Nice Is Over Rated, No More Nice For Me

Nice Is Over Rated, No More Nice For Me

PurpleTraining someone to be ‘nice’ can be a way of silencing that first voice.

Justine Musk’s writing often strikes a chord for me. That was just what I needed to hear.


I was raised to be nice–it’s what they did to good Southern girls in the 50s and 60s. I don’t think I want to be nice anymore. Is it too late at age 60 to abandon nice? No.

No more nice when it comes to sex.


What do I mean by that? Well, I’m pretty outspoken and open about my desires. But there was a day when I sacrificed my needs by not speaking up. So I lay there. Played along. Tuned out.

Nice is overrated.

What’s the point in having sex that is one-sided? Why play nice when you can create a wonderful sexual experience by speaking your truth? Because what I think Musk means is that by playing nice we give up too much. She’s mostly talking to women (the context of article makes that apparent), but I suspect men play nice sometimes. One might assume that no more nice means I am also opening myself to a wider range of sexual expression!

No more being the Nice one when it comes to expressing myself and living an intentional life.


Being nice in my childhood meant being quieter and more compliant. Submissive if you will. Boys rule. Be the proper little girl–which meant not being too smart or too assertive. It’s easy to lose yourself in that situation, particularly if everyone around you is buying into that notion as well. And, what if there is no role model for strong and independent?

My grandmother, who died in her mid 60s was a wonderful, bright and vibrant woman. I spent a lot of time with her as a child; she was my role model. Brightly colored clothing, jet-setting around the world and engaged with a large circle of friends, she seemed ideal to me. She died when I was 12 and it felt for a few days that my world might just end. Somewhere along the way I forgot about her strength and vibrancy. I started being nice. You know—the good wife, the good mother, the nice one who played along, etc. Nice.

Maybe I’m ready to fully embrace this single life and let loose. Wear purple when I feel like it. Take off for destinations unknown and create adventures.  Let go, live loudly. Say a big Fuck You to being Nice. Gasp, I said Fuck in an article. Twice.

Musk is really talking about finding one’s voice, as a brand, as a writer and in life as well.  The true voice of who we are and what we want, down deep in our innermost parts. It takes some people years to figure out what they really want. Each phase of life brings its own challenges—what we want and need changes as we move through life.  And maybe, just maybe, this is our strongest and best time to find that voice.

It is my time.

Baby steps. On my birthday I was dining alone at the fabulous Restaurant Martin in Santa Fe and spotted a man dressed from head to toe in purple. Longish silver curly hair and lots of silver jewelry. My first thought was of my mother, who forbade me to wear purple as a child. Purple was a tacky color and God forbid that we be mistaken for Tacky! During dinner I thought about this as I watched this guy…curious. I shared with a friend, via text. Yes I was texting, briefly, with a girlfriend while at dinner! She was sending birthday wishes.  She urged me to speak to him, so I did. I got up and went to his table, politely interrupted, and asked him for a photo. He was a bit reluctant to give in to the crazy woman but his dinner partner jumped at the offer to take our photo so he agreed. They invited me to sit for a few minutes and we had a delightful conversation.

Last night sitting in the bar at my hotel I saw a lovely woman across the room in a deep violet-purple silk suit. It was very stylish and almost formal, there must have been a fancy occasion in the hotel. I sucked up my courage and went across the lobby to tell her how gorgeous her suit was. I think she was very touched, maybe more so because this younger white woman had gone out of her way to offer a random compliment? She blessed me and I felt it.

I was pretty pleased with myself. I was being nice—on my terms. I was responding to what brought me pleasure and doing something out of my normal routine. This is more about feeling comfortable in my own skin and reacting spontaneously. Because part of what growing up nice entails is always being aware and vigilant.  Being on guard and a bit censored. Thinking more of others as opposed to my own emotional well-being. I can’t begin to count the number of times I felt tamped down and shoved in the box of conformity as a child and youth…as an adult and woman.

