Nice guys


I’m sure you’ve all heard of The Friendzone by now.  But just in case you’ve been living under a blunt, heavy object, here’s the general narrative of The Friendzone:

Guy meets girl. Guy is into girl. Guy starts hanging out with girl, does all kinds of nice things for her, and hopes this will translate into a sexual relationship. Guy ultimately realizes that girl has no intention of sleeping with him, but rather is simply enjoying the fruits of his friendship, and goes online to angrily complain of having been “Friendzoned.”

A more specific example can be found in my post about “Nice Guys.”

I’ve dedicated a fair amount of blogspace to debunking the logic of the Friendzone and offering alternatives to the usual bitching and blaming (spoiler: she didn’t Friendzone you; you failed to effectively communicate your true desires and intentions).

But today I’m here to talk about the inverse phenomenon, bitched about primarily by straight women and gay men, and blamed upon fellas everywhere: The Fuckzone.


Here’s the general narrative of The Fuckzone:

Girl meets guy. Girl is into guy. Girl starts having sex with guy, and hopes this will translate into a long-term romantic relationship. Girl ultimately realizes that guy has no intention of settling down with her, but rather is simply enjoying the awesome sex, and goes online to angrily complain of having been played/used/heartbroken/betrayed, etc.

Now, these narratives don’t neatly correlate to gender. There are certainly men who feel they’ve been “Fuckzoned” by women, and women who feel they’ve been “Friendzoned” by men. Or other women. Or men by men. And so on. It’s an equal-opportunity mindfuck. But my personal example just happens to follow the girl-feels-fuckzoned-by-guy model.

Back in graduate school, there was this guy. I’ll call him Joe Schmo. Joe was a decently attractive dude who made himself more attractive by being super laid-back, to the point where if you wanted any contact with him, you had to make it happen. Even when he was teaching, he just sat in a chair, didn’t even lean forward, and spoke softly. Instead of putting the information out there and hoping they would absorb it, he made the students come to him. It was kind of a brilliant tactic and I envied him for it.

I also slept with him a few times because of it, at a time when I was mighty emotionally vulnerable (i.e. immediately following my messy divorce). The sex was pretty darn good, overall, but I was very clearly a booty call to him. We used to have these little text battles:

Joe: It’s 2 a.m. so I know you’re not busy.

Me: I’m busy sleeping.

Joe: Not anymore. 🙂 Come on over.

Me: Fuck off, Joe. I have to teach at 8 a.m.

Joe: You’re putting on your shoes, you’re getting in the car…


Joe: Don’t bother getting dressed. 😉

Me: I hate you.

Joe: See you in five minutes.

At school, he would largely ignore/avoid me. Having been down that road before, I knew it could not end well. So I found a better option, stopped screwing him, and later seduced his girlfriend (a professional model/successful actress) for revenge. But this isn’t a story about me. It’s a story about a gal named… uh… Fancy.

Fancy was also in my graduate program. And she had also just gone through a divorce. AND at some point, she started sleeping with Joe. I know this because she started referring to him as her “boyfriend,” acting all giddy and love-struck, and telling all the gals she thought he was “the one.”

Now, I knew from my personal experience that this was crazy talk. But I didn’t want to come off like sour grapes by warning her against him. Instead I simply offered my services as a listening ear.

I listened to Fancy tell me how crazy she was about him. I listened to her fantasize about their future together. I listened to her tell me how convinced she was that he loved her, listened to her make excuses for all the ways in which he didn’t treat her with love, or even kindness. I listened to her complain that his “fear of intimacy” was keeping him from admitting his true feelings for her. And I listened when she came over in tears after he finally made it clear that he was just not that into her.

“How could he use me like that?” she asked me, her face streaked with mascara and tears.

I wanted to say,

“He didn’t. You used each other. You were his sex toy and he was your imagined Prince Charming.”

But I didn’t. Instead I simply pointed out that, while I was no fan of Joe Schmo, he hadn’t actually been dishonest with her. He told her she was hot and that he wanted to have sex with her. That was an accurate self-assessment.

