Platonic Road Trips and the Nice Guy Paradox

It occurred to me lately that I’ve been on an unusually large number of duo road trips alone with platonic female friends.  Normally this doesn’t have to be a problem, but it started becoming one when I realized that every single stranger we encounter assumes we’re in the midst of a shitty, loveless relationship.

It began when we were at the Grand Canyon and asked a stranger to take our picture.  Of course, we stood the obligatory two feet apart and looked coldly indifferent towards each other as we smiled at the camera.  The camerawoman lowered the camera.

“Uh… are you two dating?”
“Us?  Oh, no!  Not at all.”  “Ha ha, no.  God no.”
“Oh… okay…”

What a blasphemous suggestion!

But the seed was planted in my brain, and suddenly I felt the oppressive eyes of judgement from everyone we would encounter from that point forth…

What a terrible boyfriend!  He won’t even pay for her ice cream.
Look, they’re not even holding hands.  How much longer do they have?  A week?  Two?
Split checks?  What’s this world coming to?  When did chivalry die?
She should dump his ass and find herself the prince she deserves!  Poor thing.

And so on and so forth.

Of course I should just let the public think what they may and carry on with my own business, right?  Why should their assumptions matter to me?

That’s easier said than done.  It becomes evermore awkward when you get a motel together.

“One room, two adults.”
“Would that be one bed or two?”
“Two!  Two.  Definitely two.”
“I see…”

And then of course there’s the situation of us meeting up with my friend at a bar.

Friend“Hey, Quack, she’s definitely a cutie.  Good job, buddy.  Nice find.”
Me“Uh… well… we’re not together.”
Friend“Right, sure.  You want me to help you out with that?”
Me“No, I mean… we’re really not together.  We’re just friends.”
Friend“Whatever you say, bud.  Anyway, I brought three hot single ladies on the prowl to set you up with tonight, but I guess you won’t be needing my help.”

Meanwhile…

Lady 1“How long have you known Quack?”
Girl“Uh… five years?”
Lady 2, 3“Awww!  How cute!”
Girl“If you say so.”

But what get especially aggravating are the pseudo-romantic situations we encounter that, with anybody else outside of a pre-established mutual friend zone, would be so endearingly special (if I may say so myself).  For instance: when I built a snowman on the hood of the car during a rest stop in a blizzard as my definitely-platonic lady friend watched from within the blanketed warmth of the vehicle.

…Of course, for any healthy platonic relationship, the Sum of Net Romance (SNR) must equal zero, so off I drove, letting the snowman smash to the ground – “Ha ha!  Die you bastard!  Die!”  And all was right with the world.

And then there’s the wordless stroll together, alone in the desolate beauty of Manzanar – the snowcapped Sierra escarpment at our sides, the wind blowing gently against us…

“…Tee hee.  I farted.  …oops.”  You know, just to let her know I’m not getting any ideas.

SNR -> 0

Farts are especially appropriate while paying respects to the suffering of Japanese Americans during World War II.

I love my platonic female friends (you know, in a bro-love kind of way), but really – why can’t I share these experiences with someone with which romantic tension can burst forth into something lasting and beautiful rather than having to keep whatever fiery embers there aren’t drenched in the wet, lifeless sludge of reality?  Why does the opportunity to share such lovely, memorable experiences always seem to realize itself under the requisite of being such platonic, memorable experiences?

I’d like to think of myself as a nice guy, but as time goes on, I get less and less sure of what that means.  What is a nice guy?  Is he a guy that’s sensitive to your feelings?  Is he a guy that listens?  Is he a guy that buys you nice things and thinks of schmaltzy Valentine’s Day excursions?

A lot of guys blame their ineptitude with women on being too nice and claim that women always find assholes more appealing.  But how can these guys claim they’re nice when they just want what everyone else does (i.e. sexytime)?  Is it because they selflessly slave away for their unrequited beloved?  Is it because their clumsy advances make them seem innocent?  Idol-worship out of lonely desperation isn’t being nice, it’s being a lunatic (a lunacy in which I have taken part myself).

Sometimes I feel like being a “nice guy” and being successful with women are mutually exclusive.  There’s something innately predatory about the dating scene, and it seems like the older I get, the faster the dating process must be, and therefore the more meticulously calculated the predator must be in arranging his house of cards of romantic ideals in the face of an impatient woman whose biological clock is ticking faster and faster.  Nice guys are nice because they are passive and oblivious, not because they are nice.  Jackasses are jackasses because they know how to use the system to their advantage.  I can’t blame them.  I would too if I knew how.

