The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Don't Hassle the Hoff--(or kiss him, either!)

Apparently, David Hasslehoff divorced his wife, and as part of his settlement, got the right to use catch phrases such as "don't Hassle the Hoff" and so forth. Ah, Hasslehoff. I actually worked with him twice. Baywatch, of course. But back in the beginning of my Hollywood career, I was a tour guide at CBS Television City. One of the things I did was act as security guard on the sets (ask me about Lily Tomlin sometime...I have a great story. Nice lady.) Anyway, I did guard work on "The Young and the Restless", where Hasslehoff played a doctor (I think) named Snapper (I think.) At any rate, one lunchtime I ended up having lunch with the girl who played his girlfriend on the show. Just sitting in the commisary (ask me about the time I ran into Michael Jackson there) muchng sandwiches or something, talking about life and the Business. At one point, she let something slip: that Hasslehoff was REALLY a nasty kisser in their love scenes. I'll never forget the face she made. Ah, the things actresses do for money...

But on "Baywatch" I was impressed by the fact that he didn't take the whole thing seriously at all. He knew this wasn't "Hamlet." And helped create a very laid-back atmosphere that was tremendous fun (ask me about my Pam Anderson story some time...)

##

Primaries continue. Turned on CNN and there were several women talking about their choice of candidate. It was interesting how swiftly one of them said that "it is Hillary's time." I've never heard an Obama supporter use quite that phrasing, and it is tempting to think that, yes, there i a sense of entitlement going on here. There is something that I DO think is strange about the Liberal radio world and blogosphere. That is that everyone seems to be either neutral or Pro-Obama. Men, women, whatever. It's very odd, and I'm not sure what to think about it. Frankly, the last couple of weeks of the campaign have seemed improved in tone, and I hear her making a case for her Presidency in a more positive way...still can't believe her implications that McCain would be better than Obama. I've never heard someone promoting the other party's candidate before. That's either extraordinarily low, or extraordinarily honest. Hmmm.

##

A comment from a reader caught my interest. It had to do with men being "nice guys" and getting passed over by women (a complaint I've heard all my life, and experienced for a good chunk of it). A female reader said that women who go after "nice guys" get hurt at least as often--if not more--than the "nice guys" themselves.



Now, this isn't a complaint I've heard before. This is what I've seen:

1) Guys who are "nice guys" complaining that women aren't attracted to them. They end up being "friends" while the girls go after "bad boys." Then when the ladies get their hearts broken, they commiserate with the "nice guys" and sometimes tearfully say "why can't I fall for a nice guy like you..?"

2) Girls who would LIKE to have a relationship with a "nice guy" but find that they are turned on by "bad boys"--and then get their hearts broken. Over and over. The "nice guys" just don't turn them on, and they want that "chemistry."



Now, of course I know guys who are "nice guys" who find terrific relationships, and women who are attracted to them. But the discussion here is about typical complaints, and those folks ain't complaining. As a corollary, another thing I hear women complain about is that their level of power makes it hard to find men. True, I've heard women complain that beauty can put guys off as well, but rather obviously that ain't the way to bet.



My question here is an honest one. Women, if deliberately seeking out "nice guys" is getting you hurt, what exactly is the pain? Is it that "nice guys" end up being assholes, so it's better to go after a "bad boy" from the beginning?



You all know that my starting position for any of these discussions is that men and women screw each other over about equally, so I take convincing to believe that either men or women are getting the short end of the stick on this stuff. But I admit to being taken aback a bit here. I'm not sure I'd ever heard that one before.


I'd love to have today's question have to do with this matter. While "niceguy/bad boy" is a simplistic distinction, for the sake of casual discussion I think we all know what I mean, and I hope you'll excuse the need to simplify in order to dissect. So, ladies: has specifically seeking "nice guys" seemed to cause more grief than happines in your life, and the lives of your friends?



