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October 31, 2005


Speaking as a very nice guy (or so I'm told), I think this is a good analysis. I've never thought "nice" should automatically triumph over the lack of some other desirable quality, but I've known several women (not that I dated) who've felt very bad about breaking up with someone Because He's So Nice (I suspect this may be why so many of my breakups are some variation of "I'm soooo busy, I'll call as soon as things improve.").
I think this may apply to women too, though: I've been told several times that "the nice guys always wind up with the bitches" though I can't say I've had that experience. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be an opposites-attract thing or that the "nice" gives more tolerance for the bitchiness (and I didn't ask how that was defined).
There are also several advice books out arguing that Nice Girls Finish Last, although the behaviour recommended seems mostly to run to "take no shit" rather than genuine nastiness.
Personally, I can't recall ever being turned on by someone who was bitchy/argumentative/overbearing, though I have gone out with some very forceful, but quite goodhearted women.

Ah, what a can of worms you've opened, hilzoy. In 'guy-land' the Bastard-NiceGuy dichotomy is as fiercely debated as the Virgin-Whore dichotomy in feminist circles.

I spent many a year with close friends who were female. After many conversations, I came to the conclusion that the majority of self-described 'nice guys" who complain about women not flocking to them are rather selfish. In many cases, the 'niceness' they display has more to do with fear of consequences than a genuine care for others.

Imagine two men. Both want to sleep with a woman they know. The first is a charming if somewhat pig-headed guy who is honest about it and, despite his faults, does a fair job of woo-ing. The second is a long-suffering fellow who listens to the woman when she's had a bad day, supports her, and is kind and defferential -- because he fears that if he simply asks her out, or propositions her, she'll be mad. The first guy might well be a jerk, but the second guy isn't going to score any points, either. He's simply trying to manipulate the woman into putting out -- and getting angry when she doesn't.

Someone who complains about the 'jerks' getting all the girls in that scenerio is just mad that someone else played 'the game' better than they did. Why wouldn't a woman prefer a straightforward jerk to a manipulator?

In any case, those ideas like all relationship 'models' are oversimplifications. It just seems that 'nice guys versus jerks' is a narrative that exists to comfort those without the courage to admit they just Want To Get Some.

Hilzoy, I think your very good analysis missed one other aspect of the attaction to "bad boys". It is a truism that you only seem to find love when you're not looking for it, and this has at its core a nugget of insight. I've found that, generally speaking, a lot of women tend to respond more favorably to someone who seems like they're not trying to get somewhere with them. Whether this is because you're already in a relationship or unconsciously not interested doesn't seem to matter--the end result is that you're more naturally yourself, and don't have the subtle (or not so subtle) changes so many guys have in their behavior and personality when they're trying to impress or persuade a potential mate into being interested in them. Most of the time, they don't even realize they're doing it.

I also did not mean to suggest that my being single was the result of my not being pert, winsome, etc. (Wouldn't it be convenient to think so!) I tend to put it down to a combination of My Many Faults and the vagaries of my personal history.

I thought your being single was due to not being able to decide between the many guys who have proposed to you on this blog.

This all wouldn't be a bit simpler, would it? That bastards don't mind being told "no" as much as easily-hurt nice guys, and take the lead more often ("hitting on anything that moves" is the phrase that comes to mind), thereby becoming romanticly entangled more often.

This "why don't nice guys get the ladies?" discussion was circulating a few months back, see here, for instance. Claims for that round of posts include that self-described "nice guys" really aren't all that nice, have other flaws that they don't want to face, lack confidence, are overly cautious about showing interest in women, are putting too much emphasis on a relatively unimportant trait, and are merely using an unsuccessful dating strategy (in that they think of their niceness as a means to getting women).

Many of these issues would disappear if we just taught our daughters that it was OK to give up the rhythm early (in a relationship) and often.

But I can tell you that the straight women of my acquaintance say the worst turn-off is a man who makes a big point of how much of a nice, non-sexist guy he is, and then expects women to be grateful and appreciative of this.

I'm reminded of a Chris Rock bit:

"I ain't never been to jail." Whaddya want? A cookie? You're not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having mother****er!

Much better to think of being a nice guy as a hygenic factor, like bathing semi-regularly. Nobody tries to impress women by recounting how often they shower.

