Feature: “Nice guys” and the infamous friend zone

Since it’s inception, I’ve been an avid fan of the Nice Guys of OKCupid tumblr blog. (I’d link to it, but recently it disappeared, which some believe is due OKC threatening legal action for violating their terms of service.) It brought to attention something that I don’t think is talked about enough — the “nice guy” phenomenon, and the infamous, griped-about “friend zone.” I wanted to take a moment to write about it.

In the interest of bringing everyone up to speed (since most of the people who read The Independent Review are here for the books, and not the feminism), the friend zone is an invisible place that exists only in the minds of men who don’t know how to move on after they’ve expressed interest in women, and have been turned down. They’ve been banished to a barren wasteland where they’re doomed never to have sex with the women they’ve lusted over for weeks, months, even years. And they are angry. They feel slighted. They missed the train to the holy land, the Bone Zone, and are now the one-man population of a lonely little western town named Sexual Frustration, where the local walk is the blue balls shuffle.

The friend zone exists almost exclusively in the minds of “Nice Guys.” I’m sure you’ve heard of them. They’ve coined and popularized the phrase “nice guys finish last,” sometimes with the pathetic addition of “so their women can finish first.” Nice Guys are positively despondent, having spent their whole lives watching the women around them fall into the arms of “assholes,” “jerks,” and “douchebags.” Sound familiar? If you’re still fuzzy, here’s their collective favourite assertion:

“I’m the guy who you’ll complain about your boyfriend to, but never the one you’ll date. I’m such a nice guy, but all the girls I’ve ever liked have put me in the friend zone, and then come crying to me when they date douche bags.”

I can guarantee you that everyone knows, or at one point has known, a guy like this. He proclaims to anyone who will listen that he’s just a genuinely good guy, and doesn’t understand why the world has chosen to take a big, heaping, diarrhetic shit on his head. All he wants is to get to the Bone Zone. Is that too much to ask, for just one girl not to think he’s “too nice” to sleep with?

The Nice Guy, you see, is put upon by the world.

The myth that Nice Guys perpetuate among themselves is that they are, in fact, “too nice” for girls to take them seriously. Pretty soon, every nice guy starts to ask his friends, “Should I just start practicing my asshole routine? Will that get this fucking slut’s attention?”

See, the Nice Guys aren’t so nice any more — but, the reality is, they never really were. The Nice Guy is, at his very core, a petulant, entitled little baby, who doesn’t like to be told no. He has been led to believe that he is entitled to a woman’s attention. Entitled, just by being alive, and by being “nice.” If he shows her how “nice” he is, by being her friend for a while, by letting her cry on his shoulder, she will in turn see how dateable he is.

When she doesn’t, the Nice Guy is shattered. He did everything right — he was a friend, he was nice! Why wasn’t that enough? A lady’s gentleman friends should naturally be upgraded to a relationship status. Why has he been unceremoniously dumped into the friend zone? The friend zone isn’t where he wants to be — he never wanted to be a friend, he just wanted to have sex. The Nice Guy doesn’t think a woman’s friendship is worth having.

You’d think the Nice Guy parable and the friend zone could be applied to women, that it could work both ways — a Nice Girl confesses her feelings to her guy friend, is denied, and finds herself in the friend zone. Weirdly, there is no backwards scenario. Because, and I can attest to this from personal experience, women are not socialized the same way as men.

Each time that I’ve been turned down by a crush, I’ve heard the same platitudes. There are other fish in the sea. That’s the one you hear right away. He wasn’t the right guy, but there are plenty of other guys out there. Just move on. 

The second platitude isn’t really a platitude, but an insidious little question, something that you mull over when you’re drifting off to sleep at night. What did I do wrong? 

Ask any woman, and I can almost guarantee she’ll say the same thing. We grow up believing that when the object of our affections doesn’t feel the same, it’s something that we did. It doesn’t matter that we were nice girls. We must have tried too hard, or not tried enough, or wore too much make up, or not worn enough make up, or flirted too much, or not flirted enough, or laughed too much, or laughed not enough, or acted too smart, or acted too dumb. Never mind that in reality, some people will like you and some people won’t. It’s a matter of fate and chemistry. Women have been socialized to believe that it’s something they did, something that prevented their crush from seeing them as worthy of girlfriend status. We’re lucky to have their attention bestowed on us at all. We should feel honoured just to be able to remain friends.

There’s also enormous pressure, as a woman, not to act like the devastating blow to your self esteem actually affected you at all. Keep being his friend, because friendship is worth having. You can be upset about being in your own version of the friend zone, if you really want to, but don’t you dare say it out loud. Don’t, for God’s sake, in any way indicate that you are hurt or that you still like him. You have to be the cool girl, the one who’s above it all, lest you become clingy, or — God forbid — the crazy bitch who just won’t leave him alone.

How does that play out if the wounded party is our hero, the Nice Guy? Well, he gets to keep being “nice.” This time, he’s the hurt nice guy, the nice guy who was spurned by a dirty little whore who had the nerve not to realize how nice he was. He’s a well-meaning nice guy who a growing number of selfish, shallow cunts thought was “too nice” to date. And believe me, he will make people hate and judge those women for it.

