When I linked to my piece on "2x4 guys" the other day, I realized that I'd expanded it for NML's Baggage Reclaim, but never put that version on GD. Well, it's time to rectify that! Enjoy.
2x4 guys are the ones you have to hit over the head with a 2x4 to get their attention. They are the ones floating along, totally clueless. They can't tell when you are flirting with them. They never ask anyone out. They hate small talk. A 2x4 guy may have a girlfriend, but it "just happened." He can't tell you how, exactly, they got together (but you better believe she can). These guys would never have a girlfriend unless the woman said, "You are going to be my boyfriend." The 2x4 response: "Who me? Oh. Ok." These are often great guys, but they are hard to wrangle. They don't play the game.
If you want to date a 2x4 guy you have to go get him. He doesn't know he is a 2x4 guy. You can't wait for him to decide, on his own, if he wants to be your boyfriend. Of course, there's no forcing anyone to do anything, so there's no harm telling a guy he's your boyfriend (besides the risk of losing face). He can say no.
I've never liked a 2x4 guys with any degree of certainty, so I've never pursued one. It always seemed that certainty was required to pursue a 2x4. If you are going to hit a guy over the head with a 2x4, you should be reasonably sure that he is a lump you want to take home and care for.
I was 18 when I met Bill and realized that there was such a thing as a 2x4 guy. Bill was a sweet, simple, generous guy. He worked in the boiler room of an office building in Seattle and rode a pristine '63 BMW opposing-four motorcycle (the cylinders rested horizontally and stuck out on the sides). I wasn't sure if I like-liked him, but I had fun talking to him and he was cute and goofy. He worked near my house and one night on my way home I left him a note on his motorcycle. He never called me. I continued to see him around but I figured he wasn't interested. The next thing I knew, he had a girlfriend. And this girl was...not nice. Bill seemed oblivious. She was mean, bitchy and aggressive. I didn't get it. How could Bill be interested in her and not in me? He was a 2x4 guy! (I'll concede that he may just not have been interested in me but that didn't explain why he liked her.)
I saw him at a party with the girlfriend and he mentioned the note I'd left for him many months before. He said he had called me but the number didn't work. Did I not get the message? I'd missed my chance with Bill. In retrospect, I know we weren't suited (I knew it then too), but I was sad that he ended up with a woman who was mean and bossed him around. But that is what happens to 2x4 guys. A passive 2x4 guy may end up with an aggressive woman who may not treat him very well. Better than nothing, I suppose. A guy who won't make a move towards a woman can't be too picky.
No guy who I've ever mentioned this term to knows what I'm talking about. Almost every woman gets it immediately.
I mentioned to my friend Dan that a mutual friend of ours was a 2x4 guy. I had to explain to Dan what I meant. Dan was amused and conceded that there was such a thing as a 2x4 guy, but he disputed that our friend was one. I realized that Dan was the ultimate 2x4 guy. Dan is attractive, smart, funny and did not have a girlfriend for the first five years I knew him. And, no, he's not gay. I said, "Actually, I think you are a 2x4 guy too."
"No I'm not. I'm just shy around women. I like to take my time."
"When was the last time you asked someone out?"
"Um well, I, uh...."
"Have you asked anyone out since college?"
My problem with 2x4 guys is that all the decisions are in my hands. If I'm not certain when I go after one of these guys, am I'm toying with his feelings? Would I be obliged to continue even if we turned out not to be a good match? I need more feedback from a guy than you get with Mr. 2x4. I don’t mind doing some of the pursuing and some of the asking--I'm happy to do at least half of the heavy lifting--in fact, I often do quite a bit more than that. But I need to know that he likes me, that he's interested. I can't make the whole thing happen. Some women can. I've never tried.
I wonder if it's worth the risk. Some great, worthwhile guys are out there despite how incredibly, annoyingly oblivious they are. And you can pretty much guarantee that they will be faithful. Ah, the sweet, kind 2x4 guys. It's too bad I'm not more violent.
Full version originally published in Baggage Reclaim.