Unsubscribing from romantic-comedy dreams

Within the last month I’ve read two somewhat related titles: No More Mr. Nice Guy and The Unplugged Alpha, both mens-interest books but with different tones.  No More Mr. Nice Guy is written by a psychologist who treats men trapped in self-defeating behavior.   He defines a “Nice Guy” as one who lives solely for the pleasure and approval of others,  and believes that this enervating condition is brought on by abandonment issues in childhood, and the stigma of growing up male in environments now dominated by women – the home and school, primarily.  Constantly castigated for being too rowdy, uninterested in passive education, etc,  boys internalize guilt and deny their own worth as people. The author urges men to embrace their own value, to assess how much of what they believe, pursue, and value is honestly their goals and how much they only pursue because they’ve been told they have to.  Learning this lesson is important not only to do justice to one’s self, but to create genuine relationships with people: Mr. Nice Guys are invariably unhappy and manipulative, and frequently fail in both romance and life in general. The book is replete with breaking-free exercises to reestablish one’s sense of self and to pursue a life that is personally meaningful.  Having read The Virtue of Selfishness,   which is that lesson on steroids, I found this a helpful reminder, and presumably one useful to men stuck in self-loathing ruts. 

On men  pursuing integrity and excellence

Richard Cooper’s The Unplugged Alpha is….rather different, summarizing an entrepreneur-turned-life coach’s  approach to his own life and the clients he advises.   Cooper’s “Entrepreneurs in Cars” channel began by interviewing self-made businessmen who talked about paths to success while showing off the fruits of their labor. Following a brutal divorce and a successive failure in another close relationship, Cooper  branched out into discussing the types of women it was best to avoid: his channel has subsequently grown in that direction,  focusing on  guiding men to investing in themselves, regarding marriage and longterm relationships as useful only in some circumstances – when children are desired, for instance ,or if a man finds a woman who is a genuine complement to his life,  and doesn’t seek to take it over.   Cooper believes in invariable conflict and tension between the sexes: we live, he argues, in a female-first social structure, in which men are regarded as expendable.  Just as men treat women as sex objects, so too do women treat men as success objects: they  are guided by a hypergamous instinct, hunting for the best of men and uninterested in the rest until they themselves have begun losing their own appeal as partners.  This instinct, Cooper argues, means that women have no qualms about dropping a long-term partner to trade up, just as older and wealthier men are known for dropping aging wives for younger models. Men should thus conduct themselves with caution, he advises, avoiding some women altogether – party girls, women with children, women with father issues – and treat others with wariness,  making sure that when a woman enters the picture,  she is there as a partner to better one’s position and not someone who  expects to be treated as a prize to be treasured and put on a pedestal.  To that end, Cooper urges men to continually work on themselves, to maximize their potential and take care of their health– not only will they be happier, but it will empower them in their relationships, knowing they can always pick up another partner if one proves obnoxious.    Although I enjoy some parts of Cooper’s channel, particularly his admonitions to avoid  “loser talk” (enfeebling literature/shows/ideas that promote the idea that one’s problems are always someone else’s fault, and that one is always powerless ), the book was too focused on sex and pick-up theory for me. I liked the  “Take responsibility for your life and stop complaining about other people” part, though – but one can get that through Peterson or Rand without the obsessive focus on sex and supercars.  Next year I may pick Sex at Dawn: Why We Mate and Why we Stray, which Cooper quotes, as my anthropological read to compare his use of its analysis to the facts-as-stated in the book.

Men on Strike: Why Men are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream, Helen Smith. I read this a few months back but have yet to finish my review of it.

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Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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5 Responses to Unsubscribing from romantic-comedy dreams

  1. Cyberkitten says:

    I don’t think it’s actually possible to know what *your*, presumably conscious, goals are. By the time we start thinking of goals we’ve had years and probably decades of socialisation – most of which we’re completely unaware of. So by the time we become more goal oriented ‘our’ goals are actually the goals we internalised growing up. Without perfect recall, which of course we don’t have, I think its impossible to separate what we want from what we’ve been taught to want – at least not in any meaningful way. Plus there’s always some goals (or elements thereof) that are *hardwired* that either you can’t do anything about or need to expend a great deal of energy to overturn.

