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The Genesis of "The Nice Guy"


My friend, Kitten Holiday, just posted a piece lambasting “nice guys.”  As someone who identifies as a “nice guy,” I felt compelled to respond.  Before you read this, go here and read Kitten’s post.

Some of her points are valid, but I think she’s missing the overall issue that we “nice guys” have with these situations, and I think she’s confusing “nice guys” with something else.  Allow me to attempt to illustrate.

Let’s say you and I are at the beginning of a relationship.  You’re pretty and fun and intelligent and our interests match up pretty well and we have fun together.  We’ve been on a couple dates and things are getting serious.

Enter the “bad boy.”  Maybe he’s an ex that’s just reappeared in your life, maybe he’s a new co-worker, maybe a guy you met at the bar while I was off taking a piss.  The first moment I see him, I can tell that he’s bad news.  It’s not the clothes or the hair style or the shape of his head, but an attitude, almost one of entitlement, like a shark swimming around and around, knowing that he’s going to eat one of the swimmers splashing around, but he’s not sure which one yet.  He knows he’s going to get what he wants.  It’s just a matter of when.

He doesn’t have to be good looking, but if he’s not, he’s generally got cash to throw around.  He doesn’t have to be smooth; sullen works well, too.  If he has a job, it’s generally something that sounds exciting or fun or manly, perhaps as a lumberjack or roughneck or mechanic.

It could be that I know this guy and know that he’s left a string of broken hearts as long as the Mississippi.  If he’s an ex, you’ve told me about him and how you caught him in bed with the stripper or your sister or your best friend or all three.  If there’s enough time, I’ll do some digging and find out that he just got out of jail for passing bad checks or that his last two girlfriends have restraining orders against him.

If I tell you about this, you’ll dismiss it as youthful indiscretion or a bad upbringing or you’ll simply accuse me of being jealous.

Compare this to what I have on the table.  I have a steady, though unexciting job, a history of long lasting relationships, and a willingness to share all aspects of my life with you.  Am I a great catch?  Well, I’m a good one.  I’m not that good looking and I snort when I laugh, but I’ll love you steady and true and never leave you for another woman.

It doesn’t matter, though, because chances are that I’ve already lost you to him.  It may take as little as a few hours or as long as a few weeks, but I will be out and he will be in, and I’ll be left there wondering if I need to start acting more like an asshole.

And it will end badly.  Maybe you’ll catch him in bed with someone else, or find out he’s been stealing your money to support his heroin habit, or he’ll just walk away with another woman a couple years younger than you.  Be it a few days or a few months later, you’ll be alone, wondering why you can’t find true love.  Perhaps you’ll even wonder, if this isn’t the first time, why this keeps happening to you.  You’ll say you didn’t see it coming, but everyone else did.  I saw it, your friends saw it, the clerk at the Motel 8 saw it.  You were even warned, but you elected not to heed.

Maybe you’ll call me after it ends, but probably not.  It’s more likely I’ll hear that you’re single from mutual friends or see it on your Facebook profile.  If I’m still single, I’ll think about contacting you, but decide not to in the end as even “nice guys” have their limits.

Now, understand that I’m not talking about the “neckbeard” phenomenon.  A “neckbeard” is the guy you would never date, who decides he’s in love with you, and that no one else is good enough for you.  You’ve probably told him that you’ll never be more than friends, but he’s elected not to hear it.  He will follow you around and give you gifts and generally be kinda creepy and he’s the guy who will whine that women just want assholes.  He will identify as a “nice guy,” but he’s more of a creeper who refuses to see his own flaws and insist his failure with women is their fault and not his own.

And I’m not talking about you finding true love with someone other than me.  If the “bad boy” actually turns out to be an okay guy and the two of you live happily ever after, then I’ll be quietly heart broken and supportive.  I won’t be going to the wedding, however.

No, I’m talking about watching the train leaving the station, knowing that there’s a penny on the rail a couple miles down the track that will cause a horrible accident.  I know it’s going to happen, anyone with a lick of sense can see it’s going to happen, but you are blinded by the dark radiance of the “bad boy” and hop into the sleeping car with nary a look back.

Now, have this happen to a guy a half dozen times before he’s thirty and you begin to see the origins of the “nice guy” syndrome.  The “nice guy” has repeatedly seen women he cares about get picked up by the “bad boy” and eventually discarded like an empty yogurt container.  Watch this happen a couple dozen times before you’re fifty and you get a cynical and jaded view of women and life in general.  You might even start to think that women all want assholes and jerks that mistreat them.  The “nice guy” will never say this aloud because he’s too nice and he doesn’t want to rub salt in your wounds, but it will color his view of you and of the world.

And when these women wonder why they can’t find “true love,” the “nice guy” will shake his head sadly and go on with his own search.

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