Nice Girls and Nice Guys Finish Middle (Class)

Before we get into nice discussion about nice girls and nice guys, I want you to go watch this video.


(I mean it. I’m not even going to be nice about it. Go watch and then come right back.  I’ll wait for you. I might even slip into something more comfortable.)

(that space was you, watching the video. Thank you. I love it when you do what I tell you.)


I don’t know the context for this scene. I don’t have a lot of grounding in the series but based on this – and Joan, omg Joan is My People –  I suspect I would love it.

What I do know is this: there are some angry women on Mad Men.

Betty Draper, for example, our rampant pigeon shooter, is the (very nice) poster girl for nice girl rage.

I know some nice girls are nodding their heads, right now.

I mean, we know this story: about how women bite their tongues and their carrot sticks to keep it all in check. How we, historically, have made nice and played small. How an angry woman is a spectre. How ‘hysteria’ and ‘bitch’, liberally or even hypothetically applied, can shut us up.

“I don’t want him to think I’m a bitch.”

We’re nice because anger is dangerous. So we file down our nails and with it our edges and dull our teeth and nibble at the edges of directly expressed emotion and, let’s be honest, life.

We’re the nice women. We’re doing The Right Thing at the right time in the right way and probably wearing the right shoes while we’re doing it. Nicely.

And I have no doubt that a lot of  nice women are holding it together publicly and then shrieking at their kids at home.

I submit to you that the ‘nice girl’ is confined, constrained, and angry – and really, not so ‘nice’ at all.


Nice means “pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory.”

Originally, though, nice meant ‘not to cut’ which became ‘not to know’ which became ‘ignorant’ which transformed into ‘foolish’ or ‘silly’ which became what we’ve got now:  pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory.

Who aspires to this?

Nice is a social strategy and its tactics are quiet, smiling, obeisance, sacrifice, agreement, gifts, doing favours, ingratiation.

Nice is a bribe. Nice is a way to be un-noticed while raging inside at being un-noticeable.

Nice is a way to gain the trust of someone who has no business trusting you. In fact, in The Gift of Fear, Gary de Becker includes the ‘niceness’ ploy as a pre-indicator of violence.

Nice is patting your irritable kid on the head and kissing your philandering husband and then going outside to kill some birds.

Because a victim, especially a nice one,  is the most dangerous creature on earth.


All of this is what nice means, but what nice does not mean – and what we often conflate it with – is “innately good.”

So that’s nice, and The Nice Girl.

What about The Nice Guy?


Nice guys. I’ve ended things with guys and had them reply, see? this is what happens to the nice guy.

And – perhaps like a lot of women – I let them think that.

Because I was being nice.

Women do this a lot. We tell guys ‘you’re such a nice guy’ when really what we mean is I would go out with you, but:

  • you’re creeping me out
  • your house is filthy which scares me and god forbid we live like that
  • your conversation is beige
  • you don’t surprise me
  • I’m smarter than you
  • you’re not bringing it in the bedroom
  • you’re aimless and I’d have to carry this thing
  • I’m worried that I’ll have to do all the work in this relationship
  • I think that all this sweetness is an act to cover up the fact that you’re flaky and once you’ve ‘got’ me, you won’t really be there for me
  • you’re not that great of a kisser
  • you’re too much work
  • you want to eat my soul
  • I know that this sweet stuff is a front. You don’t want to be nice to me – you want to own me
  • you lack initiative
  • you’re not intellectually challenging
  • I would have to unlock you
  • I see the future and it is me shopping for your family at Christmas while you watch TV
  • I can see what you want and it is too much

When I do this – when I spare the guy’s feelings to avoid a scene and just agree that yes, the problem is that he is too nice – I perpetuate the nice guy myth.

That nice guys finish last. That the good guy never gets the girl.

Which leaves a lot of men running around, wounded, thinking that ‘nice’ is a problem – and it is, but not for the reasons they think – that must be cured. The cure, they think – or dating gurus are quick to reassure them – is to be a jerk, or a pick up artist, or just plain not nice to women.

Any PUA will tell you that women don’t like nice guys or that good guys who are ‘too nice’ to women won’t be successful with women.

Not true.

It is weak, ineffectual, closeted control-freak guys that repel women (and people, more generally). Nice isn’t the problem.

Or maybe it is.

Here’s my PSA: just like The Nice Girl, The Nice Guy isn’t really nice.

Often nice is a social strategy. Nice is a mask worn by scared, creepy, angry, bribing, entitled, controlling people.

Nice covers a lot of anger.

This is what I know about  nice guys, and why I’m suspicious of them:

Because in life, nice guys are not getting what they want, and they’re mad, and they’ll be mad at me, too when I don’t toe the line (and I won’t). The worse a guy’s character, the nicer he’ll try to act.

But I’m too nice to tell a man these ugly truths.

And so flourishes the urban myth that nice guys finish last (with women) – if they get to finish, at all.


Just like the Nice Girls, Nice Guys are angry.

Nice appears to be flexible but is rigid: Nice has muscled and restrained herself, intently and vigorously, into compliance with everyone else’s expectations and so your failure to do the same – for her, for the world – enrages her.

And I’m okay with anger – anger is fuel and anger can be hot and oh, the righteous fires that anger will light.

But repressed anger is stasis. Repressed anger is vindictive, passive-aggressive, and insidious. Repressed anger is dangerous.

The truth is this: repressed anger is the shadow of Nice. Anger, denied, trails Nice everywhere, in every light.

Here’s another truth:

The Good Guy does get the girl.

But Good Guys aren’t necessarily nice. In fact, all the man and women I know, respect, love or want to love are most definitely not nice.

Nice: pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory, deceptive, dangerous.


My point: nice guys are not nice, meaning ‘innately good’.

Nice is just the angle they’re working to get what they want. And when they don’t get what they want, they blame nice, and strip away nice and show the world who they really are.

And who they are is who the women in their lives – who lied and told them they were nice – knew they were, all along.

I have some ‘bad boys’ in my life – but they’re not really bad boys. Instead, they’re men who are at home in their skin and their masculinity, sexuality, aggression, vulnerability, heart, darkness, light – and don’t need to camouflage any of it with a layer of nice.  I know that if I ever turned one of these men down, sexually or romantically, they’d never lash out at me. These guys – these men – would never call me a bitch or even a bad word (unless…well, never mind).

But the so-called nice guys? They’re nice until you don’t want ’em or you don’t give them what they want. And then they call you a bitch or a tease or a slut.


About the author

Kelly Diels I'm Kelly Diels. I'm a writer. I've written for Salon, Jezebel, XO Jane, Problogger, Write to Done and more. I'm currently working on a book about The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand. Interested? Please subscribe to my newsletter and I'll share more thoughts and chapters with you as I write them. You can also find me on Facebook and yes please, please do.