"Nice guy" doesn't mean the guy's a saint. (Image Credit: Thinkstock)
There are so many reasons I’m happy I’m not 17 anymore.
Being able to vote and buy alcohol is pretty rad, graduating high school has generally made my life less stressful and, if we’re being honest, Linkin Park isn’t nearly has “hardcore” as I thought it was in 2009.
The thing I’m happiest about, though, is that I no longer live in the crux between childhood and legal adulthood — the strange and terrifying realization that the real world is slowly beginning to seep in through the cracks of the life you’ve known. This transitionary phase often draws us into a false sense of security, especially if we’re handling it better than expected. It can lead us to believe that we know everything, and that our viewpoints and state of being are something set into stone. I, unfortunately, was very much one of those people.
God, I’m so glad I’m not a “Nice Guy” anymore.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still a nice guy, I’m just not a “Nice Guy.” The capitalization and ironic quotation marks are a deeply important factor here. The “Nice Guy Complex” is something we’ve seen glorified and romanticized in our media, though upon further inspection, it’s a dangerous and problematic mindset to encourage among men — and I can tell you this because I’ve been this guy.
For ages, our leading men exemplified the aloof and debonair. From characters like Mr. Darcy to actors like Marlon Brando, the romantic leads of our stories were painted as confident, charming, and self-motivated. They were portrayed as the stereotypical “man’s man,” i.e., tough and outwardly detached, while internally sensitive.
However, as society and culture continued to advance, it began to allow for a wider variety of characters to star as romantic leads. Characters who were viewed as “awkward” or “nerdy” were now viable romantic leads, and this is by no means a bad thing.
However, since these characters are more often seen as “beta male” types, stories surrounding them have consigned them to less obviously romantic roles —the best friend, the shy coworker, etc.
Films and television have saturated our culture with tales of women slowly beginning to notice that the docile poindexter has been, in reality, what they were searching for all along... a generation of men raised on this concept has developed a sense of entitlement about the nature of romantic relationships.
These leading men have stopped consistently being characters we strive to be, and have begun to look more like the people we currently are. Our views of what constitutes a romantic lead have become less James Dean, more Michael Cera. And that does something to the cognitive dissonance of the person watching the film.
Films and television have saturated our culture with tales of women slowly beginning to notice that the docile poindexter has been, in reality, what they were searching for all along. And unfortunately, while this was originally intended to broaden the horizons of our characters and show a more multifaceted view of romantic love, a generation of men raised on this concept has developed a sense of entitlement about the nature of romantic relationships.
Men have come to view their “kindness” (again, see ironic quotation marks) as good behavior that should eventually reward them with a romantic or physical relationship with whichever woman they’ve set their sights on, completely irrespective of her attraction to or feelings toward him.
Put simply: A woman is not a Coffee Shop Punch Card you feed good deeds and kind words into until she lets you fuck her.
This statement may seem like an obvious and undeniable one - and that’s because it is. Unfortunately, the truth of an idea sometimes does little to benefit its social or cultural absorption.
Though this may sound like I’m giving mass media far too much credit, the term “friend zone” didn’t really exist until coined on the sitcom Friends in the late ‘90s, and has become one of the terms quickly thrown around by dudes frustrated and upset by the notion that someone they’ve been feeding kind words and acts of generosity into doesn’t seem interested in sleeping with them. Culture influences society, and with rapid developments in technology, this has only grown exponentially.
That being said, let’s finally dispel the myth of the “Nice Guy.”
There are, of course, many instances of people who are just friends falling for each other. Unlike these “friend zone” situations, this can often lead to some of the best foundations for the healthiest romantic relationships. Why is this? Simple: the parties involved are on equal footing.
When romantic feelings begin to occur between people who are actually friends, there’s a rapport there. The people involved have a mutually beneficial relationship built on a foundation of respect and care, which allows for growth of emotions between them. Typically in “friend zone” situations, one of the people involved has had a romantic interest in the other since before the friendship even began. This often leads to an imbalance in power, as one party pines after and idolizes the other, who typically remains completely unaware of that person’s feelings.
That is a problem.
Kindness with an ulterior motive isn’t kindness, it’s manipulation. It doesn’t matter how “nice” you are, or how well you believe you’d treat the other person. Ultimately, what you’re doing is lulling someone into a false sense of security under the guise of friendship.
Think of it from the other side for a moment. How would you feel if there was someone in your life you truly thought wanted nothing but the best for you, only to later discover that their motive for being there in the first place was that they wanted something from you that so many others in your life try and get from you as well?
As someone who’s been on both sides of this, I can tell you: it’s really shitty.
Additionally, every time I’ve heard another guy talk about his feelings after the eventual reveal and rejection of his romantic advances (which honestly has happened more often than I care to admit), he immediately dismisses the woman and her feelings entirely.
I have literally heard the phrase “she turned me down after I was such a nice guy, what a shallow bitch” said completely devoid of irony.
Gee, I wonder what she was thinking turning you down? I mean, quickly turning on and insulting someone for not being interested in you, despite the fact that you’ve never expressed these feelings before, and even though physical attraction is something that’s, for the most part, completely out of our control? You’re obviously such a caring and rational dude.
Ultimately, the myth of the “Nice Guy” and the persistence of ideas like the “friend zone” encourage dishonest behavior, promote a view of romantic love that occurs much more rarely than suggested (i.e., “of course she loves you, I’m sure it just hasn’t hit her yet,”) and completely dismiss the feelings and desires of the woman in the situation, while demonizing her for not reciprocating the guy's feelings. It also diminishes the value of romantic friendship, relegating it to some sort of limbo where you remain imprisoned until you manage to charm your way out; in reality, friendship is such an important and emotionally fulfilling aspect of life that it deserves better than being a consolation prize.
Look, just be up front. Tell the person you’re interested in that you’re interested in them, and if they’re not interested, move on from it. While it’s a more immediate and intimidating move, it’ll allow you to move forward if the feelings aren’t reciprocated. More importantly, though, it’ll show respect for their feelings without the need for passive-aggressive romantic advances and subterfuge in the pursuit of a relationship.