For the past few years now, I’ve had a sporadic conversation with a close friend (I’ll call her “Jenna”) about her admitted weakness for a certain type of guy. The problem, in her own words, is that she falls for Prince Charmings who end up transforming into toads.
Recently, we turned to the topic of “nice guys.” In particular, Jenna had met a guy who seemed like a total gentleman at first, but then managed to fire off several red flags by the end of the night….
They met at a party for their kids, and almost immediately, the guy started lamenting the death of chivalry in this world. He pointed out how men are so crude nowadays, and he proudly proclaimed that he would teach his son how to treat women right.
Later in the evening, the guy offered his jacket to Jenna when she looked chilly. She said she was fine, but he insisted on draping his jacket over her.
Still later, the guy asked Jenna if she wanted a fruit cup. She declined, but he got her one, anyway. And when Jenna’s daughter came up and ate all the strawberries from her cup, he went back, grabbed another cup, and even piled on extra strawberries from neighboring cups just for good measure.
Jenna could only mutter to herself, “I didn’t even want a fruit cup in the first place….”
Sufficiently weirded out by this point, Jenna spent the rest of the party dodging the guy’s glances, and she managed to escape with no further offerings of fruit or shelter from him.
When Jenna and I chatted a few days later, she voiced her bewilderment. On the surface, he was courteous and generous almost to a fault. So why were his actions such a turn-off? Why did every instinct in her gut tell her to walk away?
Ultimately, we decided it was because there was something fake about this guy. Even though he acted nice, his behavior set off an endless stream of bullshit alarms. And it all stemmed from the fact that he kept calling attention to his niceness.
So why was that a red flag?
Because first off, being nice isn’t anything to brag about. Niceness is the minimum requirement for human decency. It’s the C– grade on the report card of life. Bragging that you’re nice is like bragging that you cover your mouth when you sneeze, or that you hold in your farts when you’re in public and indoors. None of these are achievements that deserve accolades in any way. In fact, a guy who brags about being nice only makes people wonder if he has so little to be proud of that being nice is all he has to brag about.
If you’re a nice guy? Congrats, dude. You pass as a minimally acceptable human being. Now, go do something interesting with your life, man. Be creative. Be athletic. Be funny and exciting. Be worldly and educated. Sure, be nice. But don’t just be nice.
Still, this wasn’t the only reason Jenna was suspicious. When a guy goes out of his way to prove how he’s not like “other men,” he’s what we call a white knight.
Genuine nice guys treat everyone with kindness. It’s just in their nature. White knights, on the other hand, focus their niceness on women. They believe it is their duty to “take care” of women. They believe that women need to be treated delicately and saved from all the bad boys of the world. They see themselves as the shining lighthouse in an ocean of douchebags.
In the case of the guy Jenna met, when he twice offered her something she didn’t even want, that wasn’t him actually helping her. That was him desperately trying to prove that he could provide for her in ways she couldn’t for herself. (Because clearly, she would either have frozen to death or died of scurvy if it were not for his valiant efforts.)
Fortunately, Jenna sniffed out the BS early enough this time. But what about all the other fake nice guys lurking out there? How do you spot the ones who are only being nice to impress you?
For that, Jenna offers up these red flags, based on her own experiences:
- He claims that nice guys never get the girl. Of course, if you rebuff him, he uses that as a case in point. Pouting ensues.
- Whenever he does something nice, he has to tell someone about it afterwards. Probably you.
- He treats his niceness as a commodity, to be bartered with when he wants something.
- He doesn’t hesitate to step on someone else in the process of being nice to you. For example, he sees that you’ve been waiting to order, so he rudely calls the server over.
- He is adamant in his meaningless acts of chivalry. For example, he refuses to let you open any door for yourself, ever. Even if it means making you wait in the car while he gets out and scrambles around to open it for you.
- No one else thinks he’s a nice guy, unless it’s in the “I can’t think of anything nice to say, so I’ll just say that he’s nice” kind of way.
If you’re dating a self-professed nice guy, and you catch him doing any of these? Be skeptical, because he’s probably not as nice as you – or he himself – may believe. At some point, the nice guy facade will fade, and you might realize that he’s actually kind of sexist, kind of an asshole, or just an outright sexist asshole.
As for Jenna, she’s vowed that from now on, instead of falling for the guys who charm her by treating her well, she’ll be going for the guys who treat everyone well.
Because that’s the ultimate test of a genuine nice guy.