Towards the end of my first semester of college, I looked over the desolate wasteland that was my social life and came to an important realization: Maybe I would have more friends if I wasn’t such a dick.
I want to believe that it’s in my nature to be a good guy, but I was just trying so hard to be anything but that throughout high school. I blame Maddox and The Ex-Girlfriend.
For those unfamiliar with Maddox and The Best Page in the Universe, it’s a website that has been around for probably over a decade by now (this makes me feel super old). The author humorously shreds elements of pop culture and society in a cruel, unforgiving way. It’s hilarious, especially to adolescent boys. Maddox makes it cool and funny to be a jerk. I decided I wanted to be like Maddox.
The missing part of the equation, however, is that Maddox is an anonymous guy on the internet who can revel in hate emails because he will never see those people in real life. When you walk around the world mocking people to their face because you saw someone do it on the internet and it was funny, you don’t win any popularity contests. Some people think it’s funny. Most think it’s crappy and you give them no reason to believe that you are anything more than an ass hole.
So in December of 2007, I decided to quit being like that…next year.
The Ex-Girlfriend and I had an epic on-again-off-again teen romance that spanned from 8th grade sorta confusedly into high school. She lived with her mom in Pensacola every Summer, and in Kentucky with her dad the rest of the year. It was long distance, it was hard, it was fueled by a misguided notion that any of it was very important. She was the first girl that I ever told, “I love you.”
In the end, the long distance killed it. We broke up and didn’t get back together. Months later, she moved down to Pensacola to stay year-round. “We almost made it,” I thought. Like any mature boy, I avoided her like the plague for as long as I could. It was extremely conspicuous seeing as how we were both on the swim team and thus spent 3-5 hours/day together. Eventually, things leveled out and we were cordial to each other again.
That’s when a close friend started talking to her and was cool enough to ask my permission to go out with her. I told him yes, because I wasn’t remotely interested in getting back together with her until around ten seconds after I told him yes.
More time passed. They broke up. We started talking again, doing small stuff, hanging out, holding hands. I cornered her and asked what it meant, because that’s my style: be too afraid to say anything for a couple months, then suddenly work up the courage and make it as confrontational and uncomfortable for the other person as possible.
I wish I was joking about this, but she literally turned around and walked away. We were at a swim meet and it was loud so I held out hope that she just didn’t hear the question. I don’t even remember how it happened, but I think someone else told me that she did hear and she didn’t want to get back together. We had been circling each other for like four months at this point and apparently it didn’t mean anything to her.
I was super hurt and angry, so I did the only rational thing that high school Brantley could think of: held her transgressions against the entire female race and the concept of relationships. The ensuing dating cold streak was unprecedented. I wanted to be loved, but wouldn’t allow myself to love back. That was how I got hurt and I had no intentions of ever doing that again. Apart from a short-lived almost-something that I ruined by my refusal to dance and a short series of make out sessions with a girl that I would later abruptly stopped talking to, I didn’t have any more high school girlfriends.
And so I carried these negative attitudes with me into college, lamenting my failed fresh start despite the fact that I wasn’t committing to it by changing myself first. With a miserable, lonely first semester behind me I vowed to let go of those bad feelings and negative habits in 2008.
I actually carried through with it too. I started by sending a Facebook message to The Ex-Girlfriend apologizing for everything that I ever did wrong and for holding so much against her. She wrote back and we forgave each other. In the same fashion as the rest of the overblown relationship, her forgiveness meant everything to me.
With that monkey off my back, I was confident enough to meet new people. I was a nice, decent human being to them and they liked me for that. People started to think of me as a nice guy, even people that I had known me in those dark days of high school.
New Year’s Resolutions can be silly, frivolous things that we abandon by mid-February, but they can also be an excuse to make profound life changes that make you a better person inside and out. (It’s also worth noting that I lost 40 lbs. in 2008).
Disclaimer: I don’t actually blame Maddox. He has every right to do his thing, and he does it very well. I blame my silly teenage self for thinking that it would be a good idea to mimic such harsh negativity because I thought it would make me a cool kid.
Another Disclaimer: I also don’t blame The Ex-Girlfriend. She wasn’t perfect by any means, but the majority of the damage was self-inflicted.