I’ve always known it’s a lazy word.

But it’s such a nice word. Works so well for a huge variety of situations and people. And certainly it’s been a gauge to measure my behavior, and that of others, particularly my children.

“Be nice now.”  “Let’s play nice.”  “Is so-and-so nice?”

Oh, and how about the ubiquitous, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

And the cynical side:  “Nice guys finish last.”

But really, nice? What does it mean?

In the last couple of weeks everywhere I turn – be it an article, a conversation, or a blog post,  I find a new indictment of “nice.” And it’s got me thinking – maybe all this being nice is not so, well, nice after all.

My new friend Ellen over at The Hairy Edge rips into ‘Nice’ so hard it made my hair stand up on end!

I don’t really want to think about this. It sends all the fire alarms clanging in my Lizard Brain.

I love being a nice person. I love that people like me and say that I’m nice. It’s so safe, so comfy when people like me. I mean if they don’t like me, I’m worthless, right?

So being Nice means I get to feel worthwhile.

Uh, yeah – and also bland, boring, and ready to let bolder, more ambitious folks walk all over me. And then they get to have all the fun, make all the money, kiss all the cute guys/girls – and yes, get their hearts scraped up a bit more.

Cos that’s the thing about Being Nice. You’re protected from all that pain.

I’m getting a little sick of being Nice. As I walk further down this Menopausal/Midlife path, my hackles are rising with each nod and smile.

It used to be my mantra for getting through many an uncomfortable situation – whether I can’t stand the person, can’t understand what the f**k they’re talking about, or just plain don’t give a shit.

Just nod and smile till they go away.

Easy, yes. But at what cost? How many little bits of me have withered away with all those nods and smiles? How many opportunities to make magic with the people who really get me squandered?

It’s interesting, since I’ve started observing how ‘nice’ works in my life I’m appalled at how prominently the word figures into conversations. And how positively. It’s not just me – ‘nice’ falls from the lips of everyone around me.

A friend is dating “a nice guy” – finally someone decent. We all nod approvingly.

I mean after all, this is about the best thing we can say about a guy. If he’s nice, it means he’s not an aggressive asshole. But couldn’t there be a better way to say it? Nice?? And let’s not even get into the inherent reverse sexism here. (Guilty as charged.)

We pat ourselves on the back because we were “nice about it” when we had to deal with an obdurate employee or an obnoxious sales caller. Rather than yell and rail at the poor sucker, we are nice. After all, it’s not their fault they have a shitty job.

We stay at ‘nice places’, we take ‘nice trips’, we attend ‘nice events.’ And when we want to dial up the compliment, well then something is ‘really nice.’

My question now is this:  What are we really trying to express when we say that someone or something is “nice?”

Kind? Generous? Compassionate? Fun? Helpful? Interesting? Or Walk-All-Overable?

Sometimes, it’s just lazy talk. We use nice when we just don’t want to dig around for a more accurate and expressive word.

Other times we use ‘nice’ because we don’t want to admit that the person or experience actually kind of sucked. It’s a bland way of staying positive, of keeping that Happy Face plastered on.

Now I still believe in the power and benefit of positive thinking. Half-full glasses are far more pleasant to contemplate than half-empty ones. But must we use empty platitudes?

As I’m writing this, I’m getting more and more worried.

Does this mean I have to turn into a complaining shrew? I don’t think so. Kindness and Compassion are still  important values for me. But I don’t have to play small and plaster on a Smile Face to practice lovingkindness and compassion.

It’s dawning on me that sometimes it’s kinder to tell the truth (even if it hurts) than to make nice and lie. Of course I’ve heard this bit of wisdom before, but I’m finally getting it.

And good goddess that scares the shit out of me!

And at the same time I’m ready to give up this lame need to be liked at all costs. At least I think I am.

Just like I’m tired of being well-behaved, I’m DONE with nice!

My Inner Bitch is rising, and no amount of frantic lizard brain squelching is going to keep her down. Watch out!

What do you think? Do you pride yourself on being a “nice” person and is that a good thing? Is “Nice” a four-letter word, or is it a compliment? Am I full of baloney, or is it time to kick “Nice” to the curb?

Or maybe you think I should just shut up and be nice? Give it to me – don’t worry about being nice!

Image by dannybirchall.