My name is Ozy, and I was a Nice Girl ™.
I had tangled, unbrushed hair that fell limply to my shoulders; my skin was a pizza crust of acne; my glasses were unflattering; I wore stained and torn clothes. I slouched and spoke in monosyllables. I’d spent the last fourteen years reading instead of learning to socialize, which meant that I was familiar with the complete works of Plato, but not with the fact that other people were not interested in the complete works of Plato. In middle school, I’d had my first major bout of depression, which meant that I was too busy not killing myself to have friends. In fact, I spent several days in middle school without saying a single word to anyone and once was invited to a sleepover by a girl who forgot that I was coming and went over to her friend’s house instead.
In short, as high school began, I was ugly, depressed, and about a decade behind on social skills. I outline this not to incur sympathy but simply to explain where I’m coming from. When I talk about creepy people and Nice Guys ™, I talk about myself.
High school began with rather more social success: I was forcibly befriended by a cheerful, outgoing girl who liked vampire novels and bad TV. I trailed along behind her like a shadow to sleepovers, parties, water polo. In exchange for tagging along during her entire social life, I gave her unswerving loyalty in the face of all the complicated friendship dramas of high school.
Although at that point I had figured out I was queer, I went to Catholic school; a friend’s sister, when told a girl had a crush on her, said that “lezzies are disgusting.” So the only option for sex (and I did want sex—I have always been very high sex-drive, and masturbating to slash fanfic was getting old) was for me to get A Boyfriend.
Every boy I knew was assessed for the crucial signs that he liked me. Asked to borrow a pencil? He liked me. Looked at me? He liked me. Said something to me about what we were studying in class? Ohmigod he so totally liked me!
Of course, once I had determined that a boy liked me (which generally involved him existing in my general direction), I then decided that I was going to get his affection. Of course, this didn’t involve actually talking to him or anything. Instead, I would stare at him longingly. I would drop my pencil to get him to pick it up. I would time when I changed out my books and ate lunch so I could see him. I would “happen” to sit next to him in class. If we were outside of school together, (for instance, for a play) I would put on makeup, do my hair and wear a short skirt, and then wait near him for him to initiate a conversation.
My friend mentioned above had a harem of gamers, most of whom wanted to date her but were too shy to say anything. I was in love with all of them at one time or another: I laughed at their recitations of South Park quotes and quietly watched them play Brawl for hours on end and—yes—listened to them talking about the girls who wouldn’t date them or wouldn’t give them any more than a kiss goodnight.
One time I planned to randomly kiss a boy (we’d exchanged about ten words at this time) and say “your move.” I’m cringing writing this. Thankfully, I chickened out, so I don’t have to wear a bag over my head for the rest of time.
And then there was the time I (as a former middle-school rebellious pagan) did a spell to make the guy I liked break up with his girlfriend and date me (I’d never actually spoken to him either).
All I wanted, I told myself, was a nice guy who liked me and showered regularly—it didn’t matter if he was smart or entertaining or attractive. And I would treat him like a king, far better than those other girls: I’d have sex with him whenever he wanted, I wouldn’t require all sorts of presents to keep dating him, I’d compliment him constantly.
Most of my Nice Girl ™-ness was innocuous, if probably rather disconcerting to the boys who were finding themselves stalked by a girl in badly applied eyeliner. I was creepy, but harmlessly so. However, whenever I read the more misogynistic ends of the pick-up artist or men’s rights community, I cringe. Because if I had found that gender-reversed when I was sixteen or so, it would have made sense to me. Of course boys like assholes, that’s why I can’t get laid! Of course American men are fat, entitled and worthless, that’s why they treat me so badly! There’s nothing more seductive than an explanation in which it’s all someone else’s fault.
Instead, because they claimed that all women could get laid whenever they wanted (and that clearly was not true), I had discounted their explanations pretty quickly and instead drifted through life being confused and vaguely resentful.
The takeaway here is that being a Nice Guy ™ is not a guy thing—it’s a people thing. Specifically, Nice Guy ™ is what happens when you get someone who is not sure how this whole “relationships” thing works exactly, who is petrified of rejection, and who doesn’t fully understand that people of the other primary gender are actually people and not some kind of complicated relationship-granting automation.
I think for a lot of people it’s a normal developmental stage on the path of figuring out how relationships work, and there’s nothing wrong with that (you get amnesty about any relationship mistakes you make before the age of 18). The problem is when some people of any gender get stuck there.
Note: I know I referred to myself as a girl all the way through this, but my pronoun is still zie. Thanks!