The Nice Guy – Holy Grail or Holy Bore?

Brand-new year, same old questions… Amidst all those champagne glasses clinking and all those people cheerfully chanting New Year’s resolutions meant to magically change their lives, some of us cannot help obsessing over what went wrong, what we could have done differently in order to have achieved better results. I’ll quit smoking… I’ll quit that shitty job… I’ll stop drinking… I’ll recycle… I won’t be such a pushover anymore… I’ll go on a diet and lose ten kilos… That’s what we hear left and right. Why the hell don’t women ever go for the guy who’s gonna be nice to them?! Well… that one you don’t hear too often when a new year is on the verge of replacing the old one and everybody is euphorically celebrating all the potential perspectives.

My oldest friend’s familiar voice made me smile; it was my turn to ask myself an age-old question – why do men think their female friends should be able to answer absolutely any question about women? No offense, guys, but what applies to one doesn’t apply to all, we’re not built to fit the same pattern. He quickly got over his conundrum about the latest object of his desire, he smiled back and wished me a Happy New Year once more, not expecting an actual answer this time. But his question followed me – it wasn’t the first time he had approached that subject and rightfully so, since there we were, yet another New Year’s party with him alone and no perceivable perspectives in sight, because he is such a nice guy. So his phone goes back in his pocket – no message from the girl with whom he went out a couple of times and who seemed genuinely interested… interested in getting back together with her worthless ex, that is, as soon as she got a taste of what going out with a nice guy might feel like. And since this particular one was not by far a remote incident, of course he utters to himself, “The hell with women…”; yet he cannot stop wondering where he went wrong and why exactly it is that so many of us prefer to be treated like doormats by various losers, rather than be worshiped and set on a pedestal by the likes of him.

Who is the nice guy? In this particular case – trying to be as unbiased as I possibly can – we’re talking about a more than decently looking man, intelligent, selfless and kind, always there for you, whose needs always come second after yours, who has a steady, although not glamorous job and who believes that a woman is meant to be respected and cherished, not abused or mistreated in any way by the guys in her life. And on a personal note, I know that nobody can ask for a better friend. In fact, this last aspect becomes so disturbingly clear immediately after you first meet him, that one might quickly decide it’s not worth risking to lose such a great friend only to try and have more, only to have some brief affair with him. Let’s be honest, men come and go, while friends are a constant for many of us.

So our guy is still alone and looking around him, he spots countless men hand in hand with pretty, successful women, in spite of these guys’ blatant inability to respect or be fateful to them, in spite of their clearly spoken out lack of desire to be at least civil to them. It was against some of them that he competed and lost the girls now standing there, half smiling and half crying because of the men they had chosen. There she is – that’s the one who begged that guy to move in with her, after promising to pay the rent herself and support him until he got a job; several years later, he still cannot be bothered to work, he drinks twice as much and she’s buried in debts, but she won’t even consider leaving him, no matter how often she has to run and cry on a friend’s shoulder. And that one – she’s the one who often locked herself in the bathroom to cry after having sex with the boyfriend, that’s how much he disgusted and humiliated her, yet even that was preferable to being with a nice guy. There’s another one – she openly preferred the man who threw a frying pan at her for burning the eggs, the same man who religiously checks her phone and email, driven by some sort of paranoid jealousy he finds to be the attribute of any self-respecting male. After all, what’s all that when the alternative implies having to perceive a nice guy in a sexual manner? No, no, no… he’s only worthy of being the sounding board you need whenever you feel like your head is exploding and your soul is breaking in smithereens as a result of yet another misfortunate amorous choice, he’s the one who has to listen to you mention how much you’d like it if men could also be anything but jerks to the women who care about them. Weary of it all, sick and tired of women and their whimsies, the nice guy decides once more that they’re probably all alike, they deserve what’s coming to them, so he won’t bother to care anymore, he’ll just become one of those guys, all the while knowing he’s neither built or able to behave that way to anyone, much less to a woman…

