If you haven’t noticed by now, being nice doesn’t get you very far. Perhaps the biggest surprise came with girls. All the females in your life–your mother, your grandmother, all those school teachers, your sisters–they all encouraged and rewarded niceness for so long you probably thought it was the ticket to success with the opposite sex. Then you learned the hard way that women want different things from men than they want from boys.
Probably the wake up call came when that girl that you had your heart set on told you that she thought you were nice. And you took that as an encouraging sign. Then you saw her with some jerk; you know the guy with all the sex jokes in the locker room. And you wondered, “What does she see in that guy?” And if you were around long enough to actually see the debris of her life after the jerk moved on, you may have even thought that your chance had come at last. Perhaps you even asked her out, only to hear that hateful word, “That’s so nice,…”.
Don’t blame women for this. Some guys make that mistake and they’re miserable for it; they don’t know what to do with mixed messages. Women look out for their own interests, it could be fatal not to. And don’t expect them to own up to it, that’s not in their best interest either. This is just one of those things you have to learn to live with if you expect to be anything more than a nice Christian young man.
So what’s the deal? Why isn’t niceness the ticket to success that you once thought it was?
Sociobiologists proffer Darwinian explanations, and I must confess, I find many of them compelling. It has to do with reproduction and the fact that women are in a very difficult spot. On the one hand they are biologically scripted to want children, (all the women who didn’t have children failed to pass on their genes.) Career-women, take note, you may be a success at the office, but from a Darwinian perspective, success is measured differently.
The problem for women is bearing human offspring is incredibly dangerous. Not just because human heads are so big, but also because humans require years and years of care. Most other mammals it’s, boom, there’s the baby, and in minutes, the child is up and walking about. Historically women have needed a certain kind of man to survive, as well as a certain kind of child. They needed fierce, self-confident, capable men, and they needed nice, compliant children who did what they were told.
Some people protest at this point, “But, that’s not our world!” Perhaps not. (I have my doubts–I think it is more the case than people are willing to admit. The main difference is our unwillingness to accept the truth than a any real change in conditions.) But let’s just grant that things are different now. That doesn’t help you with the niceness problem. Sexual attraction still is a physical, even animal phenomenon. It wasn’t invented yesterday and it could take centuries, even millennia to change. And if I could bet on it, I’d bet it isn’t going to change.
There are some guys who successfully straddle this divide though, predatory sexuality combined with egalitarian ideology. (Ever hear of John Howard Yoder? He’s just the tip of the iceberg, I’m afraid. The lechers are everywhere.) But this is not the path I recommend.
The bad-boy phenomenon is real. But you really don’t need to buy the whole package. The core attribute can be extracted and repurposed, almost like an apothecary with certain venoms. There’s medicine here, but it must be isolated, and taken in the right amount. Misuse can be deadly.
The needful thing is manliness. Now, I need to pause here and make sure you don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about that preening thing that sometimes passes for it. I’m talking about the real deal. And what’s that? Agency. The ability to get things done.
The preeners are more concerned with looking like they’re capable than actually being capable. They spend hours in the gym, they grow beards, they work at lowering their voices. This is nonsense. Don’t mishear me: being strong is a good thing (I’m fairly strong, I had to work at it, so I’m not against gyms), I have a beard (grew one on a whim and my wife told me to keep it), and my voice in low, so I know from experience that it helps. But even if none of those things were the case, I could still be manly, because the substance of manliness is getting things done.
Generally I’m not into lists. But there’s a time and a place for everything. So here’s a list of things to consider, and maybe even work on, if you’re tired of being nothing more than a nice Christian young man.
Do something you believe in.
A moving target draws the eye. Few things are more attractive to a woman than a man with a mission. Now here’s the caveat: few things are more repellant than a guy who’s faking it. You’ve really gotta have the mission first. If it is worthy, people will want to help. And some of those people may be attractive women. Choose one.
Don’t be afraid to make enemies.
Movement creates friction. This is where niceness is a real problem. People don’t respect people who can’t stick to things they believe in–and women are people, no matter what you’ve heard. Sure, be considerate. But sometimes pushing really does come to shoving and when it does, push and shove. And do it like you mean it.
Learn to work with your hands.
Manual competence may be the most undervalued thing in popular culture that I know of. If you take your cues from television, you’d never know that the ability to wire a house, or replace an alternator makes you something of a god to women. Academic culture is complicit in this. The physical world in all its messiness creates a hierarchy that competes with the hierarchies of the academy. If you wish to truly unnerve people, excel in both realms. I’ve taught philosophy to undergraduates and I’ve built homes. I know what I’m talking about. If you want to ascend even further, acquire productive property and the financial independence that comes with it. You’ll find manual competence very useful if you do.
If you do these things I think you will find that your life will have something regal about it. You’ll become weighty in the best sense, you’ll gain gravitas. And you’ll manage to be both scary and magnetic at the same time. People will be wary around you, and you’ll be something of a lion among the sheep. Potency is somewhat neutral morally, the sun warms the world and makes the crops grow, but it can also kill you. Virtue is the additive you need here, it distinguishes the king from the tyrant–it gives people around you space to grow. You can be scary good. Don’t be afraid to be. If you recall, Aslan is a lion, and he’s both scary and good. But he isn’t nice.