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Extreme meekover

Women always insist they're looking for a "nice guy," but they waste no time running past one to get to a jerk/bad boy. It really seems they're drawn to guys who treat them badly. My most egotistical friends score with women like crazy, and I'm a nice guy who's alone. If my experience is any indication, what women really want are domineering users who have sex with them and toss them aside. — Nice and Tired of It

Dateless guys like to blame their situation on how "nice" they are — as if nothing zaps a guy's mojo like being the kind of fellow who'd bandage a bird's wing. Night after night, they rock themselves to sleep, whimpering, "Am I just too wonderful to be anyone's boyfriend?" when the question they probably should be asking is "Why doesn't the approval-starved, needy suckup get the girls?"

Self-proclaimed nice guys are often not nice at all but overly nice — snakes in worm's clothing driven by crushing wimpiness, fear and desperation. Instead of taking the straightforward approach to hitting on a woman, the so-called nice guy offers to do a bunch of chores for her — not out of the goodness of his wimpy little heart but to bribe her into wanting him. This guy not only finishes last, he gets left holding the broom.

"Nice" versus "jerk"/"bad boy" is actually an oversimplification. NYU personality psychologist Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman has been digging into the nuances, which he laid out in his talk at an evolutionary psychology conference in April.

Kaufman described the classic jerk as "narcissistic, selfish, thrill-seeking and chauvinistic," noting that narcissists tend to be a bust in long-term relationships (they're all about being admired instead of being a partner), but are "masters at first impressions." He cited research that suggests a whole lot of us find narcissists highly likeable at first. We're drawn to them because they tend to dress with personal style, they have self-assured body language, they come off warm and charming, and they pepper their conversation with witty remarks. But, in the research, those who initially found the narcissists charismatic, well-adjusted and fun saw their true colors upon further interaction.

While many women are drawn to bad boys, especially in their early 20s, there are three basic types who will put up with one: thrill-seekers, fling-seekers and sad-sack gaping wounds. Regarding your contention that women want "domineering" men, Kaufman laid out research that shows they actually want men who are "assertive" as opposed to "dominant" — a guy who says to his date, "We've got to leave right now" as opposed to tying her up and throwing her in the trunk.

Kaufman described the ideal man as strong without being aggressive and demanding, and sensitive without being meek, wimpy or submissive. He described this man as "the Prestigious Man," and gave George Clooney as an example. He is confident, achievement-oriented and extroverted while also being caring, generous and helpful. Kaufman emphasized that kindness and assertiveness aren't mutually exclusive, and having both in one man is especially important to women. He also noted that the Prestigious Man has genuine self-esteem, based on his accomplishments (as opposed to the blustery "Look at me!" self-esteem of the not-nice guy).

So, the answer for you and other nice guys is ... become George Clooney? No, nor should you start hitting on women with "Hi! I'd like to have sex with you and throw you away like used Kleenex!" But, think about where a guy who might say that is coming from. He's having fun, shaking things up. He isn't living in fear of rejection. And he doesn't take rejection as a statement of his worth, just a sign that it's time to go offend the next girl.

What you need to do is borrow from the bad boy's successful tactics. You won't transform yourself overnight, but you can work on being more self-assured, and until you start to feel it, do your best to act self-assured. To ramp up your Clooneyness, Kaufman suggests you do something socially valuable, something to help humanity. As a bonus, if there's one place you're less likely to find narcissistic jerks competing with you for the ladies, it's the volunteer world. In time, with practice, you just might convince some cute volunteer girl to come home with you to help you put Bactine on that rash you got from tucking your tail between your legs.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail ( Alkon is the author of I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle to Beat Some Manners into Impolite Society.

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