Tuesday, May 26, 2015

F. Scott Fitzgerald on nice-guy syndrome

There is a recurring secret subtext of same-sex love running through the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. One of the more interesting cases is the story of Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby. Ostensibly a woman, Jordan can easily be read as a man, too easily for it to be an accident.

There is a lot that could be said about that subject but I want to focus on one passage from the last pages of chapter 3 that interests me because Fitzgerald describes a moral in Jordan that corresponds to nice guy syndrome.
 Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest. She wasn't able to endure being at a disadvantage and, given this unwillingness, I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body.
That last phrase is an esoteric reference to sex. If Jordan is really a man disguised as a woman, and I'm not alone in suspecting this, we have a fairly classic example of nice guy syndrome. Fearful that some hidden weakness (in this case, being a closeted gay man) will cause us to be shamed and rejected instead of loved, we develop a habit of lying to everyone.

This is just as true for heterosexuals like me as it is for closeted gay men. Nice guy syndrome isn't something new; it has been around for a long time, probably for as long as there have been men.

PS: Our narrator Nick immediately goes on to reveal that he has been less than honest in his dealing with someone back home and then says this,
Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people I have ever known.
Whatever The Great Gatsby is about, it isn't about anything that your high school English teacher told you it was about.

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