Then I asked her if she had ever told him how she felt about him, or if she had shared any of her future plans with him.

“I couldn’t!” she protested, “It would have freaked him out!”

Right. Exactly. And why? Because he didn’t want a future with her. He wanted a present with her, and he was already getting it. She was in The Fuckzone.

And just like a guy who looks around and realizes to his horror that he has landed in The Friendzone, Fancy was quick to blame Joe for having Fuckzoned her. But in both cases, it comes down to the same failure on the part of the person who is feeling “-zoned.” They were either unclear, or simply dishonest, about their true desires and intentions in terms of the type of relationship they wanted to create with this other person. They failed to maintain their own boundaries, and then blamed the other person for crossing them. Not okay.

I know: it’s scary to be honest about what you want. And for good reason: putting yourself out there and showing interest in something you aren’t 100% sure the other person is interested in does make you more vulnerable. There is, indeed, an inverse relationship between passion and power. That, however, is not an excuse to be a coward. It is your responsibility to get your own needs met. It is up to you to decide what you will and won’t put up with.

Because, seriously, who’s going to turn down free favors? Who in their right mind is gonna be like,

“Please don’t help me move. I am not attracted to you and therefore it would be unethical of me to accept your help.”

And by the same token, what dude is gonna turn down NSA sex?

“Well, a blowjob does sound awesome, but since I’m not in love with you and don’t intend to create a life with you, I’d better pass.”

Um, no. If you’re offering, no apparent price tag attached, they have every right to accept. And you have no right to get resentful over it.

Happily, though, integrity is sexy. Once you start setting boundaries and making your needs and wants known, you may be surprised at the respect you start earning. What’s more, you’ll weed out the people who aren’t looking for what you’re looking for sooner rather than later, so you can move on to someone whose interests are in line with yours.

Better still, you can start simply enjoying friendships, and NSA sex, for what they are. Rather than feeling helpless to transform a friendship, or a fuckship, into what you really want (because, OF COURSE you are capable of creating whatever sort of relationship you want, RIGHT??), you’ll be able to relax and reap the benefits just like the other person in the equation. Because friendship is great, and sex is great, and there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t delight in them exactly as they are.

All that said, if you’re reading this, Joe Schmo (and I know you know who you are), you’re still an asshole. And I’m still not letting you in mine.

The Logic of Friendzoning

A contradiction in terms? Perhaps.

I just read this brilliant bit of sketch comedy from the Crunk Feminist Collective, describing what would happen if said logic were applied to other situations.

It’s got me thinking about how this same logic might apply in other situations. Hollywood, for example.


Unpaid Intern: Okay seriously, what gives? I’ve been getting your coffee for the better part of a year, and you still haven’t put me on the show!

Producer: Right. Because you’ve never auditioned. Are you even an actor?

Unpaid Intern: OF COURSE I’M AN ACTOR!! Why else would I be doing this crap for free??

Producer: Because you respect my work and want to be a part of the process?

Unpaid Intern: Yeah, right, like anybody would do that.

Producer: Actually, we have several unpaid interns on staff who are pretty happy just to be getting the experience.

Unpaid Intern: Whatever. Look, you HAVE to put me on the show! I have been so LOYAL and HARDWORKING!

Producer: Well, that may well be true, but what we really need on the show are people who sparkle with life and personality and really grab the audience and make them fall in love at first sight. People who are stunningly attractive and naturally funny and have great chemistry with the audience.

Unpaid Intern: So what are you saying, that I’m ugly and charmless?

Producer: What? No! I’m saying that only a few really exceptionally attractive and charming people make it onto the show after a pretty rigorous audition process.

Unpaid Intern: Whatever, I’ve seen some of the bozos you put on there. Obviously if that’s what your screening process turns up, then you need a new process!

Producer: Well that’s… insulting.

Unpaid Intern: Oh, you wanna talk about insulting?? I get your coffee every morning, just the way you like it, and you’ve never even offered to get MY coffee. Not even ONCE. You’ve never even asked me how I like my coffee, or even if I drink coffee! You are SO SELFISH!

