February 12th, 2006


Hot Girls, Nice Guys

OK, back on Monday I responded to one of becka_kitty's questions about why are nerdish guys react to attractive women who like nerds with quiet suspicion at best, paranoia more often, and not infrequently with overt hostility. In summary, I tried to explain this to her and to my other female friends who share this complaint by saying that most guys' experience is that in romance as in investing, if it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. This didn't satisfy aprilstarchild, jsl32, and especially my friend and not-especially-secret crush cuglas, all of whom are attractive women who have been on the receiving end of that paranoia, consider it to be a self-fulfilling prophesy, and have little or no sympathy at all.

I didn't have any clearer answer than the one I'd given, so I didn't reply to them at the time. But then, very late the other night as I was getting ready to go to bed, something completely unrelated reminded me briefly of Jeff Goldblum's character in The Big Chill, and I suddenly realized that maybe I can give an example of the same situation in reverse, and see if that doesn't put it in better perspective. For those of you who never saw it, the basic premise is that it's 15 years after a group of 1960s campus radicals graduated from University of Michigan together, and they've all drifted apart and (for the most part) all sold out and become scum-sucking yuppies. The leader of their little clique has just committed suicide, and after the funeral the eight of them (and his much younger girlfriend) end up spending the whole weekend together at the house of the couple who live closest to comfort each other, reconnect, reminisce, and not incidentally to figure out why he did it. Jeff Goldblum's character is an extremely nice guy. He shows every sign of caring deeply about everybody's feelings, goes at least a little way out of his way to be helpful to everyone, shows overt signs of being deeply spiritual in a kind of New Agey way ... and has an entire roll of something like 20 cheap-brand condoms in his suitcase, because he came to the funeral specifically to cheat on his wife. He spends the whole moving trying subtly, then as time pressure mounts not even especially subtly, to get laid. Ironically, he ends up being the only person there that weekend who doesn't get laid.

In case you don't see the parallel between that situation and the one in last Sunday's Dilbert comic strip, let me make it explicit. Most of the guys I know who are too nerdy to get laid much are so not because of their interests or their occupations, even if they think so. It's because they suck at reading the subtleties of other peoples' facial expressions and body language; there's a name for that now, Asperger's Syndrome. So in order to cause as little offense as possible, they learn to be excessively polite and overtly solicitous of other people's needs and feelings, and out of gratitude for the few women who'll overlook that kind of inborn insensitivity, they go way, way out of their way to be extra-nice to women. Almost all of those guys have the experience of being rejected by women, especially good-looking women, who'll only date (or especially, will only have sex with) guys who aren't nice at all. And that baffles them, or to be specific, baffles us because I'm one of them, because none of the explanations we've been given as to why women would prefer jerks and @holes over nice guys make any sense to us.

And cuglas, you're one of the ones who's tried to explain that to me in the past, and only now do I think I get what you were trying to tell me back then, so let me see if I understand it now. Were you trying to explain to me that for every one guy who's nice because he really is nice, there are a hundred who are pretending to be nice because they're dangerously crazy and trying to hide it, or pretending to be nice in order to get close enough to women to harm them or rip them off? If so, then what I want you to do is to reverse the gender in that equation, and substitute "hot" for "nice" in that sentence. Because what I was trying to explain last Monday morning was that guys learn the hard way within the first year or two of becoming sexually active that for every one time a woman who seems to be dating "beneath herself" is doing so because she's genuinely attracted to them, there are a hundred times that it's because there's something seriously wrong with her that isn't obvious at first glance or she's out to get them in some way. You may decry that as unfair to the one out of a hundred women, and as a self-fulfilling prophesy, but it's unfair to do so in a world where (especially romantically) Nice Guys Finish Last.
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