Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last?

Posted: February 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

First off, let me apologize for this, my second fairly lengthy break between posts. Life has a way of getting in the way of de-friending, but the journey nonetheless continues. As of right now, I’m still hoping to complete the cuts in 50 days, but that means I’m really going to have to pick up the pace. By my count, I have made 209 cuts, which means I’ll have to make 291 more in 24 days. That’s right, we’re beyond the halfway point. Anyway, now that I’ve lamented my lack of prolific posting, let’s get back to the narrative.

Last week in the midst of de-friending, I got rid of what I will call a classic nice guy. The nice guy and I bonded in college through our mutual passion for our school’s championship D3 basketball team. We really got to know one another when I was a senior and he was a junior and the school paid for coach busses to take 150 or so of the team’s rowdiest fans on a 13 hour ride from St. Louis to Salem, Virginia, a small town just outside of Roanoke and the Mecca of D3 championship events. The classic nice guy (CNG, shall we call this breed in the future?) was a member of the football frat, which doubled as the basketball team’s most fervent fans. Calling themselves the Bomb Squad, they wore full camouflage fatigues to each game and generally made as much noise as the rest of the gym combined. Their alpha dog swagger didn’t exactly align with Wash.U’s nerdy institutional ethos, but the trip through the West Virginia hills gave me a deep appreciation for the frat. They reminded me more of a lot of my high school friends and that weekend was one of, if not the best, in all of college. Prior to the weekend, I was friends with a small handful of bomb squaders; by the end, I was the only non bomb-squader on the bomb squad bus back to the midwest. In addition to drinking whiskey and going shirtless for virtually the entirety of the ride home, I paired with a wide receiver on the football team to host a mock radio show on the bus’s p.a. system. The bus company was called “Kavallo,” and somehow our combination of stand-up comedy, geographic play-by-play (“We’re entering West Virginia, [insert generic inbreeding comment here]”), and historical analysis came to called “Kavallo Radio.” After that weekend, I made a number of new bomb squad facebook friends and continued to hang out with a bunch of those guys until graduating. One of those friends was the classic nice guy. Comparatively tame in his level of debauchery, we always chatted around campus, but never kept in touch after graduating.

Then, last week I took a look at his profile. It told me he was a medical student in Indiana. Different career paths, different region of the country, and seemingly slim odds we’d meet again, I figured. He was a thoroughly unthreatening dude and I mean that in the best way. Unfortunately, I must confess that those individuals who are sort of assholes often don’t get cut. There’s this secret fear in the back of my mind that if I cut them, they might come back on me harder and reveal some profound insecurity about me or blacklist me from some professional circuit some day. It’s not a real concern, but it’s something that weighs on the back of my mind nonetheless and keeps them around for another round or two. With this nice guy, I didn’t have that slight sense of fear and so I axed him.

And then the moment of truth came. He commented something like “it was a nice run. I knew I was coming.” The name he used while commenting? “Kavallo Radio.” No way around it; I felt like a jerk. Great kid and I wish him all the happiness and friends in the world. Kavallo Radio supporter: gone but not forgotten.

A smattering of sentences on just some of the many, many other cuts that have taken place in the last week….

A current med student who I took a writing class with, a former state cross and country champion who currently lives in Cairo and whose old man is my long-time mailman, a couple girls from my CIT group at sleep away camp from the summer of 2002 (haven’t spoken with either since), a friend’s old man, the college gf’s roommate who never much cared for me, a campus police officer, and a whole lot of younger siblings of close and not as close friends (the politics of this will be touched on at greater length in another post).

Keep following on twitter @500fewerfriends and sending your comments on what you like and don’t like.

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I am really torn. Let me know what you think.

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Cuts tomorrow. I promise. I think.

Blogger’s Note: the post below written on 4 days ago and some content was lost. I was out of commission for the weekend, but have been making cuts and will be back all week with new and aggressive cuts. Some of the cuts from the original post were lost, but readers will be filled in soon. This post is primarily an essay about the social dynamics involved in de-friending ex-students. The headline of this being day 16 reflects the date on which the post was originally crafted. We are currently on day 20 and there have been 168 cuts, with 332 remaining over the next 30 days. Thank you and apologies for the delay in posting.

Having spent the first two years of my post-graduate life in the urban classroom, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve become something of an expert on social media trends among middle schoolers from the ghetto. I’m now forced to become an expert on the subtleties of de-friending them.