"I think one of the major differences is that men look for what distinguishes them and women look for what they have in common with their environment, but of course the variation in individual behaviour is much bigger than the average gender difference ;)"

...dutchmarbel, in the previous thread.

"I was assuming that any decent version of manliness would not actually be defined as "what women are not"" ...hilzoy

Your apparent assumption that any "difference" would necessarily imply either a more general superiority or inferiority might be an illustration of dutchmarbel's point.

My interest, as a man, in being or having something "woman are not" (if only in degree)is based I think in how I form my identity. It is not particularly sexist, I also base my identity in being or having something most or many other men do not.

I have two eyes, as do most other men and women. This makes me human, but how does this make me Bob McManus? It doesn't. One of us is not getting something.

And anyway, maybe my problem is just semantic. If there are no actual meaningful gender distinctions in the words "Manliness" and "womanliness" (or masculinity and feminity) would you just quit using the word.

That you do seem to like using the supposedly empty nonsense term is in itself interesting.

Hilzoy, in light of your comment about guys who are charming not having to work so hard, I'm reminded of someone I once worked with in community theater. A stunningly good looking guy, the director complained he simply couldn't pull off romantic scenes and her theory was, he'd never had to seduce/charm a girl because he didn't need to (of course, I've seen guys who didn't have that excuse screw up scenes like that too).
I agree that the nice/bastard (or bitch) dichotomy is over- simplified (in contrast to all the complex dichotomies?). I've known a lot of women I'd count as nice/sweet in terms of how they treated other people, even though they were also career-oriented, ambitious and (in a couple of cases) had extremely wild sex lives, all of which would exclude them from some people's definition of "nice."

Bob: I don't normally think in these terms myself. Oh well. And I certainly didn't mean to assume "that any "difference" would necessarily imply either a more general superiority or inferiority". On the contrary. When I wrote the original post, I was trying to think of something more helpful to say to the 'no occasion to display my manhood' crowd than either (a) well, good riddance to masculinity, or (b) what, you don't pee standing up? Maybe it was just a mistake. Wouldn't be the first.

Two comments:

1) having gone to a very male-heavy school (MIT) we had lots and lots of guys around who would probably have been classified under the Nice Guy attribute. ("Clueless" would have been good, too.) My roommate and I called them Wet Kittens. The ones that sit on your doorstep, meowing "I'm cold, I'm wet, I'm hungry, take me in!" And you feel sorry for them and let them in and put them by the fire and feed them....and then you discover that Once a Wet Kitten, Always a Wet Kitten.

2) I read somewhere that the higher rates of airplane accidents in Latin America are considered attributable to the macho culture. Not good if you're a pilot, and in fact, something pilots in the US are specifically warned about during training. Mama Nature doesn't care about your dick.

Back to the ostensible topic: I think that both Jeff E and Catsy are right. -- Being popular, romantically or otherwise, really is one of those areas in which it's true that to him that hath, more shall be given, and from him who hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away.

I have, several times, plunked myself down in unfamiliar cities where I know no one. Every time, I go through a phase that lasts for several days, in which I am lonely and nervy and altogether at loose ends, and two things are completely clear to me: (a) what I really need is to talk to someone, and (b) in that state, no one on earth would want to talk to me, nor would I want to inflict my company on them.

Luckily, I now know that after a few days, this passes. The first time, though, I was terrified, because I could not imagine how on earth this could possibly end.

One friend of mine was, for a long time, in a sort of permanent version of this condition, as far as romantic relationships were concerned. For me, not being in a relationship is sort of neutral: good relationships are a lot better, bad relationships are a lot worse. For him, not being in a relationship was a huge constant negative, and (as best I could tell) any relationship at all would have been preferable. And yet no one wanted to go out with him.

There were various reasons for this (imho), but one surely was that he was palpably desperate, in a way that spooked people. And this doesn't just make you less natural; if it's the focus of your interests, it tends to obscure whatever other interests you might have. And since (best I can tell) being genuinely interested in things is attractive, this is a problem.

I mean: "oh please oh please let this one work out" is not, in fact, a very interesting thing to be thinking. To the extent that it dominates someone's thoughts, it makes that person less interesting than he or she would otherwise be.

I've found that, generally speaking, a lot of women tend to respond more favorably to someone who seems like they're not trying to get somewhere with them.

