Thursday, January 14, 2010

What's Wrong With Nice?

Hi, I'm Jenn, and I'm a recovering nice girl.

"But, why? Nice is good, isn't it?"

I was a hideously unpopular girl. One day, in fifth grade, I stood in line for my congealed chicken patty and fruit cocktail in heavy syrup. The kids ahead of me inched ahead so as to be as far from my body as they could, as did the kids behind me, creating around me what I like to call the "loser void". A boy ran up to me suddenly and announced, "Hey! You've been voted most unpopular kid in the whole school!" Then, he turned and ran, so as not to be sucked into my "loser void" like a passing comet into a black hole.

I blinked. I didn't remember any campaigning or voting, but apparently I won a landslide election.

Some time that same year, we did a class exercise, where the teacher made us write compliments about all of our classmates on little notes and pass them around so we got some sort of magical togetherness self-esteem fuzzies. These kids, who officially hated me, had to write something sweet about me, and I, in turn, had to praise my oppressors. I did it without much trouble, because I was always good at bullshitting (a good skill for college and the workplace, kids!). And when the exercise had finished, I had my own little pile of folded notes, promising sweet validation. Maybe I wasn't so hated after all! Eagerly, I started to read them.

Nice. Nice. Jenn is very nice. Jenn is a good drawer. She is nice. Nice.

So, I was nice. Well, what the hell? I remember thinking if I was so gosh darned nice, why was I the elementary school pariah? Why would I continue to be called "nice" despite being tormented in the hell of middle school and ignored in the loneliness of high school?

I wouldn't get my answer until I became an adult. But, this blog is not a wallowing-in-emo-past sort of blog. It isn't a bitter "nice guys (or girls) finish last" rant. I will deconstruct "nice" and explore how it caused me a lot of problems growing up. Because it isn't the same "nice" that means "generally good person".

I had a defense mechanism as the picked-on kid: be sweet. Never stand up for yourself. Anger is bad; better to cry. Let other kids copy your homework or "borrow" your lunch money in attempts to buy friendship. Maybe if they see just how good I am, how sacrificing, they will realize that bullying me is wrong. 

Nice meant insecure doormat.

So, I am happy to say that I am no longer "nice".