Producer: This would probably be a good time to leave my office.

Unpaid Intern: No, fuck that! I’ve been here for a year, slaving away with no pay, I’m not leaving with nothing to show for it! At least give me a walk-on. You owe me that much.

Producer: No.

Unpaid Intern: Background extra?

Producer: No.

*awkward pause*

Unpaid Intern: So my friends were right! You’ve just been taking advantage of me this whole time! Wow. Nice guys really do finish last. Maybe I should just walk on the set right now, huh? Just walk right into the shot. NO MORE MISTER NICE GUY! I’M JUST GONNA TAKE IT LIKE I WANT IT!

Producer: Security!


Who’s got another one?



Miss Giving: the female face of the “Nice Guy”™

Allow me to introduce you to a couple of female acquaintances of mine, “Marisa” and “Colleen.”

Marisa moved to Seattle from NYC last year. She’s nearly 6 feet tall, has eerily perfect café-au-lait skin, and makes her living as a model. She’s a stylish dresser, and she never leaves home without her hair and make-up expertly done. In short, she’s what the PUAs call a “10.”

Colleen, on the other hand, has lived here all her life. She’s 5’4”, curvy, wears geek-chic glasses, and hasn’t been spotted in anything other than jeans and a T-shirt (all-black or with some kind of sci-fi/RPG humor on it) since 1998 (and that was the flannel era). She’s a witty, approachable hipster chick, and sharper than the claws of her (count them) 3 cats.

What do these women have in common? They are constantly complaining to me that they can’t get a date, are too “giving” in their relationships, and that THERE ARE NO DECENT SINGLE MEN IN SEATTLE (!!).

Now, that last assertion we can discard immediately. As the Feb. 2007 issue of National Geographic was kind enough to point out, there are about 20,000 more single men than there are single women in the Seattle area. Now, that doesn’t mean there are 20,000 Mr. Rights wandering around the Emerald City, since, as “TheBachelor” puts it in this blog, “the odds are good but the goods are odd.” A lot of those “single men” are solely interested in other single men, or have already settled down with one.  And straight Seattle men are better known for their nerdy-quirky, caffeine-addicted personalities than they are for, say, a commitment to fitness and hygiene. Still, the fact remains that, statistically speaking, there *have* to be plenty of decent options out there for our two lovelorn ladies.

So, let’s examine the first complaint, that they “can’t get a date” here in Seattle.

Now, it would be easy enough to blame their empty dance cards on what’s known as “the Seattle Chill,” the unfortunately all-too-real phenomenon of Seattleites epidemically demurring from interaction with strangers. And I won’t pretend that isn’t a factor, particularly when you’re used to getting talked to, and, more to the point, hit on by strangers several times a day.

When Marisa first moved here, for example, she called a mutual friend in tears one night outside of a dance club in Belltown, asking, “Am I still attractive?” Not one man had approached her all evening, and she was genuinely beginning to question her own hotness. The friend assured her that not only was she still gorgeous, she was a little too perfect for the hipsters and code-monkeys cowering at the bar, too intimidated to even attempt to approach her.

But I’ve heard Colleen complaining that she rarely gets approached when she’s out and about as well. Once, at a bar on Capitol Hill, a dude in a pair of overalls, of all things, exchanged smiles with her for minutes without ever coming over.

“What was he waiting for?” she later asked, “a written invitation?!”

Again, the phenomenon is real. Seattle men are, as a whole, an easily-intimidated, not terribly well-socialized bunch. However, both of these women are now aware of that fact, and therefore have no excuse not to work with it, or at least around it.

I don’t know what rule book these ladies have been living by all these years, but it’s time to burn that fucker. If you want to go on dates, you have to interact with strangers. Period. And if strangers aren’t interacting with you, sitting back and complaining about it is in NO WAY a solution, or an absolution for not going and interacting with them.

