AS YOU WILL SEE, I AM A VERY NICE GUY

We all know by now the old saw about what happens when someone introduces a statement with "I'm not a racist, but…" and over the last few years I have come to understand that a man self-identifying as "a nice guy" is equally ominous. It makes sense that it would portend something awful. How often is "nice" used in a way that isn't passive aggressive or pejorative? Think about what you mean when you describe another person as nice. You mean they are boring, so boring that you can't think of an actual quality they possess. When you had a "nice time" at something, did you have lots of fun? And in what world would you want to lead by describing yourself to another person as nice? I'm not nice. I'm polite, but in common usage "nice" means saying a lot of flattering things to someone in the hopes that they will do what you want them to do.

The clearest warning sign is that the men who are always telling everyone what Nice Guys they are inevitably fall into one of a small number of categories. Some are young and awkward, too immature to really understand how romantic and sexual relationships work and of the belief that they are owed something by the women of the world for being friendly. Hopefully they grow out of it. Most are the ex-fratboy "Learn How to Pick Up Any Woman!" types who think that they are so much smarter than women, despite all evidence to the contrary, that women will fawn over them in response to 20 minutes of pleasantries and a cocktail. These people are so transparently awful that the phrase Nice Guy, as their chosen descriptor, is indelibly tainted by association.

There's nothing I get a bigger kick out of than the hundreds of posts seen weekly around the internet about men trying to pick up women on dating sites and apps (Tinder, OK Cupid, etc), introducing themselves as Nice Guys, and then immediately going psychotic when their advances do not receive a prompt and positive response. To wit, from Tinder's Finest Bachelors, we have one of the internet's most entrepreneurial and self promoting wizards of pickup artistry going from "I am such a nice guy! You should meet me!" to "You should be happy I am acknowledging your existence you whore" in like, ten minutes. This is curious, as it is not the kind of thing I would classify as Nice nor is it something a legitimately Nice Person would say.

When I lived in Madison, WI I grew wary of the downtown homeless population. Having lived in Chicago I was not shocked to see homelessness, nor am I prone to spiteful reactions toward them. But I learned that some of the homeless people, either due to mental instability or strategic planning, would flip the hell out if you said no when they asked for change. "Have any change?" "No, sorry, not today." "YOU MOTHERFUCKER I AM GONNA RIP YOUR FUCKING THROAT OUT IF I DON'T GET…" etc etc. This made me, unfortunately, apprehensive about interacting with them. Usually I try to treat homeless people like People, looking them in the eye and exchanging words with them rather than trying to avoid them out of shame or whatever. After a couple of them lost their shit on me, though, I became a little more actively evasive.

Being a woman on an internet dating site can't be too different. It's a minor miracle that they talk to any of us, ever.

40 thoughts on “AS YOU WILL SEE, I AM A VERY NICE GUY”

  • "Some are young and awkward, too immature to really understand how romantic and sexual relationships work and of the belief that they are owed something by the women of the world for being friendly"

    I don't think anyone would argue that teaching young men that the world doesn't owe them a romantic relationship is a bad thing. But then, the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine this month proposes to teach women how to " Get the EPIC LOVE you DESERVE".

    As William Bennett said, "a double standard is better than no standards at all".

  • Both Sides Do It says:

    As Ellen Page said to DiCaprio: "WE NEED TO GO DEEPER"

    "Nice" is definitely the pejorative Ed calls it out as, but at the same time there's a tangle in here. Why would dude-bros adopt a whimpy term? And a woman lamenting "why can't I find a nice guy?" is so ubiquitous as to be a cliche. There's a budweiser commercial that plays with it and everything.

    Nice is bad ("you're boring"). Except when it's not ("why can't I find a nice guy?"). Except when a guy acts like it's not, they're usually so deluded about themselves they're about to do something bad ("I'LL RIP YOUR THROAT OUT WHORE"). Which is different than the first kind of bad – say what you want about throat ripping, at least it's not boring.

    What the poop is goin on here.