I think Catsy gets it right; too frequently folks confuse niceness with trying-too-hard-ness, aka, desperation. IMHO, nothing is a greater turn-off than a facade of niceness covering the deep depths of desperation. (I know this both from experience as the facadee and as the facader, IOW, desperation afflicts both sexes. It just gets discussed in different ways depending on cultural context.)

Mama Nature doesn't care about your dick.

Except in the procreative sense, one suspects.

I suppose I could contribute to this thread as someone who has played the role of weasely nice-guy at least once in my youth but my anecdote would be complicated by facts like the bastard and I were best friends and probably closer to each other than to the girl we were competing for(and were accused of latent homosexuality by the girl);that the attitude of everyone was compulsive irony and self-concious role-playing...we were all uniquely bastards...I remember the bastard sincerely sobbing one night over his inability to commit and his uncontrollable need to manipulate women; and by the fact that while I was wooing one I was also screwing the bastard's married sister, that is, playing the wimp in one house while playing the laughing bastard in another. And everyone saying why do we do these things to each other. And laughing.

Ahhh, youth.

I can't say I learned anything about healthy relationships, except not to worry so much.

Now having been with my partner for twenty years maybe I can say that stuff that is useful in forming relationships is useful in sustaining them. "Make em laugh." is not bad advice. We don't work at it very hard, we don't take each other for granted but we don't have high or new demands or expectations; we surprise each other with romance or affection or consideration but mostly we let each other slide. Boring turns into comfortable around age 40 for some people.

Hmmm...I never wondered why the girls weren't flocking to me. If they had, I'm not sure what I would have done with that kind of attention. Probably nothing resembling human speech.

Other than that, what Catsy said. It was just a few months after I had decided the world held no woman that was right for me, that I met the woman I would wind up marrying five months later. Anecdotal, sure, but what else is there?

Maybe someone could clear something up, because I'm confused by this thread. Are "nice guy" and "desperate loser doormat" somehow equivalent? Or could "nice guy" mean someone who doesn't f.u. over simply because they can and it's most convenient for them?

Does the popular mythos somehow deny that attributes of self-reliance and confidence cancel out kindness and empathy in the same person?

I find it interesting that a lot of people overlook the fact that kids can be mean, that teenagers can be really mean, and that college aged folks aren’t a whole hell of a better than teenagers. So being nice isn’t really the kind of personality trait that is positively rewarded when you’re young.

If anything the “nice guy vs. bad guy” debate shows that you need personality characteristics that fall under both sides of the argument in order to be successful. Being “nice” is never the reason someone is uninterested in you. “Nice” is the kind of positive attribute that everyone is looking for when dating. The thing is, just being “nice” is never enough. You need to have more going for you than that.

And since this debate seemed to come up more often than not when I was in college or shortly there after. And when it comes up now its mostly at a family dinner where we argue for the sake of arguing.

But if you are dating, and you do think the bad guy nice guy principal rules the day then chances are you need to remember that the people you may be trying to date are still a little selfish, still a little mean, and just aren’t interested in someone that is more “nice” than anything else.

The thought of the day is now the thread of the week.

I know nothing about this subject despite decades of intensive pondering and field research. I have no idea what anyone wants; I don't have an answer. In fact, like Gertrude Stein, I can't even formulate the question.

When I was younger and single (as opposed to the current combination of married and immature), I had no idea what signals I was sending off, and the signals from women were as hard to figure out as those radio signals from the universe Carl Sagan used to collect with big satellite dishes in the desert, you know, if Woody Allen played Carl Sagan.

Lucky me, really, it didn't matter. Love, marriage, happy. Like getting hit by an asteroid between the eyes, but it wasn't the signal I wasn't looking for.

So, I've nothing but random musings, as usual.

Bouncing off the Chris Rock joke up thread, my sister-in-law seems to have a pattern of being attracted to men whom she would like to change and make better. She's a sweetie and works with wayward kids. She tries to fix people. One time she went on a blind date and the guy listened to her talk about herself for awhile and then across the candlelit table with the eavesdropping rolls enfolded in fine linen, he told her, "You remind me of my parole officer."

Maybe it was cheap linen. Too much maintenance there. Then he ate the rolls, leaving none for her.

I looked up "pert" and "winsome" in the dictionary. Winsome = pleasant, delightful, attractive in appearance, character, manner, charming, engaging. Pert = bold or impatient in speech or saucy behavior; forward; in good spirits, lively, brisk, expert, skilled, clever.

