In this frank, funny, and necessary guidebook, Kara Kinney Cartwright, a mom who has raised two teenage boys, compiles all the unwritten rules of being a good guy. As it turns out, everyone needs to learn one major lesson to safely avoid assh*le territory: other people are also humans. (Whoa, right?)
Just Don’t Be an Assh*le contains everything young men need to know to have positive interactions, make the best decisions, and recognize when they’re being jerks. Things like,
Just don’t be an assh*le:
• To your family (parents are not your employees)
• To your friends (they’ll laugh at you, not with you)
• At work (no one wants to hear your podcast idea)
• To women (“Are you up?” doesn’t qualify as romance)
• Online (if you wouldn’t do it in real life, don’t do it)
• In the world (people unlike you are also people)
• To yourself (it’s okay not to have all the answers)
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Don’t Be an Asshole at School
School is where you probably spend most of your time, so there’s a good chance it’s a prime contributor to your asshole behavior. I can understand why. Boring lectures. Useless tests. Arbitrary rules. Then there’s the pressure to succeed, with your parents and your teachers constantly reminding you that YOUR FUTURE is at stake.
Factor in a bunch of hormonal teens trying to figure out who they are, and you’ve got something like a social experiment taking place inside something like a prison. At any particular moment, the whole operation is basically one social media post away from turning into a mob.*
*And I’m talking pitchforks and torches, not adorable group choreography.
But here’s the thing: There’s no way around it. You have to do school. You have to show up and do school every day until they hand you a cap and gown. Why? Because every employer is looking for doers, not quitters. If you have any ambition to make any sort of adult life for yourself, you need to graduate. If you graduate, you can get a job. If you get a job, you will have money. If you have money, you can someday move out. Living at home and letting your mom wash your underwear might seem like a good deal now, but at some point you will be faced with the reality that it is not the easiest way to get a date.
Think for Your Dang Self
School is boring and bad things happen when young guys get bored. Somebody gets a terrible idea, a couple other guys think it’s hilarious, and then, before you know it, the whole gang is off and running toward totally foreseeable trouble and its painfully obvious consequences, ranging from after school detention to the sort of stuff that makes you grateful juvenile court records are usually sealed.
These guys aren’t necessarily assholes. A mob usually includes some combination of assholes and non-assholes, although your ratios may vary. What mobs always lack is a good guy—one single good guy with the superpower of foresight and the bravery to step forward and make an absolutely incredible inspirational speech that changes hearts and minds, turns the tide, and saves both the mob and its victims from doom.
Things to Say to Turn the Tide of Assholery
Not a good idea, guys.
Ehh, let’s not.
Nah, I’m not into this.
I was thinking we’d [do some other less assholey thing].
Although right now it may feel lonely to be the only person around who can think for your dang self, rest assured that this is a temporary situation. Picture a grown-ass man at work. Let’s say he’s sitting at a desk in a cubicle and his job is to scroll through spreadsheets all day. I think we can agree this is boring. And yet, very rarely does a grown-ass man pop up over the cubicle wall and whisper to his nearby buddies, “Psst. Guys. I hate this place. Let’s eff it up!” It’s even more unusual for other grown-ass men to pop up over their own cubicle walls and reply, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Let’s do it! Let’s eff it up!” And never once has a bunch of grown-ass men in athletic-fit dress shirts hit up Michaels for a dozen cans of spray paint and then dress-shoe-tippy-toed back to work to spray-paint M*****F****Rs and 69s all over their office building.*
*To the best of my knowledge. Anything’s possible in Florida.
Hold the line against assholery. It does get easier.
Peer Pressure—Ask Why
It’s natural for you to want to feel appreciated by the people around you. That’s not a teenager thing, that’s a human thing. But considering the current state of your developing brain and the sheer number of hours you spend at school surrounded by your peers, peer approval may well be the most powerful force in your life right now. That can be great if your peers are a bunch of good guys, encouraging you to do better and be better. The problem is, you don’t have any say over who your classmates and teammates are, which means there are most likely some assholes in the mix.
Do not underestimate the influence of assholes. They can be relentless when it comes to peer pressure. Some assholes are not only tenacious but also very persuasive: It’ll be great. It’ll be fun. Everyone’s doing it. You haven’t done it yet? You’re kidding? You’re gonna love it. This is your chance. What’s the big deal anyway? No one will know. How would they even find out? Blah blah blah.
When somebody is giving you the business about vaping,* cheating, drinking, drugs, getting sexy, or whatever, ask yourself: What does this person have to gain? What do I have to lose?
*In case this isn’t clear to you and your friends yet, vaping is for douches. Someday you’ll realize it was an idiotic fad—but also addictive and kind of poisonous.
As you work through this formula, consider whether there might be something more behind your peer pressurer’s motivations. Something unspoken. Something tactical. Something as in: “If we have enough people, the police won’t be able to catch all of us.” Or: “If we take this good guy along with us, maybe we won’t get in trouble.” Neither of these is a good reason for you to go along with the plan. And neither of these things will turn out to be true. The bottom line is that the asshole pressuring you to do something stupid is not acting in your best interest.*
*Or his, but he doesn’t know it yet. Maybe give him this book when you’re done with it.
Assholes use their buddies as human cover.
Non-assholes make an excuse and get out.
Good guys just say no.
Humiliation Is Not Entertainment
No matter how boring school is, no matter how tight your clique, how easy the mark, how big the pile-on—no matter what—humiliating another human being is an asshole move. Making someone feel worse is never the way to make yourself feel better. This is one of those asshole moves that will come back to haunt you later on when you develop a grown-ass conscience, which, assuming you’re not a sociopath, is quite likely to happen.
In the olden days, the scale of humiliation that bored teenagers could inflict on one another was more limited because we would write our insults on paper* or pass them from person to person telephone-game style.** Aren’t you so lucky to grow up in the digital age, when there are so many new and exciting ways to humiliate? Public posts intended to make sure someone knows he’s left out. “Secret” polls and chats that somehow get screen-shotted and sent to the victim. (Oopsie!) Fake accounts that obscure the source of a rumor or confuse the target into sharing a confidence. So many new ways to bully someone! Plus, your language these days is so much more creative! Sure, we might have whispered that a boy was “scuzzy,” but you kids have really upped the ante with “Go kill yourself.” So clever! So advanced!
*For any history buffs out there, these elaborately folded affairs were called “notes.”
**By telephone-game style, I mean on actual telephones, with only one line per household. It was bleak.
Asshole Dead Giveaway
“Go kill yourself.”
Stop that shit. Stop it. Some things are un-take-back-able. Some harm is undoable.
Here’s the non-asshole plan:
• When you see humiliation happening, don’t join in.
• Unfollow accounts that are up to no good. And don’t act like you don’t know what they’re up to.
• Unfriend—for real, in real life—people who prey on the weak. It’s only a matter of time until they come for you. If you think staying on a bully’s good side will protect you from becoming a target, you are mistaken.
• Don’t be a bystander who laughs it off. Try saying something: “What’s the point? Stop.”
Next-Level Good Guy Moves
• Lead by example. Interact with the targeted person as if that person is an actual human being, WHICH THEY ARE. “You OK?”
• Get help from a parent, teacher—any trusted adult—before it gets out of hand. Do not wait until it becomes “a matter for the authorities.”