    Distinct social spheres evolve their own terms of art; "nice" means something different when talking about women and men than, like, having a "nice" time.

    It means "Someone who cares about you as a person".

    And a culture that needs a term of art for that phrase is incredibly screwed up. But not for the reason you think.

    DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE READING A SLATE PIECE, DIDJA

    That the phrase indicates a fucked up culture has nothing to do with "guys are pigs and we let them pretend anything to get under a skirt"

    Or because of some squaresville notion like "what with the rainbow parties and the em-dee-em-ay the children they are not even exchanging names before having relations, Ezekiel".

    The reason "someone who cares about you as a person" only has its own term of art in a fucked up culture is because it happens when it's become really, really hard to tell whether someone cares about you as a person.

    Think about that. Apart from how, like, existentially horrific it is: it's a genuinely organic social concept. There's no institution pushing it. No economic motive for it. Whether or not one has to work harder now to actually tell when someone cares for you, there was so much social pressure in the last decade or so for the concept to be expressed – to acquire a name – that it has. When it hadn't before.

    'S fucked up, 's what it 's.

    As to why that happened: fuck if I know. Subjectivity under neoliberalism's a bitch, for one. But here's something that's close to true: there are no longer many social spaces that 1) reliably mix single people in ways that 2) foster getting to know someone well enough to gauge their intentions.

    You get to know someone by having repeated, unstructured, regular contact with them. Where does that happen, outside of work? At organizations. At sporting leagues. At neighborhood get-togethers. And those're dropping like Ebola-laden flies.

    [After all that you used an Ebola joke to close out warmed-over Robert Putnam? Deal with it, I don't care about you as a reader]

    There aren't enough spaces to go to meet someone in ways that let us know them. So we don't. And some people needed a word to lament that, and some people wanted a word to deny that, and some people wanted a word to pathetically exploit that. So we made Nice.

  • Gordon Guano, why don't you come back and talk about double standards once Cosmopolitan starts suggesting that the appropriate response to not getting the "epic love you deserve" is to spew the sort of vile, violent reactions from the site Ed linked to.

    No one's saying Cosmo is a paragon of cultural value, but it's more than ridiculous to compare it to the web of cultural artifacts that has produced this subset of twisted man-children, on the verge of lashing out at the least sign of disinterest.

    There's a huge gap between "you deserve love" and "you are owed the affection of any particular woman you set your eyes upon."

  • The word "nice" can have a connotation of superficiality to it. When a guy claims to be a nice guy, he's really saying, "I'm willing to pretend to treat you with the respect and empathy that you pretend to crave, rather than treating you like the manipulative bitch-whore that you really are – even though deep-down you probably want to be treated like the bitch-whore you are." I mean that's just how men and women are, amirite? If she can't respond to this kind of integrity, then she's the one with the problem.

  • I've never heard any woman say she wants "a nice guy." We want interesting men. We want men who can cook or grow nice facial hair or talk about politics without being condescending. We want men who can reference Mean Girls or who can remember our favorite flavor of coffee creamer. We want men who have actual personalities. When a man tells me he's "a nice guy," it's an immediate red flag to me. It means he has nothing else to offer. Anyone can be nice. My postman is nice. The cashier who always double counts my change is nice. That doesn't mean they're worth dating.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    "Most are the ex-fratboy 'Learn How to Pick Up Any Woman!' types who think that they are so much smarter than women, despite all evidence to the contrary, that women will fawn over them in response to 20 minutes of pleasantries and a cocktail."

    That's the best nutshell I've read on the Pickup Artist fad, which flourished about ten years ago after 9/11 happened and everyone in America decided to spend the rest of the decade behaving like a massive tool for some reason.

    The linked Tinder bachelor is employed by a guy who was featured in a book called The Game by Neil Strauss, a genuinely sad chronicle of a '70s-style fad that involved treating dating like a first-person shooter game.

    While this strain of thought still gets some mileage on YouTube, the world has generally not been kind to it. Which its adherents unfortunately use as another thing to buttress their bitterness.

