I met one of the Nice Guys of OKCupid and he’s still in middle school

Although it’s currently offline, I took a good look at the recent Nice Guys of OKCupid Tumblr. (Update: you can view the full archive here—> https://sites.google.com/site/niceguysofokc/ (thanks to Artificial Angels for the tip)

If you’re not familiar, you can get a sense of the purpose of it by reading this Jezebel article by Hugo Schwyzer.

Needless to say, it’s not about changing the way people think or communicate so much as it’s about mocking a specific man, the archetypical Nice Guy.

While I found some of the profiles disturbing, some were simply very sad and gave little indication that the authors were, as Hugo suggests, demanding sex in exchange for being nice guys.

As Ally Fogg notes in a recent post:

“…many of the entries come across as more self-pitying, bitter or pathetic than those above. Those are not attractive qualities, but they are sadly common among people who are  at an extremely low ebb emotionally, or struggling with depression.”

I should be clear: I don’t really have anything to say to the people Hugo thinks he is addressing. If your only goal is sex, and you can’t be bothered to initiate it in an honest, straightforward and ethical way (read: not pretending friendship or shoulder to cry on) with other people interested in the same thing, this post is not for you or about you.

But I’m not so sure that everyone tagged with the Nice Guy archetype only cares about sex and is a terrible human being.

Read this OKCupid journal entry (click here) for example, which is filled with assumptions about the Friendzone and other myths that I find troubling, but doesn’t suggest to me that the self-identified Nice Guy is demanding sex in return for being a shoulder to cry on. I read it as a plea from someone with low self-esteem and social awkwardness (I’ve been there, trust me) for a chance to prove he can be a good partner. Hopefully he’s done some emotional work since then, because his perspective in that post (circa 2007) might not make for good qualities in a relationship, but I’d argue that it doesn’t suggest he’s some raging jerk either.

His Nice Guy journaling actually made me think back to when I taught middle school (I was a sub, but mostly worked 7th & 8th grade at one place). I’m fairly socially adept and I think this translated to male students because I’d often get questions about how to relate to girls. Typical complaints included “girls only want to date the jerks” and “I’m nice, I don’t make comments about their boobs and I help them with homework so why don’t they like me?”

Now, if a 12 year old said that to you, would you declare him a sexist/misogynist jerk? Offbase, yes. In need of some education and a readjustment in perspective, absolutely. But my experience was that middle school age boys were in a development stage where they were learning how to be transactional. At that age I noticed my male students were very focused on concrete actions. Opening a door for a young lady, for example, was considered the hallmark of a nice guy. Now, before you burn me at the stake please note that I consider opening a door a nice thing to do for anyone regardless of your potential interest in them. But it’s a simple transaction, not a Symbol Of How Good A Person You Are. There are much more important indicators, like setting good boundaries and giving someone support and space when they are having a hard time. To be clear the female students at that age were transactional too, and honestly some of the things they said and did were similarly troubling.

And that transactional approach to friendships and relationships is precisely the problem. Not only is it a developmental stage (and one that I think probably belongs in middle school and no further) but it is also reflected/reinforced in the mainstream media we consume. “She’s looking for a gentleman who holds the door for her and if you do you’ll be rewarded” ads constantly remind us. Or the movie that slips the standard “Guy Buys Woman Diamonds and She Falls For Him” script into a conversation. (Sidenote: for an interesting reminder on the oddity of scripted interactions, check out this great post)

Yesterday my roommate and I were getting pizza and talking about NG of OKC when, by some strange chance, one of those self-proclaimed Nice Guys happened to be sitting at the table next to us. He overheard the conversation and piped right in with some self-righteous nonsense about how girls Always Date Jerks. I challenged him, because I dislike when people are intellectually lazy, and asked him Which Girls but he didn’t really have an answer for that. There was a little more conversation and he provided further talking points about How Women Don’t Like Nice Guys, and my roommate and I basically called him out on it and let it go (we were both not in the mood to spend an hour arguing with the college age fellow). My roommate afterwards commented that he didn’t hear an original thought from the guy in the whole conversation, which I’m afraid I’d have to agree with, though maybe if we’d given him a chance and some time we’d have heard one.

It triggered a memory for me though. When I was teaching middle school one of my students tried to explain that he was practicing being less of a nice person because that’s what girls seemed to go for. I’m not sure how I responded (I hope gracefully and in a helpful way) but I do remember being very surprised.

