I've known a lot of guys in my time. Many of them have been dear friends; there've been times when my best friends were all male. I have a dad and two brothers and lots of male relatives. I live with three guys. I've dated a lot of guys, including the one I'm still committed to after eleven years. Point being, I've seen a pretty wide spectrum of male personalities and behavior and I even think I have a little insight into guys.
There are two kinds of nice guys in the world. Or, perhaps more accurately, there is a spectrum of niceguyishness.
At one end, are the guys who are just pure and simple good guys, decent people, humanly flawed perhaps but nonetheless likable *and* lovable, caring and smart, who have a lot to offer. Ironically, these guys often do not realize just how wonderful they are and how much they are valued by the people around them, and sometimes they even suffer crippling shyness/low self-esteem. I am fortunate to know, and have known, and to be related to, an unusually high number of guys towards this end of the spectrum.
At the other end are the guys who identify as "nice guys", often quite loudly and defensively, and who believe themselves to be underappreciated martyrs; usually they don't understand why they never get the girl and have at least once in their lives bitterly uttered the phrase "Nice guys finish last" usually in reference to a female who isn't dating them. It is this latter group I shall be addressing.
Now according to the Five Geek Fallacies I am about to be rather un-PC. Specifically I believe I am violating #2, Friends Accept Me As I Am, even though I am not directly addressing anyone but rather ranting into the void.
I have had my fair share of encounters with Nice Guys over the years; and I find that nowadays, meeting people in various online communities, it is even easier to run into them-- but in some ways, also easier to spot them coming.
Here is a classic example of a Nice Guy experience that I had in high school, which I think summarizes the issue. I was friends with a circle of about four guys who were all very tight with each other, all to varying degrees both nice guys and Nice Guys. Contrary to my more fluid physical boundaries now as a polyamorous adult, back then there was no gratuitous making out or any such thing lest anyone Get The Wrong Idea. One of the guys was someone I was close enough to, to consider one of my best friends. Another of the guys, the most recent addition to the group who was very quiet and who I probably knew the least (and knew me the least)-- in fact we didn't know each other well at all-- decided he had a huge crush on me. This did not prompt him to, say, talk to me more or anything, so I remained blissfully ignorant until I slowly began to piece together the cryptic comments, weird behavior, and snickers of those guy friends whenever I was around. I might have been trying to date someone else at the time, I can't recall, but either way I just wasn't interested romantically in this particular guy so I tried to ignore the signs and act like everything was normal. Eventually the other guys decided it was time to confront me with it and ask if I was going to go out with him, and the social pressure mounted, from them as well as a few female friends. Since there was no longer any chance of just ignoring the situation, I had to tell the guy that most awful of things, that I liked him well enough but "not that way".
I knew he would be hurt and feel rejected by that, and having been overlooked myself in the past I felt bad about it and tried to at least be gentle, figuring that was that, and he'd get over it. What I was not quite prepared for was that the entire group of guys-- including the one who liked me-- would be furious at me for it and promptly stop talking to me. I don't remember exactly how long the snit lasted, but it was quite a while before they would deign to talk to me again, and even then things were never quite the same.
I'm telling this not because I feel particularly scarred by it still but because it has some of the classic hallmarks of the Nice Guy experience, which I KNOW some of my chick friends reading this will be able to relate to only too well:
1) He fell "totally in love" with me, as it was relayed to me, without having really gotten to know me at all and based mostly on surface attraction. (And although the romantic in me likes to believe that "love at first sight" is possible, the true manifestation of that phenomenon is a *mutual* one IMO, and in any case it is quite reasonable to remind oneself that there is a difference between a swift and powerful attraction and actual love, and that one might wish to take some time to explore whether there is a point of convergence there before proceeding.)
2) The assumption was made, by all the guys including him, that because he was a Nice Guy, I was obligated to place that above any of his other qualities and to date him for it, regardless of whether or not we were otherwise compatible.
3) My feelings or desires did not seem to matter nor enter into the equation; he liked me, ergo, I must go out with him-- because who in her right mind would pass up a chance to date such a Nice Guy?
4) When his feelings were not returned, even with a rejection delivered as gently as possible out of consideration for those feelings, he and the other guys turned on me. All my good stuff turned to bad stuff and I was to be reviled.
