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You know, being told "You're nice, but..." may be harsh, but there's worse.

That phrase was thrown in there during the rather disastrous end of my first relationship, and it showed up several times after that. The junior year of high school, I promised myself I'd never get that again. That summer I went to Japan on a two-month language study program with AFS. One of the foreign students was this gorgeous girl from Hong Kong with full lips and the wit of Oscar Wilde. We met in a less-than-perfect way (I slammed her finger between two tables while setting up a meeting, jetlag's a bitch) but we hit it off rather well. How couldn't we? Janice was one of those people who make you better by their mere presence. She inspired me to act in a confident, outgoing manner, complete with wit and verve. Of course, I wasn't incredibly nice in this way - she termed it "verbal abuse" once. I saw it more as teasing, but what can I say? We were in Japanese classes for five weeks, and they were some of the happier times in my life. We talked a decent amount, and while I knew nothing was really going to come of it, it was just nice knowing she thought well of me.

After the language classes ended, the AFS students all went to a four day camp. I ended up at a camp with 35 foreign students and 200 or so Japanese students, many of whom had never met a foreigner before. I was the only American. It was an incredibly interesting time, but I digress. There, I spent hours talking and playing with her and teasing her. She went from amused to angry, but she always found me interesting and humourous. This for a guy who people had thought was stoned, I was so shy. She had an incredible influence on me. On the last full day before we left, she even told me she liked me. That hardly sounds like much, but she was a very non-demonstrative girl, and the way she said it...

Of course, I fucked it up. I can even identify where I fucked it up. She had finished her half of the Japanese versus AFS students soccer match, and I mockingly asked her how many goals she had scored. She got incredibly angry at me for that. That night, she started cozying up to my bunkmate Daniel. A New Zealander with the personality of a block of tofu, but he was a nice guy. Most of the students spent the last night awake, and we played cards and argued politics until the sun rose. On the train back to Tokyo, both of our eyes started tearing, but for very different reasons. She'd never get to see Daniel again, and I? I'd never see her again, and she thought I was an asshole. We had a weepy talk because it beat crying into the window and pretending the other person didn't exist. One phrase I'll always remember was "You're intelligent, and we can talk forever about anything, but... you're not very nice." I gave her a hug at her behest and wished her luck. Watching her leave hurt more than breaking up with later girlfriends has.

So you know what? Getting that "you're nice but..." talk isn't the worst thing. The best girls aren't going to go for the asshole-types, and the shallow girls that an asshole may pick up aren't worth it. Far too often guys who think they're nice are really just meek (and sometimes passive-aggressive, but that doesn't mean being an asshole is the answer.