One night, while I was out at a bar with a group of colleagues, someone in our crowd started texting a man she was seeing.
Someone else in the group, who knew this woman better than I did, probed her about why she was talking to said man. It turned out he was married and she had found this out a few weeks earlier.
Her friend's rebuff made her defensive. She'd also had a few drinks so it wasn't a surprise that she snapped at him.
Her reply (I'm paraphrasing as I'd also had a few that night) was along the lines of:
'Yeah, I know he's an asshole but at least he's not a pushover.'
Something about this exchange has stuck with me since I overheard it two years ago. The woman in this story was not, in my experience, a bad person. She was very generous and actually helped me out during a sever depressive episode.
I don't think she's horrible. To me this sentiment 'It's better to be an asshole than...' is just a very sad reflection of modern culture.
We've somehow accepted that being a complete douche-nozzle to the people around you reflects strength. A-holeness is a virtue, something to strive for. Being the biggest middle finger to people you disagree with or don't get along with is a prized trait in romance, media and politics. We don't appreciate someone who can bridge divides or resolve problems. We adore the ego-maniacs who step on everyone around them as they climb the ladder.
There's a number of reasons why a man like Donald Trump has a very solid chance of being the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. And while I don't think his belligerent dickishness is the only cause of his rise, it's certainly a major part of it.
It's not a stretch for anyone listening to Trump or the people who adore him, that 'telling it like it is' equates to saying the most hateful things you can just to make the person on the other side angry and hurt.
Yet Trump is just the most prominent example of how much we value A-holes in our society. Reality shows abound with awful people doing awful things to each other. Some of the best fictional TV shows star narcissistic characters, who though enjoyable to watch, also do horrible things to others.
And I think that's why we love A-holes. They're entertaining and often very driven. I get the appeal of someone so outrageously full of themselves that they don't (appear) to care what other people think and go after their goals.
I doubt though, if push came to shove, any of us would say that we'd enjoy working for a boss like Trump or having a friend like Kanye West. Most people would also get pretty sick of a boyfriend of girlfriend sleeping around or breaking their promises to us.
That's because the A-holes biggest problem is that they rarely benefit others around them. They use people and discard them and very often their self-centerdness is not a sign of strength but an indication that they need to overcompensate for their insecurity.
Yet still too many people fall for their deceptions only to realize later how much they regretted wasting their time on someone who couldn't have cared less about them.