Let me contrast this with another example from my life. Random, who is a genuinely nice guy, was my best friend and roommate before we ever got involved. He developed romantic feelings for me at a time when I did not return them, and when he expressed them to me we had a long talk about it and about how we could keep living together and being friends without things being all weird. Here's the key. Random took a chance and confessed his feelings without knowing if I'd feel the same way, but when I didn't, he BACKED THE HELL OFF. He made it very clear that being friends with me was still important to him and that he wanted us to be comfortable together, that he understood that he had to deal with his feelings and that I wasn't responsible for them, and that it was very important to him that I know that he wasn't going to pressure me or keep trying to put the moves on me and make me feel unsafe or cornered. And he stuck to it, to the point where I *was* quickly comfortable with him again, and tried to make an effort in return to respect *his* feelings and (for example) not rub his face in it when I had a date. Eventually, of course, I did fall in love with him and the rest is history, but NONE of that would've happened if he'd pushed me to "give him a chance" or treated me badly for not returning his feelings. He respected my decision and proved that he was still going to be a good friend to me, and frankly that might have told me more about the kind of guy he is-- the kind of PERSON he is-- than I'd have learned from dating him right then. And that became part of why I fell for him.
Now the moral of the story is not "good things come to those who wait". If you (male or female) have a thing for someone and they tell you they don't return it, waiting around and playing at being a sympathetic friend in the expectation that you'll wear them down and get yours one day makes you an asshole, not a friend.
There are a lot of Nice Guys out there, and they are incredibly insidious, because on the surface they SEEM so sweet, so misunderstood, so very different from the boorish asshole who cheated on you or told you that those pants do, indeed, make your ass look fat. But in the end, they turn out to be using their "niceness" as an excuse to hide behind, much like medieval aristocracy used cloying perfumes to cover up the ass-stank of their unwashed bodies.
I have some news for you, Nice Guys of the world. "Nice" isn't as much of a selling point as you'd think. In fact, for most women, it's like expecting that your new car will come with wheels attached. I know that you think
The guys I have met and known who could legitimately be called Nice Guys were, for one thing, almost invariably bitter. Either they have never gotten over being picked on in junior high/rejected by the popular girls in school, or they haven't gotten laid in a long time, or they've gotten dumped sometime in the last few years and are still licking their wounds. Whatever it is, they have a huge chip on their shoulders about it, and in their eyes the women of the world owe them for it. They don't usually verbalize it, but oh how the resentment seethes.
They tend to befriend women in order to date them. Nice Guys don't usually just ask a woman out and at least make a pretext of friendship to use as a springboard. This is where they can get confused with actual nice guys, who tend to also befriend women before dating them, but the difference is that the genuine nice guy appreciates women as human beings and enters into friendships mostly for their own sake rather than working them as an angle. The Nice Guy, on the other hand, sees women mostly in sexual terms (although he will deny it or call it "romantic terms") but doesn't have a lot of success with the direct approach, so instead he puts on a charming, harmless face in order to befriend women with the expectation that she will reward his niceness and friendship with sex. It can be a subtle difference, but there are clues-- the Nice Guy tends to come on pretty strong as a friend, and often makes "joking" sexual comments that can be dismissed as not intended seriously if the woman doesn't respond to the come-on implied in it. He will hang his belief that you would make great friends on the smallest of compatibilities-- for example a shared interest in a band, which he makes an awful lot of hay out of. He may talk a lot about how victimized he's been by cruel ex-girlfriends in a ploy for sympathy.
One of the more glaring things a Nice Guy will do is to listen sympathetically if you are complaining about problems in your relationship and then talk enthusiastically about what a jerk that guy is and how HE would never do such a thing. Sometimes it's an even more overt "hey, if you dump him, you could always start fucking me". This is because a Nice Guy does not seem to get that women confiding their relationship problems to a friend are not looking for the replacement model, and they see this as their chance to show how sympathetic and NICE and attentive they are and to score points off of your vulnerability. Also, the only thing a Nice Guy hates and resents more than a woman who doesn't return his interest is a man who is actually involved with a woman. It's some kind of fucked up alpha wolf pissing contest but he would just love to lure a woman away from her boyfriend (who he perceives as more alpha because he has a female) and thus prove that the nice identity he's invested so much in is really the bigger-dicked one. And Nice Guys are wholly convinced that they themselves are too NICE to ever do anything wrong, and they genuinely think that they would be a perfect partner, whereas the guy who's with a woman must be having problems because he's an asshole, not because people in relationships have problems sometimes. The Nice Guy thinks he is a white knight who will never fuck up if only a woman would give him a chance. He's wrong, of course, because we all fuck up with our partners, but the Nice Guy also doesn't like to own up to his fuckups and when he gets dumped, tells everyone that he was "too nice" and the girl couldn't handle it.
