I watched the well-dressed Casanova over the brim of my beverage, contemplating the best way to cause him pain. I was already halfway through my ninja-assassin routine, in which I dispatch him with a swift blow to the balls. Naturally, the women he was entertaining with his ridiculously good looks would then swoon at my wondrous technique ….
A rude voice interrupted my reverie.
“Um, are you going to actually drink that, or is holding it up to your lips that satisfying?”
I lowered my drink nonchalantly and faced my tablemate, as though there was nothing more normal than deep scrutiny of the world with one’s mouth attached to the lip of a glass.
Though we were close, I hadn’t been in her physical presence in years, so this was a night for reminiscence and laughter. The spiteful, homicidal thoughts aimed at a complete stranger could wait.
“Sorry, was just temporarily wishing death on Romeo over there. I mean, come on!”
She laughed and glanced in his direction. Two attractive women were giggling at his every word. Their hands clung to him, as though he might vanish in a puff of awesomeness at any moment and — damn it — they wanted in on that puff.
My friend shrugged.
“What about him? You jealous?”
My reply wasn’t meant to exit my mouth at so elevated a volume that children in neighbouring countries might be startled from their sleep. Somehow, though, it did. I laughed ruefully and added:
“No, not really. Just sad, actually. Why do girls like bad boys so much?”
She looked at me a little quizzically, then answered:
“Firstly, you’re way past the age of being able to refer to members of the opposite sex as ‘girls’ and not be creepy.”
I nodded sagely.
“Secondly, you don’t know the first thing about that guy.”
She was right. For all I knew, the Marquis de Sade over there was a saint. A saint who wore sunglasses indoors … at night. Begrudgingly, I nodded, not quite as sagely this time.
“And thirdly … I don’t know, we just do sometimes. Bad boys, they just ….” And she finished with a shrug.
Fortified with this magnificent insight into the workings of the female mind, I smiled and took a drink of my beer. Despite this, what came next was a complete shock. Simultaneously, we said:
Me: “Being the nice guy sucks.”
Her: “Lucky for you, right?”
We sat there, regarding one another in the way you would regard a winged rhinoceros that had casually sauntered up to you in the street and requested directions to the nearest hardware store.
We all have deep core beliefs about the kind of person we are, and when those beliefs are contested, it can be an almost-physical blow. For me, one such belief was that I was a “nice” guy. To have it challenged by a person who knew me so well was … well, outrageous. Was she insane?
I knew from the look on her face that she was thinking similar thoughts about me.
It was 9:00 pm at this point. By the time we finished talking about this, it was 2:00 am and three locations later. The scope continued to broaden as alcoholic intake increased. I claimed that girls had never really been into me because they never feel for nice guys. Her eye-rolling reached ever more impressive magnitudes in response.
Though the debate involved a lot of laughing, I was honestly hurt and, for some reason, desperately needed her to see things my way.
However, the conversation was drawn to an immediate close in one instant:
We were sitting on her couch, and she said, with a touch of unexpected sadness: “What about me?”
The written word cannot convey the emotion that lay behind those three simple words. Suddenly, this wasn’t about winning anymore. And I knew exactly what she was going to say next….
“What about the 2:00 am phone calls? The way you’d hold me tight when we watched movies? The times I’d sneak out of the house at midnight to hang out? The way we’d talk all night and tell each other everything Telling me I meant the world to you. Telling me about hooking up with my friends! You knew I had feelings for you! I know you said that everything between us was just platonic and to tell you if I ever got the wrong idea, but you never put a stop to any of that. And I was just a teenage girl.”
Well, I was a teenage boy at that time too, but somehow, that didn’t lessen the impact of her words. Despite the passage of almost 10 years, these memories were still a force to be reckoned with. I needed to respond with something. I was going to come up with the best rebuttal ever, and it was going to blow her mind. With all the command of a stuttering king giving his very first speech, I began:
“It was ages ago, I don’t need you to apologise.” And she smiled. “I just need you to realise that your actions affected me. So when I hear you say that no one liked you because girls never like the nice guy, all I hear is that my feelings weren’t even worth acknowledging. I wasn’t even a blip on your radar. And that’s not nice.”
For some reason, those final words sent us into fits of laughter.
That night, I realised something: A bad boy can come in many forms. Maybe he’s not restricted to the guy who patently lies to women’s faces and gets away with it for too long. Maybe he doesn’t only come in the ridiculous-good-looks, cocky-attitude, but-serially-unfaithful variety. Maybe he’s the guy who just isn’t paying attention to how his actions affect those who care for him. Maybe he’s the guy who’s too focused on his broken heart to see the heart he’s breaking ….
I may be a nice guy, or I may not. Once upon a time, though, there was a girl who wanted to disappear into a puff of awesomeness with me. But, I was too busy to notice because I was blindly being a bad boy to her.
I hope I’m not still doing it.