April 11, 2007
From my dating perspective, there are three kinds of guys out there. There’s the superconfident, self-assured guy, who can come across as cocky or arrogant, but doesn’t think that’s something he needs to change, because he wants the kind of girl who can handle that. There’s a quieter, more thoughtful (not to be confused with considerate, necessarily) type, whose approach is very different – but who is equally confident in his own way.
And then, there’s the third type – the guy who thinks he’s Thoughtful Guy, wants to be Confident Guy, and is in fact neither. I call this one, “Nice Guy”. It’s not a good thing.
When I say that he’s a nice guy in the tone of voice that implies air quotes around the phrase, I mean I think he’s far more interested in being perceived as a great catch, than in actually being one. This guy usually winds up being “Bitter, party of one?” when things don’t work out, and is generally best avoided. He’s hard to spot at first, because the litmus test I’ve developed isn’t particularly effective until the second or third date, sometimes even later (hopefully, at this point, you’ve managed to weed out the overt jackassery – unless that’s your thing).
When you go on your first date with someone, you kind of hope that the conversation progresses beyond the basics – previous residences, education, occupation, family, etc. For it to do so, you’ve got to be talking for a while.
Second date, you’re getting a little more personal, if things are going well. You’re finding out more about the person’s likes and dislikes, how they view the world, what role they hope to play in it. You’re giving them a chance to talk, to put both their best and worst foot forward, so you can get a better sense of whether you’d like to spend more time with them. If they’re genuinely interested in you, they’re doing the same thing. It’s a fine balance, but it’s fine to stumble over your words as you find more things you have in common – to say, me too! and mean it. To relate a funny story that exactly expresses the sentiment just shared by the other person. All of these are the hallmark of a great connection.
The Nice Guy, however, might be so concerned with telling you how great he is, that he forgets to check in on you every so often. So concerned is he with showing you that not only is he intelligent and deep-thinking, but works out, makes a lot of money, and saves puppies and kittens in his spare time, that he won’t know that you just had the worst day at work. Or even worse, should you actually get a word in edgewise, he’ll be annoyed that your bad day is interfering with his ability to show you just how great a guy he really is.
The problem here, is that he’s saying all the “right” things, planning elaborate dates, putting in a lot of effort. Except, he doesn’t know whether or not these efforts are right for both of you. And blames you for being an ungrateful wretch when you explain, gently, that as much as you love flowers, sending you a dozen gladiolas, to which you’re violently allergic, might not have had the same impact as he’d hoped.
And when you realize that he genuinely thinks he’s being perfect, and you decide to break the news as gently as possible (by bringing a six-pack over to his place and leaving it there after you’ve had the talk), don’t be surprised to get a drunken voicemail a few weeks later, accusing you of being too stuck up to appreciate a good thing.
Because that’s how “Nice Guy” behaves when he takes off the sheep’s clothing.