Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Too Nice?

I wish we lived in a society where  being nice wasn't taken as "creepy" or "weird." Where helping others, even strangers, was second-nature for everyone. Where niceness wasn't a barrier or rarity. Where being "too nice" isn't a possibility. Where having good intentions doesn't come across as weird or "creepy" or what-have-you.

Although, was I the only person that just
laughed during the whole 'Emo Peter' thing?
I'll start with somewhat of a disclaimer. I recognize that because of my appearance and physicality, I "get away" with a lot more than other people. I'm female, short, pale, heavy, dirty blonde, have a mousy voice, and just generally project a warm, soft aura/presence. Rather than pull their kids closer to them, parents that notice me noticing the kids smile and encourage the kids to interact with me more. If I had darker skin, or were a dude, it wouldn't be the case- and that's society's doing, not my own, just in case we were unclear. So it's probably a good thing I usually "get away with" stuff more often than not, because I'm so inclined to be nice to people I don't know.

But there are some things even I may do without realizing they could be taken as strange, crossing a boundary, or something. I know there have been times where I've reached out to people that I'm not all that close to, and they took it as strange, weird, etc. A few even seemed weirded out enough by it that they gently distanced themselves from me  henceforth. And that kinda sucks- all I wanted to do was remind them they're awesome, people care, and I'd be willing to listen. But it's not like I really blame them- we're conditioned not to trust one another. And  I'm not  even talking about rape culture- just generally. Exhibit A:

The whole Antoine Dodson  phenomena may have been funny, and we make light of what he said in the video, but that moment in our shared cultural experience is a reflection and response to the general self-preservation we're trained to maintain from the moment we can stand. We're raised to be cautious and wary of one another, to put up walls that can sometimes prevent real human  connections. We're raised to believe life  is  the way Hobbes describes it, "nasty, solitaire, brutish, and short," and  because we're all out to get one another and would just as soon stab each other in the FACE, rather than help one another. Or, as Oscar Wilde, said, "A true friend stabs you in the front." You know what?

So there's this woman in my apartment complex that lives by herself. She's not quite retirement age, but close. She has a cat, but before you get into the "crazy cat lady" stuff in your head, I want to stop that bs right now because that crap is crap and I'm fairly certain it's part of the paradox I'm about to present.


She lives in the apartment right next to a large patch of grass I sometimes take River to because it's closer to my own apartment than the bigger one she usually ends up at. So quite often, when this woman notices me and River, she'll open the glass door to her patio and tentatively start conversation with me, usually about how pretty River is or the weather at first, then sometimes we'll talk about other things. She prefers talking about me and gives vague answers when I ask about her. Overall, it's obvious she's trying to get some social interaction, but isn't quite sure how to go about it and doesn't wish to come across as self-centered.

I'm not under the impression her shyness is inherent shyness, per se, but rather she's so lonely, she has developed a fear of creeping me out- it's not social anxiety in the usual sense.And I think it partially comes from her awareness of those "crazy cat lady" stereotypes in the first place. Because it's obvious she lives alone with her cat. In fact, she's referenced that specifically and (vaguely) being lonely with me before. She has an aura of sadness and loss. So naturally I've made up this tragic backstory where she had a family that died in some horrible accident while she was out taking that cat to the vet or at home getting a surprise ready for everybody else. Realistically, I doubt it was that cinematic, but I intuitively sense that she had at least one person in her life that is no longer there- could be a parent, lover, I dunno. Whatever that loss is, it's still haunting her, and she wishes for some connection in order to at least ease the pain.

And don't ask me how I know this, I'm just really good at reading people and guessing underlying feelings. I'm basically an empath. Have been all my life, even as a little kid. Hence my Powers of Comfort.

So I'm sad that a lonely woman is afraid to be more outgoing with me, prolly one of the safest people she could possibly try to talk with, because she's afraid I'll think she's "crazy."And I really want to do something nice for her, bake her cookies and bring over stuff for tea so we could sit and chat and she could have a friend. And you know what prevents me? Fear of coming across as creepy!!!! 

Like  this guy
Isn't that ironic? I find it just so messed up. The benefits she'd get if it was successful would FAR outweigh any costs I'd receive if she thought I was creepy. And would the latter even harm her at all? I'd hope not- she'd just think, "Weird-ass young woman with her dog and her loudness and her nosy nature." She'd be irritated, but it wouldn't hurt her feelings.

So to go back to the beginning of the post, we're afraid of trusting others, and we're afraid of coming across as untrustworthy. And I hate both.

I know I've been hurt a lot in my past. And very, very frequently, it has been because I opened up to someone, trusted them, and they hurt me- either eventually, or right away. And one would think that would give me  reason to close myself off, turn  into, as a friend says, a teddy bear in a mecha suit. But  I can't do that. Because the way I see it, it the likelihood that I'd make the kinds  of valuable connections I have because I've put myself out there is slim to none. The good things in life are worth taking risks.

And you know  what? I also think it's pretty shitty that we would be justified in not trusting people. Because yeah, people are assholes. They do stab you in the back, throw you under the bus, send your heart back to the kitchen- that's a fact of life. Being a human with a heart SUCKS. Caring sucks.


But when it works? It's wonderful. I've  made connections with a handful of people in my life that I'm so grateful for, I cry. (Yeah, yeah, I'm a cryer.) I'd die for them. And, I like to think, they'd do the same. I wouldn't ask  it of them, but that's the point- caring for someone enough that you'd give your  life for them, but never think to ask the same, that doesn't happen often. And I know I have friends close enough to me like that because I've put  myself out there with  them. Because I'm "so nice." 

And while being  "so nice" has caused me pain- whether it's because people have walked all over me, have thought I was "so nice," they couldn't see me as anything  but  friend, or because  people betrayed my trust- I loathe the idea that anyone could be "too nice," as well. 

I get that a lot. "You're too nice!"
There shouldn't be  such a thing as "too nice." People  should just be  kind, caring, considerate, sympathetic (without condescension), empathetic. The  fact that  I demonstrate  these things every day and am somehow outside the norm and exceptional and rare is really fucking awful. And  the fact that I'm still single, and still have trouble finding people that won't hurt me, is just  beyond  fucked up. If I'm "so nice," why is it so easy for me to feel like  nobody cares?

Humanity needs to get its act together. Only through loving one another can we improve our own conditions- what value is there in being a greedy, selfish asshole? You may get a lot of stuff, but if you've stepped on too many people in your quest to get it, you'll be alone with all of that stuff, and then what? If that's enough for you, I feel sorry for you, and in earnest, because, well, my view on life is it isn't what you have, but who you have, that matters.  And a life all about getting stuff rather than helping people and forging honest, loving relationships, would be entirely empty.

So I'm angry. That the woman  in my apartment complex is  alone, and  may stay  that way because of social norms. That my being a good person is, gasp, so rare and special and praise-worthy, and yet, somehow, cause for people to retreat from me. That it's so hard to find people that won't break my heart or leave me  to the wolves.

I haven't seen her in a few weeks. I know she's around- her cat has teased River from the window a few times, and  she switched from her patriotic summer decorations to Halloween ones last week. I dunno. Maybe I'll make  some pumpkin cookies and take a basket to her door with a note. Because no, I don't want to get hurt again,  but  I just feel like this woman has been trying to reach out to me, and society's entirely fucked up system has cut her off from me. And I'd rather take  the initiative in the hopes that I can bring her some goddamned joy  than not and wonder if she's still in pain.

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