We all Misunderstand the “Nice Guy” and its Ruining America
The “nice guy” has been gaining a great deal of attention recently. A slew of horrific acts by individuals and our government as well some less horrific events have led to the idea being thrown around a lot. The problem with that is that we are all getting the “nice guy” wrong and it’s ruining male-female relationships. But don’t worry I’m here to fix it. Call me Bob the Builder.
So for those of you that are unfamiliar with the internet—or the world—there are two commonly thrown around ideas that can be very controversial. The first being the “nice guy” a figure who is in one sense heroic, and in another loathsome, and in another sense entirely he is the pitiful face of a movement. The second and equally polarizing concept is “the friend zone.” Both of which we will return to momentarily. These ideas normally separate the population in two distinct groups: one of almost entirely women and one of almost exclusively men.
The nice guy is an idea that is perceived in three different ways by three different kinds of people. There are those that loath the nice guy, he is the entitled little shit who feels simply not being an asshole entitles him to your body, or the friend who turns out to be little more than a suitor in waiting—were the world like The Odyssey you could just murder them all. There are those who deny the existence of such a creature, siting such random non-sequitur as “all people are good and bad” or “it’s a matter of opinion” or the completely oxymoronic statement that “nice guys don’t finish last”—well of course not, if they don’t exist they can’t finish shit. And then of course there are those that cry the praises of the nice guy, he is the anti-asshole, the perfect boyfriend, the ignored star of any given romantic comedy, the hero of the hover hand horde. In fact they’re all wrong… and all right, and this kind of pseudo-agreement is at the heart of the “nice guy” problem.
Of course nice guys exist, assholes exist in droves; they have their own website. Partner preferences may be a matter of opinion, but like in all things some opinions are wrong. The truth is there are tons of women and scores of men in all sorts of relationships with shitty people. Is that any of anyone’s business though? Absolutely not. And the nice guy, despite his deceptive name, is hardly the modern Robin Hood so you can forget that fantasy.
And what on Earth is the “friend zone” you might ask? I’m well aware no one is asking, but why not clarify anyway. The friend zone, as it’s colloquially known, is the state of having feelings for a girl/boy/they/it/cat/dog/spaghetti monster who only sees you as a friend. Famous among those who have ever heard the phrase “I love you—like a sibling” or “I just don’t feel the same way.” The friend zone is exclusively occupied by the best friend who texts you nice things after 2 AM and quiet acquaintances with pictures of you on their phone. Does the friend zone exist? Yeah. Is it occupied by the heroes that the meme-making Tickld community would like you to believe it is? No. And it is hardly occupied by people who deserve your pity. Yeah it’s a bitch falling for a friend—take it from the tripping master—but so is burning your mouth on pizza, I’m not going to listen to you bitch about that either.
So now that we’ve all seen the establishing shot and the mise en scène let’s do get down to the dialogue. Firstly, no I don’t consider myself a “nice guy”, I am well aware of their existence, and I am a perfectly pleasant person when I want to be (which is rarely) but no, I am not 1997 Jackie Chan. But that is irrelevant to this anyway. Why is the nice guy such a volatile figure? Because for the simple reason that, not every man is a sexual predator but every woman has to worry about every man. Because if you have a penis you’ve got it better than 50% of your peers. And because if you were born with a Y-chromosome you get to walk down the street at night and not worry about getting raped. Because $1 for every $.75 remains the stupidest shit I can think of. Because just because you’re not an asshole at the surface doesn’t entitle you to be an asshole in practice. Because women’s complaints about all your nice guy whining are not entirely misplaced.
