Does the term "nice guy" have some new meaning.
November 21, 2008 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Is there a new meaning for "nice" a 20 year old might use regarding the other person in a relationships that a 48 year-old might not be aware of?

I just broke up with a women who was significantly younger than I. It was a short term relationship (2 months) and neither of us really thought it would turn out to be long term. She initiated the break up but it was impending either way. Twenty+ year age differences just don't tend to work out in the long run. Truth is she met someone closer to who own age she was more interested in and chose to move on. I'm almost certain she broke it off with me before anything happened with the new guy which I saw as honorable.

We exchanged some emails about the break up and as part of her explanation she included the following sentence:

"You are a nice guy but I have had nicer. No offense but they guy I am with now is a ton nicer."

I thought it was a very amicable break up and I can't fathom why she would want to rub anything in. I was completely respectable to her during the entire relationship and treated her as well as I knew how. She often commented on how good I was to her. It wasn't as if I was playing sugar daddy and showering her with gifts. I did things like cook her breakfast, paid when when ate out and help out on one or two of here college projects but I don't know that I actually gave her a single gift. (By my understanding of the definition of "nice" I'm a damned nice guy).

Am I missing some animosity she might have toward me? Where might that animosity come from? It feels like something she added , along with a few other comments, just to hurt my feelings or adversely affect my self esteem. Was she saying "nice" to mean "attractive"?

(Please don't chastise me for being a "dirty old man". I'm significantly immature for my age : ), so the age difference wasn't quite as great as it seems).
posted by Carbolic to Human Relations (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've been in relationships that seemed to end well, no hard feelings, all that, then which quickly turned nasty within days. I think some people have a need cast the other party as the villain. Picking a fight with you may just be her way of trying to get you to be mean back, so she can feel better about having left "that asshole."
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:51 AM on November 21, 2008 [5 favorites]

I can't think of any "new meaning" of the word nice. But it does strike me that you may be confusing respect and "being good to her" with just plain being a nice person or being nice to her. It is possible to be respectful and "good to" someone you're dating without being particularly nice about it. Or maybe you're not as nice to people in general as you were to her, and she's noting that you're just not as nice a person generally as her new beau.
posted by The World Famous at 10:53 AM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Personally? I'd say it looks like she just doesn't have a great vocabulary so she can't articulate why New Guy seems better for her than Carbolic. Not that I think she should necessarily feel compelled to articulate why New Guy is better for her than Carbolic but apparently she did. I really wouldn't worry about it.
posted by Neofelis at 10:54 AM on November 21, 2008 [6 favorites]

Please let this go. This is evidence of her immaturity, nothing more.
posted by Wilder at 10:54 AM on November 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think she was just being imprecise in her language. It seems to me that she was using "nice" to mean "what I am looking for in a boyfriend"—in other words, you fulfilled some things she was looking for, but this new fellow fulfills more.

Nice is such a bland, empty word. I think that blankness is what made it come across as an insult or a put down.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:54 AM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

It wasn't as if I was playing sugar daddy and showering her with gifts.

Maybe that's what she's looking for. Or maybe the age difference prompted some feelings of insecurity in her that disappeared once she was with a guy her own age. Honestly, who knows, and who cares? Put her out of your mind and out of your life. Don't dwell on this.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:55 AM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is how I read it: "You are a nice guy [you cooked me breakfast, paid when we went out, and helped out on one or two of my college projects but you never gave me any gifts] but I have had nicer [besides making me breakfast, paying when we went out and helping me with projects the other guys have done other even NICER things that you have]. No offense [you might be offended when I say this] but the guy I am with now is a ton nicer [he does the nicest stuff that anyone has ever done for me].

I agree with you that it's kind of a mean thing to say. At the same time the entire 2 sentences really scream of immaturity. My second grader might say something like that.

But, I don't think it has any hidden meaning except for the fact that it's very telling how immature she is.

Nice is nice. You were nice, but maybe she wanted something different in the nice department. Maybe she wanted gifts. Maybe she wanted to be slobbered on. Maybe she wanted someone to not just help her with her projects but to actually do them for her.