  • There's a whole variety of things where if you have to state it, it isn't so. There's a store near me called "Elegant Furniture." It's around the corner from a salon called "Classy Nails."

    If dudes and opinions came from stores, they'd be on the same strip, with signs out front saying Nice Guys and Totally Not Racist Opinions.

  • Nice = afraid/fear.
    Nice = a "man" who looks/defers to others if what they are doing (within bounds) is acceptable ie seeking external approval.
    Nice = a "man" who is uncertain/unclear of himself.
    Nice = a "man" who sees the world through a lens of scarcity for he perceives his own lack and projects that on to the world. Thus needs to take to fill the void.
    Nice = a "man" who is more afraid of losing what "little" he (perceives) has than to risk it to gain.
    Nice = a "man" who will not show himself for fear of being rejected/ridiculed.
    Nice = a "man" who will not give himself the freedom to try, fail, learn—often how not to do something—eventually succeed.

    In order for boy to progress to manhood he has to try, fail, learn, fail, and learn a few more times to learn who he is and what works for him. Unfortunately, part of that process may mean he passes though being a dickhead. He may/will say/do something that is a real social klanger, but hey now he knows what not to do. Hopefully, it stops at a point before someone gets hurt. Dating and sex aren't like driving, where you can find a paddock, empty car park, or other controlled environment, and practice losing control of the car and bringing it back without fear of writing the car or yourself off. It's always a live fire exercise.

    Which may explain why there are so many "Nice Guys" who are actually seething underneath. Men do know that the potential for a woman to get seriously hurt by their actions is very real. Yet how is he to learn where the edge of the envelope is? Part of that learning process is one step too far, and you've over corrected and spun the car. Sadly, with women that "one step to far" results in going into the ditch or worse wrapping the car around a tree so to speak. It's a balancing act. If one never leaves the safety of the port to navigate the open ocean there will be no adventure or spoils. If one goes too far out before one is ready then the ship will be lost. How is a man to learn to be a man then?

  • Xynzee, man, to view learning how to access sex as akin to learning how to drive a car is exactly the kind of disastrous and misleading analogy that derails these kinds of guys. No. No. No.

  • Captain Blicero says:

    Nice is just the bare minimum. It's a baseline, not something you get extra credit for. If you have to describe yourself as "nice" instead of using some aspect of your personality, then, well, you're probably not very interesting. It's like saying "I'm hygienic! I wear deodorant and I wipe my own ass!" Congratulations! So does everyone else I would consider dating.

  • Seconding Anubis (and Ed's whole post). Women aren't cars. You don't drive them. They're human beings. You like specific women. Or you don't. But either way, you treat them like human beings. Or is that not even a thing anymore?

  • "Being a woman on an internet dating site can't be too different. It's a minor miracle that they talk to any of us, ever."

    No, it's got to be far worse, unless you've had these guys follow you home, or to work, or invited one into your house and found out that he wasn't going to leave.

  • An immortal P.G. Wodehouse observation:

    And one had to remember that most of the bimbos to whom Roberta Wickham had been giving the bird through the years had been of the huntin', shootin' and fishin' type, fellows who had more or less shot their bolt after saying 'Eh, what?' and slapping their leg with a hunting crop.

  • All I can say is I'm thankful that I'm an old married person and don't have to date any more.

    Dating is tough. Unless you're a complete sociopath, rejection hurts regardless of your gender or sexual alignment.

    I seriously wish that when I was a teenager someone had taught me how all this was supposed to work because information gleaned from friends, parents and media was woefully unhelpful.

  • Know your C T Onions says:

    I dunno. I think your dismissal of the word nice is oversimplified. I've had plenty of nice times that I would gladly repeat.

  • Well observed, Ed. Nice Guy has come to mean 'I have been putting Niceness coins into this human shaped vending machine – why no sex coming out?' Where and how do some men get that screwed up? And how can I make sure that it doesn't happen to my sons?

