I had an epiphany today after a couple of conversations.
When I was younger, my closest friend dubbed me "Melanie" like the character in "Gone with The Wind" (I should read the book sometime because I never really understood the reference). When I asked her about it, she said that everyone liked Melanie and no one liked Scarlett (which she dubbed herself). I think she felt left out because I was able to relate to lots of different kinds of people. She often "playfully" called me a pansy and milksop which always hurt my feelings, although I just denied it and got irritated.
As I got older, I found myself in relationships with other people who criticized me for "being nice" to people. I spent a lot of time soul-searching to try to understand what was wrong with me - why "being nice" was such a bad thing in their eyes and why I couldn't stop doing it.
For a few years (I call it my "bitchy phase"), I tried to pull off aloof and sarcastic with Roby. We wore black and wore sunglasses inside when it was completely unnecessary. We were snotty and annoying. When we weren't around other people, we were our regular dorky selves. It didn't take me long to realize that while I could handle being around "bitchy" people, I couldn't be one of those people purposefully. (Obviously, I am speaking generally. I can still be bitchy, but it usually isn't on purpose and then I feel bad afterwards. And yes, I can still be really sarcastic - there's no denying it.)
Later, I had a friend who actually tried to give me lessons in blowing people off. Again, I couldn't really do it. I can't even blow off a stranger. I have a magnet - lonely, desperate, sometimes "crazy" people find me because I make eye contact and treat them kindly. I don't know how to avoid it, I don't know how to get away. Sometimes I feel like politeness dictates having a conversation with the person, even when it is painful.
So, today, I realized that when people say things like, "You are too nice" or "Everybody likes you" (in a decidedly derogatory way), it is really a judgment. Today, I decided that being nice is NOT a character flaw. I learned to be nice to people because I spend my life moving. I learned to read a room, to make friends fast. I learned that burning bridges is never helpful because you never know who you are going to meet out there and you never know how they might impact your life in some way. I believe that social graces ARE important - just because I don't want to be best friends forever doesn't mean I can't be sincere and pleasant and actually enjoy an encounter with a person. AND THAT'S NOT A BAD THING.
In some ways, I'm a little sad that it took me this long to figure it out. I knew it wasn't a bad thing - I just couldn't figure out why it felt so bad to have people tell me that I was "too nice". I just thought that I wasn't skilled enough in handling situations with people and that it was some kind of immaturity or insecurity in me that caused this. All this time, I was feeling bad because my friends were judging me in ways that I thought were unfair and inaccurate, but I couldn't articulate it to them.
The thing I love about getting older is that you get to know yourself more and more and accept things that you can't or will not change. I hope that being "too nice" is my worst character flaw (I doubt it, but you know what I mean). I hope this isn't too rambling...I have been thinking about this all evening, but I haven't put words to it until now and I'm not sure I'm saying exactly what I mean...