What to make of that? Well, it's O.K. with me if an accomplished, professional woman who makes vastly more money than I happens to give off signals of winsomeness and pertness, even if she has no idea and no intention of doing so. No problem either if she doesn't, but my signal-receiving apparatus is calibrated for winsome and pert even when it's imaginary. It all depends on the light.

Saucy, of course, is a bonus. I would like my lovely wife to be saucy after her rough day at the office dealing with mostly fragile male egos, but about 14 seconds into saucy and she starts to giggle (being distressingly well-adjusted and staying within herself) because she just can't do saucy. O. K., how about the fall-back positions of malleable and awed? Now she's holding her side and cackling. I can be malleable, if need be.

Maybe the family-friendly Phyliis Shafley-Michelle Malkin bunny suit I'm wearing when I meet her at the door gives off the wrong signals. What do I know?

There is one thing I know. If I'm sitting at a stoplight (anywhere will do), and I see a young, attractive (yeah, O.K., unpack that) woman absentmindedly fixing her hair in the mirror (without a mirror is even better; there is a lovely dexterity about it), perhaps gathering it and tying at the back with a ribbon or rubberband, or securing it with a barette, I am beset by a bout of aching, eternal, exquisite longing.

I begin to quack. Quack, quacks him to himself.

And it doesn't matter if the woman is a Nobel-prize winning physicist or a ragpicker or winnies like a horse. It is just that gesture. It's a signal -- mysteriously unsent but received like a singing telegram -- but not an asteroid.

So I get home and will watch my wife fix her hair in the mirror and tell her that it gets to me unlike anything and she appreciates it but doesn't really get it -- the longing it causes. Just like some women think men want only one thing; no, we want two things: yes, that, AND to experience whatever that longing is which somehow remains unrequieted and out of reach. (Well, we'd like to hit a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series, too, but we can't have that either.)

That's all.

It was just a few months after I had decided the world held no woman that was right for me, that I met the woman I would wind up marrying five months later. Anecdotal, sure, but what else is there?

This, as opposed to the nice-guy act, is apparently the winning strategy. I've done this by complete accident and out of complete exasperation a few times, with great success and happiness following thereafter.

The second is a long-suffering fellow who listens to the woman when she's had a bad day, supports her, and is kind and defferential -- because he fears that if he simply asks her out, or propositions her, she'll be mad. The first guy might well be a jerk, but the second guy isn't going to score any points, either. He's simply trying to manipulate the woman into putting out -- and getting angry when she doesn't.>>

Or he's simply too shy to speak up. Been there. Never did it because I thought it would lead to sex (since it never did, I'd have to be an idiot to have tried it).
Nice and shy are not the same, although they're often yoked together in practice.

And yes, double-plus, for a lot of people I think "nice" does equate to wimp. A lot of advice columns assume, when discussing the nice guy/bad boy question, that the self-professed nice guy can't possibly be asserting themselves, showing sexual interest in the girl, etc.

Face it, the word's been denigrated almost as thoroughly as "liberal."

As for Latin America, I've read that for all the machismo, they also place a higher premium on niceness/decency/consideration in their cultures.

As for someone showing up when you're not actively working to find them, I've never found that to be true. OK, so I don't find them when I'm actively looking, either, but ...

Turns out that wasn't all.

Nice? I guess I thought it unattractive to define myself as nice.

When younger, I went through a phase of being whatever worked (not much) in the giving-off-pheromes department.

Would you like Noel Coward sitting at a table in a bar urbanely smoking a cigarette? I'm your man. Until I found out more about Noel Coward and discovered why it didn't work as planned.

Would you like Mick-Jagger-biker-whatever? Can do.

Like the Dustin Hoffman character in "Marathon Man", if a girl asked me the Lawrence Olivier question "Is it safe?', I would stammer, "yes, it's safe, you wouldn't believe how safe it is." Unless that didn't work and I thought she was being counterintuitive. "Is it safe?" "No, it's not safe; stay away, run for your life."

None of that is true, of course, but you already knew that.

hilzoy sez: Let's just stipulate that lots of men and lots of women have inexplicable taste.

Ain't that the truth! If it weren't, life and literature would be far more boring.

