In Which We Are So Through With Men

Looking For The Nice Guy

By Tyler Coates

I consider myself to be a Feminist in the sense that I’ve always thought, “Yeah, ladies are just as good as dudes, right? I mean, why not?” I never was one to shout about it, though, mostly because I’ve never been a very politically correct person. It’s pretty hard to be politically correct and hilarious. I’d much rather be funny than someone who pretends to respect everyone.

But seriously, folks: womyn really got it rough these days! And not just in the political, economic, and social departments. Fuck the glass ceiling; I’m talking about how the guys that try to date girls are dumb shits.

Now I feel like I can write about this because, even though I’m not a girl, I do date guys, and right now I am severely anti-men. Sure, that’s mostly gay guys, but generally, I don’t like men very much. Also, I’ve been reading Jezebel a lot lately, and all of that feministing has really started to affect me. This Recording favorite Julie Klausner recently published an essay in the NYT‘s Modern Love column. I spent all day thinking about it because I’ve been there, lady.

Julie describes a brief, unsatisfying fling with “an indie rock dreamboat,” which began in the most modern way: emails and text messaging. If you’re a gay man living in a city, you’ve most likely gone through this routine, and I found Julie’s descriptions of her first impressions pretty damn accurate:

He already annoyed me, and we hadn’t even met. I would soon learn a lesson men have known for years: that it’s possible to be attracted to somebody you don’t like.”

Julie and Smiley Muffin

I wasn’t really aware of that until recently. I’m admittedly new to the gay thing, having spent most of my post-adolescent awkward stage (which, um, just ended about two years ago when I was somewhere between 22 and 23) thinking I liked girls. When I had crushes on girls, I fell hard, spending months pining after them with, obviously, very little success.

“Why D’ya Do It” – Marianne Faithfull (mp3)

I didn’t think I’d ever want to date a guy until I found myself in my first relationship. It turned out to be a disaster, but part of me kept that relationship going because I liked the challenge of having to make an effort to get what I wanted. I wanted this guy to like me. And I realized later that when I entered into those courtship rituals with other guys, I was more interested in the ones who didn’t like me than those who put a lot of effort into the pursuit.

Back when I was going after girls, I considered myself to be a Nice Guy. You know the type: the nice guy is the dude who is your friend, who is a little too shy to make a move, whom you would never call “a player”. Look at Coop from Wet Hot American Summer, for example: Michael Showalter’s character is the quintessential nice guy pit against Paul Rudd’s bad boy.

The nice guy is the cute, skinny, nerdy guy who listens to The Decemberists instead of Dave Matthews Band, who would rather watch Amelie and cuddle than drink and beer and watch “the game.” Of course, the nice guy is full of shit, and this is coming from someone who thought he was that guy.

Sure, I’m no philistine, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t break my fair share of hearts. Did I end brief, month-long relationships by not calling someone back? A few times, actually. Yeah, I feel bad about it now, and try not to be such a jackass and consider the thoughts of others occasionally. I wasn’t doing it before on purpose, or out of some sociopathic game I was playing. No, I was just a dipshit who didn’t know how to treat the guys I was courting.

From Leigh Dragoon’s Nice Guys 101 Series

“C’mon Billy” – PJ Harvey (mp3)

There’s a great quote that is floating around some of the Tumblr blogs I follow, from an interview with author Amanda Marcotte:

“The Nice Guy syndrome arises from men who are really conflicted about women’s equality. They get angry real fast when, after being ‘nice,’ they don’t get rewarded, or they are rejected. Guys are oblivious to the fact of their entrenched privilege, the very notion that women are there as available eye candy for them. It is unnerving and uncool.”

It’s almost as if sometimes men think they should be rewarded with sex simply because they didn’t actively (or at least aggressively) pursue it.

But that idea is completely the opposite of what one looks for in the nice guy. The nice guys shouldn’t be calculating and manipulative of your feelings just to get you into bed! That’s the bad boy, the one you’re not supposed to like. So why is it when someone like Julie Klausner falls for the unassuming, sensitive musician, she gets spurned just as if he was that bad boy in disguise? That’s because nice guys are the bad boys in disguise.

“Dickhead” – Kate Nash (mp3)

Now, I’m not saying all guys suck; I’m sure there are a few out there that are genuine and respectful of whomever they pursue. But if you’re with someone who calls himself “nice,” nip that shit in the bud. And if you’re uncertain, here are some helpful tips to see if your potential mate is an actual dickhead nice guy:

1. Does he think he’s awkward? If he describes himself as awkward, there’s a problem. (To quote Edith Wharton: “[T]he inner vanity is generally in proportion to the outer self-depreciation.”) We’re misusing that word most of the time anyway. If everyone’s awkward, then no one’s awkward, okay? (That’s the closest I’ll ever come to Ayn Rand Objectivist thought.)

2. Is he a currently attractive former geek? That’s a red flag. He’s probably not looking to settle down, even if he plays you Sufjan on his guitar and dedicates his Muxtape to you. He’s most likely looking for help discovering his newfound hotness.

3. Does he perform improv and have a huuuuge crush on Tina Fey? Look out! You might think those loose-fitting khakis paired with Nike sneakers are endearing and the prospect of having a guy watch Mean Girls with you sounds like a dream come true now, but it’s only because he thinks she’s a hottie on 30 Rock. Would he have dated her in college?

