I’ve been married for a long time. A LONG time. Since the 90s, in fact. The mid 90s. Back when the internet was new and only so many people were nerdy and/or adept enough to even be on it. You had to know a little UNIX and understand modems. Oh, it was ugly.
But one thing that hasn’t seemed to change are the Nice Guys.
At the time, and for a long while after, I kind of thought it was just this nerdy guy 90s thing: the Nice Guy. We didn’t really have a name for it. Back then I camped out–sometimes as a woman, sometimes as a man if I was getting bombarded with a/s/l questions. Frankly, I thought any guy who didn’t start a convo with ASL was pretty damn nice. I was new to the world and pretty naive.
And look, we all have girl friends who date the bad boys, who repeatedly go back to the jackass you can’t stand who belittles her and whatever other fuckery. It’s not like women always appear to have the best self-preservation skills when it comes to relationships. So, you know, I could see where guys were coming from saying women always choose the jerks. “But me, I’m a nice guy. I’d treat a woman well.”
And I, youthful idiot that I was, bought it.
This isn’t to say I didn’t have a world of awesome guy friends. Or guys I went out with. But at a certain point, I felt comfortable at my awesome job at an ad agency in Houston. It was on the night shift running production at the Williams Tower, which was locked down like Fort Knox because the building was shared by big oil interests. It was attached by a system of hallways to The Galleria, a premier shopping mall that boasted a year-round indoor ice skating rink.
I lived in a gated apartment complex. Ooh la la. Okay, most of the apartment complexes in Houston are gated, so it wasn’t THAT fancy, but it made me feel secure as a single woman living alone.
I had great friends. I was happy, but I wanted romance. I wanted someone to share this awesome life I’d built. It had been a good nine months since my previous relationship, which had been disastrous on so many levels. A musician. He kinda killed my cat on accident. It was… all of those nightmares you read about. I knew better than that now. I was going to date a nice guy.
I was on the night shift, but like I said, we were attached to the Galleria, and while weeknights might be sort of limited unless the date could start at 11 when I was officially off work, I could easily arrange a quick dinner at one of the many restaurants in the mall. You know, just to see if we sparked.
I met a man online–I think through a really primitive dating site–and… well… now there are whole Nice Guys of OK Cupid sites dedicated to dudes like him, but at the time I just thought, “This guy is hurting. No one will go out with him and he’s bitter. That’s okay. I’ll go out with him. I’m sure he’s nice underneath all of this defensiveness.”
What can I say? I was young. It’s such a classic idiot romance novel move, but you know, I write this stuff now, so it’s my impulse. One I’ve since learned to tell to take several seats. But I arranged to meet him at a restaurant at The Galleria. Immediately he starts questioning why I want to meet in such a public place.
Well, ‘cause I’ve never met you in person. You could be a psycho, haha.
I’M NOT A PSYCHO, HOW DARE YOU! rant rant rant rant
Deep breath. Okay, well even so, if you want to meet me, that’s my terms. I’d like to meet you; we both love Sisters of Mercy. Maybe at the very least we can be friends.
FRIENDS??! rant rant rant rant rant
The day I arranged is here, and this dude is just like… crazy. I’m starting to freak out. One of my male coworkers asks about it. I talk to him about the emails, and he asks if I’d like him to go with me.
Okay, so that’s super awkward, but I figure if the guy chills out, my friend can bounce back to work, no big.
The guy is not chill. The dude is crazy–like raising the hair on your arms crazy. He’s not just ranting in emails. He’s ranting under his breath, to himself, smiling when you ask what he said and says, “NOTHING!”
He sulks. He rants. He slams his hands on the table for emphasis.
Me and my coworker, we start holding hands. Not snuggling. Not romantic. We’re huddling together like two people about to meet their maker. We’re sitting at a La Madeleine and people are staring. They’re getting up and moving because this guy is like radioactive about to explode.
This is a nice guy?
