a case of the niceness

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i’ve been told that i’m too nice; almost as if the perpetuity of my kindness somehow deems it disingenuous.

and you know what, i get it.

i’m not saying we are a world of skeptics, but more often than not, if something seems too good to be true, well then, folks, it usually is. but it has kind of always been a funny compliment to me; if it is indeed a compliment at all; oftentimes the tone in which its said evokes me to believe that it is actually, a bad thing.

and maybe they have a point. perhaps in trying to avoid confrontation at all costs, i have always simply resorted to being nice. overly accommodating. so much so that it all but makes people wonder if there really are indeed strings attached.

on saturday, my sweetie and i were treated to an evening at the newly remodeled brigantine restaurant in del mar. we had a lovely time, per usual; never for a moment neglecting the fact that these evenings are a privilege for both the intentional time we have to spend together and for the opportunity to share in the experience of new cuisine at a new locale.

we were shown to a corner table overlooking the racetrack, a san diego mainstay where i’ve spent many a childhood afternoon. and there we remained for the duration of the evening, sampling plates full of delicious seafood and sharing in meaningful conversation; stealing the occasional affectionate glance or two when the discussion reached an inevitable lull. and as dinner birthed dessert and we waited patiently for our confectionary creations (two words: mud pie), we were approached by a lady whose party of nearly 20 had fashioned themselves at the table directly adjacent to our own.

cordial, but forceful in her approach, she inquired if we would give up our seats for an alternative location a few feet away so their growing party could be accommodated. “they just got married TODAY,” she pleaded. as if throwing in that specific detail would be just the thing needed to pull on our emotional heart strings. and though, when a question is posed, there is always the possibility that the answer may not be that of which you had expected, you could tell on her face that she was confident that her request and our adherence to it would be one in the same.

and i won’t lie, she was just intimidating enough, and her request was just reasonable enough (at least initially), that without a second thought, i began to nod my head in agreement; folding my napkin and gathering my things as i prepared for our pending re-location. but there was little movement found across the table. my guy sat firmly in his chair, greeting the lady’s request with a polite tone spoken through gritted teeth. but before more than a handful of syllables were exchanged, our waiter intervened. mortified, he promptly took her aside and explained the reason for our presence at the restaurant at all.

[and on that note, an aside: though we have had the pleasure of dining at more than a handful of dinners of this nature, it is still so completely odd to me the lengths at which the restaurant staff goes in order to assure that our dining experience is top notch. i realize this over-accommodation is a bit self-seeking in nature, but it by no means diminishes the fact that great service truly makes a difference; to be taken care of for simply being who we are is something remarkable. and yes, that is a metaphor for life, on the whole, duh.]

but back to my story. our server had been watching the entire scene from afar. studying our body language and fearful of further escalation, he quickly interceded, squashing the potential awkward situation before it had the momentum to metamorphosize into something more severe. because truth be told, i’m pretty sure the table of four situated directly behind us was all but ready to throw down. their comments of “how RUDE” and “terribly inappropriate” her request had been were by no means whispered, rather shouted with a visceral disgust and, as i said, a sentiment that if we weren’t careful, they just might take matters into their own hands (which in a way was oddly adorable, but you know, wouldn’t have boded well). and before i knew it, the lady was apologizing (it wasn’t the most sincere apology i’ve ever heard, but i appreciated her conceding all the same).

and then our mud pie and creme brulee arrived and blinded by the abundance of oreo cookie crust and glistening custard, we all but forgot about the brief scuffle.

and while it certainly warranted an eventful dining experience, perhaps the most exciting dining experience of this nature we have had yet, the uncomfortable run-in also sought to bring to light a quality in myself that while i’ve always have seen as positive, could in fact be detrimental in the long run.

i am an appeaser, a pleaser, and the ultimate trooper. i bite my tongue and hang my head in hopes of avoiding confrontation all together. i get intimidated, i get scared, i get angry, sure, but yet, i don’t do a single thing about it.

because instead of expressing said angst or unrest verbally, i swallow it. and then write a reflective piece of how, if only I (big old fat capital “I”) changed my behavior, i could prevent said conflict from arriving at all.