As late as last year, the creation of Christopher Columbus myspace pages remained a favorite activity for many of my students. Facebook was largely not in vogue until the late spring and a faux-twitter assignment designed around the Revolutionary War proved woefully unsuccessful, largely because the kids had not gravitated toward tweeting yet either. I’m not sure why they were late to facebook, but if their perception of G-mail can be taken as related, it must have had something to do with facebook’s decidedly caucasian/non-urban origins. When I give my e-mail address to my first ever group of students during the end of summer school in 2008, one kid shot me an incredulous glance. A classmate kindly deadpanned back to the student that “gmail is for white people.” Some will chuckle at this anecdote, but when you think about it, it’s actually quite sociologically perceptive.  The spread of  g-mail was inarguably a viral byproduct of gentrifiers and not  one which came from the gentrified.

By the time I decided that teaching was not my true life passion and announced my resignation in early August, seemingly all of my former students had joined facebook, however, and a number of them took to sending me friend requests.  My initial reaction was panic, followed by a heavy use of the privacy settings. But I confess that I was curious as to how these kids would evolve throughout high school and beyond and since their conception of privacy is essentially non-existent, facebook has provided me pretty much real-time updates on everything from fake status updates about deaths suffered by their friends (really, a kid did that…don’t worry, he’s been cut) to how bored they are in some earth science, regents prep course.

As time has gone on, though, I’ve increasingly come to a rather profound and somewhat tragic realization about the teaching profession: you don’t have lifelong memories worthy or savoring for each and every child. That might be because I taught over 200 of them in two years and my first year only taught the kids for 45 minutes, 4 times a week. That may because I neglected to successfully internalize the mantra that to be a great teacher you had to genuinely love every child. It may may be for a number of reasons, but the reality is that not every child who has friended me left enough of an individual impact on my life such that I feel the need to learn of every development that affects their teenage existence. And I don’t think that’s bad to say. The kids I grew especially tight with still e-mail me and will continue to do so. They also won’t be de-friended. Even those kids who were quiet and had a certain kindness to them might make it through the cuts. But particularly when you are a first year teacher and lack control of a classroom in the early months, there are some children who you would rather forget.

Perhaps fittingly then, my first and easiest cut tonight was a kid who gave me hell that first year. Making matters easier, if slightly more depressing, was the fact that under the profile category “studied at,” he wrote “IDK.” Well IDK why I was friends with you and removing you is my lone way of exercising all of the bent up pettiness that has lingered in my body since the first time you convinced me not to call your mother, only to throw a pencil sharpener across the room moments later.

As much as I anticipated that I would feel great sorrow at this point in the process, today’s cuts came relatively easily. Here are some anecdotal recollections of the one-time friends.

In high school, I once hooked up with a Republican diabetic. Her youthful conservatism is only noteworthy because I grew up in a very liberal area and if you were looking to find mini Anne Coulters for make-out sessions, it was slim pickins. Ironically, I made out with this girl at a week-long political program in Washington D.C., even though she was from a town over from me and I knew her prior to the trip. The diabetic thing would have been even less relevant, but a rather provocative high school friend  heard we’d kissed and spread that fact around school (which would have been fine, because the girl was cute and I would have gained credibility if people knew we hooked up), replacing “hardly visible insulin pump” with “shit bag” in his rendering of the incident. So, instead of having hooked up with  a cute girl who happened to have diabetes and wore a tiny insulin pump, I’d hooked up with a girl who regularly defecated in the plastic bag that never left her side. Class move, pal. Ironically, I just went to the friend’s wedding and haven’t really talked to the high school hottie in eight years. Guess I won’t be talking to her anymore now that she’s cut…and appears to be in a serious relatioship.

During the political summer program I attended in high school (this was a longer program, as opposed to the brief 5 day one I just mentoned), I met this girl who, at the age of 17, had consciously and absolutely precisely adopted Jackie O’s fashion sense. Like down to the last detail emulation. She was Russian-born I think and seemed polished enough to be Mikhail Prokorhav’s personal assistant. Today she works in congress and I look forward to rekindling our friendship at some point in life. She does, however, mysteriously have two facebook profiles and one got cut. Also cut from that program was an at least formerly gorgeous Alabaman who briefly attended the Naval Academy. She was hot in that archetypical southern way (essentially blonde, leggy, and accented) and all of us aspiring politicos that summer at Georgetown wondered what the hell someone of her stature was doing in our presence. Haven’t talked to her since, but it appears she’s in a long-term monogamous relationship and I’ve since met other dimes from Dixie, so the novelty has worn off…Somewhat. I’m still secretly hoping I end up at Ole Miss Law next fall.

