As a child of the 1980s, many of my thoughts are encased in characters from sitcoms and movies. I wish that I could say that William Shakespeare had a huge influence on my thought processes on love and loss but alas it is Family Ties, Cheers and Night Court. It’s not the worst thing but my references are not particularly known by the world. So you’ll have to indulge me a little as I explain.
In the TV show, Family Ties, Irwin “Skippy” Handelman is the quirky neighbor to the featured family in the sitcom. The Keatons accept Skippy as an extension of their family because he is kind hearted, although slightly dimwitted by nature. While he is truly Alex’s friend (Michael J. Fox’s character), Skippy is possibly best known for having a huge crush on Mallory. His feelings for her are never reciprocated yet he presses on with little or no hope. Even his best friend, Alex, undermines other love interests that Skippy has. It has been a really long time since I’ve watched Family Ties. So this next part might be just what I want to believe. Eventually Skippy finds someone and Mallory recognizes her loss. That may not have actually happened in the show.
However there is a moment from Night Court that has stuck in my memory for years. The custodian, Art, brings Christine (Markie Post) to a function and it ends poorly. Eventually he puts it all on the line “I’d always treat you right. You would never want for anything.” Upon hearing those words, Christine gets upset. Art lets her off the hook though. It’s not Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet but it represents a part of the human condition. A man who would do anything for someone, sacrifices his own feelings for the other.
The role of the “nice guy” (or girl, this is not gender exclusive) is not an easy one to play. Decisions need to be made about what to do and there isn’t usually much wiggle room. The answer is the right thing. Sometimes that’s hard to swallow because the Skippy and Art characters of the world are not the stars. Their names are not on any marquis and they don’t usually get the girl in the end. So why do they do it? Because someone has to!
I don’t want to live in a world without the nice guy. Despite getting the distinction of “finishing last”, they tend to keep the world in balance. With self-less abandon, they go into every situation trying to do right by other people. This is not in a superhero kind of way, although Captain America could be characterized as a “nice guy”. Mostly this is done in simple ways through small actions that no one notices at first. That’s why I force myself to believe that Mallory has the recognition moment when Skippy has moved on. The nice guy tends to not get noticed until he’s gone.
My hope is that at some point, the nice guy gets his due. The Skippy characters of the world get a little bit more than a pat on the back. If you have one in your life, recognize it because they would quite literally do anything for you. That’s a great person to have around!