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Romantic rejection is real.
By Ghia Vitale
In the eyes of Elliot Rodger, he died a “perfect gentleman” whose needs were callously disregarded not only by women but the world at large. Rodger resented his “selfish” mother for failing to marry a wealthy man and condemned his father for his failure to financially succeed in the film industry. His father was the assistant director of The Hunger Games, an acclaimed and commercially successful film. His mother paid for his college education and apartment by the skin of her teeth. However, Elliot clearly thought he deserved more.
According to him, only affluence could cure his chronic case of involuntary celibacy and win him the conventionally attractive women whom, he felt, owed him sex for being such a "gentleman." None of blond, white, modelesque women he lusted after ever had the chance to experience his extraordinary chivalry because he hardly ever spoke. That silence was probably one of the better options available to him, for if he had actually spoken to the “pretty blond girls” he put on a pedestal, he would've immediately revealed his racism and condescension.
Media outlets are shaming the MRA, anti-Pickup Artist, and Bodybuilding.com communities for fueling Elliot's fire. But it's essential to note that those groups also thought that he was a total creepshow and often told him so. Rodger was nowhere near as “nice” as he thought he was. Although his reaction was extreme, his complex was not atypical; that's why when his parents informed the police about the disturbing YouTube soapbox that he used to broadcast his egotistical angst, law enforcement thought nothing of it after briefly visiting him. However, Rodger's grandiose sense of entitlement reflects a larger epidemic, one that appears to be especially present in young men: he had a raging case of Nice Guy Syndrome, and not surprisingly, he was never nice in the first place.
Public awareness of Nice Guy Syndrome has steadily risen over the past few years, but the ruthless slaughter committed by Elliot Rodgers has thrusted the complex into the spotlight. Don’t confuse genuinely nice people with Nice Guys; nice people do nice things out of the kindness of their own heart, regardless of whether or not they are sexually or romantically interested in an individual. If someone they want to date isn’t interested in having a romantic relationship with them, they will resume the friendship or move on with their lives. Sure, they might shed tears over it, but they don't fault the rejecter for not being attracted to them. Hopefully, they don't resent themselves for not winning that person's affection.
Nice Guy Syndrome includes a myriad of attitudes and behaviors that revolve around social ineptitude, emotional immaturity, and a lack of respect for themselves as well as others. Nice Guys get angry when their crushes want to remain friends. The afflicted complain about how women only like “jerks” who treat them like garbage. Nice Guys claim "being there” for women is the fatal move that gets them sentenced to an invisible prison known as “The Friend Zone.” They claim that their love lives wouldn't be desolate wastelands if they just weren't so goddamn nice. Some say it’s another sexist myth, but the Nice Guy phenomenon goes much further than that. It’s one about the unhealthy interrelational narratives, standards of attractiveness, and cultural perceptions of masculinity that American culture endorses.
Much like how girls get the message that they have to be thin and attractive in order to be loved, guys are taught to measure their personal worth by the amount of ass they kick, the money they make, and most importantly, the sex that they (don’t) have. Kicking ass, making money, and having sex—this is the fool-proof formula that supposedly makes them catnip to the pussy they so fervently desire. Romantic rejection therefore becomes a form of invalidation. In turn, many boys get the message that platonic friendships with women only serve as evidence of their personal inadequacy, a cheap consolation prize for not making her panties melt off. There's some kind of societal conspiracy to exclude them from the secret orgy of life, the V. I. P. section for beautiful people. Well, the people that seem more beautiful than them, anyway. The entire thing is a massive cultural delusion because attraction cannot be reduced to an equation.
In reality, Nice Guy Syndrome stems from social misunderstandings and emotional immaturity. Complaints about getting "Friend-Zoned" are an immature person's way of saying, "The person I like doesn't want to date/have sex with me." Young people are especially inclined to buy into the whole sham. As people mature, they realize that this social script is mostly a generalization that we’re conditioned to believe. Relationships aren’t that simplistic or formulaic.
I know where these Nice Guys are coming from and my being female does not invalidate the fact that I am, in fact, a recovered Nice Guy. I am sharing my experience with the world because I want Quail Bell readers to have happy, fulfilled lives. I’ll gladly throw my ego under the bus if it means that people will finally understand the true nature of Nice Guy Syndrome and why it happens.
