I’m not blaming these shows for my actions, nor am I saying that they are morally reprehensible programs. I’m just illustrating that the idea of “nice guys getting the girl in the end” did not come out of thin air. For me–and I presume for many others who were raised by television–these ideas were taught in the most subtle ways. It wasn’t until I was in my late-20s when I realized that the very premise of these television shows was wrong.
I once had a crush in school who made it very clear that she wasn’t interested in me, but I thought about how Steve would always tell Laura that she does love him but just “doesn’t know it yet.” I really dehumanized this girl (and all women in general) when I heard this sentiment. I was dead set on convincing my crush that she really did like me, but she was either too dumb or dense to know it yet, and she would eventually realize it down the road. I was going to be the “nice guy” waiting in the wings while she slowly realized that she was dating “jerks,” and I’d eventually be her hero.
As one might suspect, this mindset got me nowhere in love. I was constantly rejected and some girls had to tell me explicitly and harshly to please leave them alone. These rejections made me extremely bitter because I had so much entitlement since I was taught by pop culture that I would get anything and everything I want if I was just this idea of “nice.”
It wasn’t until I was 26-years-old when I found an exercise in empathy in a self-help book. The exercise told me to write an essay from the perspective of someone I resented and how he/she perceived me. I picked the girl that had rejected me for years. The second I did performed this empathy exercise, I finally dove into the shoes of a woman that I had been relentlessly bothering for years and realized that she had feelings of her own. It occurred to me that was a separate person and not just an extension of my imagination.
This may seem like common sense but I never realized that she had a mind of her own. I never grasped that she was thinking her own thoughts and not just my thoughts that I projected onto her. I realized that I never once considered how my persistence and not taking “no” for an answer would make her feel. I finally understood her a little bit better and forgave her. I was the difficult one in our interactions, not her. My resentment for “all women” began waning instantly.
I’m hoping that this perhaps gives some women a better understanding of why some men feel so entitled to their affections despite their rejections, at least from somebody who lived that reality.
I believe there are people out there who were inundated with these false beliefs at an early age and never grew out of it, and I’m very glad I learned from my mistakes. I’m so much happier now that I don’t feel entitled. After years of being single, I’m finally in a loving relationship after throwing away antiquated beliefs on love, entitlement, and bitterness. And it all began with a little bit of empathy, an idea that television never taught me.