Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mr. Nice Girl

I try to be nice. I think its important. After all, aren’t our actions one of the only things we truly have control over?

I pride myself on not honking at idiots who cut me off, or who don’t instantly accelerate when the light changes green. I say excuse me when someone bumps into me and perhaps my greatest triumph has been waiting patiently in line at TAPS to pay a parking ticket (ugh…parking Jesus).

I try to test myself with long lines at the store or traffic jams or being overly accommodating with people who change plans multiple times. I want to practice patience. I don’t know…I heard it was a virtue.

I think patience goes hand in hand with being kind. When I feel my frustration boiling over, its important to respond with love and understanding, even if people don’t deserve it. After all, maybe the rude barista was just having a bad day. Surely everyone else around me also tries their best to show kindness and love—right?

And besides, no one likes an angry woman. Society scorns angry women more than women who do not conform to beauty standards—and that’s really saying something. You might not be able to control your looks, but you can control your demeanor. If you’re ugly, you sure as hell better be nice.

We as a society are less understanding and accepting of women who speak up for themselves than we are of almost any other group.  We expect women to be nurturers, motherly, warm, gracious and kind. These are really good qualities, but we sacrifice strength, power, being heard and standing up for ourselves, lest someone think us rude.

My usual is sending emails with lines like, “I’m so sorry to bother you,” or “I know this is probably a really dumb question,” or “please let me know if there is anything else you need from me (i.e. I’ll do more of the work you should be doing for you).” Sending emails like that gets exhausting and I am exhausted saying yes to people’s demands—(Can you dog sit? Can you write this essay? Can you tutor my son in chemistry?)

I want to use my time and my energy and my skills to help my friends—the people who also wait in long TAPS lines, people who switch doctoring sessions with me, people who share the same hatred of burned coffee and traffic jams and yet understand that being nice in spite of these things goes a long way.

Today was a turning point. I’ve been helping  doing a research project for over a year now. I’ve done everything from the IRB, to the survey, to the data analysis, to the write up. I spent all day today making a poster for a research conference and someone else gets to put their name as first author. I don’t think my kindness and willingness to help has ever been so blatantly taken advantage of.

I’m about to lose my shit. Maybe it also has to do with Donald Trump being on TV right now. Not all situations demand us to respond with kindness. Sometimes situations demand that we stand up for ourselves. And sometimes its crucial that we respond with anger and disgust and protest, even when its hard to do so, even when we feel afraid. We must stand up to the injustice we witness in the world. Small things-- like who's first author on a paper might not seem like a big deal, but its a great opportunity to practice standing up for what is important to us. Sometimes being nice isn't as important as being heard. So at the risk of seeming like an angry woman. I'm not going to put up with being pushed around. And that will help me to be able to stand up against the anti-Muslim, racist, sexist-- really important to speak up about stuff.

Standing up for yourself helps to prepare you for standing up for others. A lot of nice people doing nothing allows hate and injustice to prosper. Let’s challenge ourselves to show love and kindness when it is difficult to do so, just as much as we get angry, protest and fight for what we believe in.

Surely both are acts of love.

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