We all have fleeting Nice Guy thoughts when we’re down, but you’d have to experience chronic Nice Guy Syndrome to truly understand it. You’ve probably known many female Nice Guys. Read the lyrics of Taylor Swift's “You Belong With Me” and you’ll get the gist of what I’m talking about. That song exemplifies the internal voice of female Nice Guys that is nearly identical to the plight of their male counterparts. A female Nice Guy hangs out in The Friend Zone, clutching to a lingering hope that he’ll come around and fall madly in love with her. She listens to his endless complaints about other girls, cooks him food, does him infinite favors, and goes many extra miles to "be there" for him. Just like their male counterparts, there are strings attached to this nice behavior. She’s doing it because she wants her kind actions to serve as meritocratic proof that he should actually be with her, all while begrudgingly accepting crumbs of friendship when she would rather have his heart (and body).
It’s fine to do this if you can actually be satisfied with being platonic friends with the person. There’s nothing wrong with doing favors for your loved ones, but since women are socialized to be unconditionally nice, their romantic intentions often fade into the woodwork of general social protocol. Female Nice Guys are just as "clandestine" as male Nice Guys, but male Nice Guys' true intentions are rendered more transparent to onlookers due to a cultural bias. Ever notice how people tend to assume that any man and woman they see together are dating? Since I spend most of my time with guys I don't date, that assumption gets really frustrating and annoying because, well, we aren't dating and the guys don't want it to be that way, either. I hate how pop culture depicts male-female friendships as bubbling cauldrons of sexual tension on the brink of overflowing. I'm not saying that this isn't the case for many friendships, but certainly not every single one.
Much to my horror, I realized that I used to be a female Nice Guy when I studied the specific behaviors of Nice Guys. As a teen, I was self-conscious and not conventionally attractive, so I didn’t learn how to hone the power of my sex appeal to boost my social standing. I hung out mostly with guys because my unattractiveness desexualized me in the eyes of my peers. I was simply one of the guys, which socially conditioned in the ways that young men are. I was part of many angsty slam sessions against the superficiality in the dating world. Like them, I was a Nice Guy.
Hindsight is 20/20, especially when it’s another person doing the hind-sighting. I trudged through my teens thinking I was a low-status nobody. But I recently went to some parties where old classmates actually remembered me as having a lot of friends. Sure, these friends weren’t all popular people, but they were still friends.
As the first kid at my high school to really get into goth rock/punk/metal, I inherited a strange kind of social power. If I declared someone a “poser,” then that was all the confirmation that misfits and muggles needed to believe that that person wasn’t legit. That didn’t stop other kids from making fun of me or making it seem like being fat and “gawfic omg” at the same time was an unpardonable sin. It also didn't stop me from developing bulimia or repeatedly attempting suicide, mostly over the fact that the meat sack housing my soul wasn't "sexy."
But when I hear about other people's social lives as teens, I realize I had it much better than many. Like any indicator of status, I realized that this "dark power" was one of the trump cards in my deck. I'm not saying that I was a god-like, insurmountable force; my opinion could, however, make or break your public image to some degree. Imagine how disastrous that kind of influence could be if put into the hands of a Nice Guy, a group that is normally synonymous with loserdom. The truth is that Nice Guys come in all shapes, sizes, and genders. In my defense, I never lashed out in that way against people who rejected me but the thought was there. I don't doubt that I alluded to it in the form of underhanded insults.
Despite my charisma, I was morbidly obese. I wore unflattering clothing (aside from fishnets and band shirts). Black lipstick was the only effort I put into enhancing my appearance. Regardless of whether my perceived unattractiveness was rooted in sizeist ideals or genuine personal preferences, boys didn't find me attractive and I should have just respected that instead of resenting them for it. As far as I was concerned, I had plenty of other great qualities and anyone who didn’t want to date me was shallow and cold-hearted. I desperately clung to the ideal that people should love each other for what’s on the inside and not base the entirety of their attraction on external beauty or lack thereof. As I grew older, I realized that as people mature, their preferences tend to evolve and become more individualistic, but as a teen, I thought I was trapped in a world blind to my true perfection, a world that couldn’t see that I was the true Alpha.
I would often befriend a guy—and genuinely enjoy being his friend—while also harboring a crush that I was too cowardly to overtly express. Friendship was my way in so that he would see how lovely I was. If I did muster up the Super-Saiyan courage to make my crush known, I was usually met with rejection, and that was all I needed to justify wallowing in self-pity and indignation. In retrospect, I realize that I wasn’t always rejected based on my appearance alone, but when I was rejected, I would resume the friendship.
While I never considered my efforts wasted when faced with an undesirable outcome, I would not-so-secretly scorn the person for being brainwashed by the media, our peers, culture, etc. I would be especially angry if the guy was fat, as though he had no right to have his own preferences. It felt like I was being excluded from the delicious debauchery that all other teens knew. Why do these people invite me to punk shows, hang out with me, engage in meaningful conversations with me, and drink beer with me, but not want to have sex with me? I was so nice to them! Of course, I never took into account the perspectives of boys who did like me because I couldn't see that they did. Even today, I am notoriously terrible at noticing when people are flirting with me or "interested" in me.
