Home > Rants > Goodbye to The Nice Guy ™

Goodbye to The Nice Guy ™

Friends and random internet denizens; it’s time we got rid of the term ‘The Nice Guy’. For those of you lucky enough to have missed it, it’s a dating stereotype that has evolved, grown then devolved over the years.

So much so that not only is it now a pretty useless time, it’s also toxic.
Let me break it down.

Back in the 80’s1 and 90s, ‘The Nice Guy’ was a chap who could never get past the first or second date. They’d ask a person out on a date and then never get beyond a nice evening, being let down gently2 with the words “You’re nice, but”3. Such gents would seek advice after the nth rejection. Idiots would tell them things like ‘treat ‘em mean keep ‘em keen’, others would point out that maybe have a bath would help. Mileage varied. But the Nice Guy in this case was something of a doormat. Unremarkable and in media, the target of gentle mockery.

At some point, The Nice Guy turned into someone who didn’t even ask people out on dates. Instead, they mooned round after the target of their affections instead. Romantically incompetent and prone to whining that the people they fancy never fancy them back. Filled with fear and bad advice, this version is a common target of hilarious romantic comedies.4

That prick Ross from Friends.

Ross from Friends. Not your Role Model.

It was then a short hop and a jump to something a lot more creepy. It became Nice Guy™, someone who feigned affection in order to achieve goals, had an almost narcissistic expectation for people to like them and thought of other people as objects. This lead to a whole ‘people aren’t vending machines’ meme, in which everyone was helpfully informed that being nice to someone doesn’t mean they owe you anything.5

So what we have here is a mess. A shift in perspective from the shy and clueless to a mean and entitled predator. None of which addresses the issue. What we need, instead of Hollywood stereotypes and memes is a frank and brutal conversation about romantic intentions and expectations.

You see, I understand Romantic Incompetence. Dating is, for many of us, terrifying. It’s not just rejection; for every charming tale of love and adventure they are many real world anecdotes of embarrassment, harassment and bodily harm. Ending a date and simply being told ‘You’re nice but no’ is, in fact, a reasonable if not terribly satisfying ending.

But of course, when you’re young and filled with nerves and conflicting emotions, that is impossible to see.

It’s all made worse by the fact that others take to it easily. We are surrounded by love stories that make no sense when examined closely. Attraction, love and lust are highly individual things and humans like ‘one size fits all’ solutions. The lovely tale of how your grand-parents met might be someone else’s worst date ever, or the premise of horror novel.

We need to drop the notion of the ‘Nice Guy’. All versions of him. For a start, nice isn’t really a thing to aspire to. Nice is the lowest level of remarkable, it sits in the same set of words as okay and reasonable. People expect nice, so aiming for ‘above nice’ should be the target. Nice is a bit too close to boring, and that’s not something most of us want. Like anything worth doing, relationships can be hard work6 and we need to start being blunt about that. Men, Women and all points in-between need to have a frank and honest chat about their hearts. We need to stop laughing at the lonely, and stop pretending that it’s easy.

We need to work together to make a world where dating is less scary7, and romantic comedies are less awful.


1: I’m grew up in the 80’s. My timing is probably off, but this seems a decent yardstick.
2: No one like rejection, no matter how gentle. It’s easy to see how, after a while, frustration sets in.
3: “You’re nice but you don’t have a nice butt”
4: It becomes more common if you flip it so the Nice Guy is a Nice Gal.
Because Hollywood.
5: It makes me sad that it needed saying, but then the obvious often needs to be stated repeatedly. Look at traffic signs – people need to be reminded of basic things.
6: Though to be mushy for a moment, so much worth it.

7: This would be that ‘smash the patriarchy’ thing people keep talking about. But that’s another blog post.

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