“Nice Guy” is an ironic term.
I’ve hinted a few times at the time I spent waist-deep in the Nice Guy concept, unable to understand why that position never got me what I wanted. It was not until long after I escaped that hole that I recognized how deep it was.
They tell you to be assertive. But being assertive hurts. To be the kind of assertive they’re telling you to be, you have to know how to face down rejection and failure, to look yourself in the mirror and say, “You didn’t impress them, but that’s not because you aren’t impressive.” But you can’t do that. You don’t have it in you to separate the two, to want something without needing it, to seek a complement and not completion. You’ve been impressive your whole life, but you’ve never had that impressiveness challenged, never had to even think particularly hard about how you might let someone know that you’re a catch.
But then you did, and you failed. Maybe you tried again, trained from day one to imagine that once you succeeded, you’d never have to try again. But by then, the damage was already done. You were strange, you were self-assured, and you were utterly baffled that these facts didn’t lead you through the “demonstrate competence àreceive reward” flowchart that had dominated your every deed up to this point. The rules in this phase of your life would be different, and you’ve never been more terrified, anguished, and angry then when you are trapped inside rules you don’t know or understand.
A fecund miasma of fear would tighten your muscles and put your heart in your throat whenever you were close to them, rigid and helpless. It seemed foolish to try again. Why would you bother? It caused you nothing but self-doubt and sadness every previous time. You’d only get angry at yourself for even imagining that that wound would ever be healed.
But the desire would never leave you. This terror was bound up in longing and in loneliness and most of all in lust, and you couldn’t flee from it forever. It would be your shadow, a darkening in the air every time the objects of your desire came near. It would seep into your every friendship, coloring them all a desperate gray. And if any of those friends also held sexual appeal, it would sink its pervasive coils into every aspect of your dealings with them. Where the wolf failed you, you assumed the cat. You gave up the chase, and began the hunt.
Thus did you become the “gay friend,” the confidante, the emotional support in trying times. Thus did you unsex yourself even as you imagined you were slowly earning the favor you would need to realize your sexuality and end your isolation. You lingered and you lusted, and what they saw as a devoted and valued friendship, you increasingly resented as a stepping stone toward your real goal. Perhaps they grew comfortable enough around you, convinced enough of your de facto sexlessness, that you saw them unclothed.
And if they were ever vulnerable or lonely, it was more than you could bear to keep up the pretense. Your advance, presaged for months or years, fantasized with fervent intensity until it took on mythic significance in your mind, was rebuffed. That’s when the next aspect of the Nice Guy fell neatly into place. For you had done all that was needed! You more than proved your bona fides; where was your reward?
It wouldn’t matter who the next suitor was—they would seem to you a caricature, a boor, grosero, lout, thug, abuser, waste of air, intruder and squatter into that which was rightfully yours. For you put in that effort. You spent hours on the phone, wrote pages of Email, held them as they napped on you at lunch. For anyone else to be let into their heart would be a criminal betrayal.
Be assertive, they tell you.
You earned that, you tell yourself.
Go through that enough times, and the fantasy doesn’t become receiving what’s “yours,” but taking it. Desire for closeness becomes desire for control. Eons of unfulfilled lust brush up against the notion that what you want already belongs to you, and the endless buzzing desire taking over your thoughts would go away if you would only…take it.
You spent your whole life fighting the idea that people should be afraid of you, and then you became the object of their well-founded fear.
For whom will the watchers believe? The girl who says her best friend groped and raped her, or the guy who says she led him on for years?
You see yourself as Theseus, but you become the Minotaur.