Monday, May 11, 2009

Is this "nice guy" a "Poe"???

I consider myself very much a "pragmatic feminist." In my own writings, I don't like to focus on the misogynists -- holding them up to show how bad they are -- because I feel like that grants their ignorant POV more power and influence than it deserves. I'd rather work with male allies in a constructive way, if possible. So when I see feminists complaining about "nice guy entitlement", my first instinct is to say "Hey, let's cut them some slack -- at least they're trying to be nice, and that should be encouraged..."

Then I read this article (hat tip Bloggernacle Back Burner). It so perfectly captures the problem with self-described "nice" guys, that I almost wonder if it's satire! But whether it's satire or real, it's just sad.

I'm not saying this guy is a misogynist, BTW, but I will say that he's a bit clueless and self-absorbed. Or rather, he lacks the ability to read social cues, and in frustration he directs his hostility at women.

I kind of feel bad for him, but I feel worse for his unnamed female friend you can see behind his rant.


Rebecca said...

I don't feel bad for him - it's plain as plain that he's that emotionally vomiting, oversharing, smothering guy who thinks that's what being nice means, and blames the girl when she doesn't go for it. Boo-hoo. I've known plenty of nice guys, plenty of mean guys, and plenty of these whiny guys. And yeah, I'd take the mean ones over this.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

I don't mean that I feel bad for him in the sense of thinking that he somehow deserves to have girls be impressed by his (supposedly) "nice" behavior. I mean it's too bad for him that he's never going to improve his romantic/relationship skills if all he can do is lash out and blame others when he's rejected.

Rebecca said...


Volly said...

From a non-LDS perspective, Nick's rant has a strong cultural component. He's frustrated because he's having some difficulty finding a girl who wants to settle down with him. His home environment undoubtedly includes solidly married parents and numerous siblings who married early and got down to the business of raising large families. He's been striking out and it's making him worried that there's "something wrong" with him. He's probably being pressured by relatives and family friends. Maybe he's gay. Uh-oh...His choice of the word "companion" also tells me something -- he doesn't understand the importance of sexual attraction or has grown up in an atmosphere where it is discounted. Don't ask me how I know this, as "Dear Margo" likes to say. Just as a lot of kids can never get around the idea that their parents have sex (despite all those siblings), some grow up being taught that sexual attraction is for low-lifes and that a truly Godly marriage has mainly to do with "shared interests." So yet again, our boy here is just not getting it. He needs to broaden his view ... but as CL and Rebecca have both said, that probably won't ever happen. If he's 20-something, most likely the die has been cast.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Volly!!!

It's true, his rant is dripping with LDS-isms. Part of his sense of entitlement is due to the strongly patriarchal aspect of LDS culture: He has the priesthood, he did what he understands is expected of him (complementing girls nicely, etc.), he made his decision (on which girl he gets), and how dare she defy him?

And the truly ridiculous part is that this guy is at BYU, where eligible ladies outnumber eligible guys by quite a large margin. The place is crawling with women who want nothing more than a date (and, from there, an "eternal companion"). If he can't find a date at BYU... Jeez, I dunno, maybe he needs to get new glasses or something...?

Jonathan Blake said...

I'll confess my ignorance of nice guy entitlement, so please excuse me if I'm stepping into a mine field blindfolded.

It's interesting to me that some of us expect love/lust to be egalitarian and fair. Is this an LDS thing? We want everyone to be able to find love. Isn't this the unstated premise of all "chick flicks"? The sad truth is that being kind is no guarantee of future romantic success.

I'm pretty short for a guy, so this example comes to mind often. Short men have limited romantic possibilities. Taller men are much more successful romantically. Of course the opposite is true for taller than average women. Long story short, I don't find this fair, but that's life. We're dealt cards and we make the best of what we've got.

Instead of bitching about how wrongheaded women supposedly are, the writer needs to move on and accept that he'll need to find a way to be more than nice: be someone who other people enjoy spending time with. Find a way to transcend the pain of rejection and forget how the world should or shouldn't treat you.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Jonathan!!!

Exactly! See, one doesn't need a doctorate in feminist theory to have reasonable ideas about interpersonal relations! :D

Unknown said...

In answer to Nick, "Women, I would like you to stop and think for a second of a nice guy in your life that is always there for you.."

Yeah, I married that guy. You don't sound like that guy though. Nick might think he's nice, but he sounds pretty creepy to me. Maybe he isn't always like his rant, but when I was dating I was not interested in someone who felt entitled to me. I'm not a trinket to be owned. I have my own thoughts and emotions and anyone who wanted to date me had to respect that.

Lynet said...

Clearly, with this guy, his sense of entitlement is something of an issue. However, more broadly, I've often wondered if the reason "nice guys (supposedly) finish last" is because some men (and women) still think that it isn't 'nice' to be open about your sexual desire for a woman. See, for, example, this, where Dan Savage's point that "seeing women as equals and regarding them as eye-pleasing hunks of meat is not an either/or phenomenon" is spot-on if you ask me.

