One for the Nice Guys
I wondered, for quite a while, how to approach today’s post – do I do just this short section, take it part by part, or do I just skip over it and get to his list of “How to Lead a Woman Through a Great Love Story”? (Barf). Going through piecemeal seems to be the only reasonable way of breaking down precisely why this section is so …smarmy? Craptastic? Sexist? Reads so much of Nice Guy™? But it might also be, as many of you complained, “too nitpicky.”
As the entire point of the blog series is to break down why so many women reacted to his blogs with an icky feeling, to put into words precisely what was so wrong about not only the ideas he expressed, but the way he expressed them,* I have no problem with being too nitpicky, especially at this particular part.
So let’s go.
Women do like bad guys for a period of time. Usually, this lasts between the ages of 18 to about 24. The reason is simple. Their bodies are looking for somebody who is strong enough to defend their offspring, and they mistake strength for, well, the general characteristics of a jerk.
My first reaction when I read this – and I was talking to a friend at the time, so she can vouch for me – was to burst out laughing. Basically, Miller is talking to the Nice Guys in the crowd, the guys sitting in the friend zone wondering why the girl they’re hopelessly in love with keeps dating jerks – never mind the fact that he likes her is probably going to cloud his view of every single guy she interacts with. And he is massaging their egos – he’s saying, “It’s okay that she’s dating jerks because when she ‘matures’ and finally realizes what a dumb person she’s been, you’ll be right there with open arms!”
Never mind the fact that, in the American church, the average age of marriage is right in the early 20s, right during that time when all women are supposedly looking for Bad Boys. Never mind the fact that, scientifically, women actually mature faster than men, which is a part of why women frequently marry a partner who is older than them. Never mind the fact that the evolutionary psychology of “women are looking for strength” is complete and total bunk (studies have proven that there’s not really an evolutionary link between sex drive and behavior differences between the sexes, not even in the types of partners they look for). Put simply: This whole opening is hot air.
What this thesis is, however, is a remarkably subtle way to shift the blame for a lack of a relationship onto the woman. Woman doesn’t want to date her nice, awesome best friend? "She’s just in her Bad Boy stage. She’ll grow out of it in a few years and then start dating Nice Guys like me!" Woman appears to be going out with jerks? "I don’t understand what she sees in him! Must be some sort of evolutionary thing that makes her like jerks – ignore the fact that I refuse to be supportive of her happiness and would rather just get mine."
Maybe, maybe, young men complaining about the women around them dating jerks, maaaaaybe she’s just not that into you.
Don’t believe that Miller has come down with a beautiful textbook case of Nice Guy Syndrome?
But, as she gets a little older, a woman’s chemistry begins to change and she enters into a more mature understanding of strength. As a woman matures, she literally loses interest in the bad guys and looks for somebody more dependable. She loses interest in guys who can’t be faithful [editor’s note: there’s no explanation for this particular characteristic and its link to the next one, so don’t look for one] and, well, can’t seem to stop smoking pot. After that, women become interested in stable, well adjusted men headed somewhere that involves safety, security and emotional stability. That’s where you come in because the real love stories, the ones that don’t end with her bailing her loser boyfriend out of jail, or worse, catching him with another woman, happen when two healthy people finally find each other. If you’re reading this and you’re young, you might have to put up with a few years of girls chasing guys with tattoos on motorcycles [editor’s note: I know several women who are quite happily MARRIED to tattooed guys with motorcycles], but don’t worry about that. You start down a solid career path and girls will be knocking down your door in a few years. I promise. [emphasis mine]
I’ve been referring to the term Nice Guy™ throughout this blog post, but in case you’re too lazy to read the linked article, I’ll quote:
What happens is, boy likes girl. Girl does not like boy, for whatever reason. Girl chooses other boy who turns out to be, in Nice Guy’s opinion, a jerk. Nice Guy then says any of these things [editor’s note: the article breaks each down further, but I’ll just put the headings here. Numbers added for definition]. 1. She has ‘issues.’ That’s why she chose him. 2. Any girl who goes for jerks is not worth your time. Move onto someone worth it. 3. But I offered you advice on boys! I let you cry on my shoulder at every break up! I loaned you my pencil in Math class! I was nice to you! We were friends! 4. But I asked you out five times and you said no each time! See, clearly you’re the jerk! 5. Ah, it’s no big deal. She’s a whore anyway. I’m better off without her. 6. Well, I have to have some standards.