But I don’t know how, and that’s why I’m a nice guy: because I’m clueless, and oblivion is often mistaken for innocence.  The moment I figure out what I’m doing, I will no longer be a nice guy.  That is, unless I don’t apply my knowledge and remain benevolently lonely until some pushy alpha woman comes along and decides she wants me to father her children, coercing me into a reluctant relationship I’d be too afraid to end.

Perhaps being an asshole isn’t a bad thing after all.  At least they’re true to themselves and their desires.  Perhaps the world would be a better place if we were all more in tune with our assholish selves.

About Jeffrey Hayman

Not actually a real doctor. Just another bonehead with an internet connection. I also really like ducks. Like... REALLY like ducks. It's kind of unhealthy.
This entry was posted in Autobiography, Editorial and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Platonic Road Trips and the Nice Guy Paradox

  1. Great post! Love the thought put into it.

  2. Vicky G says:

    omg! I sense your frustration. I would think, however, that some platonic females would not be opposed to sharing romance, but they may be waiting for you to make some indication of intent first. Good luck!

  3. yeahnup says:

    I second Vicky G. I think some platonic females wouldn’t be opposed to a little (or a lot) more, but you gotta make the move!

    I hate that “nice guys finish last” thing. Sometimes nice guys finish last because the girl is oblivious that the nice guy thinks of her that way, or because he’s not ballsy enough to just step up to the plate. Step up to the plate – being cowardly or dishonest about your feelings are not the same as being “nice”.

    You seem like a really great guy, or at least a thoughtful, considerate one. Lots of us girls looking for that very thing.

  4. larissa says:

    Noooo. Dear favorite blogger, please don’t come to that conclusion. As usual, I have so many thoughts on this topic that I feel it’s difficult to form sentences–but out of the mush, the thoughts that rise to the top are, “Noooo, nice guys are great” and secondly, “Wait, but what is a nice guy, really?” and thirdly, “Maybe girls don’t really like nice guys?” and fourthly, “Are platonic friends ever really, truly platonic?” and fifthly, “Is everyone in the world as naive as I am?” and sixthly, “Maybe the world would be a much better place if they were.”

    First of all, I genuinely, truly love nice guys. And not just as friends. Maybe I liked assholes when I was 15–that is definitely true–but I have moved past that type as I’ve grown older (and I’m not that old). The guy who is too aggressive and pushes too much immediately wins my indifference instead of my affection, and the friend who treats me with kindness wins my love and respect. I guess, by the way, this is what my definition of a nice guy is: a kind person. Not someone who is passive and too afraid to offend someone out of possibly equally egotistical motivations, but someone who is considerate, kind, and treats others with respect. This is so rare that when I meet kind friends (of either sex), I really hold onto them. I read somewhere once that love is perfect kindness, and in my heart, I believe that. I think it’s a Buddhist saying or something.

    However, as you mentioned in your post, there can be more than one definition to “the nice guy.” It can be someone who is truly kind–on the other hand, it can also be someone who is too…blah, to assert their desires. I don’t think these have to be in opposition, however. I think maybe this is where you may be encountering some sort of self-doubt (if I may be so bold to say so to a person I don’t really know!) I think a nice guy can still be nice and yet assert his desires, demands, and wishes. I’m not a nice guy–I’m a nice girl–but I did self-diagnose myself with the problem of “being too nice” a few years ago. (I looked it up on Webmd, and of course it said that if untreated, it would lead to immediate death). Then I realized that I simply felt frustrated because I wasn’t asserting myself and was compromising myself to people who were more assertive than me. It’s definitely possible to be firm and kind, and that’s what I aim for, although it’s not always an easy balance. So, back to my question, “Do girls like nice guys?” I think most normal girls do; just not guys who compromise their own needs/desires (this sounds more sexual than I meant it to, sorry).

    I do think that Vicky G is right. You could give a little push, if you wanted to, and still be a nice guy….and possibly not be platonic farting dude (hahaha sorry, so funny!) I have a hard time imagining that a lady friend would turn you down. I have never found it in my capacity to turn down a guy I am friends with once it has become romantic because at that point in time, because the line between affectionate friendship and love is extremely thin, in my experience. It can turn from, “I love you as a friend” to just that same sentence without “as a friend” at the end in mere…days.

