Nice isn’t enough
My podcast co-host Karen who also happens to be one of my best pals recently accused me of being the Goldilocks of dating after I explained why I wasn’t interested in going on another date with a nice guy who hadn’t done anything “wrong” on our first date. This nice guy wore clean clothes that were appropriate for the venue (unlike sweaty gym clothes guy). He suggested a date idea that indicated consideration for my interest in art, a stroll around The Phillips Collection, one of my favorite museums in the city. He showed up on time (unlike enchilada man)! After we looked at the exhibit, he suggested a drink at the Fox and Hound, not the obvious choice, which was impressive. We conversed easily, touching on a broad array of topics that ranged from where to find the best BBQ in America to whether one should try new medicines when they first hit the market. What was not to like?!
When he asked me out again a couple days later, I sent him the ole “I don’t feel a romantic connection” text message, which surprised him, given that our date had been, objectively speaking, a pleasant one. He pressed me for clarification and the best I could muster up was the other ole cop out: “it’s not you, it’s me and the timing just isn’t right,” which was mostly the truth.
I’d been feeling discombobulated and a little melancholy since summer. It had been a year ago in June that I first started seeing the symptoms that would eventually lead to a breast cancer diagnosis and double mastectomy and everything in my life since then has been defined by cancer. Though my doctor declared me cured (hallelujah!) and though my new rack looks pretty darn good despite the constellation of scars that mark my chest, the invisible emotional scars still torment me. I’d caught the cancer so early that survival was pretty much guaranteed, but the brush with death had been unsettling, and the bodily mutilation had left me wondering how I would ever again have a “normal” relationship with a man. I was still sorting through that emotional chaos when I met the nice guy. It was easy to throw down the cancer card, though, when I decided I wasn’t interested in dating him because I knew no one would argue with a girl who had just beaten cancer.
I thought the cancer claim had been a sufficient explanation for my lack of interest in pursuing a relationship with this nice guy until I received a slightly insulting email from him that made me realize, hey wait a minute, maybe it’s not me and it is actually you!
“maybe you’re still hung up on bad boys…. You like a challenge. Or perhaps you hate yourself and crave the approval of someone who treats you like shit? That’s just not my style, obviously. I hate to play games and I hate to treat people like shit!”
Blaming me for not wanting to date him due to his niceness is at best delusional, and at worst, pretentious. I was married for 16 years to a man who was universally believed to have been one of the nicest guys in the world for crying out loud! Every guy I have ever dated for any length of time since then has also been nice. Well, except for one swarthy fellow, but that was an exception on account of extreme hotness plus a British accent and I deeply regret the fiasco.
I would not have gone out with this recent guy in the first place if I hadn’t thought he was nice. However, nice is not a reason to continue dating someone, whereas not nice is a reason to reject someone at any point. Furthermore, nice is a baseline and should not be the best, most interesting thing about a person.
For example, in the case of my nice ex-husband, not only did he treat me with respect and affection and, if anything, I was the one who treated him like shit at times, he played several musical instruments and sang beautifully. He could fix anything around the house. He once placed third in a triathlon without having trained for it. He graduated first in his class from dental school and wrote beautifully and spoke Italian. He would try any kind of food and he would travel anywhere in the world I wanted to go for long stretches. He was modest and kind and creative and funny as hell and he worked his ass off. Most importantly, above all else, first and foremost, he was one helluva kisser and we had incredible chemistry and we both knew it right from the beginning and that chemistry lasted through most of our marriage.
I have felt inklings of that same chemistry with other men so I know that my ex was not a unicorn and that great chemistry is possible more than once. I did not feel those sparkles with Mister “I hate to play games and I hate to treat people like shit”. So that was a long and complicated way of getting back to where we started: “I don’t feel a romantic connection with you.”