The Nice Guy usually has some glaringly big issues in his life that he isn't dealing with-- things that make him unhappy, but rather than address them, he is convinced that if only he could be with someone, everything would magically get better. (Yeah, guess what, it doesn't. You still need to get a job/move into a better place/go back to school/get therapy/clean your toejam/tell your parents to piss off/whatever it is.) For a Nice Guy, all the responsibility for his happiness lies with his future partner. And he *will* put the burden on her, as well as guilting the hell out of her if she gets fed up with mommying him.
Nice Guys think it is enough for them to be so nice, so sweet, so attentive. Because it is enough, they think it's ok to let other stuff slide. Like it doesn't matter if they have good hygiene, because a girl who cares so much about exteriors is shallow and hypocritical if she can't see past a layer of funk to the shining prince beneath. They don't think it's important to develop much in the way of social skills or good manners (although some of them do have a certain amount of charisma). They never stop to ask themselves whether the fact that they haven't dated anyone since 1997 might have something to do with their annoying behaviors or poor sense of humor. In fact, they see no reason to make any extra effort to improve themselves or present themselves well at all-- because they're SO VERY NICE.
Conversely, though, most Nice Guys only fall for a fairly limited range of "hot" chicks. It's because women are all about the status for them, and they are out to prove something to the world. Some of them will deliberately only go after women who are fairly unattainable, if their martyr complex needs some care and feeding.
Nice Guys usually are crap at reading body language and nonverbal cues and usually have serious personal space problems. Women get creeped out because they feel like the guy is literally clinging to them, or is coming on really strong really fast, or doesn't seem to pick up on the fact that they're tensing up or moving away. But since the Nice Guy *knows* he has good intentions, he is deeply insulted by the suggestion that his behavior is unwelcome, creepy, or even threatening. (Whereas a genuine nice guy who misreads a situation is horrified that he might have come across that way and apologizes for it.)
Nice Guys are not patient. This is tricky, again, because sometimes they can *seem* very patient, but in reality they are always chomping at the bit to get into their chosen target's pants. And once they've made a move, they are all about the instant gratification. They demand response NOW. They expect and will pressure or guilt a woman into giving them a chance. It's all or nothing, and if she says no, chances are good the friendship is dead in the water. If it continues, it's almost guaranteed that it's because he doesn't believe she means no, and intends to regroup and try again.
Nice Guys don't actually care what a woman wants, which is one of the keys to identifying a Nice Guy vs. a nice guy, and which runs directly counter to their most deeply held beliefs about themselves. They think that they are great, caring, compassionate partners; usually, they just want a captive audience. They don't have much respect for what her desires and preferences are unless they are for him, because if she wants something different than him, it is attributed to her dysfunction and desire to be treated badly by an asshole. They may spend some time with pick-up books and things that tell them how to get chicks, but they tend to follow the letter of the law and not the spirit. That's why he'll serenade you on a subway platform even though he knows you don't like to call attention to yourself, and then be hurt that you were uncomfortable and embarrassed by the display. He likes to make a big show out of being romantic and considerate, especially when others are watching, but he will still forget to pick up his socks even if you've told him you'd rather have a clean floor than roses delivered to your office.
But the real foolproof way to identify a Nice Guy is to watch how he treats a woman who turns him down romantically. A true-blue Nice Guy invariably will unleash the scorn and contempt and resentment that's been seething under the surface all along, and excoriate the woman he claimed to care about. One of the favored maneuvers is to retreat behind sarcasm, claim that whatever she found unwelcome was "just a joke", and defensively inform her that she has no sense of humor, that she's taking everything way too seriously. Once in a while he'll try to keep being friends-- especially if he thinks there's another chance in it for him-- but he'll let fly with the snarky comments about her, the passive-aggressive "humor" that always points back to her rejection of him, and especially so if she shows interest in anyone else. He's just waiting for that romance to fail so that he can say, "see, she rejects ME when I would've treated her right, but runs after that asshole instead, and now she got hurt. I could've told her that would happen!" And you will never hear a Nice Guy say anything gracious about a guy who dates a woman who rejected him.
