Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Nice Guy Myth

I'm sick and tired of men complaining that women don't want to date "nice" men -- they only fall for jerks. Yes, there are a few women whose dark pasts make them addicts to pain and mistreatment. Yes, every woman has had one sick fascination with some schmuck where the chemistry was so strong she stuck around for what wasn't good for her.

But frankly, I would never go out with a guy who wasn't good to me, and neither would any of my friends. (Okay, maybe when we were younger. Once or twice, maybe. But not anymore.)

Being a nice, good guy is a necessary condition before I'll date you. The problem is, it's not sufficient.

Sorry, you don't get any extra points for being nice -- let's face it, being nice is the bottom line. To be datable you've got to bring a little more to the table. Claiming women only want to date jerks is not unlike crying "lesbian" any time a girl rejects you. An absurd assumption just to avoid the obvious issue: some people click together; some don't.

Here are the facts. Chemistry, biology, pheremones, whatever it is that draws you to someone is a lot more haphazard than a mere assessment of personality and behavior. There are tons of nice men (and women) out there, but if the chemistry ain't there, it just ain't there.

Zoe recently broke up with a guy who told her: "You're ending this relationship because I'm too nice." As she explained to me later, the exact opposite was true: she'd stayed with him as long as she had because he was so nice. For goodness sake, we want to be with men who are good to us. We value them so much -- enough to stay with them even after the spark is gone. . . but frankly we're not going to stay forever just because he treats us well.

On the flip side, we will break up with you if you treat us badly. Women don't suffer jerks for long so, please, don't succumb to the idea you've got to be mean for a woman to want you.

A common rebuttal to all of this is that well, nice is ok, but women can't handle too nice. You gotta mix it up with little bad treatment. No. There is no such thing as "too" nice. No "toxic niceness" where a guys is just so excruciatingly sweet you can't live with it.

What does exist is toxic spinelessness. My issues with spinelessness have nothing to do with my not "respecting" someone I can walk all over. This isn't some pre-feminist holdover about how, deep down inside, what I really want is someone to take control and show me what's what.

It's just that it makes me crazy when my cat follows me around from room to room (don't ask; I have a really needy cat) -- can you imagine how I'd feel about a guy who does this? And not just from room to room, but who devotes his whole life to watching over my needs?

Trust me, there are plenty of times when I need 150% of a guy's attention on me, me, me and only me--I'm as high maintenance as the next chick.

But for goodness sake, not all the time.

It's a fine line one has to walk -- I'll grant you that. But the line isn't between "nice" versus "mean." It's about a little space versus obsessive devotion. It's about balance. It's about not committing your every waking thought to me when I'm just not in the mood.

Men and women (I suppose, if pressed, I have to admit it works in both directions. . . ) should always treat their significant others with total caring. Just they also have to have their own lives, interests, friends, backbone. Only when both people stand as separate people can they function as a solid couple, as opposed to simply melting into a universe that orbits around one person's needs.

If that kind of sacrifice of one's own life is what you mean by "nice" -- then, yes, women don't want that. But if we're talking about just plain, old-fashioned being a good guy? It's what every woman craves.

And if she rejected you anyway, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it's not because she's addicted to being treated like dirt.

She just didn't like you.

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