The equivalent for guys might have a touch of that old song "if you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife..." that is, that homely girls are nicer than beautiful ones. While I would never take the position that that was true, the opposite would seem almost grotesque: " beautiful women are nicer than plain ones" --that statement would raise my eyebrows instantly. Hmmm. Any thoughts? Or is this just sour grapes on the part of men or women who can't take responsibility for their personal failings on the level of relationship? Or insight of unusual honesty and clarity?

24 comments:

mjholt said...

Made the choice for "bad boy" then "nice guy."
"Bad boy" lasted -- maybe 24 days.
"Nice guy" lasting -- now in 24th year.

OK, there were others, and I think it gave me some perspective.

Part of what makes women retreat from "nice guys" the a very primal issue of can this man protect me and my/our children. No children need to be attached to the relationship to make this an issue. It is basic to the survival of the human race. The human female is extremely vulnerable during childbearing years, pregnancy, and nursing, then it all starts over again (for some).

Some "nice guys" come off unable to protect themselves. Then the subconscious female brain says, "If the man can't protect himself how is going to protect me and the offspring?" This attitude is not even up to the female psyche its buried in the reptilian brain (or whatever it's call these days).

Like everything, this behavior is played out on the Bell Curve, some more some less, but I recognize it operating in all varieties of relationships (including Lesbian).

That's my take on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Since you're doing the name-dropping bit...

What's your "degree" of Kevin Bacon?

Anonymous said...

I agree with MJ. She puts it very well.
I've been married to a nice guy for 52 years!
But for some men (not my husband), being nice seems to go along with being indecisive and, at the extreme, being passive agressive. That's not so nice, and it hurts when you want your man to step up and he doesn't.

gretel

suzanne said...

had a "bad boy" spouse for 27 years
(I take full responsibility
for having my head up my ass
for much of that time)

and a "nice guy"
who did exactly the
same sorts of things to me
as the "bad boy"
and this was AFTEr I'd told him
what the BB did and what made it so BAD
and while I let huim crawl back
time after time
for 5 times
for several years
before I finally threw him out
of my life

currently have a great guy
who doesn't fit
into either category
and I'm happy to have let
that particular dichotomy way behind
as it never seemed to make any different
in their behavior
over the long haul

byrdie said...

So, after moving away from my ex-husband -- a bad man who aspired to be a "bad boy" -- I moved in on my own for a while and started taking up with a "nice boy." Polite, geeky, soft spoken, good paying job, talented in bed: all of it. He was ... nice. We eventually moved in together, which was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

Being a "nice boy" was a fascade. He was still technically nice, of course, but he was also hypocrite. He was a severe germaphobe who was a complete slob: he hadn't even washed his comforter since he'd gotten it three girlfriends previous to me. He took vitamins and read health magazines, but couldn't be paid to eat vegetables and almost never went to the doctor. He had a good job, spent a lot on his friends and bought himself a lot of tech toys ... and was in debt up to his eyeballs. He hopped jobs regularly, frequently claiming that the management was making his life difficult. As it turned out there was also another problem: his poor planning abilities meant that he'd start getting behind on enough projects that he'd be terrified to speak up to his bosses and end up leaving his jobs before they could yell at him.

He was incredibly passive-aggressive: giving his word on things and then not following through, then acting bewildered about why his girlfriends would be upset, why they'd always leave him. We once had a long conversation about lying, why him being so untrustworthy was a type of lying and why it was causing so much trouble: it'd never occured to him. If he didn't want to do something, he'd be just as likely to agree to it somewhat and then somehow fail to go along with it later as he would to simply refuse. He had difficulty with introspection as he seemed perfectly able to live his life without really thinking about his behaviors and motives. By the time we split up, he'd been diagnosed with (Dr. Amen's Type 2) ADD, depression and sleep apnea.

Dating him was like dealing with a brick wall most of the time. He let me down, ignored me, neglected me and outright lied to me on multiple occasions. With a "bad boy" or the equivalent, the shock of assholery isn't quite as sharp as it with a "nice boy." But "nice guys" can have that weird ability to get away with things based on being granted the benefit of the doubt because they're "nice."

After the "nice guy," I decided that what I wanted was "a bad man who'd be sweet to me." I'll still be driven up the wall from time to time, but not nearly as much and fortunately without that slimy, skin-crawling feeling that I've gotten from the few "nice guys" I've tried to deal with romantically.