  • What I don't understand is why Julien "Douche" Blanc hasn't had the cops called on him at least 20 times by now. Some dick walks up to me and grabs my head and forces it in the direction is his crotch, I'm calling the police. Likewise if some dick starts choking me. WTF?

  • The Nice Guy syndrome is surely described aptly, but I don't know why the word nice itself is getting all the hate here. Might it be because Americans are so accustomed to using hyperbole that merely calling somebody "nice" is not positive enough any more? Note that some other cultures are more low key in their communications and consider it childish if everything is immediately called awesome and fantastic just for being acceptable…

  • Men are either nice or amazing; a creep or sucks.

    Lack of imagination and vocabulary has a lot to do with it.

  • Hell, God doesn't even like nice guys, and he supposedly made 'em:

    So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

  • "How often is "nice" used in a way that isn't passive aggressive or pejorative? Think about what you mean when you describe another person as nice. You mean they are boring, so boring that you can't think of an actual quality they possess."

    This isn't strictly true, at least in my experience. When I was in grad school, for example, I often brought my husband (a non-student) along with me to various informal departmental gatherings and parties. Afterwards, the feedback I received from the female students I introduced him to was: "Your husband is reeeeeallly a NICE GUY!" The phrase, "nice guy" was often voiced so enthusiastically, it almost seemed to express a sort of wonderment or surprise… as if they never imagined that such a person would be married to me.

    At any rate, it was pretty clear from their tone and facial expressions that "nice guy" was meant as a sincere compliment… which was entirely appropriate, since the hubby really is an affable, approachable, easy-to-like person.

    Of course, I can see how a self-described "nice guy" could be problematic. If I was still in the dating pool, I think that I would also be wary of a man who – in effect – was telling me what my opinion of him should be, in advance of any positive evidence for the claim. Problem is, that's my decision to make, not his… so yeah, it's not a good sign.

  • What the "Nice Guys" need to know, in just one song.

    "I Can't Make You Love Me" was composed in the key of Bb major, with a moderate slow tempo of 72 beats per minute. Raitt's vocal range on the song spans from the low-note of F3 to the high-note of BB4.[5] The idea for the song came to Reid while reading an article about a man arrested for getting drunk and shooting at his girlfriend's car. The judge asked him if he had learned anything, to which he replied, "I learned, Your Honor, that you can't make a woman love you if she don't"

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Can't_Make_You_Love_Me

  • @Anubis/Quixote: well that was a complete misreading of what I said.
    I said women are NOT like learning to drive. In driving UNLIKE women you can learn in safe controlled environments. With women—and humans in general—what starts as fun for both parties can quickly turn into sexual assault or far worse.

    Or would you have preferred I glibly said, "No blood. No foul"?
    Which frankly is less than apt, don't you think? Given sexual assault is a very real thing with VERY REAL consequences for the victim.

    Unlike yourselves the majority of men do not emerge from the womb fully and completely socially and emotionally developed. We have learn and develop social skills, and relationships with women. So a bit of slack for us mere mortals would be highly appreciated as we try to move out of the primordial ooze of emotional development to at least aspire to becoming a newt. Who knows we might even make to lizards. Sheesh.

    Your attitude is the kind that keeps guys stuck. It says a "real man" has this shit already sorted out by now. Well no. No, men do not. The fact we're having this discussion and similar proves that. It's easy enough for you to sit upon your thrones on Mt Olympus and laugh at them as the Neanderthals you perceive them as. Perhaps you can kindly deign to come down from your Olympian heights and assist us in our growth rather than pouring out your derision.

    Your statements are about as helpful as telling a depressed person to "cheer up". Not helpful.

    If you're not going to help you'll leave men as Robert describes treating women like slot machines. Where he pours his "nice guy coins" into her all day long, then one day: DING DING DING!!! JACKPOT! but he has no idea about the how or why. Now we have at least one emotionally stunted person in a relationship, but don't be surprised if both are. Now there's a recipe for disaster. So this guy clings to this person for all he's worth and can easily descend into DV. Of course you'd just say, "real men don't beat up women." Easy to say. But if you are not prepared to help a man through his emotional development to get the underlying cause, you're only addressing the symptom.

