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Let Me Simplify This "Nice Guys" Thing, OK?

A friend of mine, whom shall remain nameless, decided to crank me up and see what I'd write if she sent me something aggravating. At least, that's my theory as to why she sent me a link to an argument that was last a "hot Internet topic" over a year ago, the "Nice Guys" = Bleah! page on Heartless-Bitches.com, their summary page for everything that everybody has ever sent them about that classic nerd lament, "Why don't women date nice guys?" I strongly suspect that my friend thought that I had a lot of emotion still invested in this argument, and it would make for entertaining reading. But the truth be told is, I'm old enough and wise enough (or at least tired enough) now that this really is simple.

That's the problem really. The problem isn't that this is so complicated to understand. The problem is nearly all of us, at one time or another, wish that it was complicated, because we don't like the simple answer to the question, "Why isn't that person as attracted to me as I am to them?" We'd love there to be some complicated, intricate (and therefore hack-able) explanation, because nobody wants to hear the blunt, simple truth. If you're more attracted to them than they are to you, it's because you're ugly. Don't like the word, because you think it always means physically disfigured or something? Well, part of me wants to say, "tough." But fine, let me try to soften the blow (at the risk of it not getting through to you that I actually mean what I'm saying). It means that you're not attractive enough.

Now, we'd all like the question of "what's attractive" to be complicated, and therefore something that people who are attractive could teach us and then whoah, we'd understand the simple, easy thing we could do to be more attractive. Sorry. Not so. If you want the sexual or romantic attention of someone who's more sexually or more romantically attractive than you, then you're simply going to have to become as sexually or romantically attractive as they are. Nor is it hard to understand. It's just expensive, and more importantly, it's hard, boring, work. Exercise hard and eat right, whether you feel like it or not. Clean and straighten and whiten your teeth. Do something right with your hair. Dress better. Learn to listen to the person right in front of you, and practice other basic good manners -- nothing fancy, nothing obsequious, just basic good manners. If you're unusually stupid, illiterate, or uneducated, then fix that. Especially if you're a woman, address any crippling emotional issues that are obvious at 50 paces. Even more importantly than that, especially if you're a man, do whatever it takes to get a better job so that you aren't such a loser. Is there any part of that you didn't know? I didn't think so.

Nor, really, does anybody give a shit if these things are harder for you than they are for other people. Yes, the other person that you wish was attracted to you might not have to work as hard to be attractive as you do. Yes, you'd dearly love for there to be some way for you to work no harder than they have to and yet seem attractive. Tough. It doesn't work that way. Either do the work, or get over it and settle for people at your own level of attractiveness.

What's this got to do with "nice guys" and whether or not women find them attractive? Please. If you're not as attractive as the person you're attracted to, no amount of obsequiousness, and no amount of favors forced on her without her asking for them, is going to make you more attractive. In other late breaking scientific news, water is wet and the Pope is Catholic. And what's more, volunteering to be treated as a doormat for as long as it takes for her to feel guilty enough to fuck you in order to salve her conscience for treating you like a doormat isn't exactly "nice," either -- it's blackmail. If you're going to use emotional blackmail to make people more attractive than yourself fuck you, you might as well skip the emotional part and use a gun. OK, I guess that would be slightly more illegal, but I assure you it won't be any less obviously vicious or dangerous or disgusting to her; she's as likely to run away from your attempted emotional blackmail as she would be from an armed rape.

You're such a sensitive feminist, guy? Then you ought to have read, in one of your endless books, something about a classic bit of feminist theory called The Protection Racket. It goes like this. There are three kinds of guys in the world: Bad Guys, Good Guys, and Useless Guys. Useless Guys are useless. Bad Guys hurt women. Good Guys protect women from the Bad Guys ... but they expect the women to be grateful in return. If you did read about that, I'm sure you thought it was Neanderthalic. Too bad you didn't recognize that volunteering to be there for her emotionally after the emotionally neglectful or abusive guys stomp all over her feelings (and then hoping she'll be grateful enough to fuck you for it) is the same protection racket.



( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 31st, 2006 06:29 am (UTC)
The middle bit about basic grooming and manners reminds me of a RUSH class a friend of mine wanted to teach at Pennsic "courtship in the modern middle ages, or you need a bath" which starts with a basic self assessment of one's attractiveness.
Jul. 31st, 2006 08:00 am (UTC)
I think that you are right when you say that people who can't get dates need to be 'more attractive' on the other hand I don't think that you are right about your assessment of 'attractive' and that it is something that you *first* have to obvserve. For instance to me physical appearance isn't very important but 'being geeky' is. So if a person was to look like Brad Pitt (or even *be* Brad Pitt) then that doesn't mean that I'll even *think* about saying yes if they can't keep up with the conversation.
Jul. 31st, 2006 11:32 am (UTC)
But it's still attractiveness... it's just your definition. A sense of humor and general life competence are my big attractors. I want a person who can make me laugh and who can do practical things (fix cars, chop wood, troubleshoot networking issues, make music, etc.). The whole manly, money-making career thing is less attractive to me. Regular bathing and an ability to cope with social interaction are important too.

As for the "Bad Guy, Good Guy, Useless Guy" trilogy, I see that it's true, but my particular guy doesn't fit into any of the three categories. He's not a bad guy, certainly, and he will defend me from them... but he does it as a matter of course (because defending people who are momentarily at a disadvantage is morally right) and not as emotional or sexual blackmail.
(no subject) - naath - Jul. 31st, 2006 12:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - drooling_ferret - Jul. 31st, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - idonotlikepeas - Jul. 31st, 2006 01:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - twopiearr - Jul. 31st, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - naath - Jul. 31st, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - twopiearr - Jul. 31st, 2006 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bradhicks - Jul. 31st, 2006 08:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - naath - Aug. 1st, 2006 08:08 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 31st, 2006 11:00 am (UTC)
this made me snork (although i'm not entirely sure that's an appropriate reaction.)
add, 'develop a sense of humor.'
back in my slut days, a guy could almost always get into my pants if he could make me snork my baileys and coffee with whipped cream out my nose.
sexy, eh?
:D khairete
Jul. 31st, 2006 11:36 am (UTC)
I like the idea that if you aren't attractive that you can become attractive through better hygiene and such. It is a broader definition that what most people mean when they discuss the issue. It means that one can be attractive but still not look like they could model for an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue. I think a lot of people, especially guys, do not try at all because they don't look like "the beautiful" people.

I am not certain that I agree with the Protection Racket theory though (no surprise there since I often disagree with feminist theories). There has to be more categories since I think that both
the_geoffrey and Chris are Good Guys, but neither has expected me to be grateful, and that makes all the difference in the world. But then again, being a feminist theory, it is not surprising that all the categories are negative in some way.
Jul. 31st, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC)
Honestly, Flea, the Protection Racket theory leaves me deeply conflicted.

Long shot, but are you familiar with a James Tiptree, Jr. short story called "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" (* SPOILER ALERT!!! *) 3 astronauts from our time find themselves accidentally thrown a hundred or so years into the future where they find out that a plague killed off every man in the world; the human race survived by cloning 14 or so women over and over again until a cure could be found. Now they're debating whether to use old genetic samples to bring back men, but they've heard of the Protection Racket. So to test the theory, without warning our male characters, they pump the rescue ship that picked them up full of a mind-altering gas with disinhibiting effects. One of the three guys, despondent over the loss of his family and everybody he ever knew, descends rapidly into sloth, overeating, and alcoholism. One of them, knowing that there are no guys left to stop him and believing in his heart that every woman secretly finds him so sexy they don't mean it if they turn him down, goes on a rape and murder spree. The captain of the men's ship, disgusted at how little effort the crew of the rescue ship are putting into their own defense, tracks down the rapist and kills him. And it is only then that he's told about the disinhibiting gas ... and that when the rape spree and his rescue effort began, the captain set the self-destruct sequence, because they'd proven the theory right. The male captain insists that she's got it all wrong, that he wasn't expecting any gratitude, that that's not why he did it. She chooses not to believe him, and they (and all future human men) die.

