Life on the Naughty List

It’s that time of year. At home, at school, in the malls and on playgrounds, I hear parents admonishing their children to be nice. Generally, I don’t think much about it, but today, I did.

Today I was judged, and I learned again that in real life, in adult life, no one gives a shit how nice you are. In fact, as an adult, striving to stay on that nice list is the slickest route to depression, self-hate, broken dreams and lost hope.

I was raised to be nice, at all costs, be nice. It was the only currency my parents cared about, what light my existence reflected on to theirs. I wasn’t beautiful, wasn’t unusual, didn’t play football, didn’t perform on a stage. When my frustration at the futility of being nice overflowed my cup of patience,  mom would remind me that my gifts weren’t the kind anyone could see. I’d listen, tears scalding the back of my eyeballs, and end up walking away feeling so much worse. What good are gifts no one can see?

So, I was nice. I was the nicest girl I could possibly be. Long after I knew there was no Santa Claus, I was still being nice. All through college, a wedding, five household moves and three children, I kept on being nice. My life was about the Golden Rule, the Christian way, blessings from God.

In short, I made a very big mess.

You see, in real life, in adult life, people don’t care how nice you are. They care how much money you have, how well-connected you are, how beautiful, how sexy, what kind of car you drive, what your credit history is, who do you know? Whether or not you are a nice person has no bearing when it comes to that citation for a headlight that’s gone out, you don’t get a raise because you never complain, your credit card companies could not care less how good you’ve been to your family.

In adult life, when you are nice, you become a black hole. A place where people dump their garbage. You become a receptacle for bitter regrets, unresolved anger, helpless tragedy and burning gossip. You stretch to make up for others shortcomings, you fill gaps in performance, bandage the wounds of those who have tried and failed. You swallow everyone’s disappointment whole, warm and creamy, mouth wide open as it splashes your face and drips off your chin. No use gagging, there’s another load already waiting.

I’m on the naughty list this year, I admit it, and though I am farther from perfect than I have ever been, I am so much happier.

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15 thoughts on “Life on the Naughty List

  1. So well written and I couldn’t agree more. I had one of those experiences this week where I stood up for myself and my right not to have to be nice to someone who was not being nice and got all kinds of opprobrium. Whatever. I don’t know why I care so much, but that’s probably part of the syndrome.

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    1. I’m even writing a follow up…on the usefulness of being nice. Lol Merry Christmas and a ****you New Year. I guess it’s time for me to take another hard look. Here I was hoping this coming year could be a bit more in that romantic soft focus than the last er, 42….

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      1. It’s not that I’m against being nice — just that I want to decide when for myself, not be told to by manners or society or a particular person.

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      2. I’ve been thinking about that first line, not against being nice. I think I am more than willing to be polite but that the whole ‘be nice’ thing has a completely different connotation with me. I think I may have something against being nice.

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      3. Yeah, we’d have to define it, I suppose. I was thinking of something like “be kind” or “be more understanding of other people than they are of you.”

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      4. Yes, when i think of being told to be nice or being regarded as nice, I feel like it’s because I’ve put another person’s want/needs ahead of my own. It strikes me as wrong to say I don’t believe that is in my best interest, but that is what I’m saying, how I’m feeling. It’s great to be kind, to be polite, to care for others when you can. Being nice makes me think of border-less kindness and that is not sustainable, in my opinion.

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      5. I think when you haven’t been asking the question “what’s in my best interest?” for most of your life, it’s natural to start asking it more often. I hope it is anyway. I’m not stopping 🙂

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  2. This was a little sad to read at first, but you really finished strong! Speaking of finishing, the segment on swallowing the disappointment of others… Ummm, that type of writing will get you on the naughty list for sure! Welcome aboard pretty lady, nice to have some company on the list☺️Btw, you do have a wonderful spirit and people that aren’t self obsessed feel you and see your light😘

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    1. Thank you.
      ….aren’t self-obsessed.
      That made me think a lot about my youth. I’m still mulling my reaction to that phrase. I love it when you make me stop and think.
      I would say that more often than not my writing leans heavily to the naughty side, it’s the trick of finding a sweet spot to sell in. I keep chipping away at it.

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