Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

When Is a Single Girl or Guy Too Nice?

A few days ago, Singletude posted a response to a Yahoo! Personals column debating whether or not women really like jerks. As I was reviewing the comments on my post, it occurred to me that we use the terms "nice guy" and "nice girl" more liberally than Hillary Clinton uses "experience" (full disclosure: I'm an Obama girl).

When a single guy gets blown off for being "too nice," if he's given any explanation at all, his mind may rev up like Jeff Gordon is at the wheel, zooming through every possible misstep on his path to rejection: Was it the door I opened for her? Was it the birthday present? Maybe Tiffany's was too much for someone I've only been seeing two months. Or maybe it was the time I said I'd rather talk to her than anyone else? Maybe I should've kept my mouth shut and let her think I didn't care.

Although they're seldom rejected outright for being "too nice," girls look around, take note of all their male friends who are engaged to women with permanent PMS, and also question whether they're too good-natured, too patient, too understanding. Maybe, they think in exasperation, they should just, you know, grow a pair.

It doesn't make sense. Why, you wonder, would someone give you the boot for your good qualities? Who wouldn't want someone who was kind, compassionate, trustworthy, affectionate, helpful, faithful, forgiving, and generous?

Who indeed. Those traits consistently top wish lists when selecting a mate. So if most people find those "nice" traits desirable, maybe they don't cross potential partners off the list because they bring too much of a good thing to the table. Maybe "nice guys" and "nice girls" are cut loose because the date's become a drag for reasons that have zippo to do with niceness. The problem is that a lot of people seem unable (or unwilling) to articulate what it is about a perfectly nice guy or girl that makes them want to abandon the 'ship, so they reach back into their archive of breakup lines and pull out "too nice." Here, then, is Singletude's translation of a few hypothetical inner monologues:

What "Too Nice" Really Means

1. Sorry, boyscout, there's no spark here.
Mr. or Ms. Wonderful, you're perfect on paper. You're cute, smart, funny, polite, and a great conversationalist. I should be all over you right about now, but there's one problem. Our chemistry is flatter than a bad joke. I wish I got that chill up my spin whenever you run your fingers down my back, but instead your touch just leaves me cold. I know there's more to love than the physical, but without the physical, it's just friendship. Sorry!

2. Hold your horses before you run me over! This is too much too soon.
It was sweet when you called me right after you got home from our first date...and the next day to thank me again...and the day after that to set up our next date. But now you've called me five days in a row, and I just met you. You're talking about visiting Europe with me and buying a house in the suburbs and I just met you. And now you're telling me you've never felt so comfortable talking to anyone before, and you want me to meet your mom and dad next week, and I just met you, and--woops, there's the doorbell--I just got your rose bouquet delivered with a singing telegram. Listen. I appreciate how thoughtful and generous you've been. But all these calls and gifts and parental introductions are packaged with a complimentary ton of pressure. I don't know you well enough to know if I want those things yet, and while I liked you a lot when I met you, the burden of your expectations is really crushing those feelings. Maybe it would be better if we just called it quits.

3. Okay, I want what you're selling, but what's the catch?
Yeah, I want a nice guy/nice girl, but I wouldn't recognize one if they dropped out of the sky with a handwritten message from God. I've been burned so many times, I've packed up my heart and locked it in a fool-proof strongbox. I can't believe you're for real, and I'm not gonna risk what's left of my heart to find out.

4. You're perfect...for someone else.
I love that you treat me like the king/queen of your world. You're always 10 minutes early, you surprise me with gifts for no reason, you've got my back whenever I've had a hard day, and you call every night to wish me sweet dreams. You'd be a terrific bf/gf, and I hope you have everything your heart desires. But not with me. What I really need is someone who shares my passion for solving crossword puzzles in Urdu while listening to baroque chamber music and likes to keep up with the latest news in paleontology. Also it would help if you had a foot fetish.

5. You're not as nice as you think.
You say you're a nice guy/girl, and in many ways you are. But every time I call you, you're depressed, and the whole world has it in for you. Or you can't hold down a job. Or you show up to a date looking like you got run over by an electric scooter. What's up with that? You have lots of good qualities, but you're letting your bad qualities overwhelm them.

6. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
I can tell you're a really nice person, but I don't want to hear about your stamp collection again. Ditto the ham on rye you ate for lunch. And, no, I really don't want to look at your grandparents' baby pictures.

This last deal breaker is often considered the most common reason that nice guys and girls get dumped, but it's the exception, not the rule:

7. I'm not nice, so why should you be?
You're nice to me. Why on earth would you want to be? I suck and don't deserve someone nice. I need someone to treat me the way I feel about myself, which is like a cigarette butt ground repeatedly into the dirt with the heel of someone's gummy, dog pooey boot. I would never admit this because I'm not consciously aware of it, so I'm going to push you away now to make room for Mr. or Ms. Jerk, okay? Buh-bye!

