Nobody likes being the bad guy. We all like to think that we are good people, and that we would never intentionally hurt someone else. Sometimes we even go to great lengths to avoid it. An acquaintance invites you to a party and we say ‘Oh wonderful, I will just have to check my calendar!’ rather than saying ‘Thanks for the invite, but I really would rather sit at home in my underwear watching Netflix than hang out with a group of people I don’t know’
We lose interest in someone we’ve been chatting to online, and we don’t send that harsh message ‘Sorry – but after getting to know you better I am no longer interested in pursuing anything further with you’… we just sort of fade out. We don’t want to burn bridges. We don’t want to hurt feelings.
But sometimes, you have to grit your teeth, and be the asshole you try so hard not to be.
I recently met a really nice guy. He did everything you wish every other guy you’ve dated had done. I knew that he was smitten. And I knew that he was genuine. Salt of the earth. He just wanted a girlfriend, we clicked, and he was in hot pursuit. I’m not going to lie – I enjoyed the flattery. Who wouldn’t like a good looking, lovely guy showering them in compliments and adoration? But at the same time I knew that I was not interested in him that way. He just wasn’t my type. He didn’t rock my boat. I didn’t want to tear his clothes off and I didn’t get butterflies when his name would pop up on my phone.
I was tempted to ‘give it a shot’ anyway, as guys like that don’t come around very often. I thought maybe I could grow to like him as more than a friend. But ultimately, he was far too nice for me to take a gamble that I knew deep down I would lose. After all, it wasn’t my feelings I was gambling with – it was his. He didn’t deserve to be my experiment. So I had to be the asshole. I had to be cruel. I had to let him know that that things wouldn’t be going any further. Not now, not ever. I didn’t want him hoping that I would call him up one day, because I’d left him with some lingering thought that this wasn’t final. Mostly, I didn’t want to be an ACTUAL asshole that just kept this poor guy on the ‘back burner’ in case some day in the future I needed an ego boost.
So I let him down. I cancelled the next date. I didn’t drop any hints that we could reschedule, and I didn’t give him a bullshit excuse. I didn’t apologise. And I didn’t contact him again.
It isn’t just in dating that we sometimes need to be an asshole – sometimes we need to be an asshole to the people we care about the most. Sometimes our friends or family need a good dose of asshole. I had a friend who for years would rely on me to sort her life out. Fill up her car, pump up her tyres, go food shopping with her. I wrote her resumes for her, I drafted texts to the guys she was dating, I found places for her to live, I helped her book her holidays. Over time I started to feel like a personal assistant, and I started to notice how awfully she actually treated me. Catty remarks, starting arguments, coupled with a constant neediness – I decided it was time to be an asshole. I explained to her that I needed some space, that I didn’t like how she was treating me and I stopped spending time with her. As much as it hurt knowing that I had hurt her and she was now feeling insecure, unloved and abandoned – I sucked it up and I did not call her to apologise. I wasn’t sorry. I was being the asshole she actually needed me to be so that she could take charge of her own life, and hopefully avoid treating other people like that in the future.
Being an occasional asshole gets a bad rap, but it can be the defining difference between being assertive and being a doormat. And while it is never, ever okay to be vindictive and mean-spirited, sometimes people do need to hear the ugly truth. Just pick your battles – that guy on the train playing his music too loud probably doesn’t deserve your assholeness, and telling your boss what you think of his personality won’t get you anywhere. But stand up for yourself. Worry less about being an asshole in that moment, and more about being a closet asshole who slowly hurts people so they can avoid confrontation instead.
Don’t fuck people around, say how you feel and be proud of having enough guts and integrity to have those tough conversations.