And as far as MoDo is concerned, the degree of desperation rolling off her is probably enough to drive any man away. Who wants to read about one's own bedroom skills in the OpEd pages of the Times anyway?

[H. -- I'd make my own offer of marriage, but I think my wife would disapprove, not to mention the dogs.]

Above about the Latino culture supposedly being more into niceness/decency/consideration as well as machoism.....

Yeah, well, that's not gonna help when you end up flying into the side of a mountain because you thought you could handle the winds as a top-notch pilot and refused to quit when the going was good. There are certain areas where macho is just another word for "suicidal fool."

1. "Nice guy" as in schlemiel or "nice guy" as in mensch? It gets used in both senses in these conversations.

2. When we say "nice guys" in this sort of conversation, do we actually mean "guys who have more close platonic female friendships and fewer sexual relationships than others"?

"You remind me of my parole officer."

This line works for me *every*time*
Try it Nice Guys - it's Gahrohnteeyed

d+u: I wasn't using 'nice' to mean 'desperate loser doormat'. On the other hand, the guys who have made the 'women don't like nice guys' comment to me have tended (not exclusively, but they have tended) to be, themselves, the guys that they were talking about; and thus while I said (truly), in the post, that they did in fact tend to be nice, they also tended to be among the subset of nice guys who can't find girlfriends (no idea how this plays out in the gay community.)

So then the question is: why? If people here are right, it might be because they are e.g. trying too hard. Whether they're right or wrong, they are probably not talking about nice guys period, but just about that smaller subset of them.

For what it's worth, I don't think that people who are socially desperate are necessarily "desperate loser doormats". At least, whatever my baseline level of niceness, I don't think it alters dramatically during the periods I mentioned, when I arrive in a new city and become, briefly, badly in need of someone to talk to. The friend I alluded to above (the desperate one) was, after all, a friend, and he wasn't particularly a loser. (He was the antithesis of naturally charming, and he also had a sort of distrust of subtexts and emotions that led him to take whatever people said completely literally, and then try to argue with it logically. This was fine with me, but it wasn't everyone's cup of tea. One of his girlfriends said, on breaking up with him: I finally understand why they poisoned Socrates! I loved this friend, but I could completely understand why she said that.)

On the other hand, the guys who have made the 'women don't like nice guys' comment to me have tended (not exclusively, but they have tended) to be, themselves, the guys that they were talking about; and thus while I said (truly), in the post, that they did in fact tend to be nice, they also tended to be among the subset of nice guys who can't find girlfriends (no idea how this plays out in the gay community.)

Okay, that makes it a bit clearer. What's being talked about are guys that are nice and think that should give them a free pass to something that they don't have, or guys that are nice and a woman feels badly about not being attracted to them simply because they're nice. Or is that too simplistic?

"I finally understand why they poisoned Socrates."

Ouch. Then again, as Hegel might say, with Kierkagaard as wingman, for every thesis I put forward, she had an antithesis, and synthesis eluded us. She couldn't make the leap of faith.

Or as SomeCallMeTim said in the last thread on this subject, "I think, therefore I am thoughtful".

And Wittgenstein would have had either a joke or a theorum for this.

The again, Zeno's paradox always seemed to explain why there was an infinite number of points between me and that pretty girl over there.

As Yogi Berra's son once said to Mickey Mantle: "you stink!"

I once had a girlfriend in college, Donnatella Kant, who broke my heart with these words, "It is imperative that you understand that I categorically reject you."
I was understandably philosophical.

After slogging through all of this and the other thread, my only thought is: I am happier and happier every day that I do not have to date, because I would be one miserable SOB if I did. If I am unlucky enough to outlive my wife, I will be celibate unto death.

John T: I think that Hegel might have held out some hope that this chasm could be breached, but Kierkegaard would have said: no. At least, on the (utterly implausible) assumption that their world-views hold not only at the macro-level, but for each individual human relationship.

d+u: Well, some of them are actually nice, and can't find girlfriends, and don't think that their niceness entitles them to anything, but still wonder whether it might not be an actual impediment. Especially when the last woman they were (unrequitedly) interested in decides to get involved with someone who is not as nice as they are.

Oh yes, the emotionally clueless guy who doesn't understand why his putative partner is tempted to brain him one.

I had a boyfriend like that. Had to analyze EVERYTHING. When it came down to asking me why I cut onions the way I did that was the final straw.

