I was about 20 years old when I realized that being a “nice guy” was going to make dating an impossibility. In the “Venus vs. Mars” world that is heterosexual dating, the phrase “nice guys finish last” has been debated, ridiculed, loathed, derided, cursed, and largely accepted as gospel. I had grown up hearing that girls liked “bad boys” but I was determined to buck the trend and win women over with my niceness. I was young, naive, stupid, and dateless. It was a sad reality, and upon having this epiphany I decided, for the good of my romantic life, I had to cease being a nice guy.

This didn’t mean I was going to start going around imitating the worst in the men I knew that had no problem attracting women. The mistake most people make is in believing there are only two extremes and therefore two types of men: nice and jackass. If you’re not one, then you must be the other, so the conventional wisdom goes. However, hardly anything in life is ever that black and white. There’s nothing wrong with being nice in-and-of itself, but if that is your main identifying characteristic chances are you’re also as boring as paint drying on a golf course. God knows I was.

I can remember spending hours on the phone with girls I really liked and having absolutely nothing to say, and when I did say something, it was about as interesting as a rave at a senior citizen’s home. Then I wondered why they never called me and I was doing all the heavy lifting. My internal dialogue was something along the lines of: “How could she NOT like me?! I’m such a nice guy!!!”

Nice is background noise. It’s the music you play when you’re studying for final exams that makes the room feel less lonely but ultimately won’t distract you. Nice is an Enya CD. No one wants to date an Enya CD.

Nice is largely meaningless. It’s a hollow word that anyone can fill up with whatever they want. It isn’t concrete or definitive, and when you’re claiming something that malleable and ambiguous, your life is left to be defined by others. In the case of nice, you’re claiming something incredibly banal and lifeless.

When you believe nice is to be worn as a badge of honor, you don’t spend a lot of time cultivating much in the way of a personality. Most ambassadors of nice believe they can rest on their nice credentials and the women will come flocking. This is what I did throughout my lonely adolescence and a fairly uneventful college dating life. I flew the nice flag proudly and bandied it about as if it were the holy grail. Consequently, I also had to wear my bitterness and frustration with the same type of enthusiasm.

There is a sense of entitlement that goes with being a “nice guy.” You honestly think that because you’ve never called a woman anything outside of her name or that you hold doors open for strangers or help old ladies across the street in a hailstorm that women should be lining up outside your door and fighting for your attention. You learn quickly that isn’t the case and you spend your days trying to figure out why. And cursing. Loudly.

The answer is that being polite and respectful are basic minimums. Lauryn Hill taught us that much. These are characteristics that anyone in a functioning society should possess. Sure, it’s not always the case, but just because they’re ignored by others doesn’t mean you get credit for doing exactly what you’re supposed to do. Life doesn’t work that way and matters of the heart are no different.

I never stopped being polite or showing respect. That comes naturally. What I have done is stopped promoting myself as a nice guy and started living life. The women have come, and gone, and come again. I don’t know how to attract women, I’ve fallen into every relationship I’ve had by pure accident and happenstance. There’s nothing that I’ve done consciously to be more attractive. I’ve been myself and confident in that. Perhaps that’s it, but I can’t say for sure.

I do know, however, how to effectively repel women from miles away. Wearing a nice guy badge as if it’s a Nobel and Pulitzer prize wrapped up in a Super Bowl ring is a surefire turn off. Proceed at your own risk.

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