(chances are, you’ve read a post or two!)

but there was no way i could have done anything differently to avoid the brief conflict we faced on saturday night. we hadn’t selected the table of which to enjoy our meal, that had been predetermined prior to our arrival at the restaurant that night. at no fault of our own had the situation arisen, it was simply the product of a poorly solved math problem; too many bodies and not enough chairs in which to seat them.

therefore, i had every right to be upset over said request. we were just as worthy of a pleasurable night out as they were, who were they to strip that from us on account of their growing reservation?

so i took the lesson one further, into my relationships on the whole. whether they be platonic, familial, or romantic in nature, i can find an underlying trend with regards to conflict. i cower in its presence. i’m nice, all the time, remember? even if said niceness is shown with the slight hint of passive aggressiveness at times, it still remains rooted in a perpetual need to look inward for the root of the problem rather than assess the situation objectively. plain and simple, i would rather stifle my unrest, giving the involved party the benefit of the doubt, a mulligan, a free-pass, than to express a level of discomfort that might erupt into conflict.

i love playing the martyr.

and maybe that’s because in my eyes, conflict is an all or nothing concept that only serves to destroy a situation. nothing good can come from confrontation, i think, and so i tighten my lips, gather my things, and brace myself for a proverbial table relocation. i swallow my feelings, i tell myself to be better, and pray that the problem will simply solve itself on its own.

if only a server would come in and intercede on my behalf.

but life isn’t a restaurant, and todd the waiter isn’t going to diffuse the scuffle when he witnesses it happen from across the room. it’s up to me and the parties involved to figure it out. hash it out. yell, scream, cry (don’t worry, that one i can do), unload. whatever it takes. because only in meeting the conflict head on can we ever expect to grow from it, learn from it, and be a better person as a result.

i love this quote for a multitude of reasons but in showing it to my boyfriend a couple weeks back, he pointed out something to me that i had never paid much attention to prior.

“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.”

bob marley (source)

while i’ve always focused on the final line of the paragraph, he was quick to highlight one simple phrase that i’ve come to truly appreciate, especially with regards to his approach to our relationship on the whole.

“yell when he makes you mad.”

you see, he encourages me to express myself more than i do. to let him know exactly how i’m feeling exactly when i’m feeling it. to not let things fester or brew or build for the inevitable eruption days, weeks, months later. he pleads with me to fight my very nature; my innate desire to simply go with the flow and accept things as they are. and i’m not implying that he actually wants us to fight, more so that he wants for me to be okay with the fact that we will inevitably disagree on a thing or five, and that in realizing our discord, our relationship can actually be strengthened as a result. he doesn’t want a doormat of which to appease his every request, he wants a partner, one with her own set of opinions, emotions, wants, and desires. one that can quantify why she is feeling the way she is feeling in order that a resolution may be found.

and in this epiphanied moment, i knew he was right. what good is it for me to sit idly by when faced with confrontation? i suppose my reasoning was an over-concern with someone mistaking my speaking up for witchiness (you know what i really mean here). perpetually fearful that i would no longer be viewed me as the kind, sweet-natured woman they had always fashioned me to be, and finally giving way to the fact that yes, i really was too good to be true.

but there’s this thing i tend to do -hold myself to a standard that not even the world places on me. i mean, i’m human, and not only that, i’m female (a fact that i can only believe gives me an extra mulligan), of COURSE i’m going to get angry at one point or another. something is bound to stir within me an unrest of which i may not be able to quantify right away. but rational or irrational as the anger may be, it is my own and worthy of expression. if only for the fact that pushing it deep down inside will only serve to my detriment in time.

so i’m learning what it’s like to get angry; what it feels like to utter words that may be uncomfortable for the other person to hear and truly what it feels like to be the cause for a little boat-rocking. and i must say that it feels strange. but i have to believe it will get easier in time, this whole “expressing my ugly feelings” thing. because only in actually admitting them out loud can i ever expect them to be eradicated.

and at the risk of sounding sappy, i must reveal that i feel terribly blessed to be learning this lesson alongside a man who encourages me to be a better version of myself every single day.

to think, this was all inspired by a from a rude woman at a restaurant and a quote from a man just as notorious for engaging in questionable substances as he was with providing us with some pretty great reggae beats. i’ve said it once, and i’ll say it again, life (or maybe it’s just my life?) provides the best blog material a gal could ask for.

i tried to scream into a pillow once, it sounded like a dying cat.

p.s. thank you, boyfriend, for finding this gem: 

perhaps if i had had this pillow, my screams may have been more effective.

1 Comment
  • Teresa
    July 26, 2012

    I’m just now getting caught up on fb and blogs. I loved todays insights. What a great story. I’m impressed how you analyze your day and look for self-improvement but rely on other peoples input also. It’s a good thing you are strong enough to listen (and review) what happens in your life. I’ll bet the conversations you have with yourself (in your head or in a mirrow) are dynamic. I really like getting to know this very private and brave young lady. Thank you, Shawna, for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

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