Maeve Higgins is nice and believes everyone else should be nice too. Will you join her not-being-nice ceasefire?
Illustration by Claire Jones
Once I met a man who looked exactly like Jon Hamm. You know, Donald Draper: the dreamiest (b)adman on Madison Avenue. Well, this guy looked like Jon Hamm except for the following differences:
1) He was bald.
2) He had smaller teeth and possibly fewer teeth.
All I said to him was, “You look exactly like John Hamm who plays Donald Draper.” After a leery kind of wink, I left it at that. My natural instinct was to recoil and shriek Dear Lord, what have you done to my boy? But I didn’t want to hurt this monster version of Donald Draper. Had I pointed out the differences and asked him how he lived that way, I would have ruined his day, which was probably already pretty terrible. Imagine being that melted version of perfect – it’s too much. He deserved my kindness, poor creature.
You see, I know when to stop talking. I have an edit function. I stop right after I’ve said the nice thing and try not to go on with the mean thing. What do I want, a medal? Yes please. Not saying mean things is hard! People say mean things about each other all the time, everywhere you look. Terrible things! Online, in magazines, via text message when the person is still in the room. So yes, I believe I should be rewarded for not blabbing my judgements all over town. I don’t want people to know the mean spirited and pointless things I sometimes think, no siree.
I hold back. I learned from my mother, who always said, Remember, you little dickheads, if you can’t say something nice…don’t say nothing at all. Clumsily put, but it resonated. Also, I’m a nice guy, or whatever the female equivalent of a nice guy is. I’m nice like that old Indian lady who travels around the world giving out free hugs. Nice like a tiny little nurse who holds your hand during injections. Nice like a volunteer at a no-kill animal shelter who’s just finished her day job organising apolitical sandwiches at non-profit science camps for Israeli and Palestinian tweens. I’m nice! So I don’t say mean things.
My caring attitude, this humane streak – it’s not entirely selfless. You see, unless it’s overwhelmingly positive, I don’t want to hear what other people have got to say about me either. I’d be ever so pleased with a lasting truce, worldwide, a forever agreement to just not say anything. If I had a motto it would be “Let’s keep schtum, babe”. I know very well that my haircut is strikingly similar to Javier Bardem’s in No Country For Old Men. I also realise that it doesn’t matter what we look like, despite the constant barracking to think otherwise. We’re all in this together. So hush now, be nice.
Maeve Higgins - Maeve is a writer and comedian based in Brooklyn. She writes for The Irish Times and her book 'We Have A Good Time, Don't We?' was a bestseller in her native Ireland. @maevehiggins