If I had the chance to respond now, I’d tell him that transactions are not a guarantee that someone will give you a chance nor should you feel entitled to anything in return (this is a value that all humans should practice, regardless of gender). Instead, they are ways you can foster good connections with people. You should be good to the people in your life because you want to be good to them, not because you expect something in return. Hopefully they’ll see fit to do the same but those two things aren’t automatically connected.

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19 thoughts on “I met one of the Nice Guys of OKCupid and he’s still in middle school”

  1. “girls only want to date the jerks”
    I think this is an observation of what those guys see around them. Honestly I think sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s not. What I see from both sides (those who believe it and those who don’t) are attempts at trying to prove the other side 100% dead wrong. Well neither side is 100% on this.

    It’s all a mixed bag. There are women that go for qualities that can add up to a jerk and there are women that don’t.

    I think for a lot of those guys that see other guys successful it’s a matter of them being actual nice guys that get frustrated and bitter at not being successful at dating/relationships/sex. I can tell you for sure that that kind of bitterness and frustration doesn’t appear at puberty. It builds up over time.

    But yeah that site was just foul. It seemed like it was trying to pass off understandable and logical frustration as some sort of inherent hatred of women or something. I’m glad it’d gone.

    1. Thanks for dropping by Danny. I think you’re right that it’s not as simple as some would prefer….of course being the sort who is interested in nuance and a deeper understanding of all the angles doesn’t make you popular (a la Hugo and some others). I’ve chosen not to write or speak in hyperbole myself, but I will admit at times it is tempting.

      From what I saw some of the men on NGOKC did express a very deep hatred of women (it’s hard to say if that earned them the merciless mocking, as opposed to just saying “you’re wrong and here’s why”). But certainly not all of them, and certainly not every guy who identifies himself as a Nice Guy (a tag I’m pretty suspicious of these days).

      Ultimately, having healthy relationships and friendships requires us to suspend our “this jerk represents all men” or “this woman who dates jerks represents all women” attitudes and live in the real world / interact with other human beings who are also complex and more than a set of cliches or archetypes. “The Monolith” problem as you’ve gracefully noted in other places. But, to be honest I wouldn’t necessarily agree with you that the frustration was logical (although, yes, I do understand where it’s coming from). I guess I would say the same thing to many of those men that I would say to my former middle school student, in other words, yes, I hear your frustration, but you’re still responsible for your own growth and betterment and no one owes you a relationship unless it is good for them and what they want. That goes for women too.

      1. But certainly not all of them, and certainly not every guy who identifies himself as a Nice Guy (a tag I’m pretty suspicious of these days).
        I can agree with that. I’m just as suspicious of the usage of nice guy by guys as I am of usage of Nice Guy by folks like those at NGOKC.

        But, to be honest I wouldn’t necessarily agree with you that the frustration was logical (although, yes, I do understand where it’s coming from).
        Ah I only meant that “logical” in the since that it is understandable. I don’t think it’s some leap of logic to see how those guys become frustrated. Not trying to say it’s right, fair, or okay. Just understanding where it came from.

        I guess I would say the same thing to many of those men that I would say to my former middle school student, in other words, yes, I hear your frustration, but you’re still responsible for your own growth and betterment and no one owes you a relationship unless it is good for them and what they want. That goes for women too.
        I think it would also be worth telling them that they need to figure out what it is THEY want and separate it from what it is that OTHERS want them to think they want (as in are they really into that woman or are they into her because she fits the bill of being “conventionally attractive”). A lot of those guys get trapped in despair over not being sure of what they want. They need to be freed from that.

      2. Ah, yes. I’m with you on that – thanks for clarifying. Your last point is on the nose as well. If you don’t know what you want and you are simply adding in the conventional cultural messaging it’s going to be a bit of a mess.

  2. I don’t believe most Nice Guys are inherently bad people, but they do need harsh reality checks. As mean as Nice Guys of OKCupid may have been–and I don’t believe it was mean because 1) the creator had the sense not to include any private info of the Nice Guys and 2) the damning portion of the site was not her commentary, but the words and opinions of the Nice Guys themselves–, I believe it did a better service to the Nice Guys than the defenders of these Nice Guys.

    I was a real jerk before, but what helped me was when people told me bluntly what a jerk I was. What also helped me were the examples of my behavior I saw in other people. These lessons were blunt, and they hurt my ego badly, but it will be painful no matter what (which is why most Nice Guys perpetuate their self-delusion).

