Thursday, May 11, 2006

It isn't Shakespeare but there are lots of words: the dreadful result of free writing blame Natalie Goldberg

Tuna sandwiches may not be romantic but add a little curry, lots of black pepper, raisins, some mayo and crunchy romaine, slap it all between two pieces of excellent rye bread and serve it wearing your fabulous new sky blue tunic (with the cleavage) to a man who knows for sure that lunch will end in the bedroom, and it works fine as an aphrodisiac.

Alright. I’ll admit the romance did not come out of a tin of solid white tuna packed in water. And this is not about sex or romance. I’m not sure what it’s about, but I’m certain there will be a lot of words involved.

Back to today.

Mushy with the relief of doing something (anything) other than being at work or racing around trying to launch the beginnings of a career to feed myself after my impending retirement, I tell the Scorpio, “You’re such a nice man.” We are wearing a sheet. I am feeling, to say the least, kindly disposed towards him.

“Actually,” he replies mildly, “I’m not.”

Well, I know that. What would I be doing with a nice man? I’m not a nice woman.

“Yes, yes,” I say, “You’re moody and dark and irritable and stubborn and opinionated and a regular pain in the ass, I know. And you are too blunt and you’re given to hypochondria. But I don’t live with you, so that’s part of your charm.” This how I give compliments. You see? Not a nice woman. “You’re terrific at sex, though – and funny,” I add, in case the rest sounds a tad harsh.

I am so comfortable with this man. And I realize that it’s precisely because “nice” is something he does only when it feels genuine. It often does feel genuine to him and to me too, for that matter - but I prize honesty more. Weedy is right, nice isn’t the first adjective you’d use to describe me.

None of my close friends are nice, either. They are all quite comfy with large parts of their own shadows. Me? I’ve got to an age where life has worn much of the nice right off.

And good riddance.

Nice is what gets you on committees, taking minutes and attending ego-feast meetings that accomplish little or nothing. It buys you the attention of every pan-handler on the street. Nice, traveling to a prison visit once, got me a one hour lesson in bigotry from a shuttle driver who ended his monologue with, “so, this fella you’re visiting…he’s a colored fella, is he?

Come to think of it – there’s a little scouring left to do. Some of the nice is still stuck there like gooey candy floss. And it’s visible, apparently.

Just this week, waking up in one hell of a belligerent mood, Nice got me the sordid details of a complete stranger’s car-wreck marriage at the bus stop. Nice kept me pretending attentiveness while my brain was screaming, “Shut up now! I’m not even awake yet.” Nice was the fuel this stranger used to continue droning on until – 40 minutes later, I staggered off the bus with mosquito thoughts eating my brain.

The worst of it was, it was all the nice I had left for the entire week. The stuff is rationed these days. There isn’t enough to stretch over, say, an entire work day.
There isn’t enough to last past arrival – when I discover “the system” is dead as a doornail and am launched into the daily routine by listening to a patron complain bitterly about the policies of other libraries (which he expects me to do something about, thanks.)

So today was a real vacation. No need to lie or flatter or pretend attention to things I don’t care about. Two moody, tactless, cynical, people blissfully enjoying each other’s weird company.

It was a nice day, is my point. If in fact I have one.

(Echoing sound of chair scraping the floor as the remaining reader – the one who foolishly believed there would be a point, or was too nice to leave in the middle – sneaks to the exit.)


Teri said...

This made me laugh, especially the end. :)

I am TOO nice, damnit. I wish I wasn't, but it just seems against the grain of my being to be a bitch. I think part of the issue is believing that being honest is being a bitch.

Maybe I have to get okay with the idea that it's not my job to make people feel good. I can if I want, but it's not my job.

And I'm going to try that tuna sandwich!

LJ said...

I was too nice for a number of years. It took eons for me to figure out that "nice" means different things to different people.
1. Nice can mean a person is kind, considerate, empathetic, courteous and helpful.
2. It can also mean they're behaving in a weak way, sacrificing themselves for approval, or being dishonest.
3. A mixture of the above.
What's really interesting is that a nice person can exhibit the characteristics of #1 and there are people who will see them as weak and take advantage of their unwillingness to be blunt or honest or say "no." Often those who take advantage don't even see themselves as doing that.

At more than one point in my life, I became an unpaid therapist for several people, who (prevailing upon my helpful attitude)called me several times a week and talked for hours. Nothing ever got better for all my listening...and I'd get off the phone feeling like I'd been bled dry. At the same time, I was serving on any number of committees, working full time and doing the majority of housework and cleaning etc. This is not an uncommon tale for most women. And it's fine - if you feel okay with it. But after a certain number of years, I didn't.

And yeah, Teri - I think women carry a certain sense of responsibility for keeping everyone's emotional boat floating. Most of us are socialized like that.

And many of us, when they've done it for years, start to realize they've taken care of everyone but themselves and start the nurturing at home. After a lifetime of being nice - it's a tough battle to start saying a clear, definate "no," to keep your hand DOWN when they call for volunteers, to think "it's easier to do it myself.."

That's what these type of entries are.
Me working out, little by little, the balance. And learning to defend my boundaries.

I'm glad you laughed. I started to laugh when I drizzled to a close without an actual coherent point - and I could so vividly see that last, patient person, sneaking away.

The tuna sandwich, by the way, is to die for! Hope you like it.

Marigoldie said...

Love the post. I am a regular nice person now, having recently recovered from being a too-nice one. The southern girl is certainly trained to be super nice and accomodating. I'm cool with some of that--an openness and a bent toward hospitality--but man, you really have to set limits. I've gotten much better at it.

Once I brought groceries to a male neighbor when his wife was dying of cancer. I went to her funeral, checked on him after. One day, he ended up bitching me out for not following through on a casual request to have dinner. He dumped all his grief on me. We stopped talking and waving across the yard, and I was so stunned and hurt by the bitch-out. Months later, he came to my door with a shaky voice and apologized. I thanked him, said I forgave him, and moved soon after. Now I'm more careful with my boundaries. I'd still get groceries for a neighbor in need, but I'd make it clear I'm not his GD savior.

LJ said...

Amen to that, Marigoldie. I find (and that's why I try so hard to drop it)that I put a hand out and find my arm eaten to the elbow. It's happened so often that I've really pulled back. I see it coming now, much more quickly.
It's different with friends. There's a give and take.
And at my age, there are only so many hours of the day, and so many days, and I ask myself exactly what I want to do with mine. The answer is rarely something like: listen to a stranger rant about his lesbian ex-wife and law suits for 40 minutes.
And there are really, really a lot of people, like your neighbor, who are waiting for a savior. Who simply do not understand that, always, in the end, we have to deal with our stuff. No one can do it for us.
Thanks for the comment. Sometime, will you talk about being raised a southern woman on your blog? That would be so interesting.

beadbabe49 said...

yeah...I run out of nice waaaay before I run out of it goes!

coy said...

i am nicer than all of you!!

LJ said...

Yep, BB! So it does go.

Coy. You are not!