=}+{=

So, Steven -- please tell us your Lily Tomlin story? What happened when you ran into Michael Jackson in the cafeteria, if you don't mind my asking? For that matter, what is your Pamela Anderson story? Are you going to make a "Story time!" blog entry now?

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

"My question here is an honest one. Women, if deliberately seeking out "nice guys" is getting you hurt, what exactly is the pain?"

I suspect this may be a definitional thing. I do see a lot of complaints, over on some of the feminist blogs, about "nice guys," and it's always "Nice Guys(TM)," meaning guys who proclaim that they're rejected "nice guys," rather than guys who are actually nice.

"Nice Guys(TM)" have the following characteristics:

a) Insist that women, and women only, keep preferring guys that are bad for them, rather than recognizing that some people of both sexes choose well, while some people of both sexes have choosing mechanisms that are broken.

b) Think only men are entitled to be superficial - they want hot women, not just any old woman who happens to be nice, but when the hot women want men that are comparably attractive (even if sometimes ones who turn out to have other characteristics that are bad for them in the long run), they're aggrieved. I think this may be what your anonymous commenter was getting at with her bit about women who go after "nice guys" being hurt just as often - that some of these "nice guys" do have perfectly nice women that they're passing up in favor of going for women who, say, look hotter. Which they're entitled to do, but so are the hot women entitled to go for men they find hotter.

c) Think being nice, by itself, should entitle them to get laid. Even in the absence of other characteristics that women find sexy.

d) Become embittered that their self-proclaimed niceness isn't being rewarded, to the point where they, frankly, aren't all that nice to women after all.

The female equivalent would be women who get bitter and sit around complaining to each other about how men only like women who are pretty but dumb, and don't want to be challenged by any intelligence. And both the male and female versions of this complaint are mostly wrong; with a few exceptions, the guy who is going for pretty and not too bright will also take pretty and intelligent, and the woman who's going for the confident bad boy will also take a confident man who treats her well. That is, it's more often the case that people are superficial than that they actively dislike positive traits in their lovers. IMHO, anyway.

Anyway, in real life, no, deliberately seeking out nice guys never got me hurt, but I don't think I ever had a self-destructive fetish for bad boys, either. It's hard for me to map the whole "bad boy"/"nice guy" thing onto my real life, and if I try, the results I get from that analysis are more weird than useful.

Mike said...

Hmmm, perhaps the contention that we "all know" what we mean when we say "nice guy" and "bad boy" is not true. Because I'm not sure I associate passive aggressive behavior with "nice". Perhaps we need a third category? I think I fall into the definition which MJ and Gretel offer - perhaps a little indecisive, somewhat lacking in aggression, perhaps. I think Chris Moore puts it well in Dirty Job - some guys are alpha males, but most of us are beta males. And that means that we are sometimes slow to take charge - but it also means that our ears tend to be less chewed on...

Steve Perry said...

Kevin Bacon? Too easy. Barnes used to write for The Real Ghostbusters (so did I). Arsenio Hall played Winston on the series. Kevin Bacon was on Arsenio's show, so that's one remove.

Unless Barnes knows the guy personally ... ?

Anonymous said...

I was 'cursed' with the nice guy label for years, and it did suck through my 20s. But I'd tell anyone with that label that if you just hold on till you hit your 30s, just keep on doing what you've been doing, most of the dating pool has been through the bad boy phase and are more than eager to 'settle' for a nice guy (and most of the bad boy competition have self-selected themselves out of the running through beer, drugs, jail, or plain inability to hold a job). It's still a wonder to me after 5 years when my wonderful wife compliments me for something I'd consider bare minimum thoughtfulness.

Steven Barnes said...

Jeeze, Perry, you are QUICK! I was still sorting through it all. Nope, never met Bacon...
#
I agree that if you hang on until your 30's, the "Good Guy" thing tarts working to your advantage.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

"Hmmm, perhaps the contention that we "all know" what we mean when we say "nice guy" and "bad boy" is not true."