    Given the choice wouldn't you rather a guy learn about sex and relationships from you rather than a cock like Blanc?

    Now would you like to take a crack at addressing the points I raised in the first part of my post? I personally see a man trying to improve himself as a good thing. In fact I see that as a hallmark of being a man, as he's self aware enough to know that he doesn't know something, accepting of himself to admit this, and is prepared to do something about it. It's just what exactly he's learning is the concern.

  • @xynzee

    To be a man, all you need is a penis. And possibly not even that. Any further definition is nonsense.

    Relating dealing with people to driving cars, even metaphorically, is horrifying. Its objectification, in the most basic sense.

    @everyone else

    You've managed to establish that words have different meanings in different contexts. Well done. Now you all can move on to day 2 of Linguistics 101.

  • "it's a minor miracle they talk to any of us, ever" "They" and "Us" is a problem, people never fit that neatly into those categories. And finding someone can be long and difficult, especially if you need something more than dinner, drinks and a quick shag.

  • This Nice Guy business predates the Internet. I can well recall hearing men whine about how they were nice guys and it seemed like women didn't WANT nice guys and etc. as far back as the late Seventies. Because 'nice' was all they had. They weren't handsome. They weren't rich. They certainly weren't charming. Few were actually nice. Many were shy, sad fellows who lacked the courage to approach women without contrivance and expectation. It is the cry of a wounded ego, a sour-grapes sort of misogyny, when men proclaim their nicety. Or so it seems to me.

  • Still not quite there…

    There's an underlying belief in many of these comments – not all – that women are a homogeneous group to be "treated" in a certain way. I'm certainly glad to see the idea advanced that the way should include respect and lack of intimidation, but that doesn't mitigate the basic problem. Men don't need special training to learn how to treat women – they need only acknowledge and truly, fully realize that females are human beings. He rest falls into place.

    Additionally, I see phrases like "I TREAT a lady right" as being even more of a warning than "nice guy."

    Bravos to all for exploring these ideas.

  • "Nice," in and of itself, isn't bad. If I call you a nice person, it means your kind, thoughtful, considerate, fun to be with. It's kind of a shorthand way of saying all that. If you're boring, I don't say you're "nice." I say you're boring.

    The problem comes when you apply it to yourself, instead of someone else. Nice is a judgment. And you can't make — much less publish — self-judgments to try to sell yourself to other people. You have to remain factual.

    So, describing yourself on hookup sites as "nice," "smart," "very good looking," "muscular," etc. is pretty douchey.

    Stay factual. However, most people don't even do that. You need a code sheet to decipher self-descriptions. Examples:

    5'7" = 5'5"
    175 lbs. = 215 lbs.
    blond = color not found in nature
    swimmer's build = yeah, manatee
    go to the gym 7 days a week = narcissistic twit with a body-image problem (or juicing)
    great dancer = only if you consider convulsions dancing

    etc.

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  • Xynzee, it's like you're offering a masterclass. OK, first, rather than treating women as a technical problem to be solved and mastered – realize that they are human beings remarkably like you. A whole mountain of helpful insights can come from that. 2nd, when you are summarily and casually dismissed (as I casually dismissed you above) don't erupt into a defensive and aggressive diatribe that projects all your own issues onto an unknown person and their meaningless rejection. Seriously, try it. I'm not saying it's easy. 3rd, to anticipate the next step in our demonstration, when someone impolitely expresses a lack of interest in furthering your education – emotional, sexual or otherwise – it is not a betrayal or an assault upon you. It is just our god-given right to disregard one another as we please. Think less of me if you must. Good luck!

  • Tangentially, is glad he's not job seeking. His online resume has, for years, been titled something like "Engineer, MBA, Entrepreneur, Nice Guy".

    I knew the risks of people saying "oh, he'll finish last", but didn't figure people would assume I was actually the opposite.

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