    Which kind of brings me to my next point: I like to think this is true, and I greatly respect and admire everyone’s efforts to maintain platonic relationships, but I just am not sure it’s possible. It’s so wonderful in theory, but every time I become platonic friends with someone, it always seems like an effort to keep up the facade, because at some level, there is always some kind of interest (on one side if not on both). I go into it thinking, “Wooh, cool, new friend!” and then, as I said, affection quickly becomes other things. There does always seem to be some sort of tension. It sounds as if you make an effort to erase that tension, so it sounds like it’s there anyway, regardless. I think you could break that tension if you wanted to and let it erupt, as you say. It’s really up to you. But it sounds as if you’re not interested in your women friends–or are you?? I’m confused! :) Maybe they are, too. Or maybe I am particularly just bad at being friends and am projecting onto you!

    Don’t be a meanie, nobody really likes them. Just be true to yourself and your own desires, as you say. This doesn’t have to contradict your other qualities, such as being a nice guy. Why don’t you let romantic tension erupt if you want it to?

    –Lara.

  5. larissa says:

    Wait, I just re-read your post and realized that you are saying you actually aren’t interested in your friends (alright, so maybe I was just projecting there). Oops!

  6. larissa says:

    Just ignore the last three paragraphs!!

  7. Interesting and entertaining, as usual. ;^)

  8. amrithinka says:

    Amazing post! You speak my mind everytime.

  9. This is a very interesting topic because I have just written about platonic relationship a couple of months back. well, frankly speaking, I am a believer of there is no such thing as platonic relationship. Somehow, one party would have fallen for the other somewhere along the road. And sharing too many smiles and laughs can just do the trick.

    Great post :)

    • JeffJ says:

      I disagree with the idea that there are no such things as platonic relationships. While it is true that platonic relationships often collapse due to one party falling for another, common shouldn’t be confused with always.

      The reason we often develop crushes on friends is because what we search for in friends has a high overlap with what we search for in mates. So I agree that it is often very difficult to maintain a friendly relationship and not have it develop into romantic attraction. However, speaking from my own experience, it certainly is possible.

      Sometimes one can meet someone who isn’t their type, but not loathe their personality. If that happens, there is no reason why it can’t continue platonically. I’ve encountered this a few times before. Simply because I think someone is a good person doesn’t mean that they are of a matching personality to me.

      The tension that larissa mentioned is the greatest danger to platonic friendships, but sometimes this too can disappear through time or circumstance. Sometimes people can get over crushes and end up liking someone else.

      If someone is aware of this platonic friends problem, they can avoid the some of the effects. Much of these problems are due to letting emotions take you for a ride. I think in some cases one can choose not to get attracted to friend in the early stages of the relationship. When we go with the flow and see what happens, the chances of accidentally developing a crush is much higher. If one avoid doing date like things or spending exclusive time with the other person, it lessens the chance either side will get the wrong idea.

      Of course, this is no guarantee, and I’m not claiming that it is easy for anyone. Ultimately, most platonic relationships do end up failing because these feelings, for one reason or another, end up forming anyway.

      I suppose a good test to see if the platonic relation is can last is the jealousy test. If both sides can imagine the other person in a relationship with someone else and not feel even slightly bad or alarmed about it, then they can be friends with no problems.

  10. Marla says:

    I agree with Jeff J.

    As for dating suggestions, I have met all of my significant others at a school related setting (in classes, friends of classmates, whatever). So I guess my (not too helpful) suggestion is to try hanging out with new groups of people- at school clubs, societies, parties, whatever. To do this you have to pretend to be social or actually enjoy being social with a new group of people, which one might not always be in the mood for.

    As for meeting people after school is done and we enter the real world, I have no idea.

  11. desi83 says:

    Wow, we become so jaded as we get into adulthood. Nice guys try to become ass-holes, and girls start to realize that they don’t really want the ass-holes anymore, but then the nice guys that they wish they would’ve dated are no longer nice because they jaded them. So then we’re all out of luck. Geez. Nice guys shouldn’t become ass-holes. They should instead remain nice but grow a bit more of a back bone. It’s a balance, I think, for a guy to be nice but still be confident and not take crap from girls. Great post-love the pictures!

  12. Please, please, please don’t turn into a jerk! There are too many. We need the nice guys around. My bf is one of the nice guys, if that gives you any hope

  13. Pingback: The Seven Stages of a Solo Road Trip | Doctor Quack

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