I think that Tiptree caught the fine line here just right. How sure can he be that he doesn't expect gratitude? How can the women around him be sure what he wants? How can they wrestle with their own natural inclination to feel gratitude that they were rescued from a menace they wouldn't have faced if the other guy hadn't been there, anyway? The Protection Racket Theory is an oversmiplification. But it's an oversimplification of something that we all do need to watch out for, lest it become true in each of our lives.
(no subject) - fleabear - Aug. 1st, 2006 02:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 31st, 2006 12:36 pm (UTC)
I don't entirely agree with your assessment. You seem to think that attractiveness is still entirely linked to the physical. You're suggesting that there are motions we can go through to make us more attractive.

It's much more simple even than THAT.
You gotta like yourself to get other people to like you.

I'm a fat chick with unruly hair, crooked teeth, poor skin, glasses, and a strange sense of how to dress. The times in my life when people FLOCK to me, when I'm the bug-zapper of fandom and the mundane world alike... are the times when I am particularly comfortable in my own skin. I *feel* sexy and fun, and therefore I am those things regardless of what I'm wearing, or my size, or what I'm doing.

When I'm unhappy or disgusted with myself over something, no amount of dressing well or putting together interesting conversation will attract people to me. Period.

So if exercise and diet make you feel better about yourself, then do them. If education and making more money make you feel loveable, then people will love you.

You don't require the things that society tells us are the keys to happiness in order to be beautiful. We only have to find the things that actually MAKE us happy to accomplish that.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - bradhicks - Jul. 31st, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bradhicks - Jul. 31st, 2006 08:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Actually... - kukla_tko42 - Aug. 1st, 2006 02:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Actually... - axejudge - Aug. 1st, 2006 03:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 31st, 2006 12:54 pm (UTC)
In Complete Agreement
In my most basic form, I am an attractive person. As of today, July 31st, I have spent at least $650 this MONTH in an attempt to be even more attractive. In the past, I have done things that would be considered mutilating and physically abusive to myself in an attempt to be more attractive. And even still, when left to my own thoughts, the negative tapes come back and I think thoughts like, "If I could just do this one more thing, I would be even more attractive."

And when it comes to men, I have encountered every single example you've given of the Good, the Bad & the Useless. In fact I recently had a huge example of a Useless Guy becoming a Bad Guy. I will drop taht story into my own journal to save space here. But I completely understand and concur with your point.
Jul. 31st, 2006 12:58 pm (UTC)
"Good Guy" = one part sled-dog, one part guard-dog, and one part flawless bullshitter.

I = none of the above. Bad Dog.

But the more I meditate, and otherwise learn to keep my mind busy with other things (and the more I come to understand and accept my aspie-nature), the happier I am in my given role as Useless Guy.

Along with discovering the specific nature of my Peculiar Wiring (which took far, far too long), it was evolutionary psychology that clued me in to why I have never been attractive to women in enough of the ways that are ultimately required.

Well, both the goal and the motor of evolution are for irony to survive and procreate. In passing, we may note that for irony to spontaneously percieve itself, at some rare point in that process, is but an inconvenient glitch that surely must leave the God Of Evolution scratching its head in consternation. Be that as it may, the latest incarnation - the most recent step in that evolution - comes with the lethally comical realization ... that having been born butt-ugly would have saved me a helluvalot of trouble.

All water under the bridge now. Good thing too. After all, people who procreate are just a bunch of fuckers.

Still, any woman who goes conspicuously out of her way to remark on what a "good friend" I am is likely to get her shoes peed in. Nice Guy Angst has a short half-life. Distaste for trite and insincere euphemisms, compulsive maneuvering that attempts to simultaneously convey and conceal irrelevant information on the basis of habitual presumptions ... that lasts a lifetime.

::resumes chewing up the couch cushions::
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 31st, 2006 08:46 pm (UTC)
The difference between entitlement versus willingness to... hm. What's a good term for "a fair trade of attention and effort"? Entitlement vs. equality?
Jul. 31st, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC)
One expansion I would add is that a definition of "nice" is "conforms to positive societal norms". Cleanliness, politeness, and attentiveness are all common american requirements for society. If you are dirty or ragged or rude, you are not "nice". You may have other fine and admirable qualities, but you are not "nice".
Jul. 31st, 2006 07:51 pm (UTC)
Rather than take up too much space here, I posted elsewhere the cuisine I made based on your food for thought.
Jul. 31st, 2006 08:19 pm (UTC)
For me, the line "It's not enough to be nice, you have to be interesting", which I read 12-ish years ago in some newsgroup or other (probably alt.romance or soc.singles) was the spark I needed to get on and ... become more interesting.