A year or two ago, I stumbled across a blog strictly devoted to chronicling anything and everything related to President Obama’s love of basketball. A family friend was, at the time, the principal of a school on Marthas Vineyard. He was attempting to reach out to the White House and provide Team Obama with a court to play on when he vacationed there. In believing I would be hooping with the POTUS himself, I started looking up stuff on the internets about Barack’s game and stumbled across this sweet website. I friended the site’s creator. But ultimately, Barry never balled at the school, so my tenuous connection to the proprietor of that site became completely meaningless and he just  got the axe.

Other Cuts: a childhood cellist who got bullied a lot as a kid but went on to become a star in track and physics once he got over his softy swag, a monotone little league teammate, the first Indian girl I met in elementary school, an optometry student and one-time Intramural basketball teammate, a D3 basketball fanatic who now teaches trumpet in New Mexico, a high school classmate who quite dubiously claimed that since he took boxing classes his fist was legally considered a dangerous weapon, and the third all-time leading scorer in UMass basketball history (no, he didn’t know me and yes, he’s on twitter, so I can follow his exploits in the Lithuanian league on another social media tool).

Cuts by my count to date: 146. Cuts to go: 354. Follow along on twitter: @500fewerfriends or e-mail 500fewerfriends@gmail.com.

Day 13: Lots of Cuts

Posted: February 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

Pretty straight forward today with the cuts. Here are descriptions for some of the newly removed.

During the summer before my freshman year of college, I lived on Marthas Vineyard and worked for a semi-upscale clothing store. I became quite close with the older of the owner’s two daughters and we still talk regularly all these years later. His younger daughter was quite cruel and may be a later cut, but since I’m close with the older daughter, she’s going to receive the benefit of the doubt for now. Plus, she was like 16 or 17 and when I ran into her in Union Square a year or two back, she seemed a lot more chill. I did, however, cut a pair of friends of the kinder daughter. They went to GW with her and during my freshman year I met them on a visit. One was a perfectly decent Jewish girl from L.A., but it’s almost certain I won’t encounter her again. The other was a rather tormented blonde who dated guys 10-15 years her senior and seemed obsessed with people taking herself seriously, an unfortunate mode of being than often afflicts girls who go to college in major metropolitan areas. Maybe if she’d  just gone to class in sweats and feigned like she cared about her mid-terms, I wouldn’t have been caught so off-guard by her arrogance. I haven’t seen her since, but I’d wager a guess that she’s dating a 44 year old and managing his charity on the side.

I cut three of my sister’s friends today. Two were friends of hers in elementary school and one she still speaks to today. I, however, do not. And this brings up an interesting facebook rule: it’s easy to cut the friends of siblings because if you ever want an update on their life, you can always just ask your sibling; your newsfeed doesn’t have to inform you. Anyhow, the one who she still talks to is married, has a changed name and a baby. She’s a great person, but all of these factors make cutting fairly free of emotional angst. The other girl who my sister was friends with in elementary school played basketball with us and my primary memory of her is that she always wore a House of Pain t-shirt. In sixth grade. That’s unique, but not worthy of being kept around in facebook perpetuity.  The third friend came by the house a few times and had local connections as well, since I believe she went to college in the area. She seemed perfectly nice and I think she was a singer of some sort. Still, I haven’t a clue as why I was friends with her.

There was an apparently controversial residential advisor to a number of my friends from their freshman year of college. I didn’t know her in that capacity. The fact that I did not is important to note. Here’s why: allegedly, one or more of her residents defecated in her room. I have heard so many rumors about who did it, why they did it, and what she did to apparently provoke it that it wouldn’t be worth speculating on what caused this whole thing to happen. All I know is that I had a number of brief encounters with the girl and she was extremely nice, but I also was close friends with quality and otherwise upstanding people who said that, as ghastly an act as that was, this might have been the lone individual on campus to have deserved it. I find that hard to believe, but apparently, there was an incredibly dark underbelly (no pun intended) to this whole story. I hate to recount it, since I don’t know any of the details, but I had to make note of it because it’s what always lingered in the back of my mind when I spoke with the poor girl. From my limited perspective, she was really cool. Anyway, the incident has nothing to do with her getting cut. Her removal is solely predicated upon her status as am engaged female whom I haven’t spoken with in almost five years.

Also cut: a girl who I have essentially no recollection of getting to know, a former student, a former high school classmate who dated a guy I went to both HS and college with, a former foul shooting ace from Wash.U’s first D3 final four team, one profile each for two individuals who transferred colleges but never removed their first college profile, a married former work colleague, and another teammate of my friend’s from that lovely small college outside of Orlando.

