There’s this girl I’ve been friends with on Facebook for a while now. We went to high school together. She studies nursing, now, and she’s still dating her high school sweetheart. She genuinely enjoys running, and I’m pretty sure Katherine Heigel is the star of her favorite movie.
She’s a nice person. Nice. Nice. Why does that word sound like such an insult, though? In grade school, we used to have this experiement in which we’d go around the room and say one “nice” thing about every one else. You could always tell who had no friends or who was otherwise uninteresting by the chorus of “nice nice nice” they’d receive. And that was it. They were just, for lack of any other word, nice.
I always congratulated myself silently for the compliments I would receive. “Smart” and “funny” are as close to high praise that you’re going to receive from a room full of mean-spirited teenagers. But what does it matter? Being smart or funny doesn’t make you happy. “Smart” plus “funny” does not equal “good” or “decent.” Aren’t those things important, too? Is anyone ever just trying to be a decent person?
We — and I’m using “we” to refer to that specific category of kind of geeky, self-righteous girls on the internet who silently judge everyone while claiming moral superiority — need to sort out our priorities. What do we have against vanilla? What right to we even have to decide that other people are “vanilla” ?? Maybe that nice girl from high school had like a really hard childhood and decided to make life as bright as possible for everyone else. I don’t know. Neither do you. And that’s kind of the point.
I remember reading an article a while ago about how Ann Perkins was consistently the most underwhelming character on Parks & Recreation (note: If you don’t watch Parks & Rec, you’re nice, and I hate you). And when I read that article, I was like, okay, fair point. Compared to Tommy Timberlake’s business ventures and Ron Swanson’s gifting of landmines to school children, the nurse-turned-public-health-official with a personality that changes to accomodate her significant others’ is not going to steal the show. But maybe Ann Perkins realizes what the rest of us have yet to figure out: you don’t need to steal the show to be awesome. Ann “Beautiful Spinster” Perkins may not be the flashiest, but she is as complex and wonderful as her Pawnee peers. She’s a dedicated friend to Leslie. When she sets her mind to something, she accomplishes it. She always gives people the benefit of the doubt, but she never takes shit from anyone. She is awkward and girly and funny and intelligent, and yes, she’s NICE.
But there are worse things to be in this world than nice.
Art by Ines.