4. Does he still listen to The Shins? All I’m going to say is that the dude from The Shins roughed up his America’s Next Top Model girlfriend. I didn’t even see that one coming.

5. Does he have a blog? YIKES.

“Indie Boys (Don’t Deserve It)” – Queens of Noize (mp3)

Be wary, ladies, of the seemingly sweet, inexperienced guy who declares his emotions, because beneath that nice guy exterior is a guy who just doesn’t know how to be around – or, hell, even respect – women (or other men, for that matter). Klausner wrote about this on her year-end blog post, where she included “Emo guys who have crushes on Pam from The Office” in her list of enemies from 2007. She said:

“I get it, fellas. She’s not intimidating, like one of those women who wears make-up and styles her hair, and has a good job that she enjoys, and confidence, and a…what do you call it…an adult woman’s sexuality. There’s nothing scary there, because there’s no mystery: she’s just like you! Mousy and shy. And one day your fantasy will come true. You’ll meet a nerdy, cute girl just like that (like you), and NOBODY BUT YOU WILL KNOW SHE’S PRETTY! Shhh! It’s a secret! And she’ll melt when she sees your record collection, and she’ll swoon when you play her the song you wrote, and she’ll never want to go out to a party where you’ll be forced to talk to people of social status, or comb your hair, or buy grown-up shoes, or demonstrate a hearty handshake, or make eye contact, or basically act like a man.”

“Free Money” – Patti Smith (mp3)

So what’s the moral here? Does a guy have to spout out misogynistic bullshit about women to reveal some kind of deeper evil? Absolutely not! Take this speech from my favorite movie, Broadcast News, for example:

“What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No, I’m semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing. He will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance… Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he’ll get all the great women.”

Tyler Coates is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Chicago, has a blog, and is a really nice guy.


Liz Phair Eats Nice Guys for Breakfast

Places You Can Take Those Guys for a Cheap Date

Molly Casts the Leads in the Todd Haynes-ish Emily Gould Biopic

This Recording Is The Song That Will Change Your Life


22 thoughts on “In Which We Are So Through With Men

  1. As if this essay wasn’t already brillz, the inclusion of photos of Topher Grace and Zach Braff makes it easily one of my favorite things I’ve read here.

  2. I read something recently (and I wish i could re-find it but i’m far too scattered and tired at the moment) about “nice guy syndrome” and how thinking one is a nice guy brings along with it this sense of entitlement…. which in the end doesn’t make you any sort of nice guy. So, somewhat ironically, by actively identifying as a nice guy (and in some cases maybe not consciously so) you’re not being all that nice. Just food for thought i guess.

  3. This is a great post. Are you thinking about dating women again? Because “nice gay boy who identifies with female woes” is the PERFECT cover!

  4. Yeah, I agree with Brit – your inclusion of topher grace and braff is hard-hitting stuff, way to find targets that no one’s ever hit before.
    ummm, i think you might be overthinking things here. if you’re going to send up “red flags” regarding people who feel awkward and sometimes give voice to the feeling (lots), people who are attractive who once weren’t (almost everyone), people who like Tina Fey (lots), people who like the Shins (some, I suppose), and people who blog (plenty), then best of luck to you out there.

  5. Molly asked me what my requirements for a woman were awhile ago, and I’d like to share them with you:

    With a good personality
    A tight body
    Hot blog

    This will no doubt aid you in your quest.

  6. ouch, brit. what a burn. oh wait- i’m an attractive jerk who doesn’t blog, feel awkward, or care one way or the other for Tina Fey. i’m a part-time asshole and thus, somehow… not. makes perfect sense.

  7. thank you! and this is not demeaned but means that much more coming from a fellow queer who just thought a non bio boy would be a more sensitive boy. NOT. and the calling one’s self out as awkward hit home. thanks for keepin it real..

  8. blah blah blah, yah heard this one a bunch and it was really interesting the first time. That sense of entitlement buried under passive aggressive behavior and a lack of courage to assert ones self in a relationship is pretty disturbing shit and is right-on in a lot of ways. Its also a crappy way for people to feel justified about being assholes since the “nice guys” are just assholes in disguise. Lets not over think this type of stuff, its good to be nice, just watch out for the entitlement baggage and be honest with people right? Not too much to ask really…

  9. So everyone in New York says the guy in the Modern Love column was Matthew Caws from Nada Surf. He is cute and he writes great songs, so I would most likely not find enough ire in a date with him to dedicate a NY Times column to how nice guys aren’t nice. Instead, I would wax poetic about how guys who can sing 3-part harmonies can text message me all they want.

  10. Its attitudes like this that makes “the nice guy finish last” Im a nice guy, no im not a geek, no im not unconfident, i just know how to respect people because the world needs it. And i love unconditionally, i dont think about sex or talk about it as much as the regular bar jockey or “manly man” would. Whats wrong with this picture? NOTHING! There are plenty of people that are nice you just need to know where to look. And having this attitude doesnt help im sorry..

  11. I need as much suggestions as possible. The more the better. I haven’t had the chance to sit and really go over the process. Again, looking for some answers where I can start blogging immediately..

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