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The ‘Only If You’re Sad’ Guy

There’s a certain kind of man who gets off on sad women.

It’s an entire trope – The Depressed/Tortured/Troubled/Damsel-in-distress that the guy ‘rescues’ with minimal emotional investment by clowning around. He is not a Manic Pixie Dream Guy. No, the original in that trope is not a person and only exists to further the male hero. This kind of man, in contrast, is all about himself. He’s a BIG personality. Too big to allow anyone else to exist as anything else but a stage for him to clown around on. Okay, maybe he isn’t always this loud, big flashy star guy. More likely, he’s mousy and awkward. But this setup allows him to act out his big personality fantasies.

This kind of guy passes off very troubling behaviours as kindness or empathy. It is in his interest for the woman to be sad and helpless. He’s very good at mansplaining mental illness. He’s excellent at validating and amplifying what may be normal feelings of being hard done by. If he actually cared about you as the person, he’d be invested in your happiness, your independence. He would not be unnaturally attached to your sad feelings, your low moments and your poor health (mental and physical).

This is the friend/partner who is ‘there JUST when you need them’. If he isn’t interested in talking to you when you are feeling decent and don’t have a pressing need, it means he doesn’t actually like you when you’re content. He cannot relate to a person who is complete on their own. He doesn’t feel needed unless the woman is in desperate distress. And we know what most men do when that happens – they attack the woman for not being dependent enough.

This is the same man who had a problem with a film like Veere di Wedding, which above all was a story about female joy in each other. This is the one who leaves me comments or emails me telling me that he ‘senses a deep well of sadness inside me and how strong I am’. This is also the writer of those dreadful, woebegone songs about the (always male) protagonist helping a woman when she’s down and then she *gasp* dares to go on with her life (presumably with someone else). Can you see how this is the same kind of entitlement that makes men say ‘friendzone‘? Empathy or help should not come with the expectation of sex or emotional dependency.

What’s really troubling is how closely this is linked with popular (and toxic) male icons. The brooding loner is not sexy; he’s socially inept. Jon Snow is not a good leader; he’s emotionally deficient. The sulky ‘deep thinker’ isn’t all that; he’s very limited in his communication skills. These don’t have to be character flaws but they are certainly not traits to romanticise, especially when you consider how poisonous this kind of a human being is to other people and their well-being.

I’ve been there as well. Especially when one is in a difficult place or situation, someone who seems to provide support or listening (especially a man because WHEN DO THEY EVER LISTEN?) seems so attractive. But I’ve also watched what happens when the situation passes, as they usually do. I realise that same man does not have any actual answers. Not even basic ones like how he feels or who he is. He exists only as a brave hero to your inner damsel-in-distress. He has no sense of personhood beyond that.

No wonder he enjoys Batman, angry hiphop, rage politics, shooter games and all other such narratives that are bleak and only require him to survive. He wants to keep you trapped in there with him too. If that’s your thing, well, I can’t speak for how that works because it’s not me. But if it’s not and you want to someday get back to the land of laughter and peace of mind, watch how the hero turns.

I’ve gone around in circles describing the same kind of toxic male that is worshipped by our culture and that a lot of modern men pattern themselves on. We can give it different names. And I can get stymied or shouted down by the NotAllMen and other such MRA crusaders. But the facts don’t change. A guy who’s only happy when you’re sad is never going to be happy or allow you to be happy. You choose.

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