Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why the Nice Guy Doesn't Deserve the Girl

It's a ubiquitous trend in popular culture. Transformers is a recent and extreme example. Pale Everydude Shia LaBeouf saves the world and thrice gets a phenomenally hot supermodel who becomes so enamored with his planet-saving prowess that she vaults onto his dick and thanks him until he sees God. Nice guy gets the girl, cut, print, roll credits.

Transformers is actually superior in several ways to the general trend than some other appearances of the "Nice Guy". LaBeouf's character is actually proactive during the movie(s), instead of moping around waiting for the magnanimity of his "niceness" to dazzle his prey love interest into dropping her bull-headed beefcake boyfriend and flinging herself into his untoned arms, pledging undying love and kinky sex for ever after. And Transformers is marketed to a specific audience of nerdy guys who are living out their fantasies on the big screen, unlike, say, Friends or The Big Bang Theory, where Nice Guy Ross and Nice Guy Leonard pine impotently after Hot Girls Rachel and Penny in front of a mainstream American audience until their patience is rewarded with effusive kisses by Hot Girls Who've Seen the Light.

This isn't the point where I bemoan the fact that instead of being fully-formed characters in their own rights, Rachel, Penny, and their ilk are merely foils to suit the Nice Guys. This isn't the part where I'm upset over the fact that physical beauty is once again considered paramount over internal qualities or mutual compatibility. I'm not going to complain that women aren't possessions, and representing them as "rewards" for good behavior is misogynist and barbaric. These are all valid points, but my take has less to do with the women and more to do with the men.

Specifically, the trend of Nice Guy Gets the Girl has carried over to the actual zeitgeist of reality, spawning an entire generation of men who are so imbued with this ethos that they feel entitled to a beautiful girlfriend solely on the basis of their niceness, and are actually angry when she doesn't materialize.

Now, I know that single people who want to be relationship people get frustrated and bitch endlessly about the meat market to whomever has the misfortune to listen, but I've noted that the complaints are frequently specific to the gender of the person making them. I myself have complained to friends about the guy who  contacted me on a dating site and decided to break the ice by asking for a golden shower (No, I didn't, and no, I won't). I've complained about a guy who confused "first date" with "therapy session", and unloaded how much he hated his mother and how she withheld affection, all over coffee, which I paid for and was not $150 the richer after, thankyouverymuch. I've known women to complain about guys who kissed badly, were rude to waiters, arrived late, dressed poorly, and the list goes on ad nauseum, with reasons of varying depth and validity, but the point is women complain about the things men did. I've known men to decry a woman as a bitch, a whore, and even a cunt for not wanting to talk to them, not accepting anything more than a drink from them, not possessing the requisite depth to fall in love with them, when after all, they are such nice guys. In essence, they are angry with women for having the audacity to not want them.

It's a problem on many levels, not only on the previously mentioned misogyny issues and the sense of entitlement that it is incumbent upon the world to reward them for good behavior, but also on what this generation perceives to be "niceness"

Niceness has three levels, and only one is the realm of legitimate niceness, while the other two are mere facades. However, all three levels fail to hold up the long-term concept of Nice Guy Gets the Girl, even disregarding the problems of misogyny and entitlement.

Level 1: Default is not Nice
Given enough time and enough alcohol a disillusioned singleton will start whinging about their pathetic love life, and generally women will start examining all the things they are or they do that are putting men off. Men will generally wonder why women can't see all their wonderful qualities, which they will list given the slightest encouragement. A sample overheard recently at a bar:

"I don't hit girls."

"I don't cheat."

"I don't lie."

Mercifully, none of these men were close friends, and I'll never be dependent upon them to provide a character reference. Their idea of nice boils down to "not being an abusive, immoral, raging dick". For anyone whose attitude toward niceness falls in a similar line, please read the following carefully.


If you want a reward for being nice, you're going to actually have to be nice. There's no reward for inaction, which is at best neutrality and at worst laziness. Firefighters run into burning buildings to save total strangers, Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for fighting apartheid, and Oskar Schindler saved 1100 Jews from concentration camps, and the universe has yet to deposit a negligee-clad Heidi Klum on their doorsteps. If that's what you're waiting for, you're going to have to do a lot better than hanging out at the baseline.

