Thursday, October 4

The unbearable Nice™ness of being.

Sorry, Eddie, the ladies aren't a fan.

Over the past few months I've read a number of posts written by female bloggers calling shenanigans on the concept of the "Nice Guy™" -- i.e., the guys who (outwardly, at least) are polite, gentlemanly, treat the women they go out with like princesses, but can't ever seem to get any of those women to be his girlfriend, much less get laid. This post from Jill at Feministe, a blog that's been a favorite of my sister's for a while now and that I've been reading more and more lately, finally inspired me to spill my guts on the subject.

The reason I'd been holding back for a while was more out of embarrassment than anything else, because for a while -- not so very long ago, in fact -- I was That Guy: the guy who did everything politely and by-the-book and would treat a woman wonderfully, to no avail in terms of actually having a more-than-friends relationship with any of them. Actually, let me back up a bit here: I was, and in some ways continue to be, the latest of late bloomers. I didn't go out on a date, much less have an actual girlfriend, until my senior year of high school; I didn't have an actual drink until graduation night; I didn't lose my virginity until I was 20 and just a couple months from graduating from college. For virtually every "milestone" of a young man's life, I was about four years behind everyone else I knew, and though some of that had to do with the fact that I'd skipped second grade and was younger than everybody else, you could take that out of the equation and I still would've been playing catch-up.

Kind of like this, only less confident.

So as you might expect for someone who was young and inexperienced and feeling like the rest of the world was flying right by him, I got pretty desperate at times. And desperation, I think, is the staple of the Nice Guy™. Girls don't seem to be responding to you no matter what you try, so you get more and more desperate, and there comes a point at which you're not on the lookout for a certain kind of woman, you'll just take any woman (as long as she's hot, of course). And take it from a guy who has been there and made those mistakes: Once you start seeing women as this big, monolithic "hive mind" in which each interchangeable unit is no different from the next, you're setting yourself up to look like a douchebag.

That, I think, is the point where Josh Bass is at right now. Bass is the sophomore journalism major at Southern Cal whose column in the Daily Trojan on "the death of chivalry" prompted Jill's post, and after reading his column, I wanted to close my eyes and find a hole to crawl into -- partly out of embarrassment for him, but partly out of embarrassment for myself, because I know I held some of the same frustrations and laughably mistaken ideas when I was a naive, undersexed, increasingly desperate UGA sophomore 11 years ago. I hope I wasn't as dickish or self-pitying about it as Bass is, and I certainly hope I would never have banged out such a melodramatic, overwritten column about it -- at some point in your journalism training, dude, you're gonna learn that nobody's impressed by extra words for extra words' sake -- but I don't know that I was all that far off, either.

Josh, apparently, wants to hold doors for women. He wants to buy them dinner and pay for their movies. And I'm guessing he wants to have a committed, monogamous relationship with one of them. Which is fine; some women out there want that too. A male who wants those things is a traditionalist but not automatically an asshole.

Or a tricorn hat/tights-wearer.

Josh, however, thinks that every woman out there wants that, or should. His views on male-female relationships are like the gender-role remix of every shitty, derivative comic you've ever seen on "Def Comedy Jam": Men are like this, women are like this. Josh wants to hold doors and pay for dinner and treat his women like princesses, therefore that means all women should want to have doors held and dinner paid for and be treated like princesses. And anyone who doesn't is a Feminazi or a harlot. (Yes, he actually uses those words.)

You know, life would probably be a lot easier if male-female interactions were that simple -- male does X, female does Y, a beautiful relationship blossoms -- and a desire for that kind of simplicity burns in the heart of every Nice Guy™. For whatever reason, they've been caught behind the curve in terms of figuring women out, they don't know what to do, and they want someone to make it easier for them. They're the reason Maxim prints articles on 10 sure-fire ways to get that honey at the bar to go home with you; they're the ones spending money on books and courses on "speed seduction" and the like. They want to have someone else hand it to them; they're not comfortable with taking anything more than a passive role in the whole process, because they lack self-confidence and don't trust themselves to figure it out on their own. And when they get shot down, when something comes along that doesn't jibe with the "tips" or "rules" that they read in Maxim or that goes against their regimented view of how men and women should be, they don't want it to be their fault.

Basically, it sounds like Josh Bass is just sitting back and hoping that a woman will notice his chivalry and will be so impressed by it that she'll just up and jump his bones, without him ever having to do anything more than holding a door or picking up a check. Or as Josh ends his column:

After all, there are women all over the world who have male confidants and close friends, but they never for once take a step back and realize that the person with whom they are constantly sharing their romantic woes is in fact ­- male.

And so to that widow of romance out there, when next the words seem about to spill unbidden from your lips, bite your tongue and look a little harder. You may have to seek, my lady, but ye shall find.

It's ironic: Josh's very traditional view of the world says that men should be the "strong, capable" caretakers in the relationship, while women should be soft, feminine, and dependent on their knights in shining armor, yet he expects the women to take charge and accept the active role in "seeking" and "finding" while he just sits there being gentlemanly and courteous -- in other words, Nice™.

