• Kelsey Petersen

OVERCOMING THE NICE-GIRL SYNDROME

I was the one who asked Michael out first, only I was so bad at it that he didn’t know that’s what I was doing until much later. Like, not until we were married. (How we ended up getting married when we were both so clearly clueless and awkward is beyond me.) I wanted to invite him to a fun “Stars and S’mores” themed night the college was putting on at the stadium. He said that after filling him in on the details of what the event was, I said, “You should go.” I swear I said, “We should go.” But as I was nothing more than a mumbling ball of nerves, maybe I didn’t quite nail the landing there.


I guess I’m just trying to preface this by saying that I understand that asking someone on a date isn’t easy. It’s awful wondering if they’ll turn you down, or worse, if they’ll want to, but won’t.


However, I saw something on a Facebook page that had solicited a lot of controversy the semester before I graduated that has bothered me ever since. The page was set up so students of BYU-Idaho could  post their secrets, whatever they may be, anonymously. Most of the posts were harmless enough. There were a few embarrasing stories here and there,  or people thanking good samaritans for their kindness. The drama revolved around the few that bragged about the many devious ways they had broken the school’s honor code, but the posts that bothered me the most were the ranters. Specifically, the ranters who posted about asking girls out and being rejected by those girls. More than once I saw things along the lines of, “To the girl in my Psych 111 class who said no to me when I asked you on a date, I wasn’t trying to marryyou. I just wanted to take you to dinner. You are such a snob.”


Maybe I need to explain something about Mormon culture here before I go on. Latter-day Saint (Mormon) girls, are taught early on to be nice. That beauty is on the inside. To give people chances. To not judge a book by its cover. Oh wait, everyone is taught that, actually. I think the difference between growing up a Mormon girl and a not-Mormon girl is that we have these opportunities handed to us over and over again before we even get to college. From the time I was fourteen my stake, (all the Mormon congregations in my region) held dances monthly. At these dances, we were taught that it wasn’t nice to reject a boy that asked us to dance. Of course that makes sense, it’s common courtesy. You can’t say yes to dancing through a three minute Kaycee and JoJo song  with the tall, dark and handsome guitar player without also throwing a bone to the more awkward guy that wears dragon shirts and break-dances with glow sticks to the fast-paced techno song that nobody else knows what to do with.  He would get his feelings hurt. It wouldn’t be nice.


More than once I was asked to dance three or four times in a row by the same guy. I was just so afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings. So much so that I would even reluctantly give my number out when someone I didn’t particularly fancy asked for it. (Until my dad taught me that I should tell them, “I’m sorry, my dad doesn’t allow boys to call me.” Bless him.)

I know that this may seem extreeme, but something that stuck with me after reading The Lovely Bones was how the young protagnoist felt pity for the man that eventually raped and killed her. It’s the only reason she gave him the time of day, she didn’t want to be rude.


I shall call this the Nice-Girl Syndrome. Putting other people’s feelings over your own, even when it puts your own happiness, well-being, and sometimes safety, on the back burner. There is danger with this way of thinking. For one, it really isn’t nice to dance with a guy you aren’t fond of three times in a row when on the inside you are dying to get far, far away from him. It also isn’t nice to give out your number when you have no intention of ever answering their phone call.


Back to the ranters, ranting about girls rejecting their request for a first date. Guess what, Mr. Ranter? She owes you NOTHING. She isn’t interested in you. And while I realize there are rare cases where a girl is uninterested and in a very Hitch-the-movie type way the guy’s persistence and charm pays off and she eventually comes to see all the good things she had missed before…typically, if she is initially not interested enough to want to go out with you in the first place, dinner and a movie aren’t going to change her mind. She just saved you money, and even more valuable, time. Now you don’t have to go through the days before and long nights after your date agonizing over every text message, reliving every conversation of the date in your head, and wondering what went wrong. Wouldn’t that have been much more cruel? If she had strung you along? Wouldn’t that elicite you griping about her to your friends while they all agreed that she was a big fat jerk? “You took her to dinner and she never texted you back? That’s cold.” Plus, she could have a hundred reasons for saying no. Maybe she’s interested in someone else, maybe she just got dumped, maybe you simply are not her type. It doesn’t matter. You’ll find someone who says yes because they genuinely like you. So long as you stop ranting, of course.


I will teach my daughter that while kindness, is always, always important, she absolutely does NOT have to dance, talk with, or go out with a boy she is not interested in or uncomfortable around.  I truly think that in the long run, it is the nicer thing to do.



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