Level 2: Nice to One Girl (So She'll Fuck You) is Not Nice
I've known more men than I'm comfortable with who are generally jerks or defaults (see above), that behave solicitously toward the girl of their choosing in the hopes that his kindness will charm her into removing her panties. This is less a question of niceness and more of a play. It's far more subtle than playing hard to get, acting the class clown, owning a motorcycle, or playing in a band, but it's just a ploy, and if it's not successful, the dumbshits employing it have no one to blame but themselves for not moving on to a better one. The wisdom is that a man who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not nice, and it's called wisdom for a reason. Plus it's exhausting for those who aren't actually nice to keep up the charade, and my advice is to don some ironic glasses and a white t-shirt, strap on a guitar, and wait for the groupie booty to accumulate.

Level 3: Actually Nice
I'm not so cynical to think that the majority of men out there aren't genuinely nice, and rather than being angry that women aren't seeing them for the great guy they are, they're merely perplexed. It's not totally their fault, either. They have, after all, had the Nice Guy Gets the Girl paradigm pounded into them from childhood on, and no matter how attractive (or not) the guy on the screen is, the girl is always a beauty who adores him beyond all reckoning, leaving them with a very specific idea of what to expect from dating. So they've coached kids' soccer on the weekends, carried their elderly neighbors' groceries, and waited patiently for the yoga instructor of their dreams to look beyond chiseled chins and muscular arms and open themselves up to something real, and the universe just doesn't work that way (unless I'm wrong, in which case I've been kind to old people, kids, and wounded animals so I want Norman Reedus at my door fucking yesterday, Universe, you tardy bitch). The real-life Nice Guys have a variety of scenarios that all play out badly so long as they're toting around that kind of baggage. They actually may find a beautiful girl who's been burned by a string of jerks with more style than substance, and who is so overwhelmed with gratitude at finding a guy who treats her well because of his nature and not her naughty bits that in the beginning she inspects his asshole for the first rays of sunlight every morning, but the haze of infatuation has a nasty habit of wearing thin, and the poor Nice Guy discovers that unlike the Rachels and Pennys and Mikaela Banes who fall for our intrepid heros in a delightfully formulaic way, the beautiful girl in reality has a job, a family, friends, hobbies, and in short, a life that doesn't revolve around him. No one is writing contrivances to keep her perpetually by his side, batting her luxuriously lashed eyes at him in adoration. The Girl of our collective impression is a fantasy that spawns itself in various forms all across our collective consciousness, and it's a nasty surprise when the real-life version comes with real-life complications. Another problem is that culturally women are expected to look beyond appearances much more than men are, so our stories consistently feature men of all shapes and sizes paired up with chicks who rock a bikini like Bo Derek in 10, and their highly visual nature leads guys to automatically friend zone any girl who isn't as hot as he thinks he can get, regardless of how wonderful she is or how compatible they might be, leading to years of frustration on his part while he wonders what is wrong with the girls around him. Finally, the Nice Guy who prizes beauty above all else sinks a gorgeous girl who lacks what we shall call basic human decency, and treats the guy like shit, something he puts up with, because hey, she's hot, so this is what he's supposed to want.

Now women aren't without problems in this area. You can switch the words girl for guy everywhere in this post, extrapolate the virtues therein, and it will be applicable to a not negligible portion of the female population who wonder why their handsome guy friends can't see beyond their cellulite and acne to venture on the great romance of their lives, and are as of this publishing waiting patiently in unsexy pajamas for their Adonis to dump whatever Svetlana/Consuela/Gonorrhea bimbo they're playing poke the bear with and open themselves to the right one who was there all along. The reason this post targets primarily men is that Pretty in Pink is really the only mass audience appealing specter of pop culture where the Plain Jane gets the Hot Guy. Most other occurrences are found in sappy romances appealing to the fantasy/escapist ideals of an almost exclusively female audience. Some guys may like them, but they are targeting women.

Most guys are wonderful, complex men who deserve to fall in love with women who are equally wonderful and complex, and those women deserve the same. But dating is a bitch, and from what I hear relationships are not without their difficulties, much like unicorns are not without their horns. A culture that educates us to expect a partner to materialize because we've possessed a quality long enough to rack up the requisite amount of points is fucking us up even harder than we already are, and we owe it to ourselves and each other not to make the chasm between men and women even harder to bridge.

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