You know that moment – that nice guy, who’s very nice, nicely asks you out on a nice date and you say yes because you want to be… nice. He’s so nice he probably just wants to take you out for a nice cage-free dinner and talk about some nice literature and have zero expectations from there because nice guys don’t have expectations – that’s why they’re the nice guys. So you go on your nice date, and he opens doors for you and that’s nice, and he pays for you and that’s nice, and he tries to kiss you and you’re like EXCUSE ME GOOD SIR. Because nice can only take you so far. And you want to rewind the clock to when the nice guy asked you out so nicely and say, “That’s very nice… but no thank you.”
We have such a hard time saying the second part of that sentence. Letting someone down easy is still letting someone down, and the people-pleaser in all of us tends to buckle under that pressure.
Now that I’m in a relationship, I thought this “nice guy dilemma” was a thing of the past. But I should’ve known better, because science taught me that at a very basic level, things are neither created nor destroyed. And so, of course, this dilemma never disappeared. It merely transmogrified and then lay in wait… until it resurfaced, undetectable, when a friend invited me to join her book club.
BOOK CLUBS, Y’ALL. THE NICE GUYS OF NON-SINGLE LIFE.
Here’s what I should’ve said: That’s very nice… but no thank you.
Here’s what I did say: Whoooo!!! Yeah!!! Book club!!! Wine!!!
Because the people-pleaser in me buckled. I hadn’t even realized it yet – I was too busy playing my role of idiot perpetrator in the whole nice-guy dilemma. (I’m nice! Books are nice! Let’s drink wine and be intellectual and nice!!!)
And then my friend sent out a reminder email – and that was the nice guy kiss. That was when I went NOPE, can’t do it. But instead of doing what I normally do at that point on the nice-guy date (say sorry too many times, then later see a movie they mentioned and be like, “HEY, SAW THAT MOVIE YOU MENTIONED AND I’M TELLING YOU ABOUT IT TO PROVE THAT THIS IS A VIABLE FRIENDSHIP”) I decided to confront it head-on, and sent my friend this email:
FIVE REASONS I CANNOT IN GOOD CONSCIENCE JOIN A BOOK CLUB:
1. I COUNTED AND I HAVE 67 UNREAD BOOKS ON MY SHELF. Sixty-god-damn-seven. They actually have a word for that (buying books and not reading them) in Japanese: “Tsundoku.” Sort of like “Sudoku” – except it makes you feel like an idiot. Actually, exactly like Sudoku. I can’t in good conscience go out and buy another book without at least trying to make a dent in the ones I already have. I bought Amy Poehler’s book and haven’t read it yet. I BOUGHT AMY POEHLER’S BOOK AND HAVEN’T READ IT YET. I AM A MENACE TO SOCIETY.
2. WHEN THINGS ARE PLANNED A MONTH IN ADVANCE, I DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT MEANS THEY ARE STILL HAPPENING. This book club is basically the social equivalent of my college thesis.
3. I HAVE TO SOUND SMART IN FRONT OF STRANGERS?! PISH POSH! Pish posh is the smartest-sounding phrase I know, and I just used it up on you! I’m not a bumbling brute – I’m sure I could keep up in conversation – but book clubs make me think of bemused tittering and words like “chalice” and “balustrade” and tiny sandwiches and sandwiches shouldn’t be tiny! They should be big! Or at least reasonably sized! Like enough to save half for dinner, but then not make it to dinner and eat half of that half like 15 minutes after you package it all up, and then save the other quarter for a pre-dinner nibble. I’m getting off track. What I mean is: there’s probably gonna be rice crackers and what even is that? Is that good? What if the cheese runs out and there are only rice crackers left? Bad, right? And there’s def gonna be a tree in the story and everyone’s gonna be like what does the tree represent and I’m gonna be like, shit, I thought it was just a tree – and someone’s gonna be like on the count of three everyone say what they think the tree represents and on three I’m gonna be all, “Sexuality?!” and everyone else is gonna be like, “Her relationship with her father,” and there’s gonna be wine and I’ll drink the wine and it’ll give me a headache because I’m perpetually dehydrated ’cause I should really drink more water and I couldn’t possibly join your book club because I need to stay home and drink water!!! A month from now!!!!! What I’m trying to say is – the thought of contributing positively to a group deconstruction of metaphor and meaning makes me want to crawl into my bed and eat soon-to-be-mentioned shame-candy.
4. I BOUGHT A COSTCO-SIZED BIN OF SOUR CANDY AND I EAT IT EVERY DAY MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY. With great power (see: Costco Card) comes great responsibility (see: not buying a big-ass tub of candy) and I failed! I’m not an adult! I can’t be in a book club! I’m a big phony! I’m just constantly pulling that Little Rascals trench coat trick on everyone around me, except instead of two adorable children sneaking into a bank I’m just one underachieving adult googling how to do my taxes. You know when I found out pickles were just cucumbers? EMBARRASSINGLY RECENTLY.
5. I HAVEN’T BOUGHT THE BOOK. But I did buy a dog! There’s a fun insight into my decision-making flair.
I haven’t gotten a response from my friend, but I’m sure I will soon. She’s too nice not to.
Image by Colton Witt
Rachel Forman is a writer, improviser, sandwich-enthusiast, and all-around human. Her proudest moment was winning first place in a watermelon eating contest. Her least proud moment was accidentally sitting on a stranger in a dark movie theater. Check her out on her blog and on Twitter or Instagram.
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