You have one of these couples in your close social circle, indeed, perhaps she’s your best friend. Or your sister? Anyway, you know who I mean. The ultra-bright, smart, intelligent, attractive, tolerant, and basically all-round nice girlfriend you have, who for some inexplicable reason is dating, in love with, or planning to marry, or has married A Jerk.
Nobody can understand this relationship. Why? Why is she throwing herself away on him- she who is so, but soooo nice, while he is so clearly, well, if not exactly nasty, but clearly not nice.
When you’re all together, he twitches and twiddles his fingers on his iPod and makes no effort to participate in the conversation. He is clearly her inferior in intelligence, probably more conservative politically, less-educated, or with a degree in something like, say, management? insurance? In any case, he likely has a steady boring job with a pension, which is more than can be said for any of your circle of friends. Or indeed, she (and you, by extension), may be the ones with the steady boring jobs and pensions, and there are dark unspoken murmurings that he is in it for the money. Yes- there will be clearly be a class/money dimension to it, albeit unacknowledged.
When you are all together, she doesn’t behave in her usual nice normal manner. She is tense, darting sideways looks at him far more than necessary, and they make some excuse to leave soon. After which you all bitch about The Jerk, and Why? How to tell her? Meanwhile, she hangs out with you less and less, and with him and his friends and family more and more. Yet the contact never completely fades, merely narrows down to a thread, providing a supply of fodder for repeated anguished questionings of why? You may even write to an internet advice column, listing all her nice awesome qualities, and all his not-nice jerky behaviours, and ask, what to do? The answer will always be: back off, and don’t interfere.
But now, gentle reader, I present to you an alternative theory- maybe your nice friend isn’t as nice as she always seems and behaves? Maybe she secretly, or subconsciously, enjoys her mate’s boorish behaviour, and indeed, wishes she too could behave with this fine disregard for What Other People Think – behaviour which is usually presented as so glamorous and romantic in films and books, but is so unattractive and unpleasant in real life? After all, it is no secret that women are deeply socially conditioned to behave in a nice, inoffensive manner, to place greater value on group interactions rather than individual desires- I believe there are even some evolutionary explanations for this strong yearning we have to please and be part of groups and give no offense, something to do with protecting our babies? Or not get raped? Or something?
So next time your super nice super girlfriend blows you off in favour of her jerkish mate, give her some credit and consider maybe she doesn’t really want to hang out with you anymore. Maybe she never did, but never knew how to say so. Maybe she frequently wished she too, could play games on her iPod while spending time with you all, and the fact that her boyfriend does so gives her deep, unalloyed pleasure. The human heart is a complicated contradictory beast, and yet, it usually does what it wants to do. Let her release her inner jerk.