Archive for December 26th, 2015

Danger zone friend zone: when you think you’re a nice guy

I keep hearing people say “nice guys finish last” as if it were some sort of tragedy, some inexplicable idiosyncrasy of human (female?) nature, and it baffles me.

Well, for one thing it’s not actually true. Nice guys do just fine in the marital stakes. But let’s talk about perceived niceness versus genuine goodness and what that actually means.

Whenever someone says: “Oh, X is such a nice person”, I sit up and take notice. Not in a good way, mind. If further probing “how so?” yields a more concrete answer like “he’s very considerate” or “her integrity is impeccable”, then never mind. Otherwise, the alarms go off.

The problem with “nice” as a descriptor is that it’s 99.99% used when the person speaking can’t come up with a better adjective.

It’s a passing grade, a low D- rather than an A, but so many people brandish their niceness about with the entitled expectation of joy and happiness as a result of being called “nice”. It’s more of “I can’t think of anything objectionable about this person” rather than “this person is simply amazing”.

Then there are those who treat “nice” as a benchmark for behavior when it’s really the lowest common denominator, made worse by the fact that there are those who tick things off on their list of “nice person behaviour” without really pausing to think about the required empathy behind the gestures rather than the actions.

I’ve met a lot of self-termed nice guys and I just have to point out: any man who uses the term friend zone is automatically not truly a nice guy in the sense of genuine goodness.

When I say that on Quora, that gets a lot of indignant yelps.

Friend zone complaints:

I keep seeing “how do I get out of the friend zone” and the question often implies (malicious?) deliberation on a woman’s part to keep a man on a leash for favors while withholding sex, but all that could change if you just entered the right cheat code (sufficient application of …something?) and the guy is asking for hints as to said cheat code.

  • if you’re my friend, I do not actually owe you sex for nice things you do for me. Look up general reciprocity in friendships. If you don’t understand that friends do nice things for each other and you treat a “might have sex with me” friend differently from a “normal friend”, then you’re not actually a nice guy.
  • if there’s no chemistry, no amount of nice things you do for me is going to change that. Assuming that there’s a cheat code somewhere that will change your experience into god-mode is insulting on multiple levels: I’m not a whore. I do know my own mind and my preferences. If you can’t manage to respect a woman’s agency and the right to her decisions about who to have sex with, you’re not a nice guy.
  • complaining about how I’m lacking as a friend because I haven’t put out when you’ve been so nice to me is terribly objectifying and insulting and hurtful. If you don’t value me as a friend for my conversation and brain and spirit and other things I do for my friends and you’re just hanging around lying to me in case I might have sex with you – you’re in fact not a good person.

She only sees me as a “nice guy” and put me in the friend zone; how do I make her see me as someone she could date?

  • have you asked?
  • no, sorry, being nice is the lowest standard there is. You don’t get whatever you want just for being nice. Entitlement isn’t nice.
  • if you’ve asked and she said no, then respect the woman’s choice.
  • she didn’t “put” you in the friend zone. You did that yourself by offering yourself up as a friend. If you were upfront and said “it’s dating or nothing, baby”, then stick to it and get the hell out of her life. Take some responsibility for your life.
  • if you genuinely think she’s a user – then get some self-respect and GTFO. Otherwise, don’t whine about it.

Let’s talk about nice guys versus bad boys. Nice guys finish last; girls always go for the bad boys – that trope gets a shit ton of play all over and it’s beyond passe. All right. Maybe girls go for bad boys, but most women don’t.

I like a man who knows what he wants and is unapologetic about it.

I like a man who is direct, who doesn’t wiffle-waffle over something as ridiculously banal as what’s for dinner.

I like a man who is competent and who is confident in his capabilities.

I like a man who knows his goals and how to achieve them.

I like a man who has leadership capabilities and the ability to fix things if they go wrong.

I like a man who is self-aware and who is straightforward about his desires and his needs.

I like a man who is man enough to do emotional labor and take pride in it.

I like a man who has a life and hobbies of his own and doesn’t need anyone to complete him as a person.

None of that translates to “I want an alpha-hole man-whore player who will run roughshod over all of my sensibilities”. (what some of these dating sites seem to imply)

For that matter, substitute “woman” for “man” and “he” for “she” and you have a list of attributes I like in my friends.

This isn’t that difficult, people.

If the best thing anyone can say about you is “nice” rather than any of the descriptors I’ve used above… do you see the problem now?

 

The allure of billionaires, in terms of spoonwork

As a reader and writer of romance, it’s interesting to watch the millionaire romance novel trend. Oops, billionaires now, sorry, because inflation.

(never mind that Thene has assured me that inflation hasn’t really been an issue in ┬árecent ever)

One iteration of the rich-man-swoops-in story that’s been very interesting lately is the prevalence of the “I can’t do it on my own and you’re the only person who can save me” narrative.

There’s the waif who just graduated with some (often stereotypically useless) degree, who has student loans out the wazoo, and who has problem keeping herself alive and making rent. Suddenly, the rich man deus ex machinas into her life and he falls in complete and utter devotion to her despite the reader’s bemusement.