Look, I get it. You want to be chased. And especially if you’ve put as much effort into looking amazing as Marisa has, you feel you deserve to be chased. And you feel completely justified in resenting the men who refuse to chase you, or who go about it all wrong, and placing the blame for your current condition squarely on their shoulders.

But here’s the thing:  you aren’t any more justified in resenting those men as they are justified in resenting women like you for being so darn difficult to approach. And, ironically, the more resentful you get, the less playful you become, thus making it more difficult and less enjoyable for anyone to approach you. It’s a nasty downward spiral of “justified” resentment that can only end in bitterness for all.

Making the first move is not the “job” of the man, or the butch, or ANYONE other than yourself. If you want something to happen, you MAKE IT HAPPEN. Period. If you don’t know how, you learn how. That’s your job. Just like it’s my job to teach it.

Meanwhile, that same M.O. of passive manipulation followed by resentment and martyrdom often continues well past the initial meeting.

For example: a while back, Colleen dated a guy for several months who needed a good deal of alone time. He was up-front about that from the beginning, and she said “no problem.”

Except that it was a problem. She told me over and over that she felt “shut-out” and “even more alone than when [she] was single.” I encouraged her to be honest with the guy about her needs, but she insisted that it was “a deal-breaker” for him and therefore not up for discussion.

Furthermore, rather than finding other things to do while he was holed up in his beloved man-cave, she volunteered to wait on him, bringing him Diet Cokes, rubbing his shoulders (and *ahem* other things) while he played video games, and so on. Her resentment built to the breaking point during the holiday season, when he eschewed parties and family meals in favor of a new first-person shooter. She snapped, went ballistic, and threw a PS3 at “that antisocial asshole.” And that, as they say, was that.

Colleen was convinced that she had been wronged. After all, she had been so “giving!” He should have known that she was unhappy and offered to make more of an effort at socializing. Right?

Wrong. She agreed to terms that were unacceptable to her, made them even less acceptable by martyring herself, and then freaked the fuck out to the point of physical violence. That’s not “giving.” That’s barely forgivable.

Meanwhile, Marisa has a nasty habit of dating married, recently widowed, or otherwise unavailable men. And even though she knows from the beginning that there can be no happy ending, that doesn’t stop her from wallowing in her misery like some sort of soap-opera heroine when the inevitable happens and he withdraws from her more or less permanently.

Women like Colleen and Marisa who pretend to have no needs of their own in order to “snag” a man are no better than the douchebags in “Nice Guy” clothing who pretend to be okay with being just friends in order to “bed” a woman. Both M.O.s are manipulative, dishonest, and ineffective.

That’s not being “too giving,” ladies. That’s being a piss-poor communicator and a champion blame-shifter.

I’m doing my part to get these Seattle fellas approaching you, and interacting with you in a way you will both enjoy. Will you pretty please do your part?

That means challenging yourself to stop “giving,” and start taking instead:

– Taking risks by approaching people you find attractive.

– Taking responsibility for how you want to be treated

– Taking care to communicate your needs, clearly and kindly

– Taking pleasure in each moment as it comes, rather than constantly worrying about “where this is going”

If not, there are plenty of “Nice Guys”™ out there with shoulders you can cry on. Just don’t be surprised when they turn around and go ballistic on you because you didn’t realize all that “giving” came with a price.



Why “Nice Guys” really do finish last (Spoiler: it’s their own damn fault)

I have a little story for you. It’s a story that’s probably all-too-familiar to a lot of you, but I’m guessing you haven’t heard it from this perspective as of yet.

So, I had this friend. A guy-friend. He was smart, fit, relatively wealthy, helpful, thoughtful, quietly charming, and possessed of a fabulously dry sense of humor. All in all, a very nice guy.

We spent most of our waking hours together, and pretty much everyone assumed we were dating.

But we weren’t.

Instead, he was the one I talked to about the cute guy who flirted with me in Philosophy class, or the guy who was PERFECT for me but already had a girlfriend, or the player who rocked my world and never called again. He was the one who came driving up in his shining Toyota Camry to rescue me when the chain came off of my bike on my way home from the grocery store. Who brought me a thermos of hot soup when I’d been in class all day and had to go straight to play rehearsal with no break. Who helped me move. Three times.