Sorry she hurt your feelings. Keep on being nice.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:57 AM on November 21, 2008 [11 favorites]

Best answer: This has more to do with her being 20 than it does with the definition of "nice."

My daughter is 20, and I can attest to the fact that most 20 year olds who jump from relationship to relationship always describe the new guy as being much better than the old guy (doesn't matter if it's actually true or not, it's just something they need to convince themselves of in order to move on).
posted by amyms at 11:02 AM on November 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

She's not expressing animosity. She's expressing the failure of the our educational system.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:08 AM on November 21, 2008 [65 favorites]

To me, nice could mean emotionally available. You did nice things for her, sure, but were you emotionally available and affectionate? I would say that the age difference, and the short time you spent together, might lead you all to have different emotional needs, and this new guy provides those things for her.
But she does still sounds immature.
posted by greta simone at 11:09 AM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

10 years from now, if the years are good to her, the sentence might read "I've really enjoyed our time together, and you have treated me with respect and a generosity of spirit. I wish you well."

She just hasn't learned how to say that yet, so she went with the stuff above.
posted by agentwills at 11:20 AM on November 21, 2008 [16 favorites]

I'm on board with those who say she just used "nice" for lack of a better word or phrase. New guy's just a better overall fit; don't try to read anything more into it.
posted by owtytrof at 11:23 AM on November 21, 2008

Back when I was your age I dated a few women her age and every time it ended they seemed to feel the need for some annoying little drama. I'd always chalk it up to immaturity. Sure enough, as I matured I began dating women who wouldn't do that. Eventually I found one twice their age that doesn't want to end it ever. Chalk it up to experience and maybe try a twenty eight year old next time.
posted by Floydd at 11:23 AM on November 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

We exchanged some emails about the break up and as part of her explanation she included the following sentence:

"You are a nice guy but I have had nicer. No offense but they guy I am with now is a ton nicer."

This could be less about what happened during your relationship and more about you still emailing her after you broke up. She's 20 years old and in a new budding relationship. Who wants grandpa emailing her and talking about her last relationship? Her new relationship is better than her last because it is brand new and shiny. You are old and busted. Let it go and if you're still in contact with her, stop. You're dwelling on this to the point where it could seem as if you wish the break up hadn't happened and you're obsessing after her. If that's not the case, drop it like a sack of potatoes and move on.
posted by Stynxno at 11:27 AM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Nice to me (mid twenties female) might mean kind in addition to emotionally available. You seem like you've hit the high points of the dictionary definition of 'nice' but are you kind? To her? To humanity?

I'm probably reading too much into it because as previous responses indicate, the likeliest thing is that she is inarticulate, immature, and with questionable manners. I would cease emailing her and not look for any further explanation- as you mentioned, the end of the relationship was imminent regardless of which party sparked the actual break-up.
posted by arnicae at 11:41 AM on November 21, 2008

I have no idea, I don't know her or how to contact her. Perhaps, since you do, you could ask her? It may not even be animosity and you're making it be something bigger than it actually is.

Chill out and ask her or just chill out and move on. Life is short and you're running out of time :)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:47 AM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Nice" is a word that should be stricken from the English language. People who frequently use it (for example, three times in once sentence) generally have the vocabulary of a head of lettuce and use it because they can't express what they really mean.

Given the small snippet above, I expect that the the vocabulary of most vegetables far outstrips hers.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Heh, seems to be a bunch of kids actually think "no offense" works as a way of preventing any heartache on the other person, giving them the right to say whatever they feel like. She's (as stated above) immature, clueless and not really saying anything at all, except that she prefers the one she's with. Of course, you might be patronising, and overweight, and dictatorial and have a whole bunch of other less desirable traits, but no-one can tell from what she said. (How did you manage 2 months with someone like that?)
posted by b33j at 11:54 AM on November 21, 2008

I came in here to tell you what my boyfriend thinks of the word "nice". According to him, it is the worst possible thing you could ever say about/to a guy. Nice = "You seem to be an okay guy but I will never, ever sleep with you."