    As usual with human behaviour its not as simple as some authors make out and we’re not as plastic as some people want us to be. Oh, and the proposition that we live in a female-first social structure made me laugh… a LOT.

    • “Women and children first”. Who gets the house, the children, and the money in a divorce? Who gets killed for everyone’s defense, on the streets and in the battlefields? Who carries the weight of industrial society, and who receives society’s favor and adulation? Boys are scolded ,men mocked, women feted and praised. Don’t confuse the preponderance of men in politics and business with their being favored by society. Consumer culture despises men who act like men and women who act like women — it prefers we instead be androgynous consumers, as far as I can tell..

  2. Marian says:

    Ouch… Cooper seems to take quite a cynical view of women. Would you say he views positive relationships as a “man’s +1”? Because from time to time, I see dating profiles that sound just like that, and it seems to me a strange attitude to take. Two people should seek to create a new life together, instead of one person being the other’s appendage. =/

    Coming from a traditional/conservative background, my experience is that, sadly, poor behavior exists in some men, too, even if you treat them with respect and trust, and support them in “acting like men.” That is why I have a problem with books like this – likewise with the opposing, feminist diatribes. Both sides create these harsh generalizations and goad people to look at others as labels, not individuals. They presume that if we correct the excesses of feminism (which absolutely exist, and are abhorrent) by alpha maleism, then we will be “even” with each other. Honestly I think this is a bad recipe for society, especially if it’s unaccompanied by any spiritual revival.

    Sorry for the soap-boxing… 😆 these are topics I’ve thought about a lot, probably too much. I appreciate you sharing these reviews.

  3. It’s absolutely welcome. I’d say your take on Cooper is accurate: he tells his viewers to pursue excellence, rather than women — seeing them as an optional reward for creating a successful life. His view of romance is that it’s a competition — and he intends to win it. It’s an easy attitude to slip into, especially after someone has been burned badly in a relationship ending, but I don’t regard it as constructive in the long term. Helen Smith made the point in her “Men on Strike”: it’s perfectly understandable why individual men would want to give up on marriage and fatherhood from an individually-oriented cost/risks comparison, because of the legal/financial risks…..but if enough men subscribe to that decision, things will unravel more quickly than they are now. She doesn’t explore this idea, but…..without families to support, why would men do some of the jobs they do, jobs society depends on? Money’s no reward to gamble your life on when there’s no one depending on it. Without a stake in society’s table, no kids, why would men feel compelled to rise to its defense? If society is reduced to individual transactions, then given the obnoxiousness of the state and the mob, withdrawal and nonparticipation make sense. I think that’s why the future will belong to the traditionalists — they stay in the game when everyone else has withdrawn to a perpetual loop of Zoom meets, amazon shopping, and netflix binges.

    I’ve got a book coming up that may be of interest to you, called “The Unbroken Thread”. I didn’t intend to buy it, but I started reading it last night and could not stop. It’s by an Iranian immigrant to the United States, a convert to Catholicism who married a Chinese immigrant to the United States who ALSO converted to Catholicism…both of them embraced the US for its freedoms, but the Church for its moral order, and they named their child Maximilian after Maximilian Kolbe. A Sino-Iranian-American child named after a Polish martyr…that’s my kind of cosmopolitanism. 🙂

    • Marian says:

      Yeah, materialism (and the transactional mindset that accompanies it) has been a disaster for personal relationships. I’m reminded of The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola, in which the affluent family members all go off into their separate lives/hobbies, not spending much time with each other anymore. 😦

      The Unbroken Thread sounds really good! Kolbe… I’ve just read that Endo book with him in it. 🙂

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