Nice is a four-letter word

Nice is a quality that is dangerous… I think some people’s definition of nice is obedient… and when you have a problem… when you feel that someone is taking advantage of a situation and you feel that you’re not allowed to say no because we’ve put the quality of niceness on such a pedestal, I think that’s crappy ā€” Anna Kendrick, CBC q interview with Tom Power, November 2016

Nice ā€” pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory.
Obedient ā€” complying or willing to comply with orders or requests; submissive to another’s will.

Like Kendrick, and probably a whole lot of other similarly-minded people, I don’t put a lot of stock in the word ‘nice’. Nice is a four-letter word. Nice is not a character trait worth boasting about. Does anyone consider ‘nice’ a character trait? If it is a character trait, it’s one of the worst traits to be saddled with. Who wants to be described as nice? It so descriptively general and bland.

And yes, people do get ‘nice’ confused with ‘obedient’. It confuses me, too. Especially when people expect me to be nice when what they really want is me to be submissive to their whims and misguided / misinformed desires. This is something I’ve dealt with my entire life. I know I’m not alone in this experience. it’s probably far more common than anyone can imagine. For me, it’s not a constant, but it simmers and threatens to bubble over and burn from time to time. And it’s only because I’ve made the decision to be ‘nice’, i.e. ‘obedient’ that I don’t have third degree burns. But then again, the burns are not the kind that are visible to the naked eye.

The expectation to be nice is a form of control in a community of more than one person. It is also a form of control that is easily used in moments of passive-aggressive behaviour and in acts of veiled malice. I also happen to think it’s part of the patriarchal construct I occasionally rage against.

I’ve had this conversation with a handful of very close friends. Actually, the conversations were more like analytical and spirited rantings than anything else. I won’t get into the specifics of the rants. I’ll just be ‘nice’. For now. Because I’m at a point in my life where I’m more than willing to take the third degree burns if it means I get the pleasure of denying someone’s attempts to bend my will on any request or suggestion I fundamentally have no intention of complying to.

Burn me… expect to be burned in return. Either by me or by someone else. Nobody escapes unscathed.

If it sounds like I’m might be mad, you might be right. In fact, you are right. I’m mad about being expected to be nice. I’m mad about being expected to be forgiving because that’s a part of being ‘nice’. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said the words “I forgive you” to anyone. Yep, that would be correct. Never have. Not saying that I never will. I just never met anyone who was actually worth saying those words to, in a genuine and sincere way.

If you think it sounds a little cruel or that I have a black heart, I could say ‘fuck you’, but I would say you are sorely mistaken, instead. To be nice, opens the door and allows the wrong people to misuse and abuse your good nature and apparent ‘niceness’. I’ve seen that happen enough times to be skeptical of those who I know are capable of the abuse and to be skeptical whenever my instincts light up to tell me something’s off.

I can be nice. But more specifically, I can be generous, and I am generous, with my good will and my friendship. Like everyone on this planet, I just happen to be more generous with it, when it comes to specific individuals or communities because I know I’m emotionally and physically safe with them. I know instinctually where their hearts lie. Plus, they’ve proven to me who they are as human beings, and I’ve done the same in return.

Nice and obedient are not the same thing, folks. Let’s get that straight.

Let’s also get something straight, too…

If people continue to confuse those two words with regards to me, you will find out quickly that I’m neither nice nor obedient.

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