    True, many of the Nice Guys weren’t awful people, but even they need to realize that they are acting like jerks with their pity parades. They are not in middle school anymore; they have to grow up. A society that condones their behavior enables it and actually digs them further into their lonely lives. NGOKC and such sites tell them what their so-called friends and defenders do not: They are the very jerks they fight against. Sure, many won’t listen (especially because there seems to be a lot of animosity toward “feminists” among Nice Guys), but I also believe many will when their behavior is deemed more unacceptable.

    1. Angel, thanks for the comment, it’s very well said. I’ve never self-identified as a jerk or Nice Guy, but I’ve had moments where I recognized both of those things in myself and had to readjust my thinking. You’re right, it hurts.

      It is frustrating when someone in their 30s is still stuck in pity mode / immature thinking. Ultimately, the behavior is not acceptable, as you say. It also really bothers me how NGs disparage feminism, when they clearly don’t know anything about it. I’m not a feminist but feminism has been good for men too, the least of which would be creating the opportunity for fun, freely negotiated intimacy both inside and outside of committed relationships. Assuming Hugo’s perspective that NGOKCs are simply looking to get laid this is particularly sad.

      1. ” It also really bothers me how NGs disparage feminism, when they clearly don’t know anything about it..”

        Feminists like Hugo Schwyzer are by far the people most enthusiastic about vilifying these men as a group, even those whose actual “offense” is (as you aptly put it) low self-esteem and social awkwardness. If these guys truly don’t know anything about feminism, their ignorance is almost certainly making their opinion of feminism LESS hostile than it would be if they were more knowledgeable.

      2. Hugo engages in hyperbole and namecalling and I think he’s aware and ok with the tradeoff, which I obviously disagree with. Having said that, while he identifies as a feminist he’s a controversial figure. Feministe, Feministing, and others have explicitly said he doesn’t represent feminists, or at last not their brand of it.

        It’s easy to disparage things you don’t know about or only have a basic idea of. I don’t participate but I regularly read feminist sites, and there is a whole spectrum of opinions even within feminism. The majority of self-identified feminists aren’t trying to destroy men, crush nice guys, or other silly notions that some NGs propose.

      3. But I do agree with you that if my perception of feminism was based on someone like Hugo, and dug deep, yeah I’d probably be pretty hostile. He lumps in many socially awkward but well meaning men with sadistic jerks. I just don’t think he’s a good figurehead for feminism. Appreciate the comment!

    2. Also, I wonder if you might be willing to share more about how you ended up in the Nice Guy mode? I’m curious and I think it might be of interest to others as well….. (Let me know if you’ve already blogged on this, I haven’t quite had a chance to look through your posts yet)

      1. I was just a lonely, insecure person all my life who felt that everyone owed me more than I got. I got into this mentality that I deserved more for my niceness mostly because I didn’t believe I could compete with everybody else and I craved validation so much. Ultimately, I think that’s what most Nice Guys want: They want to be validated but they don’t have the confidence to validate themselves.

      2. I think we all want to be validated, but you’re right that it has to come from within first. Never been stuck in NG mode compltely myself, but have tended in that direction at times, and like anything it can be a substitute for the hard work that self-validation requires. If it wasn’t a substitute for self-validation, I doubt NGs would spend so much time in what they perceive as negative situations…

  3. I think the part that bothers me most is that people have a tendency to oversimplify and completely ignore that men and women are hard-wired for certain responses. Interactions are far more complex and the dynamics vary greatly. I think feminism sort of confused the boundary lines between men and woman. It gave something that should happen naturally “rules”. I agree that there have been good changes made in the name of feminism but it certainly seems it has been a double-edged sword.

    1. You are definitely right about the oversimplifying….personally I think there are both hard-wired and conditioned responses that are relevant. “It all depends…” requires a closer look than “this person is an X because of why”, (and as Ally Fogg pointed out in his post, we are dealing with actual humans not just cartoons/archetypes).

      When it comes to boundary lines, my perspective is that they have always been confused and feminism simply exposed it. If men and women are so different, why do we have similar needs/desires for love, acceptance, acknowledgement, etc…? Men, women, trans, genderqueer, we are all constantly living on two sides of a sword, what we feel is true in our heart and our biological hard-wired self vs. the conditioning from the world around us.

      And that’s what bothers me so much about Nice Guys who believe they want and are capable of a healthy relationship. They so clearly want a nice (pun intended), easy answer to a complex problem: how to create meaningful connections. The answer is there isn’t an answer, you can learn from those around you but it’s a different challenge for all of us. Incidentally, one possible foil for the NGs would be the Girls Who Hate Drama (GWHDs=)…..they constantly identify themselves that way but somehow seem to end up as the person they so vehemently protest against.