Counts to Date by my Count: 134. Counts to go: 356. Follow along on Twittr: @500fewerfriends. Feel free to comment on the blog itself or send feedback to 500fewerfriends@gmail.com. Keep reading and spreading the word; it’s greatly appreciated.

 

 

 

When I began this de-friending spree, a friend remarked that the blog’s first watershed moment would occur the first time I got a scathing message from an individual who had recently been de-friended. The friend anticipated that I’d post this message, using it as a sort-of humorous addition to the damage already done from the cut itself. And, in truth, I looked forward to it as well. I was secretly hoping that some distant cut would impulsively craft a note that was full of irrational fury and which totally missed the blog’s point.

That note came, but instead of matching my expectations of nuttiness, it was measured, respectful, and frankly, made me feel really bad.  I won’t go into too many details, but essentially it made me realize the inherent cruelty involved in my description of some cuts. When you have 1,500+ friends, it’s clear that there will be many you don’t know in a meaningful, nuanced way. As a result, those people will be, in a certain sense, easier to caricature. And in caricaturing people you don’t know as well, it’s much easier to employ a sense of creative license in filling in the comparatively sketchier details about the individual’s biographical make-up. It’s also much easier to forget that in describing someone you know less well, hyperbole becomes par for the course and can end up doing an injustice to the person described. For doing that, I apologize. It was wrong, end of story.

But this individual’s message also got me to thinking about the way in which I really intend for this blog to work and the complexities that are bound up in my conception of that vision.

I think too often in life, (but particularly with websites or blogs we read), we enter experiences with a pre-determined expectation of how that experience should be provided to us and at the core of that expectation is the belief the experience should be unchanging. If you read Tucker Max, for instance, you expect the same sorts of tales each time. In turn, it becomes easy to classify Max as “an asshole funny sexist guy” and leave it at that. But the reality is that most good writing cannot be reduced to what I’ll call “fixed identity status.”

I mention this because, while I regret my choice of words in some posts and cringe at the cruelty I occasionally find when looking over old posts, I also realize that I did not embark on this defriending quest for the sake of adopting the same monolithic voice with the same themes each day. I did it with the intention of seeing where it would go and in so doing, I have sometimes been mean, I’ve sometimes been self-deprecating, I’ve sometimes been neutral, and I’ve sometimes been boring. Ultimately, I’ve been myself and I don’t think it’d be fair of me to go about a writing venture in any other way. Identity, like writing, is rarely “fixed.” It’s ever changing and it’s full of different emotional states.

I can’t promise you I’m going to stick with any one means of going about this project and I suspect I’ll make cruel comments again. I apologize in advance and will try to temper some of that, but this is a spontaneous outlet, not a law school essay. I can only promise that I’ll continue to be me and if that doesn’t always match your preconceived understanding of this blog, then I guess you’ll have to find something else to read.

I hope you’ll stick around for a bit, though. We’ve still got 38 days to go. And in a matter of hours, all of this self-reflective, pseudo-intellectual drivel will gave way to some cold, hard cuts. A lot of them. Goodnight and good luck.

 

Blogger’s Note: Cuts appear toward the bottom of this post.

Since I’m now in the tenth day of this 50 day experiment, I have already removed around 100 friends. The first 100, I’m quite certain, will prove to be the least emotionally trying of any set of 100. Even as I tried to make cuts for today, I found fewer and fewer individuals instantly cut-worthy on the grounds that I didn’t like them or hadn’t seen them in years. My newest cuts come in conjunction with my girlfriend expressing deep frustration with my methods. As a result of her frustration, I feel it necessary to respond to a particular question she posed.

To paraphrase, she raised the following queries: “What is the point of cutting married or engaged girls? Why is that relevant to whether or not they’re your facebook friend? Ultimately, this led her to urge me to explain to my readers what my philosophy of facebook really is, particularly with respect to those of the fairer sex. Well, dear, as today painfully confirmed for me, the cold, harsh reality is this: with many notable exceptions, if I’m friends with a girl on facebook, there has been a time in my life that I’ve hooked up with them, attempted to hook up with them, or at least thought about hooking up with them. It’s truly astounding how high a percentage of girls that is and it gets at a core facebook truism: deny it all you want, but the site does function as a constant reminder of virtually all romantic or sexual encounters that one has had throughout their lives. And the only way to un-remind yourself about your past relations with girls is to remove them as friends. Which sounds simple, but is actually quite difficult.

It’s difficult for a couple reasons.  For one thing, there is a certain reassuring quality to the fact that we have the ability to look back on a part of our history at any given moment. That’s equally frightening and potentially depressing/destructive, but if employed with cautiousness and emotional tact, it can be nice to look back at a girl you made out at a middle school dance and chuckle about your 14 year old self. Keeping friends with whom you once had a sexual encounter allows you to maintain a virtual timeline of your evolution as a sexual creature.

