Recently, the whole “Nice Guy” topic came up again, well after the initial post had become a thing of legend. Many people jumped in on the new discussion, but it always seems like the same people respond in the same way. The phrase, “Yes, they’re being jerks, but they’ve got a point…” keeps getting bandied about in these conversations, with one user posting an old joke about the supposed underlying truth behind the complaints that Nice Guys have. As I am not yet an accomplished disembowler of bad ideas, I thought I might take a practice run at this one…anyone else want to join me behind the cut?
Q: How many “Let’s Just be Friends” does it take to change a light bulb?
And right here, we have the basic and fundamental problem the Nice Guy has, stated right up there at the beginning so that we can get it out of the way quickly. “Let’s Just Be Friends”, in ironic quotemarks so that we all understand that it’s obviously BS. This woman isn’t “just” a “friend”! They’re a woman, and therefore a potential sexual partner! The whole idea that a man and a woman can somehow have interactions between each other that don’t lead to sex is absurd on the face of it; relationships between members of the opposite sex can only have two phases. Courtship, and screwing. If the woman is still on speaking terms with you, they must therefore understand that you are courting them by definition; continuing to have voluntary social interaction with you is just “stringing you along.” Sure, they might say that they’re just a friend of yours; sure, they might say that the relationship is strictly platonic; sure, they might say that they’re not interested in you sexually and you are just like a brother to them! But the Nice Guy knows that this is just playing “hard-to-get”.
A: Only one, who will…
… call you up every night for three months and talk to you for hours on end, about how bad her current light bulb is, how it goes out without warning, and never provides her with the kind of light she would really love to have.
This one comes up time and time again, in every one of these Nice Guy rants. Again, do women ever really do this? Ever? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it does always seem like the sort of thing that people like this talk about as examples of how much support they provide to “women”, when it sounds more like the sort of thing that guys who’ve never actually spoken to a woman but have seen lots of Julia Roberts movies might come up with as an example. Most of the women I know wouldn’t go three months in a relationship with someone who treats them badly to the point where they call up their friends to complain about them every single night, but maybe I don’t know the right people.
Either way, though, the implication is loud and clear; because you provided this woman with emotional support, she is obliged to respond with sex in order to even the score. Setting aside the obvious problem (if you only provided them with emotional support to get some sex out of them, you’re really not much of a friend, are you? I do nice things for my friends because I like them, not because I’m banking up favors for later…) Why is it that Nice Guys assume that emotional support should always be repaid with physical affection? If she’s been calling you every night for three months to unload her troubles on you, and then blows you off when you’re feeling bad because she’s got better things to do than listen to you mope, then it’s an issue. Then the friendship is one-sided. But if you listen to them, all you can realistically expect is that they should listen to you.
… tell you what a wonderful light bulb you have, and how any woman would die to have such a light bulb.
…and it’s about here that “light bulb” formally becomes a euphemism for “penis”. Guys, I have news for you. Despite the vital evidence provided by that classic documentary series, “Sex and the City”, women do not have a grapevine of dating info that ranks men according to their penis size and prioritizes their relationships accordingly. If a woman is not into you, and you’re insecure about your penis size, these things are not necessarily related anywhere but in your own head.
Other than that, this is primarily a social skills issue; Nice Guys generally don’t interact with other people enough to know that whenever someone says, “Oh, you’re a wonderful person, I’m sure there’s someone out there for you, lots of women/men would love to have a boyfriend/girlfriend like you,” they’re just saying it to be nice and both parties know it. It may actually be true, but it’s not meant to be taken in the same way as, “The train for London leaves at 6 PM.” It is reassurance, not prediction.
… tell you it’s amazing that your light bulb has been sitting alone in it’s little corrugated cardboard tube for the last six months and even more amazing that you don’t have a dozen sockets to screw it into.
…….um, dudes everywhere? If you’re trying to convince people that you don’t have a simmering undercurrent of misogyny beneath your attempts to laugh your frustrations about dating off with jokes, don’t refer to women as “sockets”. It’s just not going to go well. Trust me.
