Breaking the nice
Q: Can you help a nice guy become a bad boy? Being nice is a curse, and not just with women. I do volunteer work, and always hear stuff like, "You’re the only one we can trust, so stay and guard the door while we’re at a party with people we don’t trust. Clean up for us, too, because we won’t want to when we return tired and drunk." I know a cooperative spirit can be mistaken for weakness, but I feel like Cinderfella. Still, I don’t want to stop being the guy my ex called "the brick" (because I’m always propping somebody or something up). I just want people to think I’m bad so they won’t try to get away with so much. When I’ve tried acting like a bad boy, I’m told I come off angry or antisocial. Maybe I should start smoking or get a motorcycle...maybe a tattoo? —55 Years Of Too Nice
A: Sure, all you need to change everybody’s opinion of you is a smoking habit and big scary tattoo — and since you’re always mopping up after people, perhaps a skull crossed with a couple of Swiffers? You call yourself a nice guy, but you’re really a "nice guy," an approval-seeking, conflict-avoiding suckup. In "No More Mr. Nice Guy," Dr. Robert Glover clarifies the difference. The "nice guy" might seem generous, but he actually isn’t; he gives to get. He thinks he just has to hide how flawed he is and become what others want him to be, and he’ll be loved, get his needs met, and have a problem-free life. This is unlikely to happen, as he’s passive-aggressive, chronically dishonest, and brimming with "toxic shame." Thanks to a lifetime repressing his feelings and denying his needs, he’s filled with rage, especially at women. Women, on the other hand, do love this guy — to wash and wax their cars while they’re on dates with guys they are sleeping with. And whaddya know, all it takes is calling him "the brick" instead of "a tool." Yes, the bad boy does have allure. He’s masculinity on steroids: arrogantly confident, aggressive in bed and out, unpredictable and untamed. He’s fast cars, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. And he’s sometimes in jail for using the latter to hold up the 7-Eleven. Many women are drawn to him, but those who have it the least bit together hold out for a guy they can get conjugal with without first being cavity-searched by the guards.
You’re right to want to change, but the answer isn’t trading in your wallet for one you chain to your pants and slouching in a doorway with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth. People will warm to the real you or they won’t, but they’re unlikely to be fooled by the fake you, "nice" or "bad." After 55 years of people-pleasing, don’t be surprised if you need to mount an archeological dig to figure out who you really are — what you like, want, need, and actually care about (even stuff that seems not so nice to care about). After you do, work on accepting yourself, faults included.
Glover’s book should help. Finally, be who you are, and have the guts and the selfrespect to expect a thing or two from people — beyond what time they’ll return from the party so you can stop staring at the door.
Q: I'm supposedly jealous and insecure because I don't want to hear about my girlfriend's former lovers. I'll discuss issues that carry over, but detailing past sexual experiences "to know each other better," as she puts it, seems unnecessary and ill-advised. When, against my better judgment, we shared our number of sex partners, I had far more, which disturbed her. She initially lied about her number, upping it after hearing mine.
--Insecure Or Discreet?
A:The truth is everything to her, and oh, she's sorry...about that number she gave you...multiply that by three, carry the two (the Vegas guys she forgot about), and do you have a graphing calculator she can borrow? She's actually revealed more about herself by redoing her math after hearing your count than she would've by giving you the specifics on Sex Partner #12. And yes, insecurity probably is at root here -- hers, not yours. It isn't a character flaw to want to experience a person firsthand, uninterrupted by a loop of mental images of their sex with their exes. It's perfectly okay to say, "I'm not gonna talk about it and I'm not gonna talk about not talking about it." She needs to respect that, and get to know who you are instead of who you did last summer. That's her business only if there's some ongoing issue -- the kind you send off on a swab so lab technicians can see if there's anything doing the backstroke on a slide.
© 2009 Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.
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