies you have to still FEEL the guilt of being a loud, obnoxious, UNFEMININE girl.

Certainly, others can have different experiences... but one need not look far to see examples of women being admonished to be nice, or be quiet, or be polite, etc., etc., etc. Similarly, you don't have to look far to find someone blaming "those damn feminists" for turning women into "loud-mouthed bitches" (read: assertive, confident, independent women).

When I say "nice," to be clear, I'm not saying something overall positive... I'm talking about a characteristic with a fair amount of mealy-mouthedness to it. By "nice," I mean that women are taught to subjugate their own needs to the needs of others. And while self-sacrifice is noble, a life bereft of concern for one's own needs is not much of a life at all.

At December 20, 2006 at 9:29 AM, Blogger T said...

There are definately aspects of our society that are desperately trying to socialize women back into 1950's Stepford wives. There are teachers, and parents and the Concerned Women for America who are trying to do it as well.

If you want to find examples of a backlash against feminism and more outspoken, self confident women, you don't have to look far to find them. Especially not with the internet at your fingertips.

But there are even more examples of women who didn't agree with that, and refuse to be 'nice'. And there is no comparison to 50 years ago, where 'not nice' women weren't on tv, or in the movies, or in books, or in the newspapers - except as villains and victims.

Of course enough progess has not been made, and more progress needs to be made. But in a society where people like Angelina Jolie, Condalezza Rice (or Hilary Clinton, depending on your politics) and Pink (to pick three areas of media concentration) are worshipped and idealized - I think, and hope for my daughter's sake, that women and girls now have a choice between having to be nice, and choosing to do what they want.

As for your example re: peers, I faced the same reaction. And for teenage boys, most of them anyway, likability is all that matters as well. For both boys and girls, 'the nail that sticks up is hammered down.'

I refused to conform, my brother willingly did. I faced consequences that he did not - and at the very least, his peer group supplied mutual reassurance to each other (we can't be wrong/uncool/lame if we all do the same thing). At the end of the day, I wouldn't change a thing - except to tell my 13 year old self that I was doing the right thing for me, and in a few years, I was going to have more sex than any of the rest of my grade put together (I was 13, whaddya want? - that's what I was worried about, dying a virgin).

There are good examples, and bad examples out there of how society views women - and how it expects them to behave - at least part of the point I was trying to make earlier is that women and girls have a choice of role models. Not all their peers, the authority figures in their life or the media they see will tell them that they don't have to be 'nice' - but at least some of them will.

At December 20, 2006 at 9:58 AM, Blogger The Law Fairy said...

t, good points all around. I can only hope that things will continue to get better.

As for me, I took a middle ground. I kept talking, but I internalized the negative reactions I got. It's led to some unpleasantness in my personal life... but I'm still learning and growing. If I ever have children, I hope to instill enough confidence in them that they won't make that same mistake of internalizing the negativity.

Thanks also for the teen guys' perspective. In fairness, I suspect my uber-nerdiness would have made me an outcast of either gender :) Still, I do think we have a ways to go before outspokenness is seen as a "feminine" virtue (e.g., in law firm politics, where I've seen female associates actually yelled at for expressing dissent). But it's an uphill battle I intend to fight :)

At December 21, 2006 at 5:06 PM, Blogger Richard said...

>>> The Law Fairy wrote: "nice girls don't interrupt," "nice girls mind their manners," "nice girls don't sleep around," [ ... ]

Oh pullease. Your argument is so old fashioned. My sister, for instance, has two young boys and she's telling them all the while not to interrupt and to be polite. I got the same thing growing up. It's called manners, and both sexes are taught them if they're taught anything at all. I'm certain my sister will advise them too not to have dozens of sex partners when they're older. The days of raising submissive little wall-flower girls as the norm are over.

At December 23, 2006 at 1:40 PM, Blogger The Law Fairy said...

Richard, I'm sure you must know this from the vast data you've collected, combined with your experiences growing up as a little girl and learning very quickly that little girls keep their mouths shut if they ever want to find a husband (which of course every little girl certainly wants).

Yup, I'm glad growing up as a girl was so easy for you.

At December 23, 2006 at 11:22 PM, Blogger Ken W said...

Perhaps Richard is confusing the things which are "taught" explicitly by parents and those which are learned by peer emulation and internalization of social reactions. For example, my father taught me to close the door behind me when I left the house and to brush my teeth three times daily, while kids on the school bus "taught" me not to cross my legs cuz I looked like a girl.

I don't understand what gives people the idea that they can judge anyone else. Sorry, Robert, I didn't intend for this post to pick on you, but it’s true. What makes you feel like you are in a position to judge LF? As far as I know you have no knowledge of how she grew up or what sorts of social environments she was immersed in. The assumption of authority which makes you feel you can judge her is kind of the sexism that perhaps LF was referring to.

(Not to Richard anymore..the rest is the post I originally intended to make.)

Speaking of sexism, I don't think LF was off base at all with her comments. Just analyzing gender construction is an exercise in examining sexism. Patriarchy almost defines the word. It would be silly to think that any male has escaped or totally reversed this programming, and it would be equally silly to think that women are free from it or from its effects. I find myself every day in situations with my wife where I assume unwarranted control and authority; it’s unfortunately a part of life. We need to deal with it, do our best to be aware of it, and try to change how we interact and how we think about other people.

At December 26, 2006 at 12:05 AM, Blogger Gino said...

law fairy, if i may offer...

this Boy is likely lonely, and has hit a dry spell. he only wants to be your friend if friends lead to somewhere else.
his suddenly being 'busy' may have to do with the realization that the the old fire isnt going to throw off as much heat as he'd prefer. either that, or he just remembered why you two arent an item anymore.

i've seen the pattern before through my pals, and even tempted it myself once.(and only once)

personally, i suggest you walk away. let the past be the past and dont look back. thats the code i lived myself, and advise others to do.(even though sometimes its not always easy)

anyway, without knowing the parties, this is my take on what i read.
forget him.
unless you just want to use him, because thats all he wants to do with you.

At December 28, 2006 at 11:29 AM, Blogger The Law Fairy said...

Thanks, ken. Very well put :)

gino, agreed. Turning our backs and walking away from unhealthy situations is indeed one of the tougher things in life. But in cases like this, it's definitely the smartest choice.

At December 29, 2006 at 3:20 PM, Blogger Bruce Godfrey said...

Since I am not socialized to be nice, but do understand my fellow man pretty well (gender specifically intended), here's my 2 cents' worth.

In general, a man gets done what he intends to get done, or at least is happy enough to get done. Specifically, if he disrespects your religious beliefs, he is intending to show you disrespect, or at least is indifferent to your dignity.

You deserve to be with someone who a) wants to be with you and b) shows you (and expects back) respect. This is true of both intense friendships including "significant others" and more casual relationships.

The Bar of your state licensed you to be entrusted with the welfare of others, but if you will not be for your own welfare, who will be for you, and when?


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