But we’ve all been on both ends of this situation, I mean my life is basically a fucking Julia Quinn novel, so I feel everyone’s pain in this situation. But is the nice guy, not a nice guy if he has no control over the aspect of his actions that makes him an asshole? I would venture to say no, and I think most people would agree with me. This seems like a point that gets skated over more often than it should. Admittedly the millions of pimply teens across the interwebz have taken the friendzone/nice guy shtick to an extreme making unfunny and sexist memes and posting patronizing and whiny comments that scream entitlement and lack of understanding or compassion for the opposite sex. But if we begin to allow Youtube comment sections to influence legitimate conversations than we are fucked, like forever. I think every person who has ever lived past the age of 11 would agree that if you could turn off and on who you fell for life would be super easy but that’s not how it works. The reactionary nature of the nice guy movement is unfortunate to say the least, childish and very much like a temper tantrum, but it’s hard to fault them on the initial misstep. I can assure you in my short twenty years there have been and are still female friends that I wish I could just turn it off for.
Men shouldn’t get any sympathy for being men. It’s just better having a penis and living in 2014, that’s a fact. It’s even better if you’re a guy with a white penis, but I digress. But the fact of the matter is, it’s hard being a guy. Wait what?! Contradiction! Shh, I’m in the middle of word vomit just read. You usually only ever hear grey haired pundits on Fox say something like that and when they say it its usually coming from a place of pure, unfiltered jackassery—not Diet Jackassery but the Mexican kind made with real sugar and in a glass bottle. But I realize that while it is difficult being a man, it is far harder to be a woman. But there is this story on the Testoterone episode of This American Life that sums it up perfectly. A hardcore feminist lesbian, makes the switch from being female to male; a difficult process in itself. But he describes the process while he’s taking high levels of testosterone and it’s an eye-opening observation even for me as a man. He talks about the uncontrollable sexual desire that he was unfamiliar with to that point in his life and the feeling of shame and disappointment that came with it, as though he had let down his past self, the hardcore beat poet feminist he used to be. It’s a riveting story you should definitely listen to it.
The other day a friend and I were standing in a club, occupied by many, if not mostly, gay men and my friend, also gay, was debating approaching one of them. The night goes on and he decides not to. This is was the climax of an ongoing conversation between the two of us consisting mostly about bitching about the general public’s interest in black men—again, irrelevant. But during our conversation after he had resigned himself to leaving alone he said to me, “Women are always complaining about getting hit on, and I wish I had that problem.” To which I immediately responded, “Yeah, seems like it would be excellent.” After a momentary period of thought I added, “I think it’s mostly about getting sick of it over years and years.” To which we both inevitably agreed we would love to get sick of it. And that is at the heart of the nice guy issue: I am someone who realizes that the constant onslaught of the male gaze must be a burden to say the least and that being unable to distinguish the predators from the rest makes it dangerous and frightening. But being a guy who is unfortunately stuck being a heterosexual man (those asexual fuckers don’t know how good they got it) I have lived the other side of that for the better part of a decade.
The nice guy doesn’t understand why you would treat him like a threat because he’s not, regardless of whether or not you can understand that. He’s frustrated that you don’t reciprocate those feelings. Unfortunately for all involved, feelings, continue not to be rational. So instead of realizing that you lose some and you win less, the nice guy turns to irrational action, anger, lashing out, and demonizing the entire gender of women (sm-rt right?). Because all are easier than realizing that sometimes shit just kind of sucks. There’s another This American Life piece (two in one post—ugh suck it!) about the sanctity of marriage, the long and short of the piece is that when scientists examined heterosexual couples the “best” (those that had the happiest marriages and didn’t get divorced) performed at a much lower lever of compatibility than those of the gay and lesbian couples. So 90% of us are fucked from the get go. For more science on that front and less half-assed summation check that story out too.
Do I feel sorry for the nice guy? Yeah, sure. But not because he lives his life in a perpetual friend zone, going sexless through high school and college. But because the age-old cliché of finishing last is the sad truth. I choose to pity the nice because he can never change not because he deserves my pity, things worth doing are hard. The grass is greener on the other side… If you jump I’ll catch you. I’ll be back. Six and one half dozen. A bird in the hand sucks because birds shit everywhere. And other cliches people say without thinking. While the nice guy doesn’t deserve pity, he hasn’t earned hate either.