Winding back to the Nice Guys of OKCupid, it’s pretty clear at this point that they’re not particularly sympathetic characters, nor are they as benign as most people would like to think. They aren’t harmless. A lifetime of entitlement coupled with a lifetime of rejection (I’m inclined to think that the women who rejected these men were justified) has created a large group of hateful, sometimes misogynistic, cry babies, which you see over and over again on Nice Guys of OKCupid.

The blog itself was pretty well-liked in the feminist community for that reason — lining up the incongruous statements of “nice guys,” just to show how much of a misnomer that designation really is. Not only are they unduly filled with rage, but they’re often racist, sexist, and homophobic to boot. They’re “true, chivalrous gentlemen” who think there are times when it’s acceptable to force a woman to have sex when she doesn’t want to. They just want someone to see the nice guys they really are, but think gay people are gross and icky. They truly care about women, but all women are sluts and whores who have always rejected them, and those bitches should rot in the fiery pits of hell with their leader, Jezebel.

And they truly believe that for being nice — or, rather, for being their own warped definition of nice — they deserve a medal. At their very core they believe that being nice should open doors for them, should make the world stand up and take notice of them, and should make women love and respect them unconditionally. The same Nice Guys who are just as likely to write “no fatties” on their dating profiles as they are to say “I just want girls to see past my flawed exterior and love me for me” think that being nice, and nothing else, should win them the hearts of all the girls they’ve ever desired.

Newsflash: it won’t. Being a good person is literally the most basic requirement that women put on their list of attractive qualities. It’s so obvious that it doesn’t even register as an earmarked character trait. Saying you’re a “nice guy” is like, to steal an example from David Wong of Cracked.com, a movie called “This Movie is in English,” whose major selling point is that the actors are clearly visible. Nice Guys whose only major “selling point,” (if you can call it that) is their so-called niceness, and who systematically write off all the women that reject them as “shallow bitches,” will never have meaningful relationships until they can drop the woe-is-me act and grow up.

So, do you identify as a “Nice Guy?” Do you feel like you are unable to score a ticket on the train to the Bone Zone? Do you find yourself watching girls ride off into the sunset with Prince Douchebag McJerk? Do you hear the world’s tiniest violin playing for you? Lucky for you, I have some advice.

If you want to see results with the ladies, it’s time for a major personality overhaul. In order to truthfully call yourself a nice guy, and not a “Nice Guy,” you have to earn that right. Don’t just tell people you’re nice — prove it. Start by acknowledging that you were not born with the god-given right to a woman’s attention, and really internalize that. Someone’s attention — be it male or female — is another thing you have to earn, because you are not the Queen of England, or George Clooney.

Stop treating a friendship with a woman as a way to eventually enter a sexual relationship with that woman. Be a good friend, a true friend, who is legitimately there for her without an agenda. Don’t be opportunistic with your friendship, and  don’t treat it as disposable if or when she does not express romantic interest in you. When you’re rejected, understand that it’s not because you’re “too nice,” or because she’s a “shallow bitch.” Sometimes things just don’t work out.

And, for God’s sake, have a real personality that can be described without using the word “nice.” Have hobbies and interests and a job you care about, take pride in yourself. One of the best things David Wong writes in the article I linked to earlier is that being “nice” simply isn’t enough:

[Women] won’t put it as bluntly as [Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross] does — society has trained us not to be this honest with people — but the equation is the same. “Nice guy? Who gives a shit? If you want to work here, close.”

Women don’t care if you’re nice (well, they care, but not that much). There’s a guy down the street from the woman you like who’s just as nice, and he doesn’t whine all the time. She works with a guy who’s nice and, get this, funny, and who loves dogs, to boot. At the laundromat she runs into a nice guy who’s an avid jogger, takes his mom to brunch on Sundays, and has travelled across Europe and Asia. Expecting “niceness” to set you apart will never work, because it’s the lowest rung on the ladder of dateability.

Be a real person — stop hiding behind the term “nice guy.” It’s a flimsy facade to mask your outdated and frankly dangerous misogynistic attitude. Accept responsibility for your life, your biases, and your problems, and drop the put-upon act. Whiners are weiners. And so are “Nice Guys.”

– Kelsey

(A final note: the term “nice guy” as used in here does not represent all men, and I want to make clear that I have never pretended that it does. I know a large group of truly wonderful men, who genuinely deserve to be called nice guys. Too bad that term has been really sullied.)

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13 thoughts on “Feature: “Nice guys” and the infamous friend zone

  1. Fantastic post! I’d never really thought about the “nice guy” phenomenon, but you did a great job of describing it and how harmful it is. Come to think of it, I’ve known one man who liked to describe himself as a “Nice Guy” — and he was the biggest player I’ve ever met. I am so lucky he wound up dating someone else; I later saw that he was a total asshat, and I then met a man who won me over with his humor, mad guitar skills, and love of classic rock.

  2. This is pure brilliance! Thank you, Kelsey. Brilliant.

    I’d very much like to reblog this, at least an excerpt leading back to here, from my blog. Please say yes!

  3. Pingback: “Nice Guys” and the Infamous Friend Zone « Caught in the Cogs

  4. I have just ended a relationship with someone who labeled himself “nice
    guy” and he was just the opposite and a huge player. He wasn’t very nice
    looking but I gave him a whirl because I was tired of all the jerks ( had a bad run). It’s funny how I came across this article because he was the worst jerk of all !!! So much for Mr. Nice Guy.

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