      1. I agree. I’m sure “Nice Guys” feel they need some explanation for their “plight” and few people have the guts to examine their own intentions, motivations and actions…which exacerbates their isolation. Self-pity/bitterness/victim role are quite unattractive.

        I think people tend to miss some of the facts about the feminist movement though. During that time it became almost a criminal act for a man to open a door, help carry parcels, light a cigarette, admire a woman’s appearance… It was a time when women were made to feel ashamed for wanting to be treated like a lady, be looked at as “sexy” or want/need a man in her life. It gave men a “free pass” if you will, to be lazy…in iniating relationships and in general…”hey, you’re a woman, you can do anything without my help”. It made women feel as if they were nothing if they didn’t have it all or couldn’t juggle it all alone. It became expected for women to have a career before anything else, men and children became optional. Which is good on one hand but terrible for the woman who wants a marriage and family and terrible for a woman who likes being feminine…I have so much to say on this issue. I am all for what the movement supposedly stood for but against some of the resultant attitudes…if that makes sense. ;D

      2. I see what you’re saying. I have to admit I wasn’t old enough to remember this but I understand what you’re saying. I’m hugely in favor of acknowledging the universal but acting on the personal. Basically saying, yes I see how the culture is operating, but I still get to make decisions that matter to me. Friends of mine who identify as feminists seem to take the same attitude, so perhaps it’s a generational shift to some extent.

        Reminds me of how a friend of mine made this cheeky set of stickers that have a picture of a women w/baby and it says “work isn’t just in the factory.” Sort of a feminist response to the feminist response.

  4. I note that while complaining about a “transactional model of relationships” you endorse one yourself – “I hear your frustration, but you’re still responsible for your own growth and betterment and no one owes you a relationship unless it is good for them and what they want”…
    That’s a transaction right there. And I hate to say it but every relationship is transactional from work friends to romantic lovers to an old married couple. Both people are getting something out of it, or it’s abusive. And I think you are waaay too easy on females and their attraction triggers, esp since female initiation is not expected in this society in any kind of equalist way. Quite a few women go for jerks, some for understandable reasons (they feel the jerk is honest, sadly they feel most men are jerks at heart, or else they like the physical protection aspect of the local bully) and some because they like conflict, love “dark triad” traits, or even, in a few cases love violence and conflict. No, most women don’t and won’t date really bad guys but they will, overwhelmingly (with exceptions of course) date men who don’t treat them very well if those men show confidence and /or other attractive traits such as social competence.

    However it’s this half insane passive aggressive socially expected dating BS (“Be nice!” “Be yourself!”) that leads to many of the nice guy’s issues in the first place -which are then conveniently denied by many of those who help propagate them in the first place. I’d tell these guys to hit the seduction community and then to read some Clarisse Thorn as a moderating influence. Problem solved.

    1. Oh I like complaining, I’m the whiny sort Clarence 😉

      Regarding transactions, I was trying to say (perhaps I muddied it up) that it is not the act itself, but the communication between people that matters. As in, you don’t get to just say I did X so I get Y. Success in relationships is not a precise mathematical problem where you get to depend on absolutes (although I’ve heard in high levels of theoretical math that’s tricky also).

      As for being easy on women, well, perhaps I am guilty as charged. But if so then I’m also easy on men. I’m sympathetic to humans as long as they are making an honest effort. If you want to approach life honestly, it’s a mess and a lot of hard work and no one hands you things just because.

      I never tell people to be nice. I think it’s a waste of time and a simple solution. I tell people to be engaged, to be passionate and to share their passions and find out about other people’s passions. Lot of connections to be had there. Not as easy as finding out a script or triggers you can use to get someone to do things you want, and requires some really effing hard, personal emotional work as a human being. I do like Clarisse’s perspective though, she’s smart and honest and practices what she preaches.

    2. Men and women will tolerate bad behavior to a limit, but that’s because there’s always conflict in relationship. Everybody, including nice guys, will encounter and instigate conflict. Sometimes too, it’s just more convenient for them to stay in the relationship. What about their nice guy friend? There will be problems in that relationship too. Relationships are freaking hard, which is why I don’t care to bother with one right now.

      As for when somebody tells you to be yourself, what they really mean is to be the best version of you. It requires a lot of effort, and it doesn’t guarantee you the person of your choice, but it will increase your attraction to others. Surely finding love is worth the effort, right?

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