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The Flat Guys

Niceness is a childish quality. As in, only valuable in kids. To be nice is first and foremost to not bother anyone. Children will be judged well-behaved if they keep a low profile, nods to whatever adults say to them and try generally not to be unpleasant. But parents don’t raise their kid to be nice out of the idea that this will turn them into balanced adults, but rather to ease the task of nurturing them, avoiding the negative social stigma of failing parents and not perceiving that goodness and niceness are not related. Those nice kids will be praised during all their childhood for their exemplary behavior. Not chatting during class? Congratulations. Saying thank you? Great. Sharing your toys with your younger sister? Admirable. However, as the children grow up, the expectations start to shift. In their new social settings, being well-behaved doesn’t cut it anymore. Being nice isn’t part of your GPA. Politeness does not impress anyone, now. And so, many of those well-behaved kids are lost. What used to be one of their main quality and drew them so much praise is now ignored at best or even mocked, on occasion.

In the case of young men, the readjustment can be especially tough. They observe the world around them and see other men, not nice by any stretch of the imagination, being much more successful romantically than they are (they are reasons for that beyond niceness, of course). The anger that ensues is often directed at women. The subtext is: You’re violating a tacit contract. You’re supposed to be into guys like me. But niceness has never been valued by neither women nor society. Nice does not get any job promotions nor does it wins sports competitions, either.

To be nice is to be flat. Because niceness is firstly concerned with not bothering, being nice means to polish one’s personality to fit this primary purpose. When asked which movie he would like to watch, the nice guy answers it’s up to you. When told who your favorite musician is, he will nod silently when he actually has an interesting opinion as to why you’re terribly misguided. When asked about his life, he will overemphasize the safe elements: his job, his education, his most conventional hobbies. All of this is a process of flattening. A complex individual with interesting opinions, unusual past experiences and unique quirks is being stripped of his depth. This is the tragedy of the nice guy.

La Rochefoucauld once wrote that some defects, when well mounted, glitter like virtue itself. This is why villains can be so compelling, their quirks and flaws add a second dimension to their personalities. They are gradients when nice guys are pathetically monochromatic.

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