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Friday, February 8, 2013

Different Than Good

"And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good."

Little Red, "Into the Woods"

"Oh, he's nice."

When I was younger, and hornier, and single... er, hearing that a girl thought I was "nice" had the equivalent effect of generously receiving a judiciously thrust rusty harpoon through the left ventricle.

Now, being told I'm nice, or being thought of as nice, is what keeps me going.  It's fuel.  It's horny-juice.  It's the sun and it's life and it's, well, nice.

Nice is not a nice word.  It's a little word-- paltry and benign and seemingly insignificant.  Most guys would rather probably be thought of as "handsome" or "strong" or "a great fuck", but I'm perfectly willing to wear the badge that reads "N-I-C-E".  I suppose, to me, nice means a lot of other different things.

To me, nice means:










I'm sincere.  Sometimes, when I'm having what appears to be a casual conversation with somebody, my voice will quaver, as if seconds away from breaking-- because it is.  What we're talking about might not seem very weighty to the other person involved in the conversation, but it is to me.  I'm earnest about things that should probably be taken a little lighter.  Everything is of consequence, everything is heavy.  I probably wear people out.  I wear myself out-- I know that.

I suppose that's because it's awfully hard to be nice all the time.  I'm not saying that it'd be much easier and more effortless to be an irascible muckety-muck, but, well, I guess maybe it would be.  To say how you feel without giving undue concern to the feelings or the perceived feelings of the world entire-- to put yourself first.

Years ago, while doing research for a book I shouldn't have written, I came upon a quote by the English poet William Blake, and it goes like this,

"The most sublime act is to set another before you."

I clung to the jingoistic, romantic, valiant and gallant sentiments that hang heavy on this quote like so much heavily broached Victorian drapery.  This was back long ago when I thought I was going to become a police officer.  (The first time.)  When I thought I was going to stand before the ordinary citizens and chase felons fleeing in the night.  Not only that, this was when I thought I was going to set myself before myself-- that I was going to go join a fraternity where I quite clearly did not belong.  That I was going to be the square peg in the round hole, whether my family, or my fellow officers liked it or not.  Whether they understood it or not.

Whether I understood it or not.

I was going to be a nice cop.

I had this vision-- valiant and gallant-- that I would walk past stores in my uniform and a shopkeeper with a broom and an apron would nod to me as I passed and he would think to himself, "Well, he's not the biggest or the toughest cop, but he's the nicest.  I'm glad he's mine-- and I'm glad I'm his."

Sometimes I really can be quite naive for one so cynical.

Wanting and trying to be nice is good, I think, it keeps you honest and it keeps you mindful of others, but it doesn't do much for filling up your own tank, because being thought of as nice by others is the only measure for whether what you're doing is working or not.  It doesn't matter if you think you're nice or not-- you don't count.  Like all things one does or thinks, the effort required to be nice can take its toll, and it can become no longer commensurate with either the results or the energy required to attain those results.  I suppose, chances are, if you're the type of person who's expending an exorbitant amount of effort to be nice, you probably already are.

I wonder how many times I'll have to read that sentence to myself before I start to believe it.