Larry Barnhart
September 1994

  Nice guys are in trouble! They take seriously what women say they want, and are then left in the cold while these same women choose the very men they say they don't want. After years of being duped by this double-talk, it is time for decent men to see through the rhetoric and to start acting in response to reality. The saying, "nice guys finish last" came into usage for a reason.

  Many a nice guy has discovered that a nice woman can only cry on his shoulder while she is between relationships. Once she has mended her broken heart, the nice guy is immediately forgotten, and she finds another "bad boy" just like the last one for her next relationship. Men aren't the only one's to notice this phenomenon. In her book, Women Who Love Too Much, Robin Norwood observed that "alcoholics usually have women standing in line to be with them." In short, men with self-destructive tendencies, irresponsible habits, and toxic/multiple personalities are in big demand.

  At this point, some surly feminist will no doubt protest by saying this is chauvinist rhetoric, and that women do not need abuse. True, women do not need  abuse, but it seems to be a luxury they insist on having. In a letter to Dear Abby, a woman asked why her husband picked up a tramp, treated the tramp like a lady, and then treated his wife (who really was a lady) like a tramp. Abby replied that he probably wants a female companion who is no better than he is so he won't feel inferior. Her reply does make a lot of sense. However, one question remains unanswered. How many nice guys did this woman have to pass up in order to find her "catch"? She may have chosen her husband for the same reason her husband chose the tramp.

  Successful men I have known have candidly described their understanding of the mating ritual: "You've got to mess with women's heads, or they will mess with your head." These men typically do not take what women say seriously. Also, they felt justified in promising the moon because "women would rather be promised the impossible than be told the truth." Other men, swayed by the rhetoric of the women's movement, have surrendered their macho swaggering only to learn that they were no longer valued as romantic partners. One man's advice went something like this: "Be aggressive and obnoxious while climbing the career ladder. Once you are financially successful, women will partially forgive you for no longer being macho." This is not logical, but love and romance have never depended on logic for their defense.

  There are a number of theories that attempt to explain this phenomenon. 1) Many women seek out partners much like their most disapproving or distant parent, and then attempt to win vicariously by trying to reform their partner. 2) As love is so subjectively defined, and therefore able to cover a multitude of sins, many women equate excitement with love. "Romance" is the term most often used to describe this excitement. As excitement can come from a subtle sense of foreboding as well as from positive anticipation, a sense of danger can be the elixir of romance. Hence, the attraction to dangerous men. 3) For the last 5,000-plus years, religious and political leaders have been selling sacrifice as the highest virtue. In a sense, "masochism has been offered as the ideal under the threat that sadism is its only alternative." Surprisingly, a large percentage of the population, both women and men, have chosen the role of sacrificial animal, providing easy pickings for those who have opted to benefit from those sacrifices.

  Let's explore these ideas in greater depth:

  There are many excellent books that go into great depth when exploring the effect of parent-child relationships on future intimate relationships. There seems to be a strong tendency for people to choose partners that are much like their most disapproving parent. A great deal of evidence indicates that we choose relationships much like previous relationships where we still have some unfinished business. Apparently, there must be a lot of disapproving parents in the world. Otherwise, the "drop dead look" which is popular in advertising and arrogance in general wouldn't be so much in demand.

  The second issue to be looked at is how we as a culture define "love" and "romance." The standard definition of love goes something like this: "I can't tell you what it is, but it's that special feeling you get when you meet the right person, and you'll know it when it happens." Typically, when people think about romance, they envision a non-stop rush of excitement that verges on hyperventilation. This "rush of excitement" can be more easily created and maintained through a sense of danger than through a live-and-let-live type of relationship. A woman who insists on having "romance" in perpetuity will usually write off nice guys as being boring.

  The third issue is what I like to call "The 5,000 year old con game." This con game has been used by political and religious leaders for thousands of years, allowing them to enjoy luxury, status and power far beyond their contributions toward human survival. (If everyone on the planet were a political or religious leader, humanity would be extinct in two-and-a-half months.) The essence of the con game is the "morality of sacrifice." At this time in history, businesses are condemned for the work they do for those who can pay, and are only partially forgiven when they do community service for those who can't pay. In the relationship arena, women who tend to choose abusive relationships frequently insist that "relationships require sacrifice!" In reality, sacrifice is not necessary. When two individuals voluntarily exchange their surplus goods or services, no one has sacrificed. In fact, they are both better off than before.

  Consequently, the nice guy has a serious decision to make. At this point, there seems to be three choices available. 1) Continue being a nice guy who is ignored at best, and spit on at worst. 2) Try to change the world from one that emulates sacrifice to one that esteems the ethics of voluntary exchange. 3) Stop being a masochist, and learn to emulate the abusive type of man that women complain about, yet cannot stay away from.

  The second choice would be ideal if it weren't for the fact that human life is measured in decades while philosophical shifts take centuries. Organizations like NOW are working feverishly to change the political landscape so as to contain abusive men, and yet rumor has it that one of the leaders of NOW was in an abusive relationship while she was president of the organization. This situation isn't as strange as it might first seem. When I volunteered for Virginians for the Equal Rights Amendment in 1976, it didn't take me long to get a sense from the women volunteers that the men they said  they wanted were not the ones they could respond  to.

  When I first wrote this article I was considering the first choice. However, it later occurred to me that the men who were most effective at attracting women were not in the frame of mind to truly enjoy them. What good is a blessing if one doesn't have the presence of mind to acknowledge it? (To be successful in this game, one's disinterest must be completely geniune.)

  Ultimately, I have concluded that it is most important for me to be the kind of person that is fun for me  to be with, even if the does drastically limit my selection. As I get older, living a simple, drama-free life is becoming my prime objective. The middle ground between choices three and one is summed up nicely by a bumper sticker I saw some time ago: "I don't take shit; I don't give shit; I'm not in the shit business."

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