Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Confessions of a Nice Guy

I am really focused these days on not being a Nice Guy.  It's not that I don't want to be pleasant, considerate and agreeable.  That's being a good man.  I have no intention of doing anything other than continuing to be a good man.  I treat others with kindness, generosity and wisdom whenever I can, as all good men do.

Being a Nice Guy is something else.  It is as old as a habit can get for me, it goes back to my childhood, I remember Nice Guy manipulations that stretch back to pre-pubescent days.  I remember fetching oats for a pretty girl's horse every day so she wouldn't have to do it (we were summer campers on a horse ranch) the summer I turned 9 years old (and it wasn't new behavior then).  

Oh Kate, where are you now?  I wanted to kiss you and fondle your 14 year old boobies. I didn't care much for your horse, or for the energy you might have expended getting to the barn to get a bucket of oats.  I know, I said I did, but I was lying.  I wanted to make out with you.

That's why I eventually got mad at you, exploding into a rage one day, when you went with that asshole Eric on the Saturday night hay rides.  Eric told us all later about how your bra fastens in front, not the back, and about the ponies on your panties.  You were kissing this guy, the one now telling us about your tiny pink areolas, not the guy, me, who got your horse oats every day.  Bitch!

For the purposes of this discussion, a Nice Guy is a man who believes that sex ultimately is the reward for gaining feminine approval, like a gold star next to your name.  The core belief is that women have sex with the men whom they decide deserve it.  It is as if sex is a bag of gold nuggets to pass out so they can get what they want from their men.

In Seinfeld, remember when Elaine discovered her contraceptive sponges were being discontinued by the manufacturer?  She suddenly started asking herself if a particular date was "sponge-worthy" since having sex with him would mean that she is one sponge closer to having to figure out a different method of contraception.

The Nice Guy's reason for interacting with women is to become sponge-worthy.

Not all Nice Guys are the same.  Some of them are truly sociopathic thugs.  They use charm to disguise their predatory agenda, but in the end, they regard women as self-affirmation tokens, not as full, functioning human beings with feelings and faults.  When women don't give up the gold nuggets after their good behavior, the resentment builds and builds until an inevitable explosion of rage, which can include all manners of violence.  I'm sure a lot of rapes start out this way.

I saw all that potential within me, but I knew it was sociopathic, so I layered-in rationalizations to ratchet all that down a notch.  I would more typically approach a woman, find out she was unavailable, and then begin a process of trying to paint a picture in which she would eventually realize that I was the better choice than her current partner.  Her "mistake" would be that she met and fell for this guy before she met me.  Ah, timing, it can suck so, but if I am Nice Enough, she will break it off with her pre-mature association and realize her true place at my side.

We would become confidants, she would tell me his faults, I would amplify them for her subtly, agreeing with every assertion that this was "wrong" and "she deserves better" while I bought her lunch, took her late-night phone calls, and basically supported her in every way I could to demonstrate that there are men out there (ME!) who are actually deserving of such a wonderful human being, she just needs to summon the strength to break up with him and make a better choice (ME!).

I have an absolutely unblemished record with this approach.  The same thing happens every time.  I am told I am a unique and amazing man who will be a really great partner for someone else some day.  In about 30+ years of using this approach to get laid, it has never worked.  Not once.   I have a record of celibacy that professional clerics admire.  I am even too much of a Nice Guy to hire a prostitute.

To cope with this dismal record of failed outcomes (without finding fault with my approach), I decided the problem REALLY is that there's something wrong with me.  No woman is ever going to want anything to do with me because of this "thing" that is wrong with me (some vaguely undefined victimhood from my family).  Instead of investigating the thought processes that led me to that conclusion, I acted as if I just wasn't a nice enough guy.  I went about making myself even nicer by becoming a nurse, practicing zen buddhism, doing volunteer work with victims of rape and domestic abuse.

It really isn't easy for a man like me to stay celibate while constantly in the company of beautiful women who trust and confide in me.  I had to try really hard to do that, and I accidentally developed a number of amazingly useful skills in order to pull this off.  I'm not joking.  Very few behavioral patterns are all good or all bad, even dysfunctional patterns can craft positive skills.

I learned to listen.  I learned to love a woman without possessing her.   I know how to genuinely negotiate boundaries in close friendships with females who have partners.  I learned to discern sincere friendships from insincere social contracts for mutual exploitation.  These are highly useful skills.

But, ultimately, this has failed to enable me to take good care of myself.  I am lonely.  There is probably some person, or people, in the world who would have benefited from being my girlfriend(s) who didn't have that chance because I made myself unavailable in this way in the last 35 years.  Maybe even there were children I should have had that I didn't, I don't know.  Such regrets are inexhaustible.

So, what is the way out?

First, I am telling people, particularly the women in my life, but everyone, what I want from them in as plain and unvarnished language as I can summon.  I am happy that I don't currently have any female friends in my life who I am covertly trying to seduce with the Nice Guy, but I am going to remain ever vigilant for my pull to sign up for the next one.  I have certainly met a few prospects lately, but fortunately my realizations as discussed above have de-railed my hidden agenda to go on in for a second round of Nice Guy manipulation games.  Loneliness is the price I pay for this vigilance, and I am paying it.

Second, I am giving up approval-seeking behavior.  I am eradicating the people-pleasing disease from my life.  This, as I have discussed in previous blog posts, has cost me a number of relationships.  Bad relationships all, to be sure, but even bad relationships can be fun and fulfilling from time to time.   I miss those people.  They were fun to hang out with and be around, but I had trained them all to dismiss me and take advantage of me.  Loneliness is also the price I pay for this boundary.

Third, I am going to try to get rejected.  I am going to try to ask for phone numbers I don't think I will get and I am going to ask women out who I think will turn me down.  In short, I am going to put my rejection radar to the test.  I want to know if I actually am as accurate with my predictions of failure as I believe I am.  This scares the bejesus out of me.   It is going to hurt to be rejected, but being stuck in this pattern of guaranteed romantic loneliness hurts too.

I know it can be hard on a woman to reject an approach she doesn't want, but for the first time in my life, I really believe that's her problem, not mine.  I will go away.  I won't be an ongoing problem for her.

"No More Mr. Nice Guy" is the name of a book by Robert Glover from which I derived some inspiration for all this.  I think the book is a bit too sure of itself, but there's a lot of good information in it.  If you see any of yourself in what I describe here, check it out.