Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In Defense of Nice

This was originally a guest post I did over @ my girl Melissa's blog

Hello, Melissa! Wasn't that BlogHer conference a blast?

All is well with me, my loves, I've been ... writing a book. Just typing that makes my head want to explode. More on the book (draft) later. 

In an effort to prove I am still here in the blogosphere, I'm borrowing this post to give me a jumpstart back into the blogging groove. Hope you enjoy.

What’s so bad about nice?

With so many corners of the world in turmoil, strife-- crushed under war, illness and sadness, is there a place for “nice”? Or should the word be abandoned as an archaic notion?

Attending college and getting exposed to a bunch of literary theorists beat the wordnice out of me. 

I was taught that the word was never to be used when describing literature, for instance. Calling Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, or Henry David Thoreau nice in a college English class might get a student verbally stoned. 

Nice was a dirty word, showing the ignorance of the person who used it. Nice was uncool. I was already supremely uncool as a non-traditional student, typically the oldest person in any college class (often including the instructor).  I didn’t need to feel even more out of place because of a four-letter word.

So I turned away from nice as I would from a bad smell, holding my nose, coughing a little when someone else made the mistake of using nice during class. A professor told me that using nice was as bad, as damning, as a woman wearing the color pink. Nice showed a lack of commitment, of seriousness, of intellect.

I swallowed, hard, as I was wearing a pink cardigan that day, and wanted to crawl under the desk. I gave the cardigan to the Goodwill. No more pink, no more nice. I could sneer at nice with the best of them. 

But the sneer didn’t fit me well. Uneasy, I avoided the word nice, but for my own reasons, or so I told myself. Nice was vague, wishy-washy, a term used by default when an un-schooled individual was at a loss for words. Nice didn’t have cachet, joie de vivre, or prestige. Nice did not garner respect. I was too snobby, too smart to use nice.

My nice-avoidance lasted a good ten years. 

Over the past year or so, I’ve been having second thoughts about nice. Blogging has exposed me to a group of supportive people who’ve become my friends. Most, if not all, of the comments they make are kind. I like it that way. 

I didn’t begin blogging to find flagellation. I can flagellate myself just fine, thanks very much. Feel free to make nice comments, call me nice, and be nice to each other at my blog. Really.

Other bloggers may revel in abundant criticism, verbal sparring, and don’t mind mud-wrestling with readers. Kudos to them. I don’t have that kind of blog, not that there’s anything wrong with thoughtful disagreement.  

But if you want a spirited debate on every point I’ve made, you probably won’t read me more than once. That’s not my niche, if I have a niche. Or maybe I have a nice niche? Sorry, couldn’t resist that bit of alliteration.

While nice can and often is overused and abused, I hear it creeping back into my casual conversation and sometimes, my writing. In a worldwide cesspool of derision, intolerance, back-stabbing, and prejudice, perhaps it’s okay to be, and to use, nice.


  1. Melanie! How NICE to see you again! NICE NICE NICE - and more -- I like this piece. Yes, the word nice was beaten out of me long ago as well - too blah, too nothing, they said (and, as you know, said is too blah, too nothing too!).
    Somehow this reminds me of the word fine - as in, how are you? I'm fine. That seems to be not okay anymore. You can't be fine. You need to be SUPER. or FANTASTIC, or AWESOME. I want to be fine, as in my life is good.... yes, I have ups and downs and my heard hurts but really? really? I'm fine.

  2. Ha-ha--words do go in and out of fashion. The whole "fine" notion is intriguing, too. "Small talk" sometimes isn't small at all!
    Mostly I just say "fine," but sometimes I rebel and say "Fantabulous" or something equally nonsensical.
    I've been reading your blog all along-- I think of you out riding your bike and painting those great works. I adore your art!

  3. This was certainly a very "nice" post, Melanie. And I think that you are a very "nice" person. And just for Graciewilde, I am feeling just "fine" today. :)

    Much hugs to you, Amiga!

  4. Me, nice? Only when Menopause, the Wailing Banshee, as you call her, leaves me alone for the occasional five minutes here and there! :)
    Thanks for dropping by--xoxo

  5. Loved it then, love it now! Nice rocks my socks and so does pink. :-) So glad to see you jump back into the bloggy thing and can't wait to hear about the book!

    1. I HAVE missed blogging. At first the break was "nice" but now I find myself hunting down blogging topics like a tiger once again. Do I write about Jessica Simpson's baby in a bikini, or the breast feeding professor, or both? Your toaster post was GRREAATT!, speaking of tigers. :-)

  6. Glad to read the stimulating discourse on NICE. Don't like NICE, but I do like people who are - at times. When I ask Allan a question about something and he uses words like 'fine' or 'nice' in his answer, I usually probe. He hates being probed, so now he tries to be more descriptive. Overall, I think the word NICE is neutral, bland, a bit positive, but lacks drama, daring and emotion. You are more than nice, as you are interesting, sensitive and funny. So there!!!

    1. Hi Elaine! Yes, sometimes "fine" and "nice" can be translated as "don't bother me!" Drama, daring, and emotion are better than bland most days, indeed.
      Calling me funny is one of the most flattering compliments I can think of, so thanks, I needed that!