You May Be A Good Dude, But Here's Why You're Single
I used to be a "Nice Girl" -- a walking Taylor Swift song in geeky glasses who'd stare longingly through your bedroom window while singing about how terrible your girlfriend is. I used to make homemade fudge for all the cute boys in the hope that they'd notice me. Now I write romance novels. And when I published a book about ghosts and serial killers, the creepy stalker guy was the one who attracted weirdly devoted fangirls.
The point is, I know where nice guys are coming from. I've cringed while watching them unknowingly sabotage their relationships. I've winced through stories from my female friends of how nice guys became creepy. I've watched good guys like you chase away nice girls who really did once want to give them a chance. So if you don't understand how your sweetness and good intentions could possibly scare anyone away, buckle up, because I'm about to give you some inside info on where you're going wrong.
The Big, Sickly Sweet Romantic Gesture
Here's a fun game. Sit down with a bunch of girls and ask them to make a list of the sweetest, most romantic things a guy they like has ever done for them. Then ask them to make a list of the creepiest, scariest, most WTF things a guy they didn't like had ever done to try to get their attention. Then count how many of the exact same things are on both lists.
Sappy poetry, sketches, drawings, acoustic ballads, mix tapes -- sweet, personalized, homemade gestures are the unstable land mines of romantic weapons. Get it right and you'll demolish the competition, shake the ground, and blow away ... um ... whatever gets exploded when two people suddenly decide they really like each other. Get it wrong and you've just shot Cupid's dick clean off.
"I made a sand castle based on floor plans from your childhood home."
Hey, this former fudge-making girl gets the appeal of sweet sappy gestures. I've written poetry for guys I liked. I've made mix tapes and playlists. Hell, I've even sewn things for guys. And I've included all kinds of grand romantic gestures in books I've written. The entertainment industry has been living on the sweet romantic gesture long before love-struck '90s kids held boomboxes over their heads. When it comes to love, we're trained to think that bigger is better.
In movies, it doesn't even matter how jerky your gesture is. In the grand cheerleading epic Bring It On, the cute guy who recently did an NCIS cameo (Jesse Bradford) shows up at head cheerleader Kirsten Dunst's house with a cassette tape of a song he wrote for her. The song starts off with him insulting the most important thing in her life, before telling her he wants to feed her chocolates and screw her in a barn. Because it's a movie, she starts dancing on her bed in her pajamas and spanking herself with her pompoms.
This is not love.
In real life, there are just so many ways to get it wrong.
First off, a big gesture has to be really good. Bad amateur poetry and crappy artwork is just sad. Beyond that, there's no faster way to look creepy than to come on way too strong ... which makes music especially dangerous, because there aren't that many songs with lyrics like "Hey, I think you're kind of cute and I'd like to maybe go out sometime, if that's cool with you."
That aside, you've both got to be on the exact same page for it to work. If you take her out to dinner and she hates the food, you can both laugh it off and move on. But if you spend hours writing her a song, composing a poem, or organizing a flash mob to do a choreographed dance, she has to really love it. Like, a lot. Because if she's just "meh" about it, there's no coming back from that. You've just crammed any hope of a relationship into your ass and fart-launched it into the sun. Because your sickly sweet romantic art is your goddamn heart spilled out on paper. It's throwing the biggest weapon you'll ever have, and that's an incredibly big, risky, and frankly stupid thing to do. Whether she likes it or not, you've just put her on the spot. It's often embarrassing and uncomfortable ... and why would you want to embarrass someone you like? That doesn't get fun until marriage.
"That doesn't even look like me. Terrible."
You want to try a sickly sweet romantic gesture on a real human girl? Start small. Nothing big. Nothing intense. Nothing about pledging undying love. Don't blow your romantic wad on someone you haven't actually dated yet (or worse, is in a relationship with someone else), because that's just awkward and uncomfortable for everyone.
The Freaking Generous Grand Gesture
A friend of mine had been dating Mr. Nice Guy for about a week when she made an offhand joke about needing a massage. To her shock, he showed up for their next date with a gift-wrapped exotic personal massager. I know a guy who paid a girl's credit card bills before he'd taken her on a first date. I know another who decided a weeklong trip together at Disney World would be the perfect way to start a brand-new relationship -- and he lives in Canada.
The Moosiest Place On Earth.
Nice people kick ass at grand gestures. But every single one of those relationships ended up crashing and burning in a big ball of flames and humiliation. Because here's the thing: Grand gestures, especially financial ones, are very uncomfortable and even just plain crazy to people who aren't used to it.
Money makes people weird. It just does. Especially when everyone else shows up to a birthday party thinking a "hey" is all the occasion requires, and you walk in with a gift-wrapped Xbox.
Though it's not the worst gift box one can bring ...
Don't you hate being around the kind of asshole who's always showing off that he has more money than you? How about the slimy turd who's always paying the bill but leaves you feeling like he's running some creepy agenda? Those guys are movie punchlines, villains, or Richard Gere. Don't start off a relationship looking like a bag of money who's saving the prostitute.
The gut reaction to this is: "I've spent a lifetime being told I should pay for dates, and now you're telling me that women hate men who pay for things? So basically I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't?" No, I'm saying that your grand gestures might be self-sabotaging. You want to pick up the check? Then try asking the object of your affection if they're cool with it. Or "Hey, I was thinking of booking something really fancy for our first date. Is that cool with you, or would you rather do something low-key?" Remember, there are two of you in this thing. You've got to think about what's not going to make it uncomfortable for her.
"So I rented out the Eiffel Tower for the weekend ..."