I'll admit to using this meaning of nice in the past when I wasn't attracted to a guy who was interested in me. I thought that it was the, well, nicest way of putting it. I would agree with others above me that she has a poor vocabulary and uses the same word, although with different meanings. So, maybe she thought she was trying to let you down gently by calling you nice (aka "I don't want to sleep with you") while calling the the new guy nicer ("I don't have a better word for sweet")?
posted by Nolechick11 at 12:04 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've been surprised to hear about me not being nice as well. The most common time this surprise happened is when I broke someone's heart in a preventable way.

Here's one example: She was way more into me, and I was only partially into her, but I was really friendly, and so she hung onto the relationship, hoping that my friendliness meant I really cared for her. Instead, I was just friendly and enjoyed her company, but didn't love her the same way, and so she felt like I was leading her on and using her.

In other words, nice gestures can be appear really mean if the meaning behind your gestures doesn't match how the other person takes it. It's like if someone kept telling you that you were amazing, sweet, caring, and exactly the kind of person she'd want to be with forever, and when you go in for a kiss, she withdraws. You'd be righteously pissed.

Also to receive an honest assessment of being "nice" one can't simply do nice things. You have to have an absence of mean things. So you cite a handful of nice gestures, but if there was anywhere in the total picture where you really mean, then those gestures-be-damned. She'll remember the mean thing.

Having said that, the other comments are right, you shouldn't take her comment too seriously. However, if you have a sense that she might be right, you need to think deeply about what is good and bad behavior in relationships.
posted by philosophistry at 12:06 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Kind of a random long shot: Is she British, or has she spent a while in Britain? The application of "nice" there seems to be much more broad.
posted by cmoj at 12:08 PM on November 21, 2008

Best answer: Is there a new meaning for "nice" a 20 year old might use regarding the other person in a relationships that a 48 year-old might not be aware of?

No there is not. I am sorry about your relationship and I think MrMoonPie is probably correct in his assessment of the interpretation of what she said to you. "I have had nicer," for all values of "nice" in some way means that she's unfavorably comparing you to other people she'd been with before and the guy she's with now. It's not the way people who really care about other people's feelings talk, in my opinion.
posted by jessamyn at 12:43 PM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I recently had a conversation with a group of women under 25, all talking about guys they had dated. Among them, "nice" really did seem to imply giving them money, buying them expensive things, etc.

Being a lot older than them and well-indoctrinated in second-wave feminism, I was pretty shocked that this sort of thing seemed to still be going on. But this particular group of young women all seemed to treat this materialism as the norm, and did use the word "nice" in this context.
posted by chez shoes at 12:47 PM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments. I was reading it the same way most above did but it confused me that she felt the need to say somethings that felt like she was trying to put me down. There were a few other things in the out down vein she said but the meaning was clearer.

I truly liked the girl and I'll miss her from time to time but this, thank god, wasn't one of those devastating, out of the blue things. It's only been a week but, surprising to me, I'm pretty much over it. Just the seeming need for meanness from her end continues to bother me a little.

It seemed like the other things she said that felt like put downs were a more obvious effort to place all blame at my feet. The "nice" thing just wasn't as clear.

I think, as others said, maturity has a lot to do with it. As relationships go, there really wasn't any blame to be placed - two humans, we just didn't mesh perfectly. She just may feel the need to place blame when there really isn't any reason to do so.

My problem at the moment is that I can't seem to meet any women more my age that have retained much of a sense of playfulness (all they seem to want to talk about is work and "life goals".) You get the playfulness part (let's go to the park and throw the frisbee around, etc.) with the young ones you just don't have much else in common. So it goes.
posted by Carbolic at 1:07 PM on November 21, 2008

To be blunt, I think that it means that you weren't buying her enough things, that you weren't worshiping her enough or that you were not satisfying her physically. In my experience, when young women date much older guys and break up with them for younger guys, those are the reasons.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 1:12 PM on November 21, 2008

Response by poster: A little clarification. She still says I'm a nice guy (just ended up feeling the need to let me know that I wasn't the nicest ever and that the new guy is "tons" nicer - was either really necessary?) and there was sex in the relationship. She told me many times during the relationship how nice I was and "how good I was to her". It's almost like now that we're apart she wants to take it back for some reason. Just seemed weird to me when I asked the question. With y'alls help I'm now pretty much marking it up to immaturity. Guess I was having trouble remembering what it was like to be twenty.

