Why 'nice guys' need to stop feeling sorry for themselves

April 14, 2015
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We all know this guy. Whether he’s clogging up your news feed with self-pitying rants, sending your best friend love-poems, or issuing passive-aggressive hints that he’d be a better match for your girlfriend than you, the pattern is always the same. Abject adoration, followed by entitlement, followed by a bizarre and resentful freak-out.

Welcome to the world of the Nice Guy.

The Nice Guy is, in this writer’s opinion, the unwitting victim of decades of cultural programming through movies and television. Many of these media feature the same basic “hero’s journey”: boy loves girl, girl loves jerk, boy demonstrates his chivalry, girl leaves jerk. Think Friends (Ross and Rachel), Spiderman (Peter and Mary Jane) and How I Met Your Mother (Ted Mosby and every girl he fucking sees).

What all these shows tell us is that women – either because of low self-esteem or an inherent Darwinian compulsion – are naturally attracted to thuggish, arrogant men who get off on slamming nerds into lockers, having no respect for the sanctity of virginity and generally being “alpha.” They also tell us that the only hope of happiness for these women is to be rescued by the courtly decency of our unassuming hero.

While this makes (terrifically sexist) sense in theory and is an effective way to get the audience on the hero’s side, it is as much a fairy tale as Cinderella or internet privacy. Unfortunately for Mr. Nice Guy, real life is not divided into abusive quarter-backs, soft-spoken heroes and “the girl”; real people are far more diverse and complex.

Sorry, Nice Guys, but you’ve been packing your crotches with snake oil.

The thing is, being nice to people isn’t some kind of ultra-rare trait that makes you a shining island of chivalry in a sea of brutish jocks; it’s actually just the bare minimum required for any kind of social functionality. Not being a misogynistic jerk makes you a decent human being, not a fucking unicorn.

But the Nice Guy doesn’t seem to realise this. In his mind, he is Peter Parker, and whichever girl happens to have caught his eye is turned into Mary Jane. If that girl has a boyfriend, he is automatically relegated to the Dumb Jock stereotype, and the noble quest for Mar -Jane’s affection begins.

This pop-culture view of the world manifests in several ways. Chiefly, the Nice Guy believes that being nice to a girl entitles him to romantic reward, since that’s how it happens in the movies. Secondly, the Nice Guy conflates physical attraction with shallowness, this being the only reasonable explanation when the object of his affection does not instantly leave her stupid boyfriend for him.

Finally, once days or weeks or months of pandering and pampering under the guise of “friendship” refuses to yield romantic results, Mr. Nice Guy’s resentment builds to critical mass and he either enters an epic sulk or becomes hostile and labels his paramour a shallow “slut” or “bitch,” claiming he is just “too nice” to be attractive to girls.

Cognitive dissonance, much? Nice Guys don’t appear to acknowledge any of the other things that go into forming romantic relationships. Trivial things such as personality compatibility, lifestyle, shared interests and mutual physical attraction are brushed aside in pursuit of the all-important “niceness” factor, and it never occurs to the Nice Guy that it might be these things that cause a woman to pass him over, not a lack of self-respect or an atavistic preference for Neanderthals

So, Mr. Nice Guy, I know you’ve been told from a young age that there is a highly specific and concrete formula that romance has to follow, but please, for the love of John Cusack try to remember that women are not Mary Janes. They are, in fact, complex individuals with their own wants and needs, and these are not beholden to the conventions of rom-com. If a woman doesn’t like you back, that’s neither her fault nor yours. It’s just personal preference.

Getting resentful over it isn’t nice at all.

Joel Svensson

Business major, journalism minor and sometime voice-actor, Joel Svensson pretends to be smart at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Image: ClickFlash Photos, Flickr Creative Commons license