The other issue about de-friending females that poses problems is that, should the woman learn that she’s been defriended, there is a fear that she will be of the belief that you didn’t value the experience in the first place. That belief has the potential to affect your off-line persona in a negative way, as the de-friended might suggest to mutual friends or contacts that your de-friending was further proof of your nasty composition as a dude.

So, why then is it OK to de-friend married girls? Well, because in case I haven’t made this abundantly clear: their existence as romantic creatures with anyone other than their new husband is effectively over. As a result of their unambiguously taken status, any reminders of your one-time romantic feelings or involvement should be shed as quickly as possible. Marriage, though often a wonderful sign of commitment and deep love, should also represent the death of curiosity on the part of the past crush, fling, boyfriend, or one-time hook-up. It’s a debt of recognition to the dude who chose to spend the rest of his life with the girl, an acknowledgement that even a hint of wondering on your behalf crosses the line. To steer clear of that temptation, it’s easier to go cold turkey as opposed to weaning yourself off while teetering on the precipice of violating a code.

And now the Cuts…

Around two years ago this weekend, I had just been dumped by my collegiate girlfriend.  I was sad and lonely and unsure of how to get back in the game. I went out with two of my best friends in the Greenwich Village area and at the end of the night, we went and got pizza. Outside of the pizza place was a really tall and attractive red head who exuded a confidence that normally would have intimated me, but on this night seemed welcoming. I struck up a conversation. Soon, I was at ease and guessing (correctly) where she went to both high school and college (both were HPJ institutions, though she didn’t harbor any overtly jappy tendencies). Myself and the two buddies went back to her apartment and kicked it there til close to 4 AM. Privately, she vowed to me that we’d hang out again soon. She gave me her number, but ultimately didn’t return my calls. Two years later, I’ve finally cut her. This is a difficult cut because it rids you of your lone memory with a fun person and ensures that, in all likelihood, this L.A.-born red head will never be in your life again.

Same thing for a legendary HPJ from my sophomore year at college. She got teased for her slight resemblance to a member of the equine family, but I and at least one other close friend made out with her. I don’t regret it. She was actually really intelligent; her classic jap-gear and swag belied the fact that she had a real brain and thought deeply about things. But she transferred to an even jappier institution after her freshman year and I really haven’t seen her since.

During the second or third week of my junior year in college, a buddy and I took two freshman on a double date. We went to a chic Cuban restaurant in a newly-gentrifying St. Louis neighborhood. The conversation flowed reasonably well, but it didn’t seem either of us were making a real connection with our dates. Later in the night, we went to a famous frozen custard joint. On the ride home from the custard joint, I inexplicably fell asleep in the backseat of my buddy’s car, my date seated directly next to me. I awoke only a minute or two later, but it might has well have been an eternity. I never really talked much with the poor girl and then saw her this past September after leaving a restaurant in NYC on the night of my birthday party. I wonder if she even remembered that. I hope not, but I don’t have the courage to risk it: she’s cut.

The first girl I semi-legitimately dated after college was, in fact, a girl with whom I went to college. During college, she always struck me as having that “untouchable vibe,” like she just couldn’t be approached. She struck me as classy though a bit too cool for school and not especially kind. She was from the upper east side and just had a certain upper crust, ole money sensibility ( I ended up being wrong about this) that said “Beware, I am judging you” each time you looked her in the eye. Then, essentially out of nowhere, I texted her two Aprils ago, roughly a year after we had graduated.  What ensued was a delightfully unexpected, near-two month  fling. It got to the point where it was increasingly monogamous and I’m not sure either of us wanted to continue progressing in that direction. In short, I made a woeful blunder on what turned out to be the final day of our fling, one I will omit from this blog and one that I regret, if only because it was tasteless and probably left her with a poorer opinion of me.

It also led her sorority pledge mom to think lowly of me and that ticked me off, because the mom always has these huge July 4th parties on the coast of Massachusetts and I not-so-jokingly joked that I really want an invite to one. Thanks in part to my poor handling of the end with the untouchable upper east sider, I pretty much can assure myself of not getting an invite to that ostentatious celebration of our nation’s birthday. I don’t want to shame myself any further with either of these, so I got rid of the both.

Gotta run, more cuts later.

Cuts 118:. Cuts to go: 382. Days Remaining: 40. Follow along @500fewerfriends on twitter or e-mail feedback to 500fewerfriends@gmail.com.