The mind-boggling aspects:

This woman has no friends. Like, none. She shares her apartment with no one (no wonder she can’t make rent) and there’s no one who could possibly bail her out, float her some rent, or heavens forbid, allow her to crash on their couch for a while. Of course, my take on it is: don’t trust a person who has no friends. There’s usually a reason for it and you should run away. Fast.

This woman often doesn’t have the slightest clue as to how to survive. I’ll forgive the ridiculous degree (women’s studies, anyone?) and massive student loans because that’s just how the two thousands have gone. However, why isn’t this woman temping? Why isn’t she working as a barista? Why is she clinging onto this idea that she’s going to be able to use her degree in a job that will pay the bills long past the time when she should have woken up and smelled the shit sandwich she made for herself? For that matter, why do all these heroines live alone? I lived in a house with six other people to keep expenses down at one point and I have never lived along in an apartment in my life for financial purposes. And the ten million dollar question is why is this billionaire who is supposedly really intelligent and competent attracted to this woman who is apparently failing at life?

Seriously. Suspension of disbelief just doesn’t work. And I’m not saying this from an elitist snob standpoint. Look at who Mark Zuckerberg married. Look at who Steve Jobs married. Look at Melinda Gates.

Honestly, guys. I know this is escapist fun, but really? This sort of Cinderella narrative is actually damaging because even the Disney princess had friends. Sheesh. Stop furthering the notion that women don’t have or need friends and can be perfectly happy and fulfilled with only her beloved rich hubby as a companion for life.

But let’s not talk about the women anymore. Let’s talk about the m/billionaires and the damaging narratives there.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the men simply outsource almost all of their spoonwork. Other than amazing sex with a zillion orgasms per night with their hugely awesome cocks, that is.

Need a gift? Throw diamonds and shiny shit at the love object. No need to think too hard when diamonds are a girl’s best friend, right?

There’s always a maid and/or chauffeur, so no worries ever about who leaves the dirty dishes in the sink or fights over why you don’t care enough to take me to the doctor’s office.

There’s room service or a housekeeper who makes the most amazing food.

The little woman needs to get dressed? Personal shoppers to the rescue! You never have to go along on a shopping trip (unless it’s for lingerie) because you hired someone to do the gruntwork of finding the nice things and then sitting through the trying-on torture.

Anything broken? Money will fix it! Even if/especially if you broke it in a fit of a rage. Appliances never dare to break down around you, but if they do, then there will always be some 24/7 person you can call to make the issue go away. In fact, why even bother with appliances? Just buy new clothing for every day or send it out to be washed professionally. You can afford it, after all.

Need to travel? Private jet with showers all the way, baby. No need to worry about travel stress or setting up a comfortable itinerary or being a considerate travel companion when you can just spend all your time in the air having sex.

….

Right.

If you read carefully between the lines of what’s going on, there’s almost no thought to the m/billionaire’s supposed devotion. He snaps and things that the heroine needs just happen.

This is especially interesting when one considers the studies that say men still don’t do equal amounts of housework in the home (but they think they do!) and that women are still expected to take on more childcare responsibilities (to the point where house-daddies are kinda sneered at and more than one father was accused of being a weirdo perv when sitting at the playground watching their kids).

The questions I’m left with:

  • why are we (many of us female) romance authors perpetuating the myth that women do not have or need friends? For that matter, what the flying fuck is up with the “I have no female friends, but I have a gay bestie who serves as my maid”? That’s just not right, guys.
  • are we indirectly perpetuating harmful social expectations and cultural mores by these narratives where the solution to men not doing enough emotional labor is to simply marry someone who can afford to outsource all of it?
  • now that we’ve bravely moved into the frontiers of romance where m-preg is a thing, can the daddies who do primary child-care please stand up and step out? If not, why the fuck not?
  • is the allure of poly relationships partially a female response to lack of male emotional labor? In that “welp, if I’m fucking three guys, surely ONE of them will do the dishes and cook dinner” sense? And if so, guys, maybe the solution is to write heroes who do the fucking spoonwork and heroines who refuse to deal with a guy who doesn’t put out.
  • when so many conflicts center around “there’s this bitch who’s after my man and refuses to take no for an answer”, coupled with the heroines have no friends narrative — what are we actually perpetuating here? The myth of scarcity and “all women are in competition with each other” is simple bullshit. Again, isn’t the solution to change things so that more men are good catches rather than trying to kill each other for the few men who somehow grew up being taught about spoonwork?

So okay, I hear y’all who are screaming “it’s just escapist fun! why so serious?!”, but I can’t agree. Not anymore.

And in fact, you can’t scream “I’m just writing/reading what I like and it doesn’t matter” and complain about romance novels being derided as bodice rippers and soul-rotting brain candy at the same time.

More than one scholar has posited that if you track romance novels tropes and themes, you will also track shifts in cultural expectations and social mores. We have come a long way from pro-pseudo-rape masquerading as love and there’s no reason to stop now. Writers and readers have always been at the forefront of change; now is not the time to drop the ball.

Write the world you want, sure, but how mindful (and effective?) a writer will you be if you don’t question the impetus behind the drive and tease things to its logical conclusion?