If someone breaks up with a nice guy or girl, nine times out of ten, one of the first six factors was to blame. As someone who's listened to numerous break-up stories, I can tell you that I've rarely heard anyone complain that a guy or girl was "too nice," and in the few cases in which I did, it was coming from a person who had issues the size of Texas. But those types are easy to spot because their low expectations surface in every area of their lives. People who expect to be treated poorly don't discriminate. You'll see that they also sabotage good jobs, good friendships, good opportunities of any sort that might prove them wrong about their lousy self-images. These are the people who will reject a date because he or she is "too nice."

But most of the time, the dumpee never gets a rundown of how they did or didn't stack up against the dumper's expectations. People have a hard enough time rejecting a date without enumerating the reasons why, so they tend to give neutral, nondescript excuses like "you're a really nice person, but I'm just not feeling it."

What the "really nice person" takes away from this exchange is that they were too nice. After all, they figure, if there was some other reason they didn't make the cut, the rejecter would've laid it out for them, right?

Heh heh heh. If only. Most people just don't have the stomach to hurt someone with a laundry list of their faults.

So the next time you feel the bitter sting of rejection, instead of assuming that you were "too nice," assume that, for whatever reason, you weren't a good match. If rejection becomes a routine, take an honest look at whether one or more of the above issues might be responsible. Are you that girl who pressures a guy to take you to your cousin's wedding when you just met him? Are you that guy who never wants to do anything but sack out on the couch and watch TV? You may be nicer than Pollyanna, but qualities like pushiness and laziness aren't attractive. Once you've done everything in your power to be an attractive person, your only job is to keep on being as nice as you can be until someone wants what you have to give.

Have you ever been accused of being "too nice"? Do you know anyone who has been? Conversely, have you ever rejected anyone for being "too nice" or known anyone who's rejected someone for this reason? Reflecting back on it, do you think niceness overload was really the problem, or do you think there was another underlying issue?

(The Fun Link of the Day was written for a Filipino audience and includes some words that may be unfamiliar to English speakers, but I think it's still comprehensible and universally applicable.)

Fun Link of the Day


Wizardry said...

So, I read through the list, all the while thinking of none of them really have impacted me much. I’ve seen them in play in my friend’s relationships, but I’m pretty much unscathed. And then I read number seven. There I go again, speaking too soon. That about does me in; number seven is a real descriptor of how my girlfriend and I acted a good portion of the time near our relationships end.

Which leads me to the question you left me. I would be honored if you used something I submitted as a Q&A post. And feel free to use my blogger ID, I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? People follow the link trail to my site and read my work? In fact, I would quite appreciate it if you would use my name, because it gets it out there. Now, for the same two sided blade, if you think using my name would deaden your point by giving it a direct reference, then don’t use it. If leaving me as “a 16-year-old reader” makes your entire writing clearer, simpler, and just more readable and understandable, then go ahead. And here’s a future disclaimer for you. Anything I post in a comment on Singletude is something I expect you and anyone else who reads your work to see, so everything here is fair game for you to freely use. Well, I’m looking forward to it! Bye Darling!

bobbyboy said...

As yes, I have a bit of experience with the "Nice guy" shtick.

Here's another angle I've heard through the years.

Sally: "We ladies are attracted to bad boys. They don't have to be complete bad boys, but a little at least is exciting!"

Two weeks later....

Sally: "What a cheating so-and-so he is!"

Exciting, isn't it?

One thing that really screws with my head is this: If many of us guys have heard ladies say that the bad boy thing can be attractive (I can attest that many of us have), why is it that the bad boys act like nice guys in the beginning?

Of course my assertions here are not across the board, but from a nice guy perspective, many times these circumstances ring true and are quite confusing.

I think the way you (re)described the "What "Too Nice" Really Means" was shear brilliance! It also gives me a great new way to help those people who actually believe that I have good advice for them. (Silly humans):)

Sorry that I may have been somewhat off topic here Elsie, but I think there is a wide array of discussion to be had with the nice guy dilemma.

s.t said...

Its a common breakup line of "its not u, its me"..."u r a nice person, its juz me"

For watever breakup lines, they are, afterall, excuses. Easy comments to make their exits.

Interesting bloggie.. ;D

Clever Elsie said...

Victoria: Thanks for the go ahead, hon. You'll find your Q & A in this evening's post. :) I wanted to check with you before republishing it since my home page is a bit higher profile than the comments section, and I didn't know if you'd want a personal question to get that kind of attention. Thanks for clarifying. :)

Bobby: Don't worry, you're not off topic at all! And I'm really glad you got a lot out of this post. :) Be careful with all that flattery, though. It might go to my head, which is already big enough from holding all those clever thoughts. ;)

It's gotta be frustrating to sit back and watch your female friends walk willingly into the lion's den! I wonder what Sally would've said if you'd asked her to define a bad boy who's not completely bad. It would be interesting to hear what that means to her. My suspicion is that it's girl code for a prosocial dominant male, a guy who's masculine, confident, and charismatic but isn't cruel, unfaithful, or deceitful. As long as women keep searching for that guy, they will forever confuse him with his evil twin, the aggressive dominant male.

S.T.: You're right. I think we've both been on the receiving end of those excuses more than once!

Thanks for stopping by, sweetie. I hope you'll come back again. :)