Yes, his girlfriend will receive much more privileged a treatment than she would have expected; in fact, she’ll suddenly find herself in the shoes of those women whose good fortune she had envied for years – or so she thought. Showered with constant affection, this woman will abruptly experience what it means to have a man who only wants to please her and knows only how to be nice to her. From happily bringing her that glass of water in the middle of the night or driving all the way to the other side of the town only to get her that cake he knows she likes so much, to helping her most distant relative or acquaintance move their furniture to their new apartment, he will always be there to fulfil any menial task she might invent. Will he cheat on her? Of course not, how could he, after having gone through all that trouble just to get in her good graces?… So the now fortunate female of the species also has all the freedom she might desire, because he is trusting by nature, hardly knowing the meaning of jealousy and possessiveness – that is, as far as his behaviour towards her is concerned, because he firmly believes she can chose to be with whomever she pleases, whenever she pleases, even leave him if she might be so inclined, no matter how much this might tear him apart.

The realisation that even if he would not cheat on you, you still have to share him with the rest of the world might be quite striking, especially for those of us who want the man they date to treat them in a considerably different fashion than he might treat any of the other people he knows. But one of the nice guy’s major flaws is that he cannot say no, to you or anybody else. His phone will ring in the middle of the night and he’ll get out of bed and go help some vague acquaintance who has car trouble or whose cat needs taken to the vet after swallowing a hairball. And if he’s late for a date, you can be sure he feels terrible about it, because what kept him was not his indifference to you, but his inability to refuse a colleague in need, who was most likely too lazy to do his job in time. That is probably also the reason why his shirt looks like it just came out of the dryer, in his frenzy to do everything and anything for everybody else, he completely forgets to take care of himself. And why should a woman take offence in the fact that he looks as though he slept in his clothes when he takes her out to a nice restaurant? After all, doing something for whoever has the common sense to take advantage of him is so much more important than looks and appearances.

Since he’s had so much bad luck with women, he does his best not to scare them away, so he’ll start off as the “as you wish” guy. Do you want to go out tonight? As you wish. Where should we go? Wherever you wish; as long as you’re happy, it’s fine with me. What should we do at the weekend? Whatever you wish. And it goes on and on, until even the calmer ones of us will lose their temper. Is it really the desire to please or an innate refusal to make decisions, so when things inevitably go wrong, he will not be the one blamed for it? Unfortunately, by the time this question might receive an answer and he might start feeling comfortable and confident enough to have an input and opinions of his own, the girl has already left. We get it, we get, he was just trying not to be dominant; but how about accepting that having an opinion or making a suggestion doesn’t mean controlling a person?

When the girl is not one for making decisions either or she’s just trying to be nice and leave him to his own devices, things tend to take a not so appealing turn. You can forget about going out, because all he really wants is to be with you, to listen to everything you have to say and invade each and every corner of your mind, so he could find out everything there might be to know about you, the most intimate and private details of who you are. And what better place to do so than at home?… Remember that really cute, sexy outfit you bought for those hot clubbing nights? You might as well forget it, because clubs are for posers and pretentious wannabes, you cannot possibly socialize properly with all that loud music and drunken people fidgeting around you. Let’s just stay home, take a nice, long bubble bath together, hold hands and snuggle… you know, really connect… Without even realizing, your mind wonders off to your ex, that arrogant, obnoxiously jealous fool you left because you thought you deserved better; and your memory will play that old, infamous trick on you, making you remember only the good, fun parts, like that last night in the club when you got to wear your appealing outfit and he was so taken by it, the two of you feeling so sexy and alive. Unfortunately, with all the current bubble baths and hand holding making you feel like you’re a hundred and five, chained to this guy for a lifetime and not only dating him for ten days, you forget that your ex was also so great at noticing how sexy the other girls’ outfits were…