And then there was another classmate of mine who we described as "a would-be Siegfried who would stride heroically into the forest and trip over a tree root."

My one anecdotal offering on this topic:

While in college, a number of my female friends were sitting around after dinner, gossiping about their acquaintances as I'm given to understand that women do. [Men, of course, are far above such foolish prattlings. Really. Trust me.] For some reason the subject of yours truly came up and they began listing my virtues; commenting on how nice I was, how funny, how smart, what a great friend, how supportive, etc. etc. There was then a pause, after which one of my friends remarked: "Man, I wish one of us was actually attracted to him."

Story of my life right there.

Although, perhaps what's even more the story of my life is I know this because they told me of this conversation the following day... and that I then laughed wryly and said, "Yeah." 'cause, well, yeah.

Married and now off in the stands, may I say that one of the problems with being a nice guy is that they often don't realize that oftentimes, someone really, really, really likes them, but they have become so fixated on their object of desire (who might not actually be an actual person) that they don't even realize it. So take a step back and really survey the landscape. You might be surprised.

I just think your statement at the end of the original post, that men are indeed necessary "now more than ever", was kind of vague and unnecessary. The whole point of the post was to state that there isn't really anything we should expect from men that we shouldn't also expect from women...so why are men necessary again?

Men are necessary to women, and vice versa, for love relationships, but not for a functioning civil society.

This entire thread is making me feel like a character in the Jane Austen novel Northanger Abbey who goes on a tirade about the word "nice" which used to mean "precise" and now means nothing at all.

Personally I think that when guys decide that they are not automatically entitled to a woman because they happen to like her, and don't put on an act to try to seduce her, they will have more of a chance of meeting a woman who is going to be a really good partner. But what do I know. All I can say is that both the Tom Cruise-role type of smartass entitled version, and the "wet kitten" entitled version (I LOVE this expression, person up thread who thought of it), are real turn-offs to me, and I would imagine to most other women who think of themselves as autonomous individuals.

Well, I find my ego fed by managing to have touched off enough of a storm to have an entire new thread dedicated to the issue :)

I will just say in regard to Hilzoy's opening comment about how it's hard to tell someone the real reasons that person X isn't attracted to them, it's nevertheless infinitely better to do so. If you know the real reason your wooing failed, you're better off next time than if you just get some vague fuzzy answer. Failing to do so will only convey the impression one failed because one is a nice guy instead of the honest truth.

It's like a surgeon deciding not to cut out the cancer because the person will hurt from the cutting in the short term.

I am happier and happier every day that I do not have to date, because I would be one miserable SOB if I did.

You never have to date.

More anecdote: at exactly one point in my life, I was dating two girls. I'd thought that this would be impossible for non-multitasking-me to deal with, but consider:

Both of them were named Kathy. Same spelling, even. One went to the same college as I did, and the other lived in my home town. On the weekends I went home from school, I dated Kathy.

Still, it didn't last very long, because I'm no good at the casual dating thing. I tend to form attachments, which is almost certainly an inconvenience to the other party, at times.

don't put on an act to try to seduce her

I could never keep a straight face that long. Plus, I'm a lousy liar. I discovered, though, that many women expect and apparently even invite the lies. I worked with a couple of guys who could actually walk into a bar and talk to women they'd never met before. To me, this was social technology sufficiently advanced so as to be indistinguishable from magic. And they'd lie. Deliberately, obviously, outrageously, so there was absolutely no question. We were never engineers; we were always something wildly improbable. On one occasion I was a professional pole vaulter. I usually have to think a while before speaking, which kind of rules out banter, plus I have this problem where I can't carry on a conversation when there's music playing.

So take a step back and really survey the landscape. You might be surprised.

Yes. It wasn't until about a decade after high school that I found out that the best friend of my first girlfriend, who became a very close friend of mine after we split up, was actually quite infactuated with me. And I was too busy mourning and scheming how to win back the girl who wasn't interested in me to notice.

Anna in Cairo, thanks for your appreciation!

Undergrad at MIT was interesting training in male-female relations. You could always identify the female frosh--once we made it past our first year we developed a certain ruthlessness (mainly due to having to learn how to kick moping males out of one's room since you HAD A PROBLEM SET DUE TOMORROW AT 9 AM GODDAMMIT.) And as my roommate was told: although you may be at points jealous of individual women, you will never ever again be jealous of other women in general. Being the focus of multiple men (sort of like goddess-worship) during that formative part of one's life has an interesting effect on one's psyche.