I was nice to these guys, always there for them when other girls abused or abandoned them. I was supportive, just like I was toward my other male friends to whom I wasn't attracted, but nonetheless adored. I would make them laugh, do nice things for them, and support them during times when some “bitch” broke their heart. Ironically, a lot of the boys I liked had the Nice Guy mentality, but couldn't appreciate that the lady of their dreams was right there, standing right next to them. I used to scoff at how guys only wanted skinny girls who only used them for money and attention.
“Why would they rather be abused than be with me, a person who shares their interests and supports them when that stupid bitch doesn't even care about them? Boys are so shallow! Ugh! They deserve all of the abuse that they get! I’m nice! Why won’t they date me?! I should just start being an anorexic, high-maintenance bitch. Then they’ll like me. That’s all it takes. They deserve to be used and abused.”
Sound familiar? It’s the same narrative that plays in the heads of Nice Guys like a broken, self-fulfilling record. It’s not as uncommon among women as you’d think. I cannot begin to count how many times that I’ve heard women rant about how a guy continues to blow them off and not pay them due attention after they give him their undivided attention and care. Not all of these girls were ugly, either; they ranged from conventionally attractive to grotesque. C’mon, have you ever seen Taylor Swift? She practically embodies the female beauty ideal that American culture glorifies, yet her songs project a girl languishing in the Friend Zone dungeon. Even the most conventionally attractive people—women included—with equally beautiful personalities experience dating woes. Shocking, I know, but we see it all the time. Everyone experiences rejection. Anyone who claims that they’ve never been rejected is abnormally lucky, profoundly delusional, or a professional bullshit artist.
Post-rejection, I would continue being a guy's friend, so long as he wasn't needlessly mean when he rejected me. Then again, I’m also a friendly person by nature. Hey, if you value someone’s friendship and realize that your opinion can seriously influence their psychological state, you’ll be kind about to them when you reject their advances. However, that desire to remain friends didn’t keep me from secretly simmering in resentment for not rewarding my loyalty and overall niceness with romantic reimbursement. I still hoped that these guys would come around. Sometimes, it wasn’t so secret, and understandably, that would make the guys uncomfortable because although they genuinely adored me as a friend, they just weren’t attracted to me.
I’d share my frustration with sympathetic ears, only to make their lives more complicated because many times most of our friends were mutual. Social tension ensued. No one was really sycophantic enough to ostracize my crushes, but I did make these guys pay social consequences for failing to find me attractive, even if the punishment was only my resentment. My friends would definitely slam them and go on about how he "was a jerk and has no idea what he's missing. You can do so much better." Not once was it anything like, "He's not attracted to you. Period." (We were all kids and my friends were just trying to make me feel better by saying the same things that people tell Nice Guys.) It is not right to punish someone for not wanting to be sexually or romantically intimate with you. It simply isn’t.
As the years passed by, genetics were kind to me and I became more attractive. I couldn't believe how many of the men I knew wanted to sleep with me. Yet it wasn't until my junior year of college that I fully grew the hell up and understood that attraction isn’t a voluntary decision. I accepted the truth that people do not necessarily desire someone more because they are nice and “there” for them, myself included. Until I realized that, I burdened myself with pointless anguish worse than the festering canker on my heart caused by serial rejection.
Inevitably, I would issue rejections of a similar nature and become well-versed in the art of (very nicely) rejecting people. An essential part of that art is still remaining friends without the kind of “benefits” that they hoped for. I'm only mean when I reject people if their behavior is seriously abrasive. Continually asking me out after I've repeatedly refused or even slightly badgering me to hook up with you is a guaranteed way to summon my inner-bitch. Of course, it took me a while to understand the truth behind the nagging feeling that I got whenever I was confronted such disrespectful behavior. Honestly, I'm pretty sure that I never "made" someone get with me. I meant it (and still mean it) every time I said, “I just want to be friends.”
Most of my friends are still men and nearly all of them are very attractive. I’m the first one to tell them so. However, my appreciation for their outer beauty isn’t enough to make me want to have sex with them. I’m not attracted to them, but I understand why other girls are. I still have many male friends who match my criteria for "hotness," but for whatever reason, I don't want to date or have sex with them. On many occasions, I truly wished that I would be attracted to men I admire, but I find that as I age the number of people who make me want to rip my clothes off dwindles. They're an unchosen few and there's not much anyone can do about it.