I've never been completely sure what "bad boy" means in the sense of "bad boys that women are supposed to be attracted to."

1) Women tend to prefer alpha males, and young women have immature perceptions of what "alpha male" means? And hence wind up with confident seeming men who take stupid risks, rather than men who are "alpha" in some more useful way?

2) Young people sometimes like to rebel against their elders, and some young women do it by picking men their elders won't like, even if some of those men are in fact bad for them?

3) Women tend like alpha males, and therefore often wind up picking men who are "bad" (overly aggressive) from the point of view of other men, even if not from the point of view of the women themselves?

4) Attractive people can often get away with treating other people badly, and "bad boys" are the male version of this? (They're "bad" because they're attractive enough to women that they can get away with it, not attractive to women because they're "bad.")

5) Something else?

It's hard for me to tell, because I'm pretty sure that I rejected the people who treated me most badly, and so from my point of view the complaint never made much sense.

Guys who treat women well getting more play as women get older, though, would just be part of the universal human phenomenon of both sexes making wiser choices about all parts of their lives once they've had the opportunity to learn from experience.

Anonymous said...

"1) Guys who are 'nice guys' complaining that women aren't attracted to them. They end up being 'friends' while the girls go after 'bad boys.' Then when the ladies get their hearts broken, they commiserate with the "nice guys' and sometimes tearfully say 'why can't I fall for a nice guy like you..?'"

Ah, but *which* girls?

You know how the "nice guys" and the "bad boys" aren't the same people? The girls who go for "bad boys" first aren't the same people as all girls. They're especially not the same people as the girls who go for "nice guys" in the first place.

"2) Girls who would LIKE to have a relationship with a 'nice guy' but find that they are turned on by 'bad boys'--and then get their hearts broken. Over and over. The 'nice guys' just don't turn them on, and they want that "chemistry.'"

What about those of us who would LIKE to have a relationship with a "nice guy," find that we are turned *off* by "bad boys" (bullied someone since she was 7? Don't expect to turn her on when she's 17)...

...and then find out that some so-called "nice guys" are actually nice to the ones who want "bad boys" and bad to the ones who want nice guys?

"My question here is an honest one. Women, if deliberately seeking out 'nice guys' is getting you hurt, what exactly is the pain? Is it that 'nice guys' end up being assholes, so it's better to go after a 'bad boy' from the beginning?"

In my case, it was that guys whom I called "nice guys" (assuming "I'm a geek, they're the geek clique in my school, of course they'll accept me...") turned out to be assholes. So it's still not better to go after a "bad boy" from the beginning.

Once I stopped believing the hype, realized that having a lot of friends or playing sports doesn't automatically make you a snob, and realized that having few friends or playing D&D doesn't automatically make you open-minded, I felt less disappointed during my searches for friends and a boyfriend because I switched to better search parameters. :D

"I think this may be what your anonymous commenter was getting at with her bit about women who go after 'nice guys' being hurt just as often - that some of these 'nice guys' do have perfectly nice women that they're passing up in favor of going for women who, say, look hotter. Which they're entitled to do, but so are the hot women entitled to go for men they find hotter."

Got it in one.

Also, you just reminded me of a brilliant installment of the webcomic Something Positive: http://www.somethingpositive.net/arch/sp02152004.gif

(it makes sense even if you haven't read any of the rest of the story)

Anonymous said...

BTW, forgot to add that I totally don't think these "nice guys" should force themselves to date the "nice girls" they reject for "bad-boy chasers" (they too, like everyone else, deserve the right to say no to unwanted dates, sex, marriage, etc.).

At the same time, they shouldn't claim to be coming in last because they got rejected and claim that the girls who rejected them are the only girls (as if the girls they rejected themselves don't exist).

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Do you think there might be something wrong with Hasslehoff for being a "nasty kisser"?

In re "Hilary's time": I had an unnerving conversation with a friend who strongly believed that. She was talking about the women getting the right to vote after illiterate black men had gotten it. I don't believe this is in any sense relevent to the current election (I'd rather that people chose what they thought was the best candidate), but if the current stats of about 13% of the US being black are typical of US history, then the lack of woman presidents is about 4 times as unfair as the lack of black presidents.