(as an aside, every time I've taken one of those online Asperger's Syndrome tests, I've come out either borderline or moderately Aspie; I'm willing to bet that "Nice Guy Syndrome" is much more common among Aspies)
Jul. 31st, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC)
Again, I love you.
Jul. 31st, 2006 08:34 pm (UTC)
Hey! I'm a nice guy! or am I?
Well, now I found that I had so much to say about this, I am afraid I am going to ask you to peek at my journal, comment here or there.

Sorry about that Brad, because I don't really want to hijack your page, but I don't want to hog it either.

Suffice it to say, I reject their reality, and replace it with my own.
Jul. 31st, 2006 09:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Hey! I'm a nice guy! or am I?
No apology necessary. My turn to apologize: I apologize for cross-posting. But for any of the rest of you who didn't click through the link above (and you probably should), here's what I replied:

As I said to Flea when she criticized the same theory, I have a very conflicted emotional relationship with that theory. I don't believe it, either. I believe that when I do the right thing, I do it with no expectation of reward other than "I get to sleep well at night, not thinking of myself as a rat bastard." But still it pinches me like an uncomfortable shoe. So I keep it in mind, and I bring it up in public every so often, because I've concluded that it's a good thing for guys to be uncomfortable thinking about, a good place to have some self-doubt in your life.

I don't know if it's true, but I remember Jubal Harshaw in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (I think it was) saying that there are fourteen words in the Japanese language for "gratitude," and they all have the same root word: resentment. I got bitten hard by that many years before you met me. I was in a happy poly triad, but both women came to resent me because I'd rescued them both from hellish situations, and because (as the one with the better job) I was paying all the bills. Even to the extent that they believed me when I said that I did it for me, not for them, and that the words "thank you" are as much payment as I ever wanted on even the most extreme cases, they couldn't deal with their own feelings of gratitude.

When Pauline in The Perils of Pauline says to the hero, "How can I possibly repay you?" it probably isn't because he rescued her from her evil landlord in hopes of getting laid. But you know she's thinking of offering it, and not just because the Hero is always cast as a handsome guy. It's because after he's saved her life from two horrible deaths, she's got this stifling, awful lump of gratitude stuck in her psyche and no way to get rid of such a crushing, choking weight.

But I especially bring this up in a discussion of "why nice guys don't get laid" because let's face it, if he wasn't being "nice" (a doormat) in hopes of abusing her gratitude to get laid, he wouldn't be resenting who she sleeps with, now, would he?
Re: Hey! I'm a nice guy! or am I? - thesigother - Aug. 1st, 2006 02:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 31st, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC)
I disagree
Having spent most of my adult life observing, and puzzling over, how the most obnoxious, inconsiderate, visually hideous, hygienically deadly assholes in the universe succeed in dating the nicest, prettiest, sweetest women I have ever seen, I can say that most of your stereotypes and guidelines are flawed. Making yourself cleaner, smarter, better smelling, and even hotter does nothing. In 30+ years of competing and losing in the dating scene, the golden rule that I completely disagreed with and yet saw working non-stop over and over and over, all across the country, was this:
Treat 'em like shit, and they'll love you forever.
Again, I don't agree with it, but I have seen repeatedly that being a total dick works better than Ivory Soap and Gold's Gym any day.

Now, I will concede that in middle age, dealing with mature women, that no longer is true. But back in the day when I was young, and had many oats in dire need of sowing, I was nice, I cared, I respected women (I still do), and, I never stood a chance.
Aug. 1st, 2006 03:52 am (UTC)
Re: I disagree
Well it helps if you are a completely confident total dick. That is what actually works, the confidence part.

Of course if you are that confident, the being a dick part seems almost compulsory.
Re: I disagree - alienzen - Aug. 1st, 2006 05:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I disagree - lollypox - Aug. 3rd, 2006 06:08 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 31st, 2006 09:12 pm (UTC)
No wonder my romantic life has been so confusing. I look like a bad guy, act like a good guy, but in reality I am a useless guy.
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