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I Wish I Were an Asshole
Or Damn my Parents for Raising me Right Anyway
Colin James Haslett

Nice Guy.
As in, "Colin, you’re such a Nice Guy." Is there another pair of words in the entire English language more frustrating, more maddening, more stomach curdling than that one. In terms of left-handed compliments it’s right up there with such classics as Competent, Well Meaning and the ever popular Not Bad. Coming from a contemporary it translates roughly into Boring. From a business contact or a boss it’s 'Who Are You Again?'. And from a woman, 'Not If You Were As Rich As Bill Gates'.

Photo Colin Haslett

If you hadn’t guessed by now, I hear that pair of words a lot. Really. It may not come through here but that’s because my writing is where I vent and rant and ramble about the things that bother me, from the merely irksome to the downright infuriating. Nice Guy falls somewhere in the middle of those extremes, its exact position dependant largely upon who says it and in what context. The other night it was spoken by a very attractive, very interesting young lady in the form of the question, "Why can’t I find a Nice Guy like you?" Have I mentioned here that I’m single? Or that her boyfriend’s an asshole? Can you guess which of those two extremes Nice Guy is hovering virtually on top of right now?

Unfortunately, out in the real world it’s not a wholly undeserved reputation. I am a Nice Guy. Sure, I can curse like a champ when I want to and I spit my chewing gum onto the sidewalk once in a while and I’ve even been known on very rare occasions to use the office photocopier for personal items, like my resume, but the truth of the matter is that I am a Nice Guy. I do all of the things that Nice Guys do. I’m polite, hard working, trustworthy, non-confrontational, dependable. I don’t go behind people’s backs. I don’t belittle people. I don’t find humor in the suffering of others. I keep my word, I finish what I start and I take care of my own. And, on an all too regular basis, I lose.

As I write this I need tomorrow off work for an acting gig, but my request has been denied by the people in charge of that sort of thing. Most everyone I know has told me to call in sick but I can’t do that. I won’t really be sick tomorrow, not even sick-of-work sick, so pride or honor or bull-headed stupidity won’t let me call in sick. No matter how much I’d like to, no matter how much simpler it might be I won’t call in sick if I’m not sick. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going into work tomorrow. Acting is my passion and I want it to be my career, whereas work is just work and I truly hate it, but that’s another rant entirely.) So I’ll lose a day’s pay and probably one of my vacation days as well, and I’ll get a black mark in my file because I couldn’t bring myself to lie about being sick. Because I’m a Nice Guy.

Nice Guys finish last. It’s a cliché but it’s true (and yes, I am aware that is also a cliché). It’s not true in the sense that Newton’s laws of thermodynamics are true; you’ve no doubt thought of a number of instances where a Nice Guy came in first just since reading the first sentence of this paragraph. There have been many occasions where I’ve come out on top of a situation too. I’m not talking about absolutes here, but when I say that Nice Guys finish last it’s more than just selective memory and the law of averages at work: it’s truth generally, usually, most of the time Nice Guys finish last. Because assholes cheat.

Or do they? Cheating implies that there are rules to be broken, and in this day and age it doesn’t seem that there are any rules. Morality, ethics, conventions, manners, hell even a lot of laws haven’t survived the turn of the century, and I’m referring to the turn of the last century. So, if there aren’t any rules any more, or if there never really were any rules, then the assholes can’t really be cheating, can they? The problem is that Nice Guys are raised to believe that there are rules and that we have to follow them. I believe absolutely that there should be rules governing how we treat each other, but I’m a Nice Guy and I follow them anyway, so of course I believe that. And there be the rub, if you will.

You see, sometimes I want to cheat too. Which doesn’t mean that I want to take up a life of crime. I don’t want to open a sweat shop or become a slum lord or start pimpin’ hos. I don’t even want to cruise the bars with indiscriminate carnal intent, fathering an unacknowledged host of illegitimate children and ensuring the survival of my genes for another generation with little to no work on my part. I’m just sick and tired of finishing last, of being the also-ran, of just plain losing on such an incredibly regular basis. I want to ignore those rules that don’t really exist anyway so that I can come out on top as the rule, not as the exception.

The tricky bits, unfortunately, would be sleeping at night and looking at myself in the mirror. Because part of the problem with being a Nice Guy, as I alluded to before, is that I believe it’s the right way to be. Most of the qualities which I associate with being a Man are the qualities which identify me instead as a Nice Guy to the rest of the world. Nietzsche’s Ubermensch, Machiavelli’s Prince, the Alpha Male, even the Real Men who Don’t Eat Quiche, these are not Nice Guys and by their respective definitions they wouldn’t likely consider a Nice Guy to be a Man. For me, however, as much as I revile the first of those two labels they are inextricably associated with one another. As long as I want to keep calling myself a Man I’ll have to endure others calling me a Nice Guy and resign myself to not coming in first as much as I’d like. It is the nature of my Beast (and that’s about enough of the capitalization, I think). I can’t even be smug and self righteous and holier-than-everybody-else because, well, that just wouldn't be very nice. But I will not like it, and I will continue to deny it in person, and I will always complain about it. Rest assured of that last one.

© 'Mr Nice Guy' Colin Haslett - August 2002

Aging Angry Young Man or Bitter Old Fart in Training?
Colin James Haslett
'Mostly I’ve been the kind of person who walks around wanting to punch those shiny, happy people right in the pie hole and then ask them what they’re so bloody cheery about.'

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