I talk about sex a lot now days. Totally comfortable with that. I’m thinking about sex a lot too….from a personal angle. Maybe I’m no longer content to do what I’ve always done? Maybe I want a little less proper and a little more bohemian in my life? I want experiences and things I don’t even know I want yet. Sometimes I fear that I’m too late…that my chance to get a little wild should ideally have happened in my late 40s. I wasn’t ready then. I wasn’t the person I am now.

It’s never too late. Each day is a whole world unto itself. There are an infinite number of possibilities. It’s just a matter of embracing them.

For me it will mean less NICE and more authentic sensuousness and freedom. More saying NO to things and pursuing opportunities to say yes. Play with more vivid crayons. Start drawing and painting. Continue to let go and open up.

What about you?

photo credit: Luz Adriana Villa A. via photopin cc

  • Carol Cassara
    Posted at 09:52h, 13 September Reply

    I always say I came out of the womb this way and it’s true. The traditional female version of “nice” has never been natural to me. I’ve always voiced my truth, although when I was younger it wasn’t really in a helpful way and even now I’m sometimes challenged by being “too direct”. But the thing is that the people in my life always know where I am coming from, no hidden agendas, and from what they tell me, that is a refreshing counterpoint to some others. I like that part of me, too, and I thank my father for it. So, you go, girl! Say F… and wear purple and just GO THERE!

    • Walker
      Posted at 10:45h, 13 September Reply

      You always strike me as one who cuts through all the niceties and gets right down to it! Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  • Pamela Madsen
    Posted at 10:37h, 13 September Reply

    I love that you are finding your “inner purple” Walker. It’s the color of royalty and whores. I have always worn purple as one of my primary colors. That and black and red. Never thought much about it. It’s just a part of me, like being nice. I’m nice. I like being nice. The world has enough mean in it. No shame in nice. Nice doesn’t mean not communicating our needs. Nice doesn’t mean shutting up. Nice is a way of BEING with people. Nice is a way of speaking to people so that they can hear you. I get how you have felt tamped down by a way of thinking of the word “Nice”. Just offering another view. I wear purple. I am hot and sexy. AND I am nice. By the way, I think you are nice too. I hope you don’t take offense at that. Honestly, the world has way too much mean.

    • Walker
      Posted at 10:50h, 13 September Reply

      Pamela, thanks. There is nice and there is “Nice”…and when nice becomes stifling then it’s time to make a change- I love how Justine Musk expanded that and talked about all the ways that staying nice silences our voices. By no means does that indicate being mean…for me it means letting the inner needs and thoughts surface naturally. I will always be pleasant, nice, and probably a little too accommodating– can’t change that stuff completely. But, I do say No more than ever and I do things that please me rather than think about who might be discomforted by my choices. We all find our balance.

      My grandmother’s best friend wore light purple, lilac, every time she came to visit. I was absolutely entranced and have had a love affair with purple since that time. When my mother banned purple I rebelled. I was at camp and they sold Ritz dye. I dyed all of my underwear purple!

  • Rosie Battista
    Posted at 11:38h, 13 September Reply

    How NICE of you to write this great piece @WalkerThornton and my take away from it “It’s never too late. Each day is a whole world unto itself. There are an infinite number of possibilities. It’s just a matter of embracing them.” That means that everyday we get to BE whomever we choose to BE and it’s all perfect…<3

    • Walker
      Posted at 16:52h, 13 September Reply

      Rosie, Yes…that makes sense and is what I hope we all take away from this… that we can make choices about how we show up in life, what we want to say and how we do, or don’t, let people influence our lives.

  • Erica Jagger
    Posted at 13:07h, 13 September Reply

    I related to a lot of this, having been raised by southern parents in a religious household. I think “nice” has taken on all the wrong meanings. I feel that the world needs more “nice” — i.e. empathy, compassion, sense of community. But all to often this falls on the shoulders of people who don’t have enough of a voice. Most women are trained to put other people’s needs ahead of their own, with bad lifelong consequences. Wear purple and travel, Walker! Can’t think of a better time to do that than in midlife, or older.

