Monthly Archives: October 2010

Nice!

For some reason, over the past week or so the subject of being nice has been popping up into conversations with me. I went to a writer’s conference last weekend, where the vast majority of attendees were women and people kept remarking, with a tinge of surprise in their voices, that they couldn’t believe how nice everyone was. A few other moms and I were agonizing over why 9-year old girls just can’t seem to be nice to each other. Headlines were filled with not-nice election-year behaviors. Anti-bullying missives came home from school. And my mother-in-law and I had a discussion about how being nice seemed to have a relative meaning, based on according to what part of this country you live in.

At first I found all the “nice” mentionings a bit coincidental, but since I am a little on the self-centered side, I started wondering if perhaps people were dropping hints.

I used to know I was a nice person, because people used to tell me. I don’t hear that exact word much anymore, but people do often express gratitude to me for my support, help, shoulder to cry on, email to e-vent to, etc. Is that what you say about nice people my age? Or are they offering positive reinforcement for behavior they’d like to see more often instead of the bitchy side that is sometimes evidenced here on this blog?

To try and clarify things, I looked up “nice” in my American Heritage dictionary. Here’s a synopsis: “1. Pleasing and agreeable in nature. 2. Having a pleasant or attractive appearance. 3. Exhibiting courtesy and politeness. 4. Of good character and reputation; respectable.”

Yes, well . . . I guess the good news is the folks at A.H. neglected to qualify their definition by time limits. That is, they don’t say “pleasing and agreeable in nature at least 98.7% of the time” nor must one have a “pleasant or attractive appearance 75% of the time” in order to be nice. Perhaps that’s my saving grace. After all, I do stop to help strangers, offer to take photos of people when their arms don’t seem long enough to get a self-portrait, and have good parking lot karma because I always return the cart, come hell or high water, or even lightening flashes, to its rightful place. All those are signs of nice behavior, are they not?

On the other hand, I can be catty at times. It’s just that the world gives me so much fodder, it almost seems disrespectful not to acknowledge those gifts with some kind of snarky, humorous (in my opinion anyway) remark. I’ve also experienced my fair share of Schadenfreude — but who doesn’t enjoy a head-lining story about an anti-gay Republican senator getting bad press because he likes to get close to his male interns? And, with my windows rolled up so no one outside my car can hear me, I often yell and scream at idiot drivers who cut me off in traffic. Those behaviors rather suggest I’m not nice, right?

Perhaps. But, let me share the end of that “nice” definition in my trusty dictionary. The last entries read: “Obsolete. a. Wanton; profligate. b. Affectedly modest; coy.”

Ooo! I think that means I’m an old-fashioned nice girl after all.

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Promotion – Guide to Literary Agents

Chuck Sambuchino, the head guy over at the Guide to Literary Agents, does not sleep. Either that, or he’s more than one person. I don’t know how he does it, I just know that he’s always on top of what’s going on in the writing world — that is when he’s not creating part of the writing world.

Right now he’s running another “Lucky Agent” contest. This time it’s for Young Adult work. If you have a finished YA piece, you can enter. Three winners will receive a critique of the first 10 pages of their manuscripts.

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The Bliss of Ignorance

I have a friend whose skin is so healthy and beautiful that I would hate her if it weren’t for the fact that she’s also nice and funny. I can forgive any form of perfection as long as the bearer is nice and funny. Anyway, she happens to work at a cosmetics counter in a large store at the mall (coincidentally, as she had healthy and beautiful skin before she took the job there).

This past Saturday she invited me to attend an event at her store where I’d be educated on skin care and the line she represents. I went and was educated.

After I showered Sunday morning, I found myself sitting before my vanity mirror somewhat frighted by what I saw: large pores, deep wrinkles, dark circles, and redness I’d never noticed before. Thankfully I’d purchased products to remove, repair or at least conceal it all. It had all the makings of an ego-destroying moment but I couldn’t help but laugh at how I got sucked back into the human obsession to make things better.

What some might call a pride in ingenuity, I’m beginning consider an unhealthy compulsion. We are all in a constant, almost frenzied, quest to turn everything into a problem and fix it, whether or not it really is a problem. And at what cost? I’ll tell you what cost: the joy, happiness, stress-free zen state a life of acceptance has to offer along with stronger, healthier egos. And if that’s not good enough for you, loads of cash and energy to boot.

Think about it — my son just informed me that “they” are re-making the Star Wars movies in 3D, which rather suggests someone somewhere found a problem with the original Star Wars films and decided they were no longer good enough and needed to be improved. But, the reason why Star Trek was so very faboo in the first place is because it was a NEW epic adventure tale of a NEW fallen hero created with NEW technology.  The 3D versions might be fun, but really, they will be yet more Sci-fi 3D flicks ~yawn~ that will make us all feel like saps for preferring the originals.

My daughter and I are ADD. When I was a kid, “they” said I was spirited and flighty, but there was no problem in that as long as I had a chance to run around like a lunatic periodically. My daughter, however,  is a problem, and you wouldn’t believe the time, money and stress (but alas, no running around like a lunatic for her) that is going into “fixing” her. There are results, improvements, if you will. But they are minimal, and I can’t help but wonder if we’d just let her go wild every now and then,that maybe she’d be able to concentrate better when she had to sit still.

And look at what we’re doing with Mother Nature. Here in suburbia, we are all obsessed with “improving” the natural state of our yards by insisting that grass actually grows into nice, green lawns. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I let my yard be taken over by crab grass (it would be so very easy, but to save myself from the local lynch mob, I’d probably have to rename it the “Emerald Spreader” or something). But the stuff looks like it would fill in all the bare spots rather nicely that turf grass fails to do. Seems to me I’d have a thick mat of green that would stand up to running feet, dragged lounge chairs and the occasional car tire on my side of the drive way. Do you know how much money I’d save if I just accepted crab grass as normal and not a problem? How much time and energy I’d get back by not fighting it so much?

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

And look at Barbie! Feminists rail against Barbie because next to her, little girls begin to think they are too fat, too ugly and too not-normal, and yet Barbie continues to preside over a top selling toy empire. Barbie might be the epitome of where the human desire to find problems, fix them, and become “something better” leads us — “they” did the statistics and found out that if Barbie was a real woman with dimensions to scale with the doll, she wouldn’t have enough body fat to menstruate. Yes, girls yearning to look better, to fix all their “problems” are aiming to look like something that couldn’t be a girl (so, does this mean that Barbie is a Drag Queen? Hmmm . . .).

My point is (and I do have one somewhere in this rambling), we would have more time, more energy and even more cash, while living with less stress and healthier egos if we were not so damned set on finding problems to fix. If we’d just allow ourselves to wallow in a state of ignorance, one where “they” are not telling us there’s something wrong with us, then maybe we’d all be a little happier.

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Filed under Chaos, Children, Commentary, Conspiracies, TASFUIL