This was by far the largest age discrepancy in any relationship I've ever had. Don't think I'll try it again but if I do at least I'll have a better idea of what to expect when it ends.
posted by Carbolic at 1:17 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This may not specifically address the linguistic quirk of 'nice', but the meaner things she said might well be chalked up to immaturity. Often people at that age don't seem to understand that, as you said, sometimes people just don't mesh. When a split happens, it has to be big and dramatic, there has to be yelling or hurt feelings or some other manner of intensity, it has to be SOMEONE's fault, because that's the only reason a relationship would end. The black-and-white view of things is still in effect. So she may be saying these things, not because they're true, but because she needs to create some kind of justification for the split happening, or wants to comfort herself by creating a scenario in which it's your fault things didn't work out.

Whatever the reason, you're better off without her.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 1:45 PM on November 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

It kinda seems like you did something to piss her off.

Were you condescending? Passive aggressive? Bossy? Patronizing?

Or perhaps she has a daddy complex and is in the rebellious stage (YOU SUCK, DAD!!!).
posted by sondrialiac at 1:49 PM on November 21, 2008

Response by poster: Don't want to moderate my own AskMe but you guys have really cleared my head. The immaturity aspect seems obvious now but it hadn't entered my head. The idea that she felt a need to make the split someones fault (mine) as a way of making herself feel better about it hadn't occurred to me either but, especially when taken together with some of the other things she said, makes complete sense. I'd already done a pretty good job of moving on but you guys pushed me right over the boundary. You guys are SOOO great. Thanks so much!
posted by Carbolic at 1:53 PM on November 21, 2008

Best answer: You're pretty much all set now, but I'm also going to chime in with the "yeah, she sounds immature" camp. But not so much about what she said -- more the fact that she said it in the first place. I think it's very human to try to pick nits in your own head about your ex, no matter how short or long the relationship was -- we all do a little sour-grapes thinking when thinking about our exes. Hell, I've done it.

But NEVER have I actually voiced any of those thoughts TO my exes. Because those thoughts ARE immature, and irrational, and unfair. They're thoughts I need to have, and just let myself think, because we all do that and I have learned I need to let myself go ahead and think them for a while to get them out of my system. But I always later on realize that "yeah, okay, maybe he wasn't THAT bad after all," and that's why I never, EVER say any of that because I know I'll change my mind back and snap out of it eventually. Besides, it's just plain MEAN.

She HAS told you that, though. And that, I think, is what is immature, not what she said.

She'll learn. she'll kick herself someday for actually saying things like that, either about you or about another guy, and she'll feel bad, and she'll learn.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:12 PM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ubu+Empress answer = she's an asshole that doesn't realize it because of immaturity.

Empress - My fear, because I do actually care about the girl, is that she may never kick her self over such behavior, feel bad or learn. I think she may have some issues (who doesn't) She actually pursued me rather than the other way around. I though it strange at the time but finally went along because what can I say? I'm (a not bad looking 48 year old) but it was damned faltering to have the interest of such a young. woman.

This may be one of those times when AskMe actually does a good job psychotherapy-wise. I was a person with an issue that was consuming me somewhat mentally but not causing real distress. Told my story, some fresh eyes looked at it and quickly help me move over a hump.