    • Walker
      Posted at 16:56h, 13 September Reply

      Erica, Exactly. Someone commented on this on FB, making a distinction between nice and kind-which makes sense. Those of us, of a certain age, who were raised in the South can identify with the “Nice” stuff! The female voice is something Musk touched on, referencing Carol Gilligan’s work on authentic voices.

      “Psychologist Carol Gilligan writes extensively about how men and women lose their authentic voices in a culture that teaches us that in order to have power, you have to sacrifice relationship, and vice versa. So boys learn to disconnect from the language of feeling, vulnerability and empathy in the pursuit of personal power. Girls learn to submerge their sense of individual power for the sake of relationship: it’s more important to be ‘nice’ than to risk confrontation and possible exile.”

  • Linda Crowe
    Posted at 18:12h, 16 September Reply

    From you definition of the word, it’s quite possible that I’ve never been nice! Thanks for the post, Walker!

    • Walker
      Posted at 13:58h, 18 September Reply

      Ha ha…Linda, in the other version of ‘nice’ you are very much so!

  • brianbuchbinder
    Posted at 08:55h, 08 October Reply
    • Walker
      Posted at 09:35h, 08 October Reply

      Ha ha! Thanks Brian.

  • Tricia M Foster
    Posted at 09:07h, 08 October Reply

    The training of nice girls did not end in the 60s. I struggle with the nice stigma myself. Sometimes, I fear not being nice will lead to rejection and isolation. Sometimes, I just feel guilty if I am not nice. I don’t know who made me responsible for how other people feel. I, too, am learning to speak my truth, even if no one listens.

    • Walker
      Posted at 09:38h, 08 October Reply

      I so agree–it’s something I work through regularly. I’m always nice, as in polite. But what’s up for me now days is doing what is right for me…regardless of how others feel about that. Saying no when I want to. Making a decision that may seem selfish. Choosing things that please me, even if someone else feels I should have made a different choice, or taken a different path.
      Wonder why it is that others think they know what’s best for us? Tricia, I think the internal rejection and isolation that comes from denying our truths is more damaging in the long run!

  • Julie Phelps
    Posted at 09:54h, 08 October Reply

    Walker, I evolved into my true self about 12 years ago, at about your current age. I can testify that it is never to late to blossom as you describe. I continue being the polite sort of nice, the considerate nice, but not the submissive obedient nice. I began to follow my desires in clothing, public and sexual freedom. I make decisions without being wishy-washy or changing my mind simply to please others. I paint what I choose to paint. I embraced the true me. All of which led me to finding the love and total fulfillment I almost gave up on finding.
    Keep on a-keeping-on the wondrous road of discovery and living.
    Ciao Bella!

    • Walker
      Posted at 11:30h, 08 October Reply

      Never too late-absolutely not. And, you get the distinction of nice just as I envisioned it.
      Your life is an excellent example-so pleased for you on your marriage and that radiant smile I see in the pictures!

  • Bobbie Morgan
    Posted at 15:21h, 09 October Reply

    My closest friends describe me as someone who has a joyful spirit, but the moment I say “No” or voice an opposing opinion, I’m a bitch or am told that I’m unreasonable or “Why can’t you do such and such for this person?” As women in our society, we’re often expected to take care of others or put other’s needs first. I’m lucky to have a man in my life with whom we put each other first individually and together, but others … parents, clients, etc. have a hard time with that.

    • Walker
      Posted at 08:48h, 10 October Reply

      Bobbie, yes…that is part of it for me as well. I internalized that understanding of being the nice girl as a child–which meant always doing as expected, being a good little Southern girl…and for me that meant denying my own needs and identity in the process.

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