Is he really worthy of you, Valentine?

Like the great Aretha Franklin, I ain’t no psychiatrist and I ain’t no doctor with degrees. But I have had my fair share of crappy Valentine’s Days and I’m here to give a kick in the pants to you women who are putting up with jerks in your lives and to say you deserve better.
This particular Valentine’s Day I’m feeling like one of the lucky kids who finds a seat in a game of musical chairs. Somehow I landed this great boyfriend and my outlook on men in general has changed quite a bit. It used to seem that all the exciting guys were jerks and all the nice guys were boring and there was nothing that could be done about it.
For several years, I dated a guy who pulled mean stuff on me all the time. One week he’d say I was too fat, then the next week he’d say I needed to gain a few pounds. He was a drunk, he didn’t bathe and his apartment was a filthy disaster area. (I’ll give you his phone number if you want it.) I remember he told me one time that just because he was dating other women, it didn’t mean he cared about me any less. Oh, what a sweetie!
I’m not exactly sure why I thought dating jerks would be more exciting than dating a nice guy — maybe someone dropped me on my head when I was little. It was probably a bit of that “I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have me as a member” mentality. Or maybe I liked men who were screwed up because I wanted to help them — who knows and who cares? I see no point in all these books about bad men and the women who love them. The bottom line is we should tell them to get lost.
Now, between my own experiences and watching my friends’ lives, I’ve seen a lot of guys do a lot of shoddy things with little or no consequence. I know it’s tempting to make excuses for them, but it’s futile. Just deal with the fact that some guys aren’t worth the space they’re taking up in the world, and they should be severed from your lives entirely.
(Of course, I’m writing all this from a straight girl’s point of view — I’ve found that when I write from a gay man’s perspective it just doesn’t ring as true. But these rantings could be applied to relationships made up of any combination of sexes.)
Some guys seem to be allergic to making plans in advance. They give you the old, “I don’t like to think that far ahead.” It’s garbage. What they really mean is, “I’m hoping something better comes along and I don’t want to be committed to spending an evening with you if it does.”
Have we all heard the line, “I’ll call you,” but nothing happens? Then you either break down and call him (not advisable), or perhaps you just run into him some night, and he says, “Oh, I’ve been really busy.” Again, it’s a load of bull. No one is that busy. He doesn’t have five minutes for just a quick call? Of course he does, he just didn’t feel like talking to you. Don’t sweat it, just forget about him.
Some guys have a habit of calling after the bar closes to see if you want to get together. This is not OK — he didn’t suddenly get this urge to see you, he just struck out that night and doesn’t want to end up completely empty handed. What are you, some kind of an on-call dating service? Forget it.
Guys who say they really, truly care about you but just can’t make a commitment are works of art. As if you’re just supposed to wait around for years while they sow their wild oats then possibly decide to commit to you. Odds are good this will never develop into some great relationship. You’ve already shown him he can screw around and get away with it, so why shouldn’t he? Get over him.
Those last-minute cancellations are a sign of big trouble ahead. Unless he has a really good excuse — and your gut should tell you whether he’s lying — there is no way you should stand for it. You are a busy woman and you don’t appreciate him screwing up your schedule when you have lots of other things you could be doing — so don’t let him get away with it.
Guys who never listen to you, and who interrupt all the time, are obviously not going to make good companions. I know someone who can’t let anyone else finish a sentence before he jumps in with his two cents worth — jeez, that’s annoying. Let’s not waste our time deciding if people like this are truly self-centered or merely insecure — the end result is that your ideas and feelings are obviously not important to them.
Now, part of the key to getting rid of these drains on your life is to not bitch and moan about them to your friends all the time. We have natural instincts to try to paint rosier pictures than the situations call for. Think back to some horrid outfit you wore in junior high, like a blue “Esprit” shirt with matching blue-and-white striped pants (OK, that was me). You asked your friends if it looked all right, and they thought they were being nice when they said yes. Now you must live with the embarrassing memory of that get up for the rest of your life.
It’s the same thing with men. Your friends will say, “Well, maybe he just likes you so much that he’s scared and can’t deal with it,” or “I’m sure he really has been busy for the last two months and just couldn’t get to a phone.” This well-intentioned tripe doesn’t get you anywhere. Your friends should be saying, “Boy, he sounds like a creep. Better luck next time.”
Speaking of next time, shortly after I ended things with the stinky alcoholic, I started dating a nice boy. He called me when he said he would, he listened when I talked, he was funny, he was cute, he didn’t have a drinking problem, and he bathed — he had it all.
Check out what he did for me last year on Valentine’s Day. We were at work and I was bemoaning the fact that I was too busy to clean and that my apartment was a total pig sty and that every dish I owned was dirty (you know it’s bad when you find yourself eating cereal out of a big mixing bowl and using a spatula as a spoon).
When I came home that night, after we’d been out for dinner, I found a spotless kitchen. He’d spent the entire afternoon washing all my dirty dishes by hand and cleaning my kitchen. I couldn’t believe he was even of the same species as the other guys I’d known. Who would have guessed guys like this existed? But the point is — they do.
But really, the point is not to go hunting for the perfect man (a guaranteed great way to not find one) but to get rid of the things in your life that aren’t working.
Just because society has these crazy things like Valentine’s Day, which make single people feel as unwanted as soul food at a GOP fund raiser, is no reason to put up with someone who doesn’t treat you right. (Explain to me how the execution of a bishop 1700 years ago has led us to today’s roses-and-candy tradition anyway.)
Like the woman says, all you’re asking for is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. If you don’t give it to yourself, you can bet you won’t get it from anyone else.
Kris Henry’s column appears in the Daily every Thursday. She welcomes comments via e-mail at [email protected]