I probably would have been grinding this through my head for at least the next week without the thoughtful input I got here. Instead, now I'm about to load my bike on the car and get my gear together to make my first sub-40 degree bike ride in the morning (South Louisianan southern boy, up until last March I thought anyone on a bike in 40 degree weather was either homeless or crazy. Supposed to be 36 when I set out tommorrow.)
posted by Carbolic at 4:42 PM on November 21, 2008

Response by poster: Flattering, dammit, flattering, (faltering later may be). Maybe my next question should be about mid-life crisis?
posted by Carbolic at 4:44 PM on November 21, 2008

That's a shitty thing to say at a break-up, regardless of the education level or maturity of said individual. That is, ignore the nonsense. As mentioned above, it sounds like she's trying to rationalize her fear of perception of age difference and the inevitable guilt by ostracizing you. It's rather unfortunate she lacks the language prowess to do it in a clear or at least clever way.
posted by spiderskull at 1:06 AM on November 22, 2008

You're a john bro, and you were not giving her enough gifts. Everyone knows that's what 'nice' means in the context of younger girl older man relationships. An older man means security, and if you were not giving her enough, then you're not 'nice' enough. It has little to do with immaturity - if anything, it's you who's being immature in not seeing her for what she is.

Someone has to say the harsh stuff.
posted by ChabonJabon at 5:02 AM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Some people are just insensitive and tactless.
posted by orange swan at 8:57 AM on November 22, 2008

My fear, because I do actually care about the girl, is that she may never kick her self over such behavior, feel bad or learn.

Thanks, dad.

No, seriously, why do you care if she learns stuff? She's not your mentee. You boinked for a while.
posted by sondrialiac at 8:57 AM on November 22, 2008

I have to agree with ChabonJabon; that she pursued you and that note, taken together, imply she was looking to be 'kept'.

You wanted a real reciprocal relationship, on the other hand. She must have found such obtusity a trifle frustrating (hence the overtone of meanness), but I think it saved you from much worse pain in the long run. If you had been "tons nicer", I strongly suspect she would have tried to hold onto you and had secret young lovers on the side-- until, that is, she found one she thought could also take care of her.

Then you would have been dumped hard, been absolutely devastated, and probably felt bitter about it all for a long time.

Instead, you're out having a very enviable sweet ride on your bike, and only the cold is bitter.
posted by jamjam at 10:59 AM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: jamjam - don't think she was looking to be kept (I may be to quick to assume the best about people) but the ride was "sweet" and I was surprised to find how comfortable riding in 30-40 degree weather can be when you put together the right gear. Just expanded my riding season from 6 months to 10 or 12 months a year. There's an upside! If not for the break up I probably wouldn't have taken the step to sub-60 degree bike rides. I'll have to remember to thank her.
posted by Carbolic at 9:04 PM on November 22, 2008

Response by poster: sondrialiac - I care because I care about her as a person and I try to hope that people can end up being the best they can be. Even discounting that, there are enough shitheads in this world already. I've discovered a way to "boink" for a while and still give a shit. In fact, I find it difficult to "boink" if I don't care at least a bite.
posted by Carbolic at 9:24 PM on November 22, 2008

Look, I respect the fact that you care about her as a person and that's great. However, I'm nearly the same age as that young lady and if you brought that kind of didactic attitude to our relationship I would be more than a little miffed. So that might be something to avoid verbalizing in the future.

Some men have the tendency to think that they are in some sort of position to educate, enlighten, or otherwise mold the thinking or behavior of the women in their love life, and it can range from irritating to offensive.

I had some feeling that you were looking for that kind of feedback. I could have phrased it more kindly, and I'm sorry that I did not.
posted by sondrialiac at 8:54 AM on November 23, 2008

Response by poster: sondrialiac - I was just addressing those feelings here. They were not comments I ever made to her, I wasn't one to lecture or give "life advice" during the relationship. I wasn't playing Daddy or, at least, not to any extent I was aware of.

I actually got an email from her today.

She originally broke things off by sending an SMS saying we needed to "just be friends". It really came straight out of the blue so I asked for an explanation of her reasons. Apparently my asking for an explanation made me "hard to end things with".