If the only way to be 'nice' is to be dishonest about what you want, then of course you'll finish last.

Anonymous said...

OG has Nick pegged. Far from being the nice guy he purports to be, he's a creep. Women are smart to steer far away from him. Ugh.

Louise said...

I had Ben read this article, and we talked about it. I was having a hard time putting my finger on the essence of all the issues I have with this article, but Ben summed it up for me in a nutshell...

"I don't think this guy's problems have anything to do with the fact that he's a Mormon... he's just a loser"

The issue of 'nice guy' or not here is irrelevant. You can be a nice guy, and not be a total loser. Which is what this guy is. No one will date him due to that. He needs to stop blaming women for his loser-ness.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey O.G. & Chaplain!!!

Exactly, I was thinking the same thing when I read this. That nice guy in my life? I married him. But my husband is nice for real, not acting nice with the assumption that it grants him rights and privileges.

Hey Lynet!!!

Excellent point -- I hadn't even thought of that. Traditionally, being "nice" (being a gentleman) has meant hiding your sexual desires and intentions. (And there's still something to that: leering and making suggestive comments to random women isn't nice even if you're just being honest that you find them sexy.)

But these days when dating, you're less likely to be rewarded for pretending that your interest in someone is totally asexual. Even at BYU, where chastity is a virtue. BYU is one of the few places where it's not OK at all to be out as gay and where you might seriously expect to find young single gay guys looking for beards. So, while it's impolite for him to stare at your chest, if he doesn't try to look at all, that can also be a bad sign. ;^)

With this guy, it could easily have been that he was fighting the urge to make the moves on his lady friend (because he's "nice"), and then some other guy went ahead and made advances and ended up with the girl. That would explain where this guy is getting the idea that "mean" works better. But the problem isn't that making a pass is always right or always wrong. The problem is being completely dismissive of your partner's own thoughts and opinions.

Hey Louise!!!

I think Ben nailed it. I've been kind of pussyfooting around this since I kind of try not to trash random people on the Internet (but, really, the Internet is a dangerous place for people who can't help but make idiots of themselves, as it is preserved in the electron amber forever). That was the first interpretation that crossed my mind.

You're at BYU. The place is crawling with women looking for husbands -- quite a lot more women looking for husbands than men looking for wives. And these women have been specially trained from childhood to place a huge priority on finding a faithful Mormon guy like you. And you can't get a date? And all you can think to do about it is publish a whiny rant about how it's the women's fault??

One word comes to mind...

Holly said...

I like the way you define "nice" with regards to men, CL: being a gentleman and hiding your sexual desires and intentions. But there's also a way that "nice" functions in Mormonism that I do think is relevant here: it has to do with surface behavior and easy gestures: reminding people that "heavenly father loves them" and commanding them, in a bright, perky voice, to "smile!"; avoiding, at all costs, direct confrontation (instead, writing irate letters to the editor on those few occasions when you're really angry); mustering enough superiority for people who disagree with or thwart you that you can "pity" them for the way they have been led astray by Satan (which after all is what this guy thinks the whole problem with women is: just like Eve, they're still beguiled by the serpent).

I think a lot of times people (especially Mormons) are "nice" so they won't have to strive for the more difficult virtue of kindness, which involves actually figuring out what will make others' lives easier, instead of just resorting to the familiar standards of "nice" or "decorous" behavior. I'm not saying that there's no such thing as a kind Mormon, but it's much harder to be kind when you honestly believe that people who don't think and act as you do are led astray by the devil.

all of which reminds me of Morrissey said about nice people:

don't talk to me
about people who are "nice"
for I have spent my whole life
in ruins
because of people who are "nice"

Holly said...

p.s. To prove that it's not just Mormons who are "nice" but not kind, let me invoke Carrie Prejean: she smiled brightly and said, "No offense!" when she announced that because she's a christian, she doesn't believe that gay people deserve equal rights or recognition of their relationships. That was the "nice" way to be an unkind, unchristlike bitch. And I wouldn't want to date someone who was "nice" like that, either.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Holly!!!

Exactly. I'd rather be with someone who is actually kind and considerate of the feelings of others than someone who is "nice" as a type of saccharine coating to their behavior.

Anonymous said...

I'm willing to imagine the author was having a bad week. I've had those woe-is-me moments when the unfairness of life seemed ready to drown me and I blamed everyone and everything else for my troubles. Saying that he is a loser is unnecessarily reductive. Maybe he's acting like a loser today, but I'll give him some space and allow him to prove that down the road he can be a genuinely good guy. (No need to let him drag me down while he gets his shit together, though.)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Jonathan!!!

Very true, and this is why I feel bad for him -- that his bad day has unfortunately been preserved (with his name attached) for all who care to google him. That's the problem with the Internet -- not very forgiving.

I've been pondering the fact that my criticism here has not been constructive at all, and I'm planning a constructive post to counterbalance it. Stay tuned! :D

beatdad said...