For me, at a certain point when I am stressed, a preternatural calm takes over and it can be… kinda scary. When I’ve had enough and I’m quiet, when I think I’m about to meet my maker and frankly, I’ve got nothing to lose?
I got up. I told him never to talk to me again.
He muttered that he never had a chance, that I clearly had a boyfriend and blah blah blah, and let me tell you, I know there are people who will say that bringing another guy was inciting, but you know what? You’ve gotta tamp down on your crazy enough that someone is willing to be alone in public with you before you complain a girl won’t look at you twice. Because girls are looking at you, looking hard. And seeing a Wanted poster in your future. Get it together.
Now, you’d think I’d lick my wounds with that experiment and decide that maybe some of these Nice Guys are alone for a good fucking reason, but alas. No. I was pretty determined that there were some diamonds in the rough who just needed a woman and then they’d feel better about themselves and the world. Because look, that Elliot Rodgers dude? That’s what he was basically saying. If he got approval from a woman he was into, then he wouldn’t be psycho.
That’s not how it works. I think we all wish it would, but it doesn’t.
So I meet another guy. He’s not quite as bitter or angry. He’s sad. He’s sad because he works as a DJ at a strip club and women won’t date him because they’re insecure.
We all have girl friends who have a shit fit over their boyfriends watching porn. Porn of women who don’t look like them or whatever. Maybe it’s a little irrational to think that one person is all you need to look at in this world. And look, if the DJ wanted to date a stripper and not another woman, he wouldn’t be looking. I thought, “You know, I’m not a super raging jealous type. He sounds nice. Our hours are similar. Let’s try this out.”
I made a mistake. A big mistake. One that I absolutely never made again.
I let him know where I live.
Now, I lived in a gated community with an actual guard. So it wasn’t like you just give someone the code and they can get in and out forever. I had to give the guard his name, tell him specifically when the dude was coming by, and that would be the time he was allowed in.
(Okay, maybe it was a little snooty.)
It was a really casual thing. After work for the both of us, later because he didn’t get off work until 2, we went to WalMart or something, bought shelves and just chatted. He talked about his poetry, and while I wasn’t really feeling a spark, he seemed nice and like we could be friends. Maybe more once we got to know each other.
I mean, I’ll be honest, it didn’t feel like a spark on either side. He didn’t seem that interested. It was all a very casual thing where two people meet, it’s not that on, maybe we’ll hang out again, get coffee.
A couple of days later, he shows up at the apartment. No email. No call. I didn’t tell the security guard that he was coming, but he talked the guy into letting him through.
I’m not really a huge fan of people dropping by. If I know someone’s coming I can neaten up, dress nicer, not have removed my make up. Even if it’s a casual friend, I like to have my hairs did and all of that. I’ll put on my fancy caftan if we’re close and I’m feeling sloppy.
Nowadays, I just won’t answer the door if I’m not expecting anyone. This is why.
I opened the door. I was not pleased to see him. I asked how he got through security. I asked why he didn’t call first. My objections to him just showing up made him noticeably irritated. He started to fidget and grow aggressive. He shouted.
I asked him to leave, and he refused. When I would not let him in, he pushed on the door and moved bodily through.
I had been raped before. It was a good friend, someone I trusted. At the time, I was so caught up in confusion and upset that I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t fight.
This time, I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. He followed but then saw I had the knife, and he had the audacity to look surprised. After shouting at me that I was a bitch and forcing his way into my home, he was surprised I would brandish a weapon.
I led him out a knife point and told him to never fucking call me again. I made clear to the security guard to not let anyone on my behalf without strict instructions.
That was my last Nice Guy.
I know we kind of laugh and joke about these guys, and it’s such a shared experience among women, we all kind of know the malice at the root of it. Maybe the DJ just wanted me to calm down and talk things out, but you cross the threshold into my home, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a home invasion. If I were a man, no one would question my boundaries or defending my castle.
That’s the root of what makes the whole thing so frightening to women, where the gender role imbalance goes from something ephemeral to something lethal. It’s in those moments where Nice Guys kill Nice Girls and that’s why we’re afraid.