What bothers me so much about this Friend Zone nonsense is that the people who complain about it seldom consider that there are millions of heterosexual women whose male crushes don’t reciprocate their attraction. Mr. Crush might “love her like a sister” and genuinely enjoy her companionship. He probably recognizes her attractive qualities and knows she would make a terrific girlfriend. He may wish that he requited the attraction simply because he knows he's missing out by not being attracted to the female friend whose company he enjoys.
Nice Guys usually fail to recognize the real reasons why they don’t always have their feelings requited. Nice Guys make blanket statements like "love comes easily to all girls" and "women only care about money," ignoring the fact that most women also experience rejection. Nice Guys fail to recognize that not all women are attracted to the same attributes. They also focus solely on the girls whose appearance scores a "10" in their book. (Another important observation: Nice Guys don't understand that attractiveness can't really be quantified.) Does that mean unattractive women deserve to be in The Friend Zone because, well, that’s what they get for not winning the genetic lottery? It’ s a travesty for a woman to reject a guy for superficial reasons like height or money, but it’s perfectly fine to reject a girl because he finds her physically unattractive. When I was younger, I frequently debated with guys about which gender was more shallow. The boys usually said, “Well, at least we like girls for who they are and not what they have!”
I would explain that people have less control over their appearance than they do their finances. At the time, I believed in another cultural delusion that getting rich was just a matter of going to college and hard work. I was completely ignorant of other factors that determine one's income bracket, such as access to the resources and opportunities that allow someone to become wealthy in the first place.
“You can just go out, get a good job, and make money,” I’d say. “We can only change our bodies so much.”
I would openly insist that since men were so superficial and “willing” to get used by pretty girls, they deserved to have their hearts trampled. As far as I was concerned, heartbroken men got what they asked for. That was their punishment for being shallow.
Nice Guys tend to have ridiculously high standards or standards so low that they latch onto any female to play the “significant other” role in their lives, reducing them to a role that isn’t so significant. To them, their girlfriend is a direct reflection of their own worth that is already abysmal by virtue of it being dependent upon external factors alone. Desperation wreaks. Like vultures to a rotting carcass, desperation drives away stable people and attracts the selfish sorts who are more than happy to exploit someone's vulnerability. If Elliot Rodger did have a genuine preference for slender blond girls, that would be fine. But the likelihood of these girls finding Rodgers attractive enough to “give him a chance” was slim because of his shitty personality. When I was talking about Rodger with my dad, he noticed what I had noticed: “It’s not like he was a bad-looking guy or anything.”
My father is a great example of how guys don't have to be rich, ripped, or aggressive to have healthy love lives. My father has never been a fighter, nor has he ever had a reputation for being a jerk. He has always been secure with himself and never denied his emotions. Never rich and not exactly tall, he is a genuinely great person who has had lots of platonic female friends. From what I've heard, women have absolutely adored him at all stages of his life and still did when he met my mother in his early thirties. If rumors are truly, he almost always women interested in dating him. When I spoke with him a few hours ago, he specifically credited his platonic female friendships for his ability to relate to women. I’m pretty sure that if he were single now, he would have no trouble finding a date, just like when he was younger.
I constantly try to tell my male friends that emotionally mature women don’t like jerks, that arrogance is the most insidious impostor of confidence. The assumption that women like “jerks” comes from mistaking one woman for the other. So many of my guy friends claim that when they were younger, they would lust after popular girls from afar, girls who didn’t even know that they existed and had nothing in common with them. On many occasions, those guy friends have remarked that these girls had a confidence that physically changed their appearance. But arrogance is to confidence as Splenda is to sugar. Your body welcomes the latter while the former turns into formaldehyde when your body digests it. As we understand more of the world with age, we also learn how to tell the difference between confidence and arrogance.
I didn't start my long recovery from Nice Guy Syndrome until I met my steady partner during my freshman year of high school. Unlike many people, I never have to worry about him losing interest in me if I ever “let myself go” because he met me when I was at my most visually unappealing and still thought I was beautiful. And get this—he was (and still is) thin. When we walked the halls together, it was like I had a Ferrari that only fat girls could see. Having a boyfriend itself was a status symbol, and all of the sudden, many of the guys who weren’t previously attracted to me suddenly began to notice me, all because someone else did. Whenever I felt attractive thereon, I exuded radiant confidence that turned heads and broke necks.
Unless I’m donning some seriously thick rose-colored glasses, public displays of pretension and sociopathy usually turn me off. Confident people do not feel the need or desire to needlessly insult other people or put them down, nor does a person with a truly secure sense of self-worth let others determine their value. Confident people are crazy diamonds that shine on their own without needing to dull or emphasize the lackluster of another, and diamonds aren’t only a girl’s best friend. In this case, they are their own best friend.
No one owes anyone sex or love in exchange for niceness. Nice Guys, grow the hell up.
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