Just keep snoozing, buddy, that plane ain't never gonna come.

And that dog won't hunt. I have a friend (whom I obviously won't call out by name) who, for a while now, has had a thing for a girl at our church. It's been nearly a year, and as far as I can ascertain, he's never actually asked her out. He's had plenty of chances -- she sings in the choir, he plays an instrument, they practice together all the time -- but he just hasn't pulled the trigger yet. After observing this situation for months -- mainly just waiting for him to shit or get off the pot because, full disclosure, I'd kind of like to ask this girl out, dammit -- I really think he's hoping that she'll be so impressed by his guitar-playing ability or how in shape he is or whatever that she'll be overcome and ask him out so that he doesn't have to do it himself.

That never, ever works. You know how I know? Because that's what I did for years, and that "strategy" was pretty much responsible for me staying a virgin until I was almost old enough to drink. Girls just don't do that. I don't care what your dad or Maxim told you, there's no amount of coolness, gentlemanliness, or chivalry that will be so overwhelming that a woman will make an unprompted move on you. Ask her out or don't ask her out, but if you stay silent and you end up sitting around by yourself on Friday night, it probably has less to do with the fact that the female in question is some uppity skank who's too shallow to appreciate your wonderfulness than it does with the fact that you are being -- how do I put this gently? -- a fucking wuss.

On the other hand, if you do sack up and ask her out, and you do so in a chivalrous and princess-treating, pedestal-placing fashion, and things still don't swing your way, you know what? That's life. Some women don't want to be treated like princesses or placed on pedestals, and your insistence on doing so isn't going to bring her around to your way of thinking; it only amounts to cramming a square peg into a round hole, and ensures that your round peg isn't going to get crammed into anything. Again, women are all different and are not required by law to appreciate the same things, so if you go into a given situation convinced that holding doors + buying the movie tickets = poontang every single time, but the female in question isn't down with that, that doesn't mean that she's some uppity Feminazi bitch; it only proves you've done a shitty job of market research.

I know, it seems to defy logic that someone might not want things to be bought, done, or smoothed over for her -- don't we all love stuff to be taken care of for us? But the night I ended up in the sack with a woman who didn't want me to give her oral -- it wasn't that time of the month or anything, she just didn't like it -- was when I officially abandoned the idea that any assumption about what women want, no matter how much of a lead-pipe cinch it might seem, was universally applicable to all women.

Believe it or not, that exit's closed.

The Nice Guy™, though, having reduced all women to one big, anonymous species, is so busy buying or doing stuff for those women that he isn't paying any attention to whether they're things that she needs or wants. A few years back, my sister -- a fiercely independent feminist, though hardly of the hairy-legged man-hating stereotype -- was engaged to a Nice Guy™ who was courteous, capable, and, unfortunately, thick as a bridge abutment. His thought processes operated with the if-A-then-B simplicity of a Texas Instruments calculator: If Ann's TV broke, it meant BUY HER NEW TV, never stopping to consider that maybe she'd want to pick out a TV herself. If her boss had overloaded her at work all week long, it meant COME OVER AND COMFORT HER, even when she only wanted to drink a glass of wine and decompress alone. His heart was kind of in the right place, but not really, since he saw her as an object to be coddled and protected but never actually listened to. She tried to clue him in on this, but it never quite stuck -- and eventually, in spite of the emotional heartache (not to mention the bad blood with his family) it created, she gave back the ring and sent him on his way. That may sound harsh, but it's what happens when Nice Guys™ try to impose their very general, not-terribly-well-thought-out views of opposite-sex relationships onto individual, complex people.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to dispel any notion that I think I'm some kind of relationship expert here. I'm doing better now than I was when I was a college sophomore who could barely pick a clitoris out of a lineup, but by no means do I have this relationship/attraction thing completely figured out. As a recovering Nice Guy™, though, I do feel like have some sage advice on what not to do that might be valuable to guys who are still sitting around waiting for someone to drop a Playmate in their lap.

Which really only ever happens to one guy anyway.

And that advice boils down to this: Sorry, but the Nice Guy™ shit doesn't work. If you don't have anything deeper than door-holding or check-picking-up to offer, it's time to go back into the locker room and draw up some new plays. Sack up, Josh Bass, and ask a girl out instead of waiting for her to notice and appreciate your chivalrous awesomeness and then writing whiny, bitter columns when she doesn't. If you do go out with her, listen to what she says and find something more than just blond hair and a pair of tits to appreciate about her; don't just go into it thinking HOLD DOORS BUY PRESENTS ROBBLE ROBBLE as if that's all any woman has ever wanted since the beginning of time. And, as Kenneth the page said on "30 Rock," work that vajayjay.