The most insidious part of it is the way that Nice Guys turn everything back on the girl, make it all her fault. If she doesn't want to date him-- poor, poor him! What sort of shallow bitch must she be to want a relationship but not with him? Coincidentally, this tactic can sometimes score him a sympathy fuck if he's got a backup girl to run to.
The absolute key difference between a nice guy and a Nice Guy is that the nice guy truly likes and respects women and doesn't feel entitled to the attentions of any woman. The Nice Guy pretends to be that, but secretly he has decided that all women suck (usually for the sins of a couple of them), and he doesn't really care about anything so much as propping up his limp ego.
Guys who are small-n nice sometimes wander into Nice Guy territory, which is why I think of this as a spectrum rather than a dichotomy. But those are usually individual bad habits that are easier to fix because they don't have the deep-seated jerkitude behind them.
The good news is that a Nice Guy can change. I have known guys who went for years with a sucky romantic life and who constantly alienated women who finally sat down with a trusted friend and asked to be told honestly what they were doing wrong. More importantly, they listened and tried to change their off-putting behaviors, and I can't think of one who didn't eventually find real love after that.
But you have to want to change.
There's one of those parody motivational posters that says, "The only consistent factor in all your dysfunctional relationships is you." There's a big ole chunk of truth in that. So if you are reading this and you think you might be a Nice Guy and you can't imagine why you aren't in a relationship, you might want to give that a think. Here's a few other friendly tips, free of charge from me to you:
If a woman doesn't find you funny, it might not be because she has no sense of humor. And telling her as much isn't going to make her like you any better.
No woman owes you her attention, her time, her interest, her admiration, or her love, no matter how worthy you think you are of them.
You are not entitled to have a relationship in your life just because you want one.
If you really aren't getting any women, it might be time to ask yourself (or someone you trust to be honest) what YOU could be doing differently.
Hitting on a woman when she's talking to you about her problems is just not cool. Especially if they are relationship problems.
If you can't be friends with a woman who's turned you down, especially if you find yourself getting really angry about it, you have no business being in a relationship until you work out your issues.
Women generally try hard to make themselves appealing to men when they are interested in or going out with them. So take a shower, brush your teeth, put on nice clothes, and for gods' sakes if you are hoping to get laid, wash your dick. Don't expect her to overlook you being slovenly and foul just because you think you have such a sterling personality.
No matter what you think, you will eventually fuck up in a relationship. Deal with it maturely and move on, and don't try to scam chicks out of their current relationships by selling yourself as the perfect partner.
Don't for the love of pete be Mr. Bad Touch. If she just squirmed over a few inches, it's not because she wants you to close the distance.
Flirting without expecting a return on investment is ok. Active seduction when there are clear signs that it is welcome is ok. Trying to constantly slip in "innocent" gropes, innuendo, kisses, or anything else when she's not interested is the adult equivalent of "are we there yet? are we there yet? how about now? how about now?"
Body language and nonverbal cues are not that hard to learn to read.
If she says you're being obnoxious, there is a really good chance that you are being obnoxious. Even if you think you're all kinds of witty and clever.
Likewise, if she says something you did was weird or pushy or unwelcome, mocking her "paranoia" or getting defensive or saying it was "just a joke" doesn't make you right-- it makes you a jerk. Respect how she perceives you. You might think she was oversensitive, but you have no idea what it is like to be a woman in a world where we have to deal with unwelcome aggressive attention all the time. Treat her feelings as valid even if you "didn't mean it that way". She will respect you more for it.
We can sense your hostility. It is a turnoff.
Bring something to the table besides basic human decency. I'm not talking about money. Be responsible for yourself, your life, and your happiness. Have good things in your life that you want to share with a wonderful woman, rather than expecting her to fill the holes in your life. Even if you're a nice loser, you're still a loser.
There now. I feel better. Maybe sometime soon I will write about psycho girlfriends and how they expect you to anticipate the things they aren't going to bother to talk to you about and how annoying it is when bi chicks treat other bi chicks like nothing more than sex toys or only get bi when it reaches, as Del so aptly put it, "Girlkissing O'Clock". But I will need to muster some inspiration for that post.
Thank you for listening, and best of luck in your future.
Edit: Since there have been several requests, I will just state here that it is ok to link this entry in your blog or website. Attribution can just be made to DivaLion. Please do not repost in whole or part without attribution and a link to this entry. Thanks for all your great comments!
Edit Redux: Some more or less final thoughts on this entry.