(Also, if you’ve been living in a corrugated cardboard tube for six months, your dating prospects will go down. Try looking into government assistance and local shelters.)
… call you up at three o’clock on a Monday morning, (destroying any chance you had of being alert, much less coherent at that crucial business meeting at 8 am) to agonize about the fight she had with her light bulb, and to tell you that she finally lost her temper with it and unscrewed the light bulb forever.
Again, note that her relying on you for emotional support is considered to be grounds for getting tail, not for getting emotional support. If you call her up at three o’clock on a Monday morning, distraught over a breakup, and her response is, “Unnnn…tell you what, why don’t you just take a couple of sleeping pills to get through the night and we’ll talk about this later, okay?” Then you have grounds to be upset. If she doesn’t promptly agree with sex to you out of a misplaced guilt reaction, you do not have grounds to be upset. See how it works?
… be shocked at your offer of a replacement bulb, and will tell you that she could never screw your light bulb into her empty socket, that doing so would ruin the light it gives out, and that it’s too good a bulb for her anyway, but that she hopes she’ll still be able to come over and talk to you about her light bulb problems.
And again, this makes perfect sense if you start from the premise that women are automatically being disengenuous when they tell you that they don’t see you as a romantic partner. If you assume that every time a woman says, “No, I see you as a friend,” they’re really just stringing you along romantically, then of course it hurts when you finally make your romantic interests known and she says that she sees you as a friend! Because you know she’s lying! Just like she’s lied every time she talked to you! The fact that she showed interest in you as a human being must mean that either she’s after sex herself, or she knows that you’re after sex and wants to get other things out of you by pandering to your interest in sex! And she turned you down for sex so SHE MUST BE A LYING TWO-FACED GOLDDIGGER OMG SHE’S JUST LIKE ALL THE REST
Let me break it to you gently but firmly, Nice Guys. If a woman tells you she sees you as a friend, and you don’t believe her, it is not her fault when you get upset. She is not lying, she is not pretending that the relationship is anything other than what it is, and she is not stringing you along. She is your friend. Everything else going on is baggage you are bringing to the friendship, and being upset at people for not living up to promises you imagined they made is the sign of a crazy person.
Or to put it another way, if you had a male friend that helped you move, that hung out with you and watched sports, that commiserated with you after break-ups and congratulated you on promotions…and they then explained a couple of years down the line that they did it all because they were gay and were really picturing their cock in your mouth the whole time…would you feel obligated to have sex with them? And if you did turn them down for sex, do you think they’d be justified in getting furiously angry with you for “stringing them along” and “using them for emotional intimacy”?
… go home, rummage through the trash can, find the defunct light bulb, lovingly clean it off, screw it back into the socket, and sit there in the dark.
… call you up every night for three months…
Because of course, the proper emotional response to a friend who’s trapped in an abusive relationship is a sense of irritation that they aren’t giving you sex! That’s how you know that you’re their friend, because your first thought when they’re in trouble is about yourself and how their problems inconvenience you.
It’s very simple. If a woman acts like they’re your friend, says they’re your friend, and behave like they’re your friend…then they’re your friend. This doesn’t mean you can’t want more, but their emotional consistency is not a personal slight against you. Suck it up, deal with it…and that doesn’t mean stop being their friend. What nine out of ten Nice Guys need is a female friend that they know they have no chance with, just so they can figure out that it’s not the end of the world if you hang out with a woman just because you enjoy each other’s company and not as some sort of secretive platonic dating gambit.* It helps you treat women like actual people instead of orifices-in-waiting, which women tend to look for in a man, and it helps your social skills, ditto, and it also helps you figure out exactly what the real signs of “I am interested in you” are, so you can pick up on a hint when a woman actually drops one. And if you can’t enjoy the company of a woman in any context other than sex, and you really don’t understand how to deal with a woman as anything other than an object to be fucked…then you’re one of the other ten percent. Get mental help. For your own sake as much as everyone else’s.
I hope this clarifies things.
*The phrase “secretive platonic dating” is copyright and trademark Melora Creager, of the band Rasputina. All rights reserved.