As for me, I've put the nice-guy shit aside and evolved into what I'd call a Laissez-Faire Neanderthal. Yeah, my default position is to hold doors and offer to pay for stuff; that's how I was raised. But if a woman doesn't want that, fine with me. I'm not gonna force it on her, and I'm not gonna take that as a cue to ask why she hates men so much. It takes different strokes to rule the world, yes it does, and if you can't figure that out and make your peace with it, not getting any is going to be the least of your problems.


Anonymous said...

Doug - Alas, you are too young for me and too old for my daughters. Nevertheless, you are on the right track.

Go Dawgs!

Josh M. said...

I'm absolutely horrified by some of my "nice guy" actions from high school all the way until about junior year in college (and sporadically thereafter).

I completely abandoned it a few years ago - almost going to the opposite way - and now am dating a girl miles out of my league who wants to marry me for some reason.

If I ever got called on to do a speech at a high school, the title would be "Knock That Nice Guy Shit Off. And Don't Major In English."

Universal Remonster said...

The attitude that this USC douche takes is precisely what I hate about my gender sometimes. It's sexist, it's egotistical, and worst of all it's commonly mistaken for kindness. I do NOT empathize with this kid. Most of us (especially if you were raised in the south) have a period in our lives where we act in a similar fashion, and one of two things result: 1)You grow up and realize that you're really just contributing to an evolved stereotype.... or 2) You end up in an unhappy marriage.

Fortunately I barely escaped the second option there. The thing is, I was worse of than you Doug. I was quite fat until my junior year of high school, so coupled with my general inability to speak to a woman without my teeth chattering I could pretty much put girls out of the picture. I, also, did not have my first drink until I graduated high school. So I was this theater dork who ASSUMED the exact same things this guy does; that as long as I act nice and courteous some hot red-head would just bust down the front door of my apartment and blow me.

Looking back, that was the worst period of my life, because acting like the "Nice Guy" was the only way I thought I was going to get laid. Someone needs to slap this kid around a little bit and tell him to loosen up.

Also, I have a brief rant. These guys who actually think this can NEVER be friends with girls. Ever. Most people realise at some point that the foundation of every great relationship is friendship, but by grouping all girls together (like your "hive mind".... I like that...) these guys are destroying any effective foundation they could be laying.

So you have to ask this guy one question; do you want to get laid or do you want a relationship? Because if you want to get laid, throw all of that bullshit out the window, get drunk, and find a girl at the bar and ask her what her favorite movie is. You'll let your guard down, she'll let her guard down, and if both of you find each other even REMOTELY attractive you end up in the sack. Period.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't be chivalrous; personally it's in my nature. But it shouldn't be a guideline by ANY means, and for no reason should you ever think, "Oh, I need to open her door because that's the NICE thing to do..." because that's total bullshit. Do it cause you want to, or just be yourself.

Anonymous said...

I blame the nice guy syndrome on Lloyd Dobler (Say Anything). He was my "ideal" man for more years than I care to admit. But it finally dawned on me that "I'm a nice guy" is just a line too. Although not nearly as clever as "is there windex in your pants?....."

Universal Remonster said...

I feel like my three "never attempted" pick up lines would have been better suited for this thread....

Anonymous said...

I may be an Olde Fart, but doesn't it seem to any of you that all this is just another way of saying Mr. Nice Guy is just unsuccessful. I don't hear anyone actually wanting a relationship. I hear people who want to get laid. And if Mr. Nice Guy was getting any, it wouldn't be such a bad idea. So, the Anti Mr. Nice Guy approach may be a different approach, but the goal is the same, and when women find out that's all there is... well, my advice would be don't throw the Jergens out just yet.

ACG said...

I disagree, Anonymous. See, the reason the Nice Guy approach is so unappealing is that it kind of comes from a place of contempt for women. It reduces women to computers that can be defeated with a few simple codes: open door + pull out chair + pay for dinner = unlimited vaginal access.

Even if your only ultimate goal is to tap that ass, the non-Nice Guy approach still involves getting to know a woman as a person, learning what she likes and dislikes, learning what she's looking for in a date and giving it to her. And you know what? Even if he is only, in the end, out for my ass, a guy can still take me on that kind of a date any day of the week.

Anonymous said...

ACG, the only reason that you should think that the Nice Guy approach is "from a place of contempt for women" is if it is false and it is done simply as a way to buy sex. I get that. My point is that it isn't the niceness that is inherently contemptuous; it's the shallowness of the motive. But the same is true of the anti Mr. Nice Guy approach. That guy is no less contemptuous; he's just taking a different path in the belief that it will get him what the Nice Guy wanted but couldn't get. The anti approach is just the flip side of the same coin. You find one more palatable, but I am not sure why.

Jamie said...

Bravo! Another convert! I always love reading these posts. You, however, bring up one point that I haven't encountered before--the fact that none of these guys are taking any proactive steps to actually ask the girl out.

This is another post that explains the wrong thinking of The Nice Guy and it includes my favorite quote, "Understanding women is kind of like understanding people, in that it’s exactly like understanding people."