Dear Male Friends,
You are not Nick Miller. Actually, you sort of are, and that’s kind of the problem.
Oh, Nick Miller. The loveable everyman. George Costanza for a new generation. Not overwhelmingly handsome, not ambitious career-wise, but still maintains an interesting set of friends and inexplicably has beautiful women throwing themselves at him regularly. And this, now, is what guys aspire to be. Unaspirational, but with cool friends and lots of ladies.
Fading is the narrative of the ‘unlucky in love, tries so hard and never gets it right, occasionally ditzy and floozy’ woman waiting for an older, richer, wiser man to save her from herself and give her the happy relationship she so desperately wants. And even in this narrative, at least on TV, the woman in question typically has her career at least somewhat together (Meredith Grey, Mindy Lahiri, Carrie Bradshaw, and the Katherine Heigl character in all movies, I’m looking at you). Sure, these women sometimes compromise themselves for men, but at least they’re real, grown up, have their life together men, which makes them sort of worth compromising for.
Not anymore. Gone are the days of tall, dark, handsome men with money and power. Welcome to the new age, where we’re left with the anti-hero, the man-boy who spends his time watching TV or playing video games and waxing emo about how hard his incredibly priveleged life is, and never doing a thing about it. How did we get here?
Is it possible that there’s only room for a finite amount of adulthood in our society, and we ladies have taken it over? While I often struggle to remember that my life isn’t a fairy tale, I’m also fighting against literally hundreds of years of stories, and also real life narratives, saying that women were damsels in distress, meant to sit back and wait for men to handle things. As recently as the last century, women didn’t have the right to vote. Now we’re voting, we’re running for office, we’re fillibustering, we’re leaning in, we’re running companies. We’re buying houses in record numbers. We may still earn 77 cents on the dollar, but otherwise, ladies, we’re kind of killing it.
And then there’s men. Rather than welcoming us with open arms into the ‘people who can do stuff’ club, the ones in power are trying to take away our rights to our bodies and shove us back into the kitchens where they think we belong. And the ones not in power seem to be sitting back and doing nothing. The damsel in distress narrative has been flipped on its head, except that men aren’t looking for a night in shining armor to save them from a dragon, they’re looking for a manic pixie dream girl in a sundress to save them from themselves.
I hate to generalize, and I know there are exceptions. And yet I worry. When my dad was 30, he and his friends were by and large married, with houses and families and careers. Most of the guys I know are at 30 or rapidly approaching it, and are nowhere near those milestones; they live with roommates or in their bachelor pads, rarely even bothering to date, whining about the girls that got away due to their own mistakes, and waiting for life to drop success and the perfect woman that they believe they deserve into their lap without being willing in any way to work for it. I know times are different; I know the economy is crap. I’m also pretty certain that no one ever met a girl or scored their dream job while sitting around on their couch, drinking beer and playing Halo (do guys still play that? I don’t even know).
I know there are exceptions to this, but at least in my life, my female friends are out there tearing it up at work and in life, and my male friends are whining about how hard it is to win whatever iPhone game they’re playing this week. I might be a Liz Lemon, but I certainly would rather end up with a Jack Donaghy than a Criss Chros, and I’m worried the former is a dying breed.
I understand that we don’t all want to be CEO of GE; that some guys do want to be stay at home dads or run food trucks, and that’s fine. Or at least that’s fine if it’s what you want and you’re happy doing it. My issue is that so many of my male friends who are stuck in their ruts claim to be happy, but don’t really seem it. Because admitting unhappiness might mean having to do something about it, and, you know, doing stuff is the worst. (It’s not, actually. I love doing stuff.)
Newsflash, menfolk (and lazy ladyfolk, too): you do not deserve a perfect life. It is not on its way and you just have to wait it out. Your life is something you have to build, you have to actually work at. Do you hate being single? Sure, you might get lucky and suddenly an amazing new girl shows up at work…or you might actually have to spend some time creating a decent online dating profile and sending thoughtful messages and talking to strangers even though they might reject you. Most of them probably will. But eventually one of them won’t. Are you frustrated with your job? Then please stop ‘working on your screenplay’ unless you’re actually a good writer and actually serious about it. Figure out what you love to do (that isn’t watching TV) and find someone who will pay you to do it. Or figure out how to love what you’re already getting paid to do.
Are these things hard? Totally. They are also very, very worth doing. I won’t lie, I don’t have all the answers and I certainly don’t have my life entirely figured out yet, but I do know that New Girl is what I watch when I want a distraction from the stresses of the life I’m trying to build, not something I actively want to pattern my life after.
P.S. Full disclosure: I’ve only seen season one of New Girl. If Nick totally gets his act together in Season Two, then I apologize for blaming the problems of the men of my generation on him.