That is, until…

There’s always an “until” in lop-sided relationship like this. Now, at the time, I didn’t see it that way. I thought I had won the friend lottery. I mean, he did all that and never asked for a damn thing: what a sweet guy! In retrospect, I realize that by making his help and company available all the time without asking for anything in return, he devalued it. That’s just basic economics.

In my case, the “until” came when he’d had a few beers, and showed up on my doorstep to tell me off. He said a lot of things that night, none of them easy to hear, but two things caught my ear:

1. He told me that he had only gone out with “Samantha” in the hopes that it would make me jealous, and that he dumped her, over the phone, the morning after I let him stay over (because it was snowing).

2. Something of this ilk: “Why do you insist on sleeping with these assholes, when I’m right here, always there for you, just waiting for you to wake up and realize that I’m your soul mate?”

Rather than waking me up to our soul-matedness, what his sloppy confession made me realize was:

A. He had broken the heart of innocent-bystander Samantha (who was quite lovely, BTW) just to get a rise out of me.

B. He had been completely dishonest with me about the nature of our relationship, and his feelings for me, from the beginning. And he thought little enough of my taste to refer to *everyone* I dated as an asshole.

That was the end of our “friendship.”

Why did this “nice guy” finish last?

It *wasn’t* because:

– Kindness isn’t sexy (it is)

– No good deed goes unpunished (there are plenty of clichés to counter this one, among them “goodness is its own reward”)

– Women are all a bunch of masochists (we’re not)

So why do women always end up breaking the hearts of Nice Guys (TM) and giving the best years of their lives to Bad Boys (TM) (read: assholes)?

Because, in reality, they don’t.

Now, it may seem that way from the perspective of a guy like the one in my story. But I have some important news for the self-labeled “Nice Guys” in the crowd:

Nice Guy vs. Bad Boy is a false dichotomy. In other words, these are concepts that are pitted against one another when in reality they are not opposites. They aren’t even real. They are convenient labels that men apply to themselves and the guys who are sleeping with the women they want.

People have desires, men and women. To try and dictate what those desires should be is not nice. It is invalidating and disrespectful.

Take the “Nice Guy” who tells a woman that “just friends” is just fine, when in reality he is simply waiting less-than-patiently for her to open up the gates of pants paradise. He believes he is justified because “Women should want [nice] guys like him.” But, there are a lot of people, myself included, who think this misleading behavior is anything but “nice.” Manipulative? Yes. Passive Aggressive? You bet. Cowardly? Boy howdy. But “nice”? Hardly.

“But wait” (some of you are probably thinking), “I thought you said not to show interest at first! Isn’t that ‘misleading?’ You know, be desireless and all that.”

Oh good, you *have* been paying attention! But here’s what you’re not getting: “at first” means until you have sufficiently piqued her interest to the point where she starts to show interest in you.

It’s a basic rule that the socially intelligent understand to the core of their being and animals live by: “That which retreats is chased and that which chases is retreated from.” So if she doesn’t show interest in you? You retreat from her. You MOVE ON. You don’t stand around like her valet, waiting for a chance to hold her shopping bags in hopes that she’ll toss you some sugar like it’s some kind of tip. That’s as creepy as it is ineffective.

If you want to buy sex, take a trip to Reno. Or Amsterdam. You can’t, and shouldn’t, purchase sex from a woman with acts of kindness. It’s demeaning to the whole concept of friendship.

Meanwhile, BE DESIRELESS means exactly that. BE. Don’t simply ACT desireless or cleverly disguise a desperate desire to be with a woman as a casual inclination to be pals. Meaning: you need to get to the point where you are happy enough with your own life, and comfortable enough entertaining yourself, that you don’t NEED anything from these women. YOU have something to offer THEM, and if they aren’t ready to accept it, that’s their loss.