From what the pundits on NPR are saying about the Pennsylvania race, Hilary is the candidate for low-status non-black people. Not college educated, over sixty, small town.... In other words, not very likely to be pundits.

Maybe it would help to have a distinction between nice (accomnodating) guys and good guys. It took me a while to figure it out, but to a large extent, "nice" means pretending you don't want anything very much. This isn't the same thing as having positive virtues.

Another theory about young women and bad boys: A lot of young people want risk. Perhaps hoping to reform or get good treatment out of a bad boy is the female equivalent of riding a motorcycle.

Pagan Topologist said...

Lynn, there is a wrinkle there, however. When [we] nice guys find a woman or women who accept us, likely they have already had all the children they want with the "bad boys" so that we get slowly removed from the gene pool. So, the situation reproductively is that there will be fewer and fewer men who are genetically predisposed to be nice guys. Of course, there may not be any way to tease out what part of being a nice guy is genetic.

I don't think there were any girls I rejected as a teenager, although I was so clueless how communication worked between the sexes that there could have been some who were interested in me that I had no idea about.

Josh Jasper said...

Steve, when it comes to male female relations, as a rule, I tend to think that I'll probably always be less insightful than a woman who's had time to think about things. Men see a lot of gender relations from a point of privilege. An inexact analogy would be a white person talking to a black person about race relations. I'll defer to a black person who's thought about this a lot. A specific example would be me deferring to your expertise in race in films.

There's a power imbalance slanted towards men and away from women, and telling women "what their problem is" as a man is not going to come off right, no matter how well intentioned you are.

That said, I've talked to a lot of women on the "nice guy/bad boy" dichotomy, and I've been told that a lot of the "nice guys"s till have some condescending attitudes towards women, can be creepy, have a sense of sexual entitlement for being a friend, and so on. A "bad boy" may actually be just the same, but at least they're interesting, and have a healthy sense of fun.

Steven Barnes said...

If the presidency was some kind of an award given, like a Best Actor Oscar, it would make sense to talk about who "deserves" or has been "most disadvantaged" or something. But it ain't, and even if it was, as I've said, I find it impossible to quantify human misery without judging X's pain to be less important than Y's. I won't go down that road.
#
Because I don't believe that the male-female power differential is as severe as some others believe (my position is that men control the overstructure, women control the understructure: "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world") I think that men and women are perfectly capable of commenting on each other's positions in the world. In my experience, women are just as capable of dominating and guilt-tripping men as men are of dominating and brow-beating women. I don't find the parallel with black-white relations particularly convincing.

Steven Barnes said...

As for Hasslehoff's nasty kissing, I don't know...but I guess that either he took "advantage" during love scenes, or maybe wasn't careful to brush his teeth before the scene.

Anonymous said...

"and I've been told that a lot of the 'nice guys's till have some condescending attitudes towards women, can be creepy, have a sense of sexual entitlement for being a friend, and so on."

From what I've seen in some geek forums (I like some video games and manga), those "nice guys" don't seem to think "listening to people and treating them as one would like to be treated is nice, I do that, so I'm nice" (as genuinely nice people, including the men who turn me on :D , do).

Those "nice guys" seem closer to attitudes like "caring what other people think is superficial, I don't care what anyone else thinks so I'm nice, how dare girls not care enough what I think to bend over for me on demand." :/

"A 'bad boy' may actually be just the same, but at least they're interesting, and have a healthy sense of fun."

Not always. For example, bullying someone is not healthy fun, no matter how much the bully arouses someone else later. >:(

"Lynn, there is a wrinkle there, however. When [we] nice guys find a woman or women who accept us, likely they have already had all the children they want with the
'bad boys' so that we get slowly removed from the gene pool."

That applies when you find women who accept you *and whom you accept in return.*

There are also the women you may find who accept guys like you, who don't already have all the children they want, and who won't be your way into the gene pool because guys like you don't want to get any closer to them than the "bad boys" did.

