The other week I took the ferry each night from Balboa Island to a different restaurant in Newport Beach for happy hour. I went by myself—something that I really enjoy doing when I’m traveling and that I’ve been making more of a point to do when I’m home. When you meet a friend out for dinner or a drink you have a pretty accurate idea of how your night will unfold. You can even anticipate the types of conversations you will have based on what you two always talk about when you get together. When you’re by yourself, you have no idea how your night will play out or what you will talk about with one of the millions of people in this world you haven’t met yet.
So, I’m walking in one night to a seafood spot on the water, and a gentleman—who happened to be walking in at the same time as me—hurried up the front steps and grabbed the door for me. I thanked him, then kept walking.
We both approached the same chair at the bar at the same time. “Are you stealing my seat?” he asked me, smiling.
“I think you’re stealing my seat,” I replied.
“Touché,” he conceded and pulled up another chair. We ordered our drinks, chatted for a while, and then I started to talk with the woman seated on the other side of me.
“So, how did you two meet?” she asked.
“Oh, just now as I was walking in,” I told her. “He held the door open for me.”
Her eyes lit up as if this were something rather valiant instead of a normal, polite gesture—something women do for other women all the time.
“Hang onto him,” she said, nudging me. “That’s a nice guy, right there, and nice guys are hard to find.”
Fast forward a few hours and I did agree to go out with the guy. But not because he was nice. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have said yes had he not been a nice guy. But using this as a factor to determine whether or not someone is worth going out with or—down the road—is right for us has always felt to me like a mistake. And it’s surprising to me how many women and men I’ve spoken with lately who don’t want to end a mediocre relationship they’re in because the person they’re dating “is so nice.” Or who have said that nice is at the top of their list these days for what they’re looking for in a partner.
To me, the latter is the equivalent of a friend who’s on the hunt for a house saying she’ll be happy when she finds a place with a roof over it. There should be a roof over every house! People should be nice! What’s inside the house should be what we’re concerned with.
Unfortunately, when dating, not everyone is nice. And I don’t think this is because most people aren’t nice. I think it’s because dating is an inherently selfish activity until it turns to love. Also, not everyone is dating for the same reasons so there are constant misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
Of course, sometimes people are just flat out inconsiderate. A while back I was talking with a woman who’s been dating and sleeping with her male roommate, but some nights he brings home other women and sleeps with them—when she’s one room away! And a friend of mine was recently seeing someone she’d met online. Everything was going AMAZING and then, one day, she never heard from him again. What did both these women say to me after these experiences? “I just want to date someone nice.”
Sure! I would too after those experiences.
But what I think both of them really meant was: I wish people were nicer in the dating game so I could follow my heart freely.
Because qualities like being nice or being responsible, or being anything don’t always translate to feelings. And I believe feelings are the key to lasting relationships.
I know we’re in a day and age where relationship experts argue otherwise. But falling in love to me is a feeling. And feelings are what keep us invested in something.
I think of my career as a writer.
Writing books is thankless work. It doesn’t pay for a really long time. It’s filled with rejection and sleepless nights. It lacks every QUALITY I had hoped for in a job. You could equate it to dating a guy who doesn’t make a lot of money, who messes up on occasion and sometimes lets you down. There are days you consider leaving him. You think: maybe I should be with someone who makes more money. Or someone who doesn’t make me re-evaluate MY ENTIRE LIFE from time to time.
But just as you’re about to walk out the door with your bags packed to find a new guy—someone stable, someone responsible—you remember the way he makes you FEEL. You think of those nights you two stayed up until the sun came up talking about life like you’ve never been able to talk about it with anyone. You think of the times you were so happy you wondered, has anyone else ever experienced the feeling of being this alive?
And you set your bags down.
Nice is not who a person is. It isn’t what makes anyone unique. And it’s definitely not something that makes a person meant for you. It should, of course, be a given. A way we treat people. Even if you’re breaking up with someone, there’s a way to do it nicely. But we shouldn’t fixate on what should be a basic human trait, when looking for love. And we shouldn’t place it so high up on our list that finding someone with it causes us to stop short of finding someone who makes us really feel something too.