The adage goes that “nice guys finish last.”
So are you in last place? Here’s a quick quiz for male readers:
Do you insist on trying to solve girls’ problems for them, only to be frustrated that she doesn’t repay you with romantic or sexual interest? Are you upset that despite the fact that you have not assaulted someone, not abused someone, cheated on someone or hurt someone, you still find yourself without a date?
Do you expect that, or any other result, to be a reward for being a quasi-decent human being? Do you believe you are perpetually single because you are a nice guy, and that there is no other possible reason a girl may have for not dating you?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not actually as nice as you may think. But, you are a “nice guy.”
I get it. From your perspective, the women around you only seem to date jerks. They couldn’t be choosing to date someone because he makes her laugh, or someone with admirable confidence and ambitions, or someone with whom she shares a passion or is otherwise compatible in endless ways.
In fact, she’s probably dating him because he is a jerk, and by extension not dating you because you aren’t. She’s not dating you because you are a nice guy, right?
But the truth is, by choosing to define yourself as a “nice guy,” you have sabotaged yourself. And it is not the fault of the women around you.
Maybe you exude neediness, maybe you emotionally manipulate her or otherwise display lack of respect towards her wants and needs. You are more than happy to respect her needs if they are the ones you believe her to have. But the second she has needs you don’t project onto her, you ignore them. It probably makes you angry that she hasn’t noticed you as her knight in shining armor.
Your frustration is not entirely your fault. Thousands of years of culture have taught you that the hero of a narrative is rewarded with the perfect girl. That is the story found in literature, film, visual arts and music. If you try hard enough and persist long enough, she’ll wind up in your arms.
The truth is, that’s not being nice. That’s (intentional or otherwise) misogyny.
I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but culture lied to you. Women aren’t tokens rewarded to a hero at the end of a narrative. Women are people. They are people with the same basic human rights that you have; the same right to give and revoke consent however they please.
To you it may feel as though she has violated an age-old cultural dichotomy: women are expected to be a passive sexual object while men are expected to be an active sexual subject. He pursues, while she sits around being pursued.
Getting out of the Friend Zone
Disrespecting any individual’s right to choose not to do something, their right to advocate for what they want and need – this is the opposite of nice.
But you’re mad, because her choice to not date you has landed you in the Friend Zone.
So what do you do if you find yourself Friend Zoned?
There is only one way to get out of the Friend Zone, and that is to be upfront and honest with the person you like. Tell her you like her, and that you would like to date her. If she says okay then everyone wins in a mutually consensual arrangement. If she says no thank you, accept this as a definite “no” and move on with your life. Don’t take her “no” as a disguised “yes” or as a “you haven’t tried hard enough, so keep persisting and one day I’ll agree to date you.”
No means no, and if you don’t respect that then you are not nice. Period.
Plus, by respecting a “no” you get to move on with your life. You can stop obsessing over something that will only lead to your eminent frustration, and spend your time and energy elsewhere.
Perhaps you can put that energy towards actually being nice.
Anna Mitchell is proud to have written this entire column without once mentioning fedoras. Love notes and hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org