In retrospect, I realize I was, in fact, taking advantage of my “friendship” with the Nice Guy in question. I allowed him to spend more time and energy on me than I was willing to expend on him, or on our relationship. If I were his dating coach instead of his love interest, I would’ve advised him to get that girl to show interest in him by being valuable (not devaluing himself by making all his support totally available at no cost) and being fun (by creating tension in addition to comfort). If he had, he and I might have made a lovely couple.

So, why do “Nice Guys” finish last?

Because instead of racing, they stand along the sidelines, waiting for someone to hand them a medal.

But worse than that, they hurt people. Themselves, mostly, but also the women they are “friends” with and the women they use to bait, and then to try and get over, these “friends” when it becomes clear that that’s all they will ever be.

That said, I do recognize that they do all this with the very best of intentions. If I am harsh here it’s because I love these well-intentioned, often-hurt fellas, and want them to get out of this harmful pattern NOW. I want them to start owning what they want, and to recognize that giving away their valuable time, energy, help, companionship, etc., for free is NOT the way to get it.

In short: I want them to WIN their own medal. And to realize they don’t have to stop being nice in order to do it.



The #1 reason why women date “bad boys”

Why do women date assholes?

There are probably as many answers to this oft-asked rhetorical question as there are assholes. Or women.

That said, there is one reason that rises above the rest, both in terms of accuracy, and in terms of usefulness to those who are asking. Because there are, in fact, things that nice guys can learn from assholes without actually becoming one.

Yes, “bad boys” are entertaining–and more to the point, aren’t boring and predictable. Yes, they have the shine of danger and excitement on them, and they lend a rebellious feeling of dating that guy your parents warned you about. Yup, they offer protection from other assholes, and yes, there is the attractive possibility of conversion, i.e. transforming a bad boy into marriage material.

But none of that is the most primary, underlying reason that women shun nice guys in favor of jerks.

So here it is, the #1 reason why women date “bad boys’ (read: assholes)…

Despite what men who have been frequently rejected might think, women are not, on the whole, sociopaths.  Like most human beings, they tend to be empathetic. They don’t like to see others in pain, and they especially hate feeling (or being made to feel) like they are responsible for that pain. So when they meet a guy for the first time, among their first concerns is:

Will I break him?

If she suspects the answer is yes, that this guy will fall hard and fast for her and smash his heart against her like a wooden boat against a rocky cliff, she will put up all her defenses in an attempt to protect them both from that sad fate. She doesn’t know why she’s responding this way, all she knows is that she feels uncomfortable, and that the guy she is talking to made her feel that way. So she’ll reject him. Sometimes politely, sometimes vehemently, always resentfully.

If, on the other hand, he appears to have no heart to break, then what has she got to lose?

Assholes appear indestructible. Their cocky, tough-guy persona assuages this fear of accidental heart-maiming. It lets her relax and just (re)act naturally.

When a guy is polite, respectful, and complimentary to a woman, she feels an unspoken pressure to respond in kind. He is on his best behavior, so she had better be as well. It’s like going to a job interview she never signed up for.

If, on the other hand, a dude is rude, uncouth, and even unkind, so long as he does it with a playful, teasing attitude, she feels free to snipe back, and to be herself. Like play-wrestling with the boy next door.

To sum up: women date assholes because there is no pressure. No pressure to be a “lady,” no pressure to avoid breaking his heart. And no pressure = pure, unadulterated fun.

This is what nice guys can learn from assholes: women like fun. They like playful, relaxed interactions with no expectations and NO PRESSURE. Sexual, social, or otherwise.

Here are a few rules to get you through the very first moments of an encounter:

DON’T: Treat her like a delicate flower. You may think you’re being nice, but you’re actually being disrespectful and patronizing.

DO: Treat her like one of your buddies.  Be insouciant. Tease, toy, prod. Look distracted. Be willing at all times to walk away.

DON’T: Expect anything from her, or the interaction. You just met!

DO: Have fun, and invite her to join you.

After that, be yourself.

In short, you don’t need to be an asshole. You just need to hold the situation lightly. Treat the encounter as it truly is, two people who don’t need anything from each other, and don’t owe each other a damn thing.