selfish characters

Anti-Mask-ulinity and Other Selfish Character Traits

We probably all know someone like this. The guy who won’t wear a mask during this COVID crisis due to his personal freedom that shall not be infringed. And perhaps we lament that we had no idea he had such toxic self-absorption pulsing through his veins, and his psyche, back when we were supposedly friends and saw each other often.

Perhaps our first clue could have been how this character didn’t believe in wearing seat belts in his pickup with the gun rack. Or maybe it was a protective motorcycle helmet he categorically rejected as too restrictive of his freedom, instead using an appropriately dubbed “brain bucket.”

Such red flags are excellent descriptive details a writer might use to “show rather than tell” how a character in a novel is inherently selfish and entirely egoistic.

Works of fiction come with a caveat, at the very beginning on the copyright page: “The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.”

This author doesn’t know how individual creative intent can truly be defined or corralled, but let’s face it. Every character, whether human or alien, is derived from personality traits observed in actual living (or dead) human beings. Hence, any given character in a novel might be derived of, or a composite therein, of any number of folks an author has encountered throughout life.

It’s called writing what you know.

This author is starting to wish she hadn’t known certain selfish characters. Because a guy who is one astoundingly self-absorbed dude is ultimately a friend to no one.

And perhaps people should come with the same warning that books do, right upfront at the beginning of any relationship. Because many are fictitious in their representations of themselves, and in how they see themselves.

Real life characters often weave a false narrative of who they really are. As skillfully as an author, and often with unwelcome surprise endings.

Picture the quintessential easy rider. Rolling on down the open road, doing his thing, living the dream of freedom fulfilled. Don’t judge him and he won’t judge you. Oh but he will, and does.

Freedom for these characters might mean hoarding firearms, because they find guns fun to shoot. Or the guy with a woman or two or three in each city his work takes him, while the wife stays at home raising the kids he rarely sees. He might feel free to lie about that marital status, or his age. Or his contempt for other races.

Maybe he’s a self-styled guru, an atheist, or a proclaimed devout Christian who doesn’t cotton to any religious beliefs other than his own while he rarely practices what his messiah preaches. He’s nicotine-addicted, or a hard drinker of whiskey and contraband moonshine, while those enjoying cannabis are contemptible criminals.

He could have salacious secret desires, but inwardly sneers at sexual partners for theirs. Because a double-standard for women is something he silently doubles down on, right after he’s been intimate with them.

But this character is deceptively charismatic, wickedly funny, or highly intelligent. So we seek to call him friend. Or lover. Or more. Until the disorienting plot twist that reveals who he really is. Perhaps it happens over time, or maybe it’s the day he calls out of the blue to tell you he’s in town, but he’s not willing to wear a mask when he meets with you.

Do you recognize someone like this? The guy who makes you believe in his fantasy? That he’s all about helping others as he travels alone down a road paved in personal freedom at the expense of everyone else (and their auto insurance rates). Because his fun means more than your ability to function safely in the real world.

Yet how many times might you hear, “You call me if you ever need anything.” Sure, if he ever answers his phone. And what if someone needs him to wear a mask?

Perhaps getting older and wiser means you come to realize that, not only do you not want to surround yourself with people possessing such selfish traits and tendencies, you also no longer have interest in creating fictional characters based on anything remotely resembling them. Unless they’re villains. Because who needs friends like that?


2 thoughts on “Anti-Mask-ulinity and Other Selfish Character Traits”

  1. Just fyi, we have experinced a great many women who won’t wear the mask and fit into the narcissistic mold. Granted, men probably still have an edge in numbers, but it is not their exclusive domain.

    1. Unfortunately all too true. The selfish male visiting Vegas who contacted me was accompanied by an equally self-absorbed sanctimonious female.

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