by Teresa Roberts
Where did the idea that nice guys finish last come from in the first place? Was it a business model that promoted a ruthless strategy to nail a deal? Did movies that romanticized the good girl being swept off her feet by the bad boy encourage this notion? Is it about how we perceive dominance? Was it Bible based because of male icons like Sampson who beat the shit out of a thousand Philistines with nothing more than a jawbone of an ass?
I don’t know, but this asinine adage has been around for as long as I can remember.
As a woman who grew up in a religious cult run explicitly by a hard-hitting patriarchy, I was pretty clear about the kind of man I wanted as a partner. He would be the complete opposite of the males I knew as a child. I had to leave the religion to find him, of course, which cost me everything. The very idea that I might desire even a small measure of autonomy in my life meant that I had to make a choice between the god of my childhood or freedom in the civilian world. Cults are like that, closed societies that keep their women and children separated from the world ostensibly for their protection. I left, however, and was excommunicated from my family. With no money, job, education, civilian friends, family, car or driver’s license, I was still very eager to make a new life for myself. At the tender age of eighteen, finding a mate was at the top of my list. Why wouldn’t it be? The society that I was entering had deemed it to be second to bearing children in female responsibilities. It never dawned upon me to think otherwise.
What I soon discovered is that civilian girls didn’t always view a nice guy as a desirable catch.
The very word NICE carried certain undertones like boring, weak or sexually inexperienced. How often had I heard a girl talking about a nice guy’s interest in her with the words, “He’s nice but …”. To my ears, that always sounded like a big “no thank you, I’d rather have someone who controlled me.” Did girls want to be dominated? Is that what my own mother had desired all along? Did she marry my pathologically controlling father who heard voices and believed that he’d been chosen by god to be the last prophet of the last day and age because she wanted to be controlled? Did she stay with him even though he abused their six children, especially the daughters, because nice boys were boring?
I must admit, I was flummoxed by all of this.
As time passed and feminism, as well as atheism, became a big part of my life, I continued to be startled by the number of smart, free thinking women who seemed determined to not only partner with bad boys, but also produce children with them. Why weren’t they able to break down the myths about sexual attraction and romance that abound in our society? The skills that they had used to debunk religion or orchestrate an entire movement intent on liberating women weren’t employed to cut through the crap about relationships. Our whole notion of romantic love and marriage are nothing more than cultural constructs just like religion and patriarchy. Yet, they bought into the myths and fairy tales, the cultural expectations about falling in love and living happily ever after just as much as people buy into the belief in a sky daddy who lives in a gated community where a mansion is waiting for the princess to take up abode. That bothered me.
Oh, some of them eventually left the bad boy, only because divorce had finally been normalized in our society and women could make a living, but they often married another guy just like the first. A few saw the light, however, and ended up looking for a nice guy next time around. Trust me, the nice guys had been there all along. I know because I raised one of them. And, some of those nice guys were so nice that they married the woman and became great fathers to the bad boy’s children. Those were lucky kids, too. My life as a child could’ve been quite different if my mom had left my dad. Furthermore, there were women who decided to stay single for a long time, maybe forever. They preferred their autonomy to being married to someone who tried to control them.
I guess women have made some progress when it comes to picking partners.
Yet, I continue to be somewhat flabbergasted that in spite of the progress made on behalf of women’s rights in the last one hundred years, there remains an alarming number of women who still do not seem to grasp that bad boys do not make good partners and even poorer fathers. They aren’t romantically exciting or better looking or better in bed or better at anything. Furthermore, when women choose these men, they help to perpetuate male privilege.
Women can cry victim if they want, but there must come a time when we use our collective power to put these men out of business or at least limit their influence. So, no more get out of jail cards for marrying the mafia boss. No trading on looks for gain and marrying an old evil bastard just because he’s rich. We can make our own money. No more choosing bad boys as fathers of the next generation because we want to raise healthier adults in order to insure highly evolved societies. No more choosing a bad boy over the nice guy. The nice guy shouldn’t finish last. The nice guy is the one who will help us make sure that our daughters have the same opportunities as our sons.
The nice guys are the champions in this modern game called romance.
Teresa Roberts is a retired educator, world traveler, author, children’s advocate and professional myth buster. Her most recent publication, Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales, goes beyond debunking religion to questioning our treasured cultural norms that are more effective at controlling people than laws will ever be.