The Myth of the Nice Guy: And Why You Don't Owe Anyone Anything

This is an amended version of a piece I began writing last year, in the wake of the shootings in Isla Vista. Sadly, the story remains ever-present in my mind and, with every post I see from a friend who has had to deal with the fallout, harassment, and spewed vitriol from supposed “nice guys” that they have “spurned,” my story bears sharing just as much as ever today. 

Over a decade ago, I had a best guy friend with whom I shared a great deal of my life. He was the picture perfect, textbook “nice guy.” Unfortunately, as is common, when someone seems nearly too good to be true, they often are. This guy was my best friend. And I his. I had always suspected that he wanted more than my friendship, but I wasn’t interested in taking our relationship to that place. I thought this was something that he would respect. I was wrong.

One night, in a moment of weakness and confusion, I allowed him to kiss me. He’d had a girlfriend at the time, but told me “not to worry” about her. He clearly wanted one thing from me and was simply biding his time until he could get it, even taking a girlfriend whom he did not feel was deserving of his respect or honesty, while he waited for me to come around. I quickly emerged from my haze and realized the terrible mistake I had made. Not only did I not share this guy’s feelings of attraction, but I’d been an accessory to him cheating on his girlfriend. I was sickened with myself just as much as I was by his behavior. I realized then and there the kind of despicable scum with which I was dealing. He never wanted to be my friend. He did not respect me or any of the other women in his life. It became abundantly clear that his intentions were anything but honorable and I resolved to break off our friendship from that point on. I wrote him a letter to apologize if I had at all misled him, but explained that, in light of my realizations, I no longer believed we could maintain our friendship. 

He was enraged to say the least. To say the most, however, he went — for lack of a better term — “crazy”. He began to stalk me. He wrote nasty messages about me on his social media in an attempting to garner sympathy from his friends against me for being the proverbial “bad guy.” He left a thirteen page note at my doorstep, he slashed the tires on my friend’s car, he sent me angry e-mails for months afterwards calling me every horrible name in the book, telling me that I was an “ungrateful piece of shit” for taking advantage of his friendship, and, he even threatened to kill himself, asserting that I’d driven him to that point. 

Up until then I’d done my best to ignore the harassment, hoping that it would eventually go away. When I tried to reach out to those close to him in fear that he would take his own life, he taunted me and told me that I “wasn’t worth it.” For a long while, I blamed myself. I thought that I had done something to set him off and that it was my fault for mistreating him that garnered this kind of harassment in return.

Here’s the part of the story where I wish I’d known then what I know now: It was not — nor was it EVER — my fault. I owned up, I apologized, and I tried to part ways on reasonable terms. He was the one who couldn’t and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. He was the one who tried to hurt me. And, finally, he was the reason why I needed to obtain a restraining order. 

My freshman year of college, when I’d thought things had subsided, I received a threatening message from him that stated, in no uncertain terms, his intention to find me, rape me, and kill me. Not only did he send this message to me, but he sent other messages to those close to me, stating his intentions to harm my friends and family. Going to the local police yielded no help for me. It wasn’t until I called on the school police at my university that I was able to get help. I was in fear for my life and the lives of those close to me. I thought that I’d brought this on myself and that I was paying the consequences for my actions. 

Let me reiterate here and now: Nobodydeserves to be stalked and threatened. A “no” is not an invitation to be hunted down and coerced. It was notmy fault. 

The story ends like this: out of the kindness of my heart, I spared this individual jail time. While I will admit that the thought of him rotting away in prison felt just in my mind, I knew that what he needed was mental help first and foremost. I was able to gain a restraining order and, eventually, I moved on with my life. He did make one attempt to break the order in the middle of a temple service during the Jewish High Holy Days. Since then I have, thankfully, never heard from him again and I hope very much to keep it that way. 

The bottom line here? You do not owe anyone anything. If someone doesn’t take “no” for an answer, it is notyour fault, nor should you feel obligated to explain yourself or apologize to them for rejecting their advances. As the old saying goes: “No” means “no.” Everyoneshould respect this. It’s not a matter of girls versus guys, guys versus girls, or anything of the sort. We are all individual people just trying to make it through this life in a world full of craziness. Each and every one of us is deserving of respect. So please: be kind to one another. Learn from your experiences and the experiences of those around you to try and make this world a better place for all of us to live. 

I’ll leave you with these immortal words from the late, great Kurt Vonnegut: 

“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”