Sunday, December 2, 2007

nice, when we want to be

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They were in bed, just waking up on a Saturday afternoon, when Jane asked her boyfriend Marcus if he thought she was a nice person, after he mentioned how he thought so-and-so from the night before was a nice person, how he liked that person.

"Do you think I'm a nice girl," she asked.

He looked at her carefully.

***
Abandonment issues was what he called it, after he started. "You're always preparing to be abandoned by someone you get close to because your dad left when you were little, preparing yourself to be strong so it would hurt as much...it's like you're bracing yourself. That's why you're only nice when you want to be, and mean to people when you felt like it too." He looked serious and sleepy.

"But doesn't that apply to most humans: ambivalent niceness?"

"People are supposed to be nice when they don't feel like it to be considered nice and not nice-when-they-want-to-be?"

"But not pretending to be nice is less stress and more honest, and honesty is a good thing, and you're nice when you want to be, and mean when you don't even realize it too, and just because I don't put up with other peoples' crap and think some people are stupid..."

"You're being defensive," he said.

Jane knew it would take plenty of humility to tell herself that she was being defensive, and to admit it in the middle of a slowly formed snowballed nitpick argument over nothing in particular, was a pain.

But he was right.

***
It could be worse, she thought, lying there in bed trying to calm down. I could be one of those people who can't be nice, whether they try or not. But I guess depending on my mood, I'm one of those people too-if I'm not making an effort to be nice-if I feel like it, but if I'm not being nice am I automatically being mean, or is there some neutral temperament, which is not nice or mean, something like apathy? Why does it have to be either, or? Why couldn't you have just said 'yes' and this wouldn't be happening?

Tired, Jane agreed that so-and-so was nice, how she liked that person too; then she changed the subject so they wouldn't fight.

She was trying not to pick fights over small things as much anymore, since Marcus was thoughtful enough to psychoanalyze her in the first place, bringing to focus things like:

Her picking fights for an excuse to leave due to insecurities of being left, her inability to relax and not worry so much about people leaving before she wanted them to, and her over cautious nature, which would ultimately wear her down, along with the patience of others who even thought to try to care.

For a Japanophile oil painter from Houston who stayed around because he liked the sex and Jane's family had money, she admitted: Marcus gave good advice sometimes.

***
Around Thanksgiving, over beers, Jane's Korean aunt, the same one gave her piggy back rides as a pre-teen when her mom was an early twenties disco queen, joked that Jane and her boyfriend would have lazy babies one day, if we they were to ever have babies.

She always knew how to make serious things sound like jokes, the same way she could get away with insulting people right to their face, if only for the satisfaction of being honest and getting away with it.

"But he still better than ugly doctor boy," she said. "Pretty lazy baby is better than ugly baby with rich doctor husband."

Either, or, she thought, why does it have to be either, or? Why can't I have both? Or none? Leave me alone. It's no wonder I'm not nice, but nice-when-I want-to-be and mean otherwise. It's because your sister was always gone somewhere dancing, with her husband who knocked her up, my parents. And I was like putty to you.

Tired, Jane agreed that lazy pretty babies would be better than rich ugly babies; then she changed the subject so they wouldn't fight.
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