Monday, March 26, 2012

Guest Post 3: Melanie of Is This The Middle

Today's Guest: Melanie of Is This The Middle?


In Defense of Nice

What’s so bad about nice?

With so many corners of the world in turmoil, strife-- crushed under war, illness and sadness, is there a place for “nice”? Or should the word be abandoned as an archaic notion?

Attending college and getting exposed to a bunch of literary theorists beat the word nice out of me.
I was taught that the word was never to be used when describing literature, for instance. Calling Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, or Henry David Thoreau nice in a college English class might get a student verbally stoned. Nice was a dirty word, showing the ignorance of the person who used it. Nice was uncool. I was already supremely uncool as a non-traditional student, typically the oldest person in any college class (often including the instructor).  I didn’t need to feel even more out of place because of a four-letter word.

So I turned away from nice as I would from a bad smell, holding my nose, coughing a little when someone else made the mistake of using nice during class. A professor told me that using nice was as bad, as damning, as a woman wearing the color pink. Nice showed a lack of commitment, of seriousness, of intellect.

I swallowed, hard, as I was wearing a pink cardigan that day, and wanted to crawl under the desk. I gave the cardigan to the Goodwill. No more pink, no more nice. I could sneer at nice with the best of them.
But the sneer didn’t fit me well. Uneasy, I avoided the word nice, but for my own reasons, or so I told myself. Nice was vague, wishy-washy, a term used by default when an un-schooled individual was at a loss for words. Nice didn’t have cachet, joie de vivre, or prestige. Nice did not garner respect. I was too snobby, too smart to use nice.

My nice-avoidance lasted a good ten years. 

Over the past year or so, I’ve been having second thoughts about nice. Blogging has exposed me to a group of supportive people who’ve become my friends. Most, if not all, of the comments they make are kind. I like it that way. I didn’t begin blogging to find flagellation. I can flagellate myself just fine, thanks very much. Feel free to make nice comments, call me nice, and be nice to each other at my blog. Really.
Other bloggers may revel in abundant criticism, verbal sparring, and don’t mind mud-wrestling with readers. Kudos to them. I don’t have that kind of blog, not that there’s anything wrong with thoughtful disagreement.  But if you want a spirited debate on every point I’ve made, you probably won’t read me more than once. That’s not my niche, if I have a niche. Or maybe I have a nice niche? Sorry, couldn’t resist that bit of alliteration.

While nice can and often is overused and abused, I hear it creeping back into my casual conversation and my writing. In a worldwide cesspool of derision, intolerance, back-stabbing, and prejudice, perhaps it’s okay to be and to use, nice.


  A little about Melanie...

I collect fossils, rocks, beach-glass and shells. Dusty glass bowls and vases full of them.
I’ve had a long string of jobs that look so strange together on a list people assume I’m lying/delusional. So I’ve learned not to mention more than one former job at a time. But contradicting myself immediately, here’s four: auto-worker, lingerie saleswoman, religious researcher, real-estate broker.

One of my life missions is to get grim people to smile and I don’t care how long it takes. I slowly wear them down with super-corny comments. But I don't tell jokes because I get an anxiety attack and forget the punch line.

I lived on an island that’s accessible only by ferry for 13 years (Ocracoke Island on the NC Outer Banks).

I've been blogging as Isthisthemiddle for a year in April. 
I love to cook when I get a spare minute, especially cakes, pies, and soup.
I teach English, but please don't hold it against me. Even though I love trivia, I will never go on Jeopardy for fear I would totally choke on a literature category and have to change my identity and go into an English-loser protection program.


The Host Speaks 
 (that would be me, the blog in moi)

Oh how I love Melanie!  I'm so grateful that she agreed to share a little bit of herself on my blog.  This post struck such a cord with me, because the more time I spend browsing blogs the more I see the nefarious efforts of The Snark Monster to take over the universe. I love snark, there is - indeed - a time and a place for it in my heart and it does makes me giggle something fierce. But, really...I think we may all be drowning in it. A campaign to raise the battle cry of Nice? Bring. It. On. I'll stand on the front line with Melanie to bring this word back into an exulted position in our everyday conversations and actions. I want to say it and I want to be it. Melanie's writing is so honest and so conversational, it draws you in - I read her as if I'm sitting there at her kitchen table, sharing a cup of coffee (bwahahaha...o.k., NOT sharing - I'd cut anyone that tried to horn in on my coffee, but y'all know what I mean...sharing a moment is more like it).  I hope you enjoy her blog as much as I do. Enjoy her wit, her wisdom and her ability to make you feel like you are instant friends. Yes, she's that great and on my list of peeps that I hope to hug in person some day, but in a friendly un-kinky sort of way. I swear.


  1. NICE post, Melanie!
    Seriously, you are one of the nicest women I know! :)

  2. Ha-ha,LAINE!
    Are you pulling an all-nighter again?
    So glad you are one of the nice women I've met blogging, sweet-pea.

  3. VERY nice! Which I say sitting here in my fluffy pink flip flops. (What in the world would your professor say about that??)

  4. Alien and Melanie! cool. I have faced the censure of poor word choice, when I used the word, "beautiful" speaking of a flower bed to make conversation. This older lady I was taking to a meeting said, "My dear!! We don't USE the word beautiful."

    Yeah...OK...and I don't drive old ladies around...get out...

    Love the post, the collaboration and the coffee wallpaper...gotta go get some...Fondly, Robin

  5. Bah! Nice! I prefer Niiiiiice which I apply to literature and boobies.

  6. Anonymous11:05 AM

    lies!! you don't own a cardigan. at least not a long sleeved one. but the pink it true. i've seen it. and i'm pretty sure you gave me a list of words to use when my feeble attempts at bringing "nice" back were thwarted. you've been corrupted. San

  7. Anonymous11:59 AM

    I am so glad to see that Melanie wanted to post on your blog site, Melissa. Isn't Melanie just the n----t/awesomenest person ever?! I am so very proud to call her my AMIGA!

    And, Melanie, I can really see you in a pink Cardigan. I think pink is one of your colors. :)

    Hugs to both of you ladies, because you are BOTH very N---!


  8. I'm tired of snark and much prefer nice :) You both are so cool that it's always nice to see you!

  9. Look at all the great comment love you got, Melanie! And the thread on BlogHer! Too. Much. Fun! MORE CAKE!!!

  10. Loved it, and I'm pretty sure I would have flunked out of that class, with my pink clothes and all. ;p Thanks for sharing!

  11. There is never enough nice, in my opinion. I am lucky to be numbered among such nice people in the blogging world.

  12. Nice is not a four-letter-word. Er, yes it is. But not THAT kind of four-letter-word. Nice job, Melanie. And thanks, Melissa, for hosting her. I'm off to get to know you better.