Getting back to the topic of the thread, I think that "nice guy" is also the term one uses when damning with faint praise. There's a wonderful essay over on heartless-bitch.com about how men should aspire to be "kind" rather than "nice". I agree completely.

O.K., I'm so kind you wouldn't believe it.

Regarding, again, the question of niceness vs. other factors, I remember reading an essay some years ago in which the author admitted she favors macho jerks because they have to be good-looking enough to get away with being jerks (obviously not something that applies to all jerks...).

Gah. Good-looking jerks have always inspired me to be as bitchy as possible. Make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, they do.

I usually think of good-looking guys (the ones who are very concious of their attractiveness) as "hatracks"--you know, you want to spray them with fixture and plonk 'em down in the living room and use as, well, hatracks. Probably because most of them are, ahem, dumb as a post.

Funniest experience I ever had was as a grad student, talking to a senior about aero-astro/space development/Japan. The guy was absolutely GORGEOUS. I still don't think I've run across a more beautiful male. The joke was that he was, all the time I knew him, totally unconcious of his attractiveness and just a all-round--yes, I will use the term--"nice guy". Intelligent, respectful of me, and earnestly interested in picking my brains about science and Japan. I had great and sardonic amusement monitoring my own reactions to him. Ha.

Being the focus of multiple men (sort of like goddess-worship) during that formative part of one's life has an interesting effect on one's psyche.

As does being one of those multiple men during that formative period of one's life.

TURN ONS: Nice guys, happy beta males, men who are not afraid of women.

TURN OFFS: Helen Fisher (She is also, in my opinion, a poor scholar and possibly a bit of an idiot—in her abysmally stupid The First Sex, she explains that women are valuable networkers and team-builders in the business world because of they’re so wonderfully chatty and delightfully social, for example. I don’t recall if she makes any specific mention of their ability to brew coffee and organize office birthday parties, but I’m sure she would have if she'd thought of it.

Well, MIT males are the definition of geekhood....

It was pretty funny. We were all brilliant genius geeks who were the first kids in five years from our high schools to go to MIT. We all went through culture shock because we were now suddenly surrounded by a whole population of people just like ourselves. For the guys, it was even more earth-shattering: that after all these years, locked into the worlds of their own intelligence, they suddenly ran into girls THAT THOUGHT LIKE THEM. For us girls, who usually had had some sort of social interactions skills pounded into us during puberty, interactions with the opposite sex wasn't too frightening. But the guys...ah, the guys. They had no idea what to say, what to do. So they would sit around and yearn. And mope. And yearn. And mope some more.

I realized there was something seriously skewed with the system when during my first semester, two guys that I had had absolutely no interaction with beyond casual social, suddenly, independently, and within a week of each other, each sat me down and told me he loved me.

After all that, it's pretty ironic that I get kicked out of a relationship for "being too intelligent." Sheesh. To paraphrase Freud, what is it that men want?

Here's a sign that I am definitely too single: Last weekend, as I mentioned, my siblings and I threw my parents a weekend, and at various points my brother-in-law and I found ourselves trying to hold the door open for one another. I thought about this after the third time or so, and realized that I have gotten into the habit of holding the door open for my students, just because it seems polite, and now do it completely instinctively.

I told this to my little brother, who has a PhD in microeconomics, and he sweetly said: "It's a coordination problem, Hilary. Solve it."

Ah, the dating pathologies of an engineering school. =) I think Jorge Cham had the best take: the odds are good, but the goods are odd.

At Caltech, freshman guys were explicitly warned at orientation not to dogpile the freshman girls. In particular, if you saw four or more guys gathered around one girl, that was called "glomming", which was to be avoided because it drove girls to transfer to other schools, increasing the already skewed male/female ratio. (This warning was actually a sneaky upperclassman ploy to scare off competition for the tiny pool of single women during the brief window of opportunity before they all paired off in the middle of their freshman year.)

A number of guys actually heeded this warning and found they had self-selected themselves out of the dating pool. It sucks to hear girls chirp, "I feel so safe with Caltech guys. They're so completely nonthreatening!"

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