In spite of everything else, you made it to your first weekend getaway with your first nice guy and you decide to reward him by letting him surprise you, since he had already mentioned something about how romantic a sunrise in the mountains might be. So you smile contented – there’s hope yet! Or so you think, until you realise that your romantic surprise getaway involves a tent and a pair of hiking boots meant to help you reach that mountain peak where he knows for a fact that nature is at its wildest, so the two of you can enjoy the most spectacular sunrise possible. There goes your dream of a nice, warm, comfortable mountain chalet, with a cosy bed and a soft duvet from under which you could sneak a peek out the window and catch a glance of the amazing sky while he’s bringing you a nice, hot cup of coffee. Did you think that you were going to spend your day souvenir hunting and your evening in some fancy restaurant or loud club? Put on your hiking boots and think again, because the nice guy often harbours a genuine love for nature and its wonders. He will carry your backpack, though… What are we, thirteen, you might almost have time to wonder, involuntarily looking down at your elegant shoes, before you metaphorically run for the hills. The truth is, he means no harm, you left the decision to him and that is what he likes. The same way you might not understand that, he will never be able to understand why you’re relaxed by an afternoon of window shopping (or real shopping) or what you can find so interesting about a hotel in a nice resort, since that’s not at all how you discover true scenic beauty. The truly heart-breaking part is that he will do whatever you like him to, he will put up with all the plans that you make and all the things you enjoy, but as he most likely finds them completely irrelevant, uninteresting and vane, he will roll his eyes and suffer through the deadly boredom you inflict on him; and since he is far from being an accomplished liar, cannot hide his aversion – besides, one is always supposed to be completely honest to the person one dates – but he will constantly ask you why you seem sad or annoyed. After all, that’s what you wanted to do, his sour face should make no difference and you should have the time of your life. In your turn, you sigh with boredom too and your thoughts wonder off to your ex; but this time you are fully aware of it.

What starts off as an unbelievable revelation often turns out to be nothing more than an acquired taste and I believe this might be the nice guy’s case as well, since not only the example in question, but also many of his peers seem to be creatures of extremes, completely unable to find balance or the proverbial middle way in their behaviour. Since things are either black or white, good or bad, there is no room for anything in between and they have formed their beliefs regarding what should generally constitute “nice” behaviour. It’s simple really, they have subjectively decided what “nice” should objectively be like for each and every woman and it is therefore logically implied that anything outside their definition should be undesirable. And they generally suffer tremendously when they see women choosing all those other men that are different from them, therefore not nice, bad. This is where it all falls apart and the dreamboat becomes something else, because niceness and goodness, much like beauty, are also in the eye of the beholder. And since a woman should be able to accept the nice guy for who he is, there can be no talk about him changing. He wouldn’t dream of asking her to change who she is in order to suit his needs. But, in fact, does he not do exactly that?

Who are these women he likes and who keep rejecting him? By some coincidence, it’s always the type of woman who would never be interested in what he likes, her life revolving around different values. Those who might indeed share some of his passions never happen to awaken any passion in him. On the contrary, they tend to fall into the “not pretty enough, not bright enough, not funny enough, not elegant enough” category, because in the end he’s only human, he has his own preferences and taste. Ironically enough, the man who decries women for being attracted to men who hurt them in various ways is also the man attracted to women who would only mistreat him.

In the end, he walks away from another party, yet again convinced that women would prefer any jerk to him, without even considering the idea that treating a woman nicely might imply offering her what she wants, not what he thinks she should want. The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle. There are indisputably self-destructive women, driven by veiled masochism and a deep need to be somebody’s victims; and many of those alpha males are indeed no more than these women’s chosen oppressors. But it is equally true that many of said alpha males become harmless and cuddly the moment they face an alpha bitch in her own element. Everything is relative. So why don’t women choose the nice guy, the one who makes for such a good friend, yet for such a difficult, antagonistic boyfriend, and always go for the bad boy? Wait… maybe, just maybe, some of us want neither a lapdog, nor a torturer for a boyfriend, but simply a well-balanced man, who in spite of his human flaws, manages to find that middle way towards a non-extremist relationship….

But all in all, how does the story end? Does the nice guy ever get the girl in real life? Or is it just not that kind of black and white affair after all?…

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