I have some sympathy for this kid. I was the nice guy once, at least I thought I was.

Many of the women around me, when I was in my twenties, viewed me as safe. (this was post Mormonism for me) One friend, who I spent a lot of time with, actually was quite confused when I expressed interest in sex with her. We had some good times together and she did not want them to end, as if the sex would end what we had. Of course being the nice guy I was I did not force the issue.

What would the reaction be if this article were written by a woman?

Rebecca said...

I think my reaction if this had been written by a woman would be, "Quit being so pathetic - he doesn't like you, that's not his fault, MOVE ON." It's not ok for anyone to say it's a character flaw in someone else when that someone isn't attracted to him OR her.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Wayne!!!

I was contemplating your "What if it had been a woman?" question, but Rebecca beat me to it. You know there's a whole self-help book (+plus movie) for ladies called He's Just Not That Into You. After reading that guy's article, I was thinking perhaps he could use a copy of that book with all of the gender pronouns reversed.

It would be the same for a female writing the article except that I wouldn't have to reverse the pronouns of the book (and her friends would probably have already given her a copy before she even began writing the article).

Holly said...

"One friend, who I spent a lot of time with, actually was quite confused when I expressed interest in sex with her. We had some good times together and she did not want them to end, as if the sex would end what we had. Of course being the nice guy I was I did not force the issue."

Force the issue? That doesn't sound good. "Force" and "sex" usually equal--well, forced sex. I will assume you meant something other than date-rape, but I would like to point out that particularly in terms of how CL defines "nice," there are men who think that simply NOT being a date-rapist or a stalker is enough to make them a "nice" guy.

Most people have heard some version of the "I really like you; I just don't like you that way" speech. Often it's clear from the way the person treats you that's true, so if you're someone with reasonable boundaries and some self-respect, you accept the truth and don't pursue a dead-end. Maybe you decide you can handle a platonic friendship with this person and maybe you decide you'd rather move on. It's not just a matter of how "nice" you are but how decent and whether you can take "no" for an answer when that really IS the answer--in anything.

Of course, there are people who want it both ways: they don't want to commit to you, but they know you've fallen for them and they LIKE that and don't want it to change, so they string you along. They want you "docked at their harbor" (as an ex of mine put it) while they go out to sea in someone else's boat.

These people are horribly selfish and emotionally irresponsible, and no "nice" person deserves to waste a second of their time or an iota of their energy pursuing someone who has so little to give. There's no point in trying to "force" any issue here or even talking about it and trying to understand it; the person exploits others and doesn't believe in reciprocity. No amount of "force" or even cajoling or pleading will change that--but they will change how you think of yourself. (In other words, the self-help books all say the same thing because it's TRUE.)

In short, you shouldn't consult the "nice" rules when you hear "the speech"; you should consult the "do I have any self-respect?" rules--no matter what gender you are and what gender you were pursuing.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Holly!!!

I agree there exist men who think that simply NOT being a date-rapist or a stalker is enough to make them a "nice" guy. But in Wayne's case in particular, I don't think that's what he meant. I think he just meant he didn't insist on having a long drawn-out discussion as to why, as it does nothing but lead to those other standard "just not into you" speeches like "It's not you, it's me," and "You're not my type because of blah-blah-blah," and "I just think of you as a friend," etc., etc., etc.

Actually, I think that last one was the root of the article that started all this. When the writer says he doesn't think the problem is the unattractiveness of the "nice" guy, reading between the lines, I can almost hear him asking his lady friend "It's not that you find me unattractive, is it?" and her going Yikes! What do I say to that?! "Uh, no... Of course you're very handsome. It's just that... um, well, I just think of you as a friend..." And him going "Oh, no, it's so unfair! It must have been my niceness that sent me into the 'friend zone'!"

And I totally agree about those people who string you along because they like the attention. If ever you fall passionately in love with someone, and they respond with that endless trail of crumbs leading nowhere, you basically have to cut ties with them. Even if it's difficult to do it, you'll be happier in the long run if you succeed.

C. L. Hanson said...

p.s. I completely agree that (male or female), when you're rejected, the real question becomes: "Do I have the self-respect to accept 'no' for an answer?"

Rev. Bob said...

I've got a friend, a Black man who writes long essays about how Black women will never get serious about Black men. I keep wanting to grab him by the lapels and say, "For goodness sakes, lighten up and have a little fun in your life."

dee said...

It pisses me off, but does not surprise me, that BYU published that shit. What a self-deceiving entitled little weenie that guy is. Yeah, bad day -- whatevs. I have known many like him -- both mormon and not mormon (though the numbers are higher amongst the mos IMO). And I *have* heard the female equivalent rant -- my friend gave it from the pulpit in F&T meeting.

- wry

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rev. Bob!!!

Well, clearly this sort of cluelessness isn't just a Mormon thing. ;^)

Hey Wry!!!

Wow, what did you say to your friend after that?