For almost all my life, I have been plagued with bad manners.
Not the kind that I would write about to, say, Miss Manners for some advice, because she might laugh at me or at least not take me seriously.
But it’s been a huge problem nonetheless.
I have been nice. Too nice.
Oh, I can see you all, sniggering, rolling your eyes, making that circular motion to your head, looking a lot like my teenagers do when I’m talking to them. I can hear you questioning my grip on reality in the way my parents do when I’ve described to them what some of my former boyfriends did: “From this you make a living?”
Being nice is a problem?
Well, it is. A big one.
Being nice has left me ill equipped to deal with everyone else’s bad manners.
Like when a cabbie picked me up a few years ago to take me to the airporter bus. I don’t exactly remember the details of our early-morning chitchat, but at some point he made a nasty comment about Jewish people. Now, I am Jewish, and, ironically, I was on my way to an anti-Semitism conference in Berlin. I immediately felt awkward. I wanted to say something, to tell him that he was an ignorant bigot, but I didn’t. I’ve regretted it ever since.
And I’ve regretted not saying something to a co-worker who didn’t wash her hands after doing whatever she did — and I don’t really want to know — in the toilet stall in the ladies’ room at work. We are in the middle of a swine-flu epidemic people! I thought to myself, and here she was putting me and everyone at work at risk of that and God knows what else. How rude! Same with my former co-worker whose desk was next to mine and who never covered her mouth when she sneezed or coughed. I’m not too nice to yell at my kids, “Wash your hands!” and “Cover your mouth!” But at work? Not a peep.
My niceness frustrates my boyfriend, specifically my tendency to talk euphemistically, like when I was trying to describe a friend of a friend who joined us on a bike ride not too long ago.
“Well, she’s juicy, and seems very nice.”
“You mean she’s overweight and not very pretty.”
He was right, of course.
Now, I’ll admit that not everyone would say I’m too nice. Recently, I was standing in line at the drug store and it was taking forever. Then I realized why — the cashier was the one with the horrible bird-nest-like toupee who seems so pissed off that he has to wait on anyone that I’m pretty sure he’s purposely slow so that no one will get in his line. So, to pass the time, I thought I’d chat up the woman in front of me.
“When are you due?” I asked, gesturing toward her obvious bump.
“I’m not,” she said flatly.
I should have known better than to ask a question like that. I had mistaken her, uh, juiciness, for a baby. There’s just no way to recover gracefully from that, even for people who are “too nice,” a category in which I’m positive she wouldn’t place me.
Nor would the woman on the highway the other day. She was riding my bumper and flashing her lights at me, and I was doing 70 mph — in the slow lane!
“Where the hell do you want me to go?” I mouthed as I stared at her while she speeded up for the exit ramp. She stared back, and then she gave me the finger. I’ll take that as a sign that she didn’t think I was being overly nice, although it’s obvious I have it in me to be less than nice.
But, generally, that’s my tendency. And the problem with being too nice is that you aren’t really genuine. You don’t have to be rude or bitchy or cruel to be genuine, but being too nice isn’t being honest, and I consider myself an honest and genuine person.
So, I have been learning how to stop talking euphemistically and to express myself in a straightforward but still kind way.
All I can say is, the next time a person flashes me some bad manners, he or she is going to get a piece of my mind!
Do you think that’s OK?
You can read all my ramblings at the OMG chronicles.