Sunday, November 9, 2008

On Making Someone a Good Man by Calling Them "A Good Man"

There is a short story by the wonderful Dave Eggers that goes by the above title (or something like it, I wanted to put the story here but inevitably can't find the book) in which the narrator talks about a man he knows and finds to be somewhat intolerable.

Then, one day, he does something simply decent for someone and is told by them that he is 'a good man'. The narrator feels that, from this point on, the man's continuing conduct is elevated and improved to such an extent that he may actually have become deserving of such a compliment. The suggestion being that being called a good man inspired the bloke to try and live up to such a title.

I reflect on this today because yesterday I was told by someone whose opinion really counts for something that I am a good man. I haven't been told that in a long time, aside from in the colloquial, platitudinous sense that colleagues might use it, i.e. "Do you mind helping me out with this? Good man."

I haven't felt like a good man for quite a while; too many idiocies and idiosyncrasies have put paid to that. But hearing those words with sincerity means that I might just become one, sooner or later.

11 comment(s):

Rosie said...

on that note, i plan to hire someone to follow me around, telling me what a lovely bum i have.

Andrew said...

Good idea Rosie, I currently employ three Vietnamese midgets to follow me around complimenting my ankles. Best bit of business I ever did.

B said...

I see the logic behind this, I bet if you got an overdose of being called Good Man that you'd take the opposite reaction though... and there'd be clinics for it.

Rick said...

From what little I know of you, you are a good man Andrew, if flawed as we all are... And I speak as the most flawed of all. It always does us the world of good to hear it...

She Likes It Loud said...

My first reaction to this was pretty much what Rosie said, heh. If only compliments were magic wands (if only all wands were magical - gutter, sorry). Too bad they don't work when we say them to ourselves for the most part. I can only tell if a man is good by how well they massage my feet. The bar is set.

Andrew said...

B - i've been sent to the clinic for a few things, but not that particular problem.

Rick - Thanks. It does help alright.

SLIL - I think I'm probably crap at foot massages. Watching Pulp fiction as a younger man scared me off giving them out casually.

ian said...

Better than being 'good man' is being a 'decent man', that comes at a serious price - mainly paid in pints.

Dick Madeley said...

I think there's no higher compliment.

jothemama said...

That's funny, I remember being wute little, like still in primary school, and saying it to the very little grandson of a friend of my granny's. And he was so pleased with himself, you could see pride radiating off him as he sat there on his tricycle.

I like 'Strong Man', too. There's an honest and fundamental sort of vibe to them. I like the idea that ou can live up to the compliments you get. Grow into them.

Good man, Andrew.

sineadkeogh said...

Hmm, I liked you very much when I met you. I suspect you are indeed a good man :)

Andrew said...

Ian - Sadly, I'm a highly indecent man in that regard.

Dick - As the greatest man of them all, you should know.

Jo - Pride still radiates off me when I sit on my tricycle. It's better than sitting on a sheep, really, isn't it?

Sinéad - Thanks, you're very kind.
Though I do hope this didn't come across as some lame form of compliment-fishing, that would not be good at all.