Poppets, I am a bit nervous about this particular subject. Such a can o' worms. Such a conflict between the world as it is and the world as it should be. I'd rather tell you about the party I went to on Saturday night. Apparently given very bad lighting, a dress she has to stick on with double-sided tape and the absence of her husband, your old auntie gets chatted up a lot. Of course I am way too advanced in holiness to think that was awesome, but actually it was pretty awesome. (Needless to say, Auntie mentioned Unkie when the conversation turned to "And why do you live in Edinburgh?")
Anyway, the party is still too fresh in local history for you to tell you all the amazing insights I gleaned, so I will hang it up in the cellars of my mind to be seasoned and preserved and just get on with the painful topic of niceness.
Can a nice guy be too nice?
Hitherto I have written about soi-disant "nice guys" who are actually passive-aggressive b*stards. They are easiest to spot in advice columns because they like to write letters like this: "Dear Abby, I'm a nice guy but I think I should't be because apparently all women like men who treat them badly."
Such "nice" guys lack self-knowledge, and men who lack self-knowledge are alarming. But to ignore Mr Seething "Nice Guy" and to move onto truly nice guys, is there such a thing as being "too nice"? And incidentally, by "too nice" I mean "too kind."
Frankly, I do not think men can be too kind. I think they can be boring, of course. But kindliness does not mean dullness, just as abrasiveness does not mean excitement. True kindliness includes kindliness to oneself, which is something that some men lack when they are dealing with women. Women tend not to respect men who do not respect themselves. However, putting women down is not exactly evidence of healthy self-respect.
Sorry to mention them again, but men who are involved in the pick-up artist movement believe in technique called "negging." "Negging" is paying a girl a backhanded compliment so as to stand out from all the men who pay her proper compliments and to knock her from her pedestal of self-confidence. The p.u. artist idea is that every real woman is longing for some guy to re-establish the proper order of creation in which the man is boss and the woman obeys him and thinks he is marvelous.
Yes, go ahead and make those gargling noises of disgust, but we have a eensy problem in that a lot of women are actually like that. Why do so many fourteen year old girls defy their parents to date some guy their parents despise? Why does such a girl want to please her boyfriend more than she wants to please her parents? Why do women do such stupid, shortsighted things "because I love him"? And why do I get so many letters from readers, Nice Catholic Girls who go to church and know the rules and want to live up to them, who admit to having slept with their boyfriends or now-ex-fiances? Okay, sure, they did it because they wanted to, but my hypothesis is that a big reason they wanted to was because they wanted to please those boyfriends and ex-fiances. They wanted to give that which wasn't really theirs to give yet.
Simone de Beauvoir was feminist royalty, but I read somewhere that she used to buy Jean-Paul Sartre fancy notebooks while she bought cheap notebooks for herself. She wouldn't marry her American lover Nelson Algren because she was so attached to Jean-Paul Sartre, who left control of his intellectual legacy to the mistress he adopted as his daughter. Jean-Paul never married Simone, of course. The whole "open relationship" was his idea, and apparently when he suggested it, he didn't think she'd agree. But she did and the upshot was that she spent her life as his high priestess, editing his work, and insisting on being buried in his grave despite the Algerian mistress-(ahem) "daughter," and it's all very depressing.
Saint Edith Stein wrote about both masculinity and femininity, noting that they were adversely affected by the Fall. Since the Fall, masculinity has had a tendency to tyrannize over women and femininity has had a tendency to let it. But nature, twisted after the Fall, is both healed and perfected by Grace, which is to say that the Incarnation ushered in a new order. This new order recognizes the truth revealed in Genesis that women are, as much as men, made in the image and likeness of God. Both Saint Edith and Blessed John Paul II underscore the dignity of Woman, offering Our Lady as the exemplar.
They don't put it like this, but Eve was a wimp, submitting to the snake, whereas Our Lady is a heroine, crushing the snake with her heel. Our Lady didn't listen to snakes but to God, and instead of falling for tricks, she responded to an invitation to become the Mother of God.
In light of this, I would say that to fall for negging and to admire men who push you around and to want to submit to them in whatever way to make them like or love you is to be in cahoots with the Fall and not to be in line with the Gospel.
Meanwhile, I haven't got a psych degree or anything like that--just my wee M.Div/STB--but I will go out on a limb and suggest that the women who are most likely to fall for guys who insult them are women who are emotionally unhealthy and who are so used to being insulted that they think it is normal. They might also be so lonely that they are amazed by and grateful for any masculine attention, no matter how negative. (I certainly know women like this.) But emotionally healthy women are irritated by men who insult them and will flee them for men who are honestly kind to them.
Update: I have just had a horrid memory of a woman who clearly loved the young man abusing her in public and so put up with it. The kicker is that the woman was the young man's mother. They were in front of my counter at one of my government jobs. I think the woman must have forgotten some essential paper, for the young man told his mother she was a waste of space. I snapped, "That's no way to speak to your mother" and the woman, whose head was bowed and who looked very ashamed, looked at me and then at him.
"Yes," she said. "That's no way to speak to your mother."
"Waste of space," muttered the young man rebelliously.
The woman gave an unhappy giggle.
Some women love men despite their bad behaviour. Not because. DESPITE.
Incidentally, my husband is one of the kindest men I know. And he is kind to everybody.