If your intention is to impress her with a fancy night out and she's on board with that idea, it's going to be awesome. If your intention is to make her feel like she owes you something in return, you're not actually a nice guy; you're just a piece of shit.
Showering Them With Time And Attention, All The Time ... Nonstop
One of the worst things I ever did back in my Nice Girl Taylor Swift stage was try to charm my way into a hot guy's heart by giving him a personalized version of that stalker classic song wherein the guy pledges to watch his beloved constantly, every step she takes, every move she makes, because she belongs to him. It failed. Oh, how it failed.
For most women, nothing is creepier than a guy who smothers her by wanting to be around her all the time. Which is really bad news for nice guys, because wanting exactly that is in their nature. He clicks "like" on all of her social media posts. He offers to help her with work, hobbies, homework. He shows up when she gets off work to give her a ride. Being everywhere she is, all the time, forever, quickly goes from "He seems sweet" to "Ugh! Leave me alone for two goddamn minutes" to "I'm calling the police."
"It's another girl upset that her boyfriend is buying her stuff. I'll put it on your pile."
I know a chick who freaked out at a guy for liking all of her posts, on all of her social media accounts, the second she posted them. (He'd set up a bunch of alerts.) I know another girl who ran screaming from a nice guy when it became clear that he changed his bus schedule in order to sit near her every day. Basically, any time you find yourself arguing with someone you barely know about why she doesn't text you more often, you can assume that the little voice in her head is chanting "Run, run, run, RUN!"
Seems harsh? Well, from a woman's perspective, there are way more creepy, controlling, possessive, asshole stalker dudes in the world than there are nice guys. How's she supposed to know you're not one of them? It's important to know that this isn't your fault, but if you over-correct by being around nonstop to show her how much of a normal guy you are, you're just cranking up the volume on her stalker alarm.
"Oh hey, Katie, you're hanging out in this parking garage too?"
The "I'm Just Trying To Protect You" Thing
The world is full of assholes and creeps, and from the perspective of nice guys, too many hot and interesting women gravitate toward them. If only the evildoers among us were unmasked and the pretty girl at the next desk really saw just how bad that guy is, she'd fall right into your arms. Or at the very least, you'd be saving her a world of hurt.
Look, I get it. It's noble to want to rescue people. There's a whole subgenre of angsty music dedicated to helping girls see that their boyfriend's a dick and a douchebag, and you can't believe she's really going out with him because he doesn't know anything about her, because he isn't what a prince and lover ought to be. Which can be very sweet and very caring. Sometimes. But honestly? It can also be patronizing as hell and extremely annoying, because basically what you're saying to a fellow grown-ass human being is that you know better than her, and she's not smart enough to know what she's gotten herself into. You're telling her that by going out with that guy, she's being duped. You might as well be shouting directly into her face "Wake up, you fucking idiot!"
But you know, in song.
It comes in lots of forms. "Here's all the dirt on the guy you're dating. Here's why he's no good for you. If you were my girl, you'd be treated like a queen." "Please don't do this thing I don't like because it's bad for you, and I want you to be healthy and happy." "Please don't ruin yourself by screwing that guy, or getting that tattoo, or going to that college, or whatever." All of that boils down to Hey girl! I know what you need better than you do!
Whether you like it or not, she's got a reason for doing whatever she's doing. Sure, you can offer to weigh in as a friend. But be prepared that she might not want to hear your opinion, and it's likely to piss her off. Her body, heart, future, and mind are her business. Those things belong to her. Not you. Forgetting that, or acting like she doesn't make good decisions, or nagging her about her life after she's told you to drop it, will make you look like an asshole, and fast.
"Oh weird, I just found these here."
You care. You're nice. But as much as you're going to hate hearing this, sometimes being too nice really is the problem. And that brings me to the point that is going to sound like an alien language to nice guys ...
You Avoid Confrontation At All Costs
Nice people don't like fighting. They don't like hurting people, so they don't risk confrontation. Because of that, they often don't say what they mean. They also don't like rejection, so instead of just coming out and saying they're interested in a person, they drop hints. Then they get frustrated and hurt when that person doesn't catch on. Unfortunately, that all adds up to make you look like a petrified little kid.
If nice people are lucky enough to get into a relationship, they'll do just about anything to keep it ... which often means avoiding arguments. They won't bring up what's bothering them, especially if the source of that hurt (even unintentionally) is their significant other. Instead they hide it, ignore it, or sugarcoat it for a REALLY long time, until they finally hit a breaking point and it shoots out of their word hole like emotional projectile vomit. What should have been a simple, honest conversation turns into a huge blowout argument.
"I FUCKING LOVE YOU, GODDAMMIT!"
Don't do that.
Conflict and confrontation are a major part of relationships. You can't ask her out if you can't confront her. You can't fix a fractured relationship if you don't talk about the conflict. The important part is remembering that there's a difference between "I'd like to talk about something that's been bothering me" and "You've been a fucking bitch lately, and now it's throwdown time!"
It's terrifying -- god knows I get that -- but it's necessary. You want to show a grand gesture of your love and commitment? This is the best way to do it. If the relationship has problems, talking about it (and yes, even arguing about it) shows that you care enough to fix it. If you like the pretty girl, let her know in a straightforward, simple, and honest way. Remember, if she's a nice girl, she's probably just as terrified as you. But at least it won't be because you came across as a creepy stalker freak show.
Mags writes books with kissing and ghosts in them. You can bother her on Twitter.
A relationship can be a lot of work, have you considered growing plants instead?
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Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements. An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move. A young woman from the trailer park and her very smelly cat. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, a new novel about futuristic shit, by David Wong.