Miller’s explanation of Girls Dating Bad Boys here smacks of numbers one and six, and a tiny tiny bit of five – “she’s immature anyway” would probably be how he would say it. See, the thing is, from the Nice Guy’s perspective, these are perfectly legitimate reactions. The problem is, though, they place the blame for a lack of relationship solely on the woman – She’s just not mature enough for me yet. She’s just in her Bad Boy phase. When she comes out of it, I’ll be waiting with arms wide open, comforting her, and then she’ll realize what she’s been missing all along and I will be in like Flynn again (two lyrical references there – points to anyone who gets them in the comments).
See, for the Nice Guy, there’s nothing wrong with him. It’s all on the woman. He’s got to wait for her to mature, not ever realizing that the truly mature thing might just be to tell the girl you like her and accept the rejection if it happens, rather than sitting about and complaining that all the girls you like are dating jerks and you’ve got a good career and a stable house and where are all my good in the bed but not sexually experienced lovers who will be willing to follow me as I go on in my career and quit their jobs to have children. Gosh, all women are just bitches these days!
The Nice Guy isn’t really all that nice, and Don Miller here affirms the Nice Guy’s feelings, pats him on the back, and says, there there, it’s just SCIENCE. You wait a couple of years, and you’ll be the one every girl wants!
Alright, let’s close this up.
Most people think love stories only benefit women. But don’t be fooled. There’s a lot in this for you. A man can have sex with a thousand women and he’ll never feel as masculine as he will leading a woman through a good love story. God designed it so a man felt his most powerful while guiding a woman through an amazing love story. Love stories, though, are told through sacrifice, patience, and pain. It may take you five years or more to get your act together, but when you do, every woman around you will recognize a potential leading man in the love story they are dreaming about.
I’m prettttty sure, judging from the positive reaction to yesterday’s post, that most people actually think love stories benefit both people. But that is an interesting, if false, premise.
Notice, first, that this the first example of Miller’s double standard. There’s no shaming language surrounding the “have sex with a thousand women” – indeed, that line passes without any judgment or shame in his tone. We'll get that in further blog entries, but the natural tone with which that's stated bothers me and deserved highlighting.
Second, notice that what is important for men is that they feel powerful. Not that they are able to connect on as many levels as possible with another human being, not that they reflect the community of God in their actions of marriage (there’s a reason marriage is a metaphor throughout the Bible), and not because a love story forces someone to have an outward focus on his or her life in considering adding another person to the life story. No, a love story is beneficial to a man because it makes him feel masculine and powerful.
I’m pretty sure the model of great love we find in the Bible is that of a man who refused power, who allowed himself to become powerless, who ignored himself in sacrifice to others. And he did it because he loved, not because it made him feel powerful. When we’re selling a love story for its benefits of how it makes us feel, we’re selling the wrong story. Love is a benefit in of itself – love is great because it focuses us, truly and wholly, outward, onto another human being. It is one of the greatest expressions of community that one can find.
If you’re looking forward to leading a woman through a great love story because that’s where you’ll feel most masculine and powerful, then you’re going to have a really rude wake up call.
*To address complaints: the way he expressed his ideas is the only thing he has semi-apologized for. Read that apology again, people: “I feared a backlash. Not a personal backlash, mind you, but a backlash against the actual ideas the blog presented. That is, I feared many would say ‘who are you to tell me how to live or how to love, I’m going to do anything I want.’ … I’m not interested, then, in driving people away from a good love story simply because I used language and presented ideas they found offensive. … I’ll be checking with my harshest critics before doing so to make sure I’m not offending more people than I honestly care to offend, and that the article brings more light than heat to the topic. … If anything I said personally offended you, will you accept my deepest and most sincere apology? … Any shame that was conveyed, I assure you, was unintentional and that sort of rhetoric has never worked to make me a better or more pure man and I’ve no interest in using it as a tool.” (emphasis mine)
The only part of that which reads as vaguely apologetic is the last sentence, which still reads to me as “I’m sorry you were offended by what I said,” not, “I’m sorry I said what I said.” In other words, I meant what I said; I was just surprised people took it that way.