Her explanation:

"Look it isn't anything against you I just don't think I have ever had so much trouble breaking it off with someone. I am just grasping for something that will make it where you will let it go. You were really nice and I enjoyed your company but I just knew it was never going to go anywhere. Sorry. I just wanted someone I could actually have a future with. Anything mean I said to you want just an attempt to get you to drop it because when I am done with a relationship I just want to drop it I don't want to discuss or dwell I want it to be finished."

The difficulty in breaking up I offered was that I talked to her and emailed her a couple of times looking for an answer for the break up that made any sort of sense.

I guess there were two things at work. I need things to make sense and I think it must be more common with my generation to have a talk about ending a relationship and to give some explanation of the reason(s) for ending it. I'd never imagine ending a relationship via SMS even thought it had only had a two month life. Especially since it had been a pretty intense relationship even though short lived.

Seems like her solution was to try and find someway to make me hate her. Didn't work, I've lost a lot of respect for her but I don't feel any hate.
posted by Carbolic at 8:21 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mod note: comment removed - let's keep this to the issue at hand and not turn it into a "some people are jerks" discussion
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:12 AM on November 24, 2008

I know I'm answering this a bit late, and it sounds like it's all over and done with, but, here are my thoughts...

Lots of young (early-mid twenties) females just seem to operate this way. When it's over, it's over, and they don't want to talk to you about it or justify their reasoning.

I have seen it from different angles. Recently, I was kinda involved with a mid-20s girl (I was 36). It's hard to explain, but it was pretty intimate, although we never actually dated. I kept asking her for a date, she kept saying yes, but then cancelling at the last minute. This happened about 4 times, then I got a text message out of the blue "I don't want to see you any more". I simply asked "why not?" and got this massive tirade of abuse which I KNOW was not all true. I never even got a chance to do most of the things she accused me of.

I've also seen it done many times by a mid-20s female friend of mine. She is very open with me about her relationships, and I've lost count of the times I've seen this girl get a text message from some guy, and she looks at me and says "OK, I have to end this now", then sits there typing a long message to the guy, then refuses to ever talk to him again.

It just seems to be the way they operate. Don't take it too personally. She, for whatever reason, decided she wanted to end it. Any post-breakup abuse or put-downs is just her way of trying to avoid having to reasonably explain why she made her decision. She's also trying to justify it to herself, as others have suggested. A comment that you're "nice, but not as nice as the new guy" is, frankly, getting off lightly.

Her last message to you says it pretty clearly. She decided to end it. She tried to say things to make you walk away, but you kept coming back and asking "why?", when she just wanted it all to be over.

Also, SMS and email makes it easier for them. They don't have to look you in the eye.

Is it heartless to do it this way? It certainly feels like it when you're on the receiving end. But maybe it's like taking a band-aid off. Some things are better done quickly. By way of comparison, I ended it with a woman who was 38, and then had about 6 months of back and forth emails of her asking "why?" and me trying to explain my decision without hurting her too much more. Now she hates completely hates me. Perhaps the band-aid approach would have been better.
posted by Diag at 2:27 AM on December 2, 2008

Response by poster: No one will probably ever see this but I wanted to add that I just discovered a strategically hidden pair of her panties. Looking at this one and at least one other of my askmes I'd say I either attract or seek out the slightly "crazies".Or, maybe I'm just the crazy.
posted by Carbolic at 1:33 AM on March 1, 2009

Strategically hidden? What do you mean?
posted by ocherdraco at 5:59 PM on March 1, 2009

Response by poster: Heh. Hidden deep in my underwear drawer. No way it ended up there by accident. Maybe "strategically" was the wrong word. "Purposely" would have been better. (Can't believe either of us are looking at this post.) Had to have been purposefully. No way else for them to get there. She never wash clothes here and I definitely would have noticed if they had been left one the floor. Her mother works at the same company I do. I feel good about myself because I shook off the temporary temptation of leaving them on the mother's desk with a note saying "Your daughter left these at my house, I thought she might like them back". Good for me!!!
posted by Carbolic at 9:22 PM on March 13, 2009

« Older What's this "aliens stole our metal" SF short?   |   But what did the Solvo do? Absolutely NOTHING! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.