"my position is that men control the overstructure, women control the understructure: 'the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world'"

The understructure seems to vary a lot more than that. Sometimes it's closer to

"the hand that pins down and beats up the hand that rocks the cradle rules"

or

"the hand that paid a dowry for the hand in the cradle rules"

or

"the handS, plural, that rock the cradle together rule"

or

"the hand that built the cradle rule"

or

"the hand that tutors the student who doesn't fit in the cradle anymore rules"

or

"the hands that seek out other hands that don't want to rock cradles rule"

or many other combinations.

Anonymous said...

BTW, this post is relevant too:

http://feministing.com/archives/009066.html

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Lynn, there is a wrinkle there, however. When [we] nice guys find a woman or women who accept us, likely they have already had all the children they want with the "bad boys" so that we get slowly removed from the gene pool.

So, you're telling me that, not just some, but most women actually pick "bad boys" to have children with? Just who are you counting as a "bad boy" for this to possibly be true? Because, in my world, most women seem to pass up bullies, jailbirds, and obvious drug addicts when it comes time to look for potential husbands and fathers (and are generally at least on birth control when they're making foolish decisions in their teens and early twenties).

I don't think there were any girls I rejected as a teenager

The girl's eye view of rejection tends to look a little different from the boy's eye view. Examples:

A) You like a guy. You hang around him a lot, try to impress him, but may be less likely to say anything overt than a guy. The guy rewards you by treating you as a friend and telling you about the other girl or girls he wants. You conclude he's not interested.

B) As above, but instead of the guy saying anything, it's your female friends who give you the word that he's just not that into you, based on something or other that he said to them or that they overheard.

C) You like a guy, and he seems as if he might like you back - friendly, often hugs you, etc. Then you overhear his friends telling him, hey, I think she really likes you, and his manner seems suddenly more distant after you've heard them say that. You guess he didn't like you back after all.

The rejection's usually less overt, because most of the time you're playing the female role, and your approach is less overt. Mileage varies hugely, of course, if you actually get up the nerve to approach the guy overtly. But there's all kinds of social incentive not to do that, so many girls and women don't do the overt thing with any regularity.

Anonymous said...

"So, you're telling me that, not just some, but most women actually pick 'bad boys' to have children with? Just who are you counting as a 'bad boy' for this to possibly be true?"

I've heard people say popularity is inherently bad, complain "it's not fair that the popular people have the most friends," etc.

Then, if one says having more than a few acquaintances socially is "popular" and says "popular" is "bad"...

"The girl's eye view of rejection tends to look a little different from the boy's eye view. Examples:

"A) You like a guy. You hang around him a lot, try to impress him, but may be less likely to say anything overt than a guy. The guy rewards you by treating you as a friend and telling you about the other girl or girls he wants. You conclude he's not interested.

"B) As above, but instead of the guy saying anything, it's your female friends who give you the word that he's just not that into you, based on something or other that he said to them or that they overheard.

"C) You like a guy, and he seems as if he might like you back - friendly, often hugs you, etc. Then you overhear his friends telling him, hey, I think she really likes you, and his manner seems suddenly more distant after you've heard them say that. You guess he didn't like you back after all."

D) You like a guy, hang around him a lot, think he could like you back because of shared interests, and meanwhile try to avoid "bad boys." Then you overhear him complaining about how all the girls throw themselves at "bad boys" and realize you have no chance with him because he wouldn't have said that if he did consider you a girl.

Pagan Topologist said...

Around thirty years ago, while I was in my thirties, many couples I knew were going through divorces. Many of the women told me what jerks their husbands were. Most of them remarried, to men that they did not feel were jerks. None, so far as I know, had additional children with their new husbands. Some of the husbands, already characterized as "jerks" married younger women and had more children.

Pagan Topologist said...

Wow! Recalling the non-interaction I had with females as a teenager and the painful stuff from my thirties has brought back a lot of pain and depression that i thought I had long since left behind.

No, there were no girls who hung around me in high school, although if they had, it would probably not have occurred to me that they were "interested" in me.