Far more than once, people have referred to me as “a nice guy.” And I suppose I know what they mean. But there are specific reasons why I don’t consider it true.
What people consider nice, I consider normal. If I say please, thank you, and excuse me, if I donate time or money to charities, if I help people when asked or offer when someone is in need, I am not being nice. There’s no above and beyond here. It’s basic decency, and I’m not going beyond what used to be the norm. This is what normal people do. That people consider this some sort of virtue is more of the reflection of societal rudeness and apathy. The bar has become so low that when you act like a human, you jump that bar.
In other words, I’m not a nice guy, you’ve just been surrounded by assholes.
I specifically dislike the word “nice.” When I was in 4th grade, my teacher would circle the word “nice” in red pen on our papers. The reason she did this was because “nice” is a bland word that describes nothing. Don’t use “nice,” use “pleasant,” or “kind,” or “enjoyable.”
Nice is the oatmeal of adjectives: bland and flavorless, but acceptable and non-offensive. When you say that someone or something is “nice,” you are saying that it of they are a tan lump of inoffensiveness. Be specific or be silent.
Nice people finish last because there is nothing to them. People don’t mind oatmeal, but few crave it.
Don’t forget “bland and meaningless”
I decided to look up “nice” in the Online Etymology Dictionary, and it reinforced what I believed. Nice covers or covered a wide range of meanings, from foolish and stupid to precise and careful (which you still hear in terms like “nice and easy” or “nice shot” to dainty and delicate to it’s current meaning of vague agreeableness. Even it’s definition has nothing concrete to it. The OED uses this quote from Northanger Abbey:
“I am sure,” cried Catherine, “I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?”
“Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything.” [Jane Austen, “Northanger Abbey,” 1803]
Not to say that these varied definitions are all wrong. At different times, I fit them all. I am foolish and stupid at least once a day. I am usually agreeable in a vague way, though as I said above, it’s just common decency. I am careful, my OCD takes care of that, but I am not precise, dainty, or delicate. I am ragged and dirty and completely insane. I am not a straight line. I am a pencil in a trembling hand (this is not a metaphor, my hands shake thanks to years of Lithium). My head is a toy box filled with mud, blood, and glitter.
So call me foolish. Call me stupid. Call me vaguely agreeable. Just don’t call me nice.
If you’ve made it this far, you probably like my writing. Check out my two fantasy novels Song of Simon, and The Watchmage of Old New York, or recommend them to friends. You can also check out this super secret “romance” project, “Welcome to Elmwood Park.” Writers don’t live by the “Like” button alone 😉
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