be nice. dammit.

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In a poetic moment the other day, as I walked down my lush tree-lined alley, feeling a cool breeze on my face, I had an idea. The next time I sat down to my blog I was going to write about spirituality. Because, as you might have guessed, I’m one spiritually enlightened muthafucka. I have all sorts of tips and ideas on how you can live a more enlightened and peaceful life. This was my idea, to share with you my knowledge of spirituality simply out of the goodness of my heart. This morning, however, I woke up and laughed. Part of my laughter had to do with a series of insane dialogue heavy dreams (even when I’m asleep I talk too much) and part of it had to do with feeling ridiculous. Ridiculous because I actually know nothing about spirituality or the secrets of the universe.

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And actually not knowing shit and being open, is the closest thing I feel to be connected to something bigger than myself. That sort of concludes my spiritual advice, if we’re being honest here. Meditation looks like me being quiet and listening. Prayer looks like me thanking, acknowledging and asking. And that is sort of the whole spiritual kit and kaboodle. That’s right. I said kit and kaboodle. See. I told you this was a serious spiritual discussion. But is that it? Does spirituality only happen when incense is burning and people are chanting?

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My guess is no. In fact, some of the biggest examples of spirituality and otherworldly juju happen in the big bad outside world and usually from strangers. Proof that goodness exists comes in lines at the grocery store, airports, Starbucks and other unlikely and decided non-spiritual places. I know, I know. The idea of people being nice all the time and friendly and helpful sounds like something out of a 50’s musical and is totally unrealistic. Yet a little goes a long way. I think even surface level, “trying not strangle someone but I’m still pleasant” is acceptable, admirable even. This is all on my mind because two nights ago I rattled off a Twitter letter of sorts to straight men .

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As I’ve mentioned before, my non-writing-thanks-for-the-great-benefits day job happens to be at an arts non-profit where in I deal with the general public. Since I basically can strike up a conversation with a handbag, I’m good at this sort of thing. I’m also inherently nosey so talking to people is self-serving on some level. Yet the other night’s mini-tweet rant was spurned by a gnarlier part of being big sparkly gay me and working with the public. The fact of the matter is I can be a lot. I know this. I’m a professional for god’s sake and know that I can’t belt out Cher songs and throw glitter on every person I meet. But I’m gleefully, gayfully me and getting sober and learning to love myself means I care less about what people think about me. 

This being said there are times when particularly straight men of a certain age (read also: bitter old dudes) just don’t respond to me and more than that are downright rude. I mean whatever. I waited tables for 5,000 years so human behavior doesn’t surprise on in any level anymore. But I do feel like it’s 2016 and in order to survive we should just be nice to each other. Like even if it makes us sick or irritates us. We should suck it up and be nice. And by the way, I no longer buy the “That’s just how he is” excuse when regarding assholes. No. They’re just an asshole and it isn’t cool. Also? Being unfriendly is not macho or cool. It just sucks. But such is the life of working with the public. I know women in the service industry sometimes experience it from other women. Men like to buy jewelry from women. Women like to buy shoes from men. These are broad assumptions about gender and character to be sure but when you work with the public the patterns are obvious enough that you pick up on it. So I’ve picked up the fact that me and every old guy aren’t going to be BFFs and this is okay.  But in the span of a week, I had three men in a row with their wives who came in who were let’s just say it: assholes. And it gets tiresome. I want to say, “Look Wilford Brimley. I don’t want to make out with you and you won’t turn gay by smiling at me so let’s all calm the fuck down, okay?” But what I do say instead is, “You two have a wonderful day.” I shake it off and move on and know that most people who come into my beautiful day job are in general, pleasant and happy. Yet all of this uber awareness of niceness has done something really unfortunate: it makes me realize that sometimes I’m the asshole in question.

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I started to write this piece yesterday morning but had to put it on hold to get the aforementioned day job. You would think that having niceness on the brain would have made me try extra hard to not be sort of a jerk. Uh yeah. Not so much. In my defense, I was low on caffeine and sort of hungry for the first part of my day so much of my snippy attitude can be attributed to that. But, yes, I was kind of annoyed and cranky a few hours and I didn’t love it. Nor did the other people around, I’m sure. After taking a break and talking to a friend going through a hard time, I realized much of the kindness I demand from the world, I don’t always give away. Oopsie. Thankfully, I spent the rest of day laughing. Laughing with my coworkers. Laughing with visitors. And laughing at myself. Through this, I was able to be nice again and treat people how I want to be treated. Easy kindergarten stuff but it felt like Jedi mind tricks when I was caught up in my shitty attitude. When I left and walked home, whatever had crawled up my butt had apparently crawled out and I was in a good mood. Happy, even.

Alas, some 1,100 words later, we get back to the title. Just be nice. Dammit. is niceness the only path to spirituality? Probably not but it can’t exactly hurt. After all, studies from Yale say that we’re all inherently nice despite our best efforts to behave otherwise. I guess the trick is remembering to lean into that. And the bigger trick? Getting to a place of compassion for those crusty old rude guys. Trying to remember, maybe Wilford Brimley needs a sandwich too. Maybe he needs a nap. Or maybe we’re all just humans trying and failing and trying again to be as nice as we possibly can. Dammit.

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3 comments

  1. CarolMarie · August 20

    “Nice” is your hash mark – or watermark. And you have made me laugh so often I cannot imagine a good life of any label without a Sean Paul Mahoney. You make us all want to be nicer – and only dream of being as funny.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark David Goodson · August 21

    Your openness has prompted a confession from me. Well, 2 I guess. Just tonight, I was speaking with a gay man, a program guy that I didn’t know was gay for like the 3 years we worked together on the steps. He couldn’t believe I was clueless and I said that because we talked football, the thought that he was gay never crossed my mind. I can be very stereotypical I suppose.
    Oh, the other confession. The first thing I thought when I saw that top image on your post was off neapolitan ice cream, which is my favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

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