Just Be Nice

Defending Oprah

Well, I’m certainly doing much better today. I’m even well enough to sort through some bills, which are extremely overdue. So, that’s all good.

My father called me yesterday because he thought I didn’t call for Mother’s Day and was worried something terrible had happened to me. All I could think was, “Isn’t that why I have this webpage? So people I know around the country can constantly check in and make sure I’m not dead?”

I saw Memento yesterday. So, basically today I’ve been doing that Lost Highway thing where I’m trying to make sure that I did, in fact, figure out what happened.

Today is a big day of catching up on work. I’m just glad I’m better off than I was yesterday. I self-medicated with four hours of Oprah.

Many people have asked about my obsession with Oprah. First of all, it’s not an obsession, even though I just called it one. I think that perhaps you wouldn’t expect someone like me to enjoy watching Oprah. It used to be The View, but (as Eric so elegantly put it one day) all I eventually heard coming out of the television was “BAWK! BAWK! BAWK KIKAWWWW MIKAHW WAAK WAAK BWAK BWA!” They just argued and yelled and giggled and cackled about all kinds of things I didn’t care about or didn’t agree with.

So. Oprah. Here’s the thing. This woman is pretty amazing, when you think about it. Just, for a second, think of the Oprah empire. Can you imagine having your own empire like that? She is an entire force. She can make people read. She can make them buy things. She can make them not buy things. She influences so many people with just a television show. Oh, and now a magazine, which I haven’t bothered with.

I may dislike the choices Oprah makes for her book club, but I have to give her mad props for getting people to read. That’s not easy. Have you seen the disaster that is my book club? Hideous.

I also like how Oprah can make women who hate themselves suddenly realize their own self-worth. She gets women to do things they’ve talked themselves out of. I don’t think that Oprah is really for girls and women of my generation, but I see so much of the values that my mom tried to give me or the values that she was raised on discussed on Oprah. That notion of just Be A Nice Girl. Smile and Act Nice. If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, Don’t Say Anything At All.

I really appreciate how Oprah teaches women that it’s not okay to put everyone else first in your life. I’ve been working very hard on this lately. And I fail at it all the damn time. I put other people first all of the time. My needs tend to come second. I know I do this, and I don’t like that I do this. I know that I get this from my mother. She has always and probably will always put everyone else’s wants and needs before her own. She was taught that this was being a good wife, a good mother, and a Nice Lady. And my mom is really the nicest and kindest woman you’ll ever meet in your entire life. My father has said it on more than one occasion. He thinks that my mother is the nicest woman he’s ever met in his life. And she really is. She’ll do things for strangers just so they have a good impression of her.

I do it too. Man, do I do that. I will swallow rage and hate and spite just to stay nice. To appear to be the classier one. To not have anyone hate me. I do it to where I dislike myself. Man, some of the things I see written about me? I just want to fire off the most hate-filled letter you’ve ever seen. I want to bitch and moan and rant and cry “UNFAIR!” I want to see people cry. I want them to hurt like they’ve hurt me. But you know what? I’ll never do it. I won’t even do it when it’s really called for. I won’t ever intentionally make someone hurt. I can’t do it. My mom raised a good girl.

And sure, I can rationalize and say that I’m a better person for it, but I hate that I can’t even just occasionally be all, “Fuck you!” and then feel good about it afterwards. If I ever told someone off, and I don’t even know if I really could do it. Maybe in a letter or an email, but certainly not in person… but if I ever told someone off, for the rest of my life I’d feel bad about it. I really would. I’d be torn up inside about making someone sad. Even if that person deserved it.

Because here’s the horrible thing that I do: I justify and rationalize other people’s actions. Even when they are hurtful, spiteful, malicious or possibly even intentionally deplorable. I will understand why they did what they did, rationalize their actions, forgive them for their weak character, and then remind myself of how good they are.

I have stayed in relationships and friendships much longer than I should have because I rationalize and forgive. I have let people use me and abuse me and I tell myself that they don’t mean to do what they do and figure out what I should change about myself to get them to stop treating me that way.

It’s unacceptable behavior from myself. I shouldn’t let people do that. But I never want to look like the bad person. I don’t want to be the one to cause pain. And I always see the good in people. That’s from my mom as well. I see the good and forgive the bad. Because my mom told me that everyone has their good points. And they all do. I think that’s why my sister and I get ourselves into the situations we’ve been into in the past. We see the good when everyone else sees the bad.

We forgive when we shouldn’t. We take more than any person should. We see the love that someone has for us even when nobody else can. And that’s a very old-fashioned way of looking at love and relationships, I think. One thing I like about modern feminism is that we expect to be treated differently than our mothers were. Marriage isn’t just “something you’re supposed to do.” Kids aren’t expected. Careers carry importance. Respect is demanded. Relationships aren’t about one person taking care of another. And I’m a modern feminist with Fifties female-relationship-role values. I’m a Donna Reed inside Courtney Love. And I don’t really like that about myself. So, back to Oprah– she tells women that that internal conflict is okay. She says that lots of us are going through that. It’s not just me.

And that’s why I like Oprah. She shows you people that are worse off than you are and shows you people that have improved themselves from where you are right now. I’m not the lady that sits at home crying because she’s afraid to ask a question at the staff meeting. I’m not the woman that feels controlled by her mother or her mother-in-law. I’m not the woman who feels like nothing she ever does is good enough. I’m the woman that knows she is too nice, and wants to still be a nice person but have the ability to say the word


This isn’t just some grand epiphany I’ve recently had. I’ve had people tell me that I need to say “No” more often for the past six years. And I know I’m getting better at it, but I’m still not very good. I still find myself seeing people I don’t want to see, being nice to people that have hurt me, justifying actions that I shouldn’t have to justify, forgiving and forgiving and lending and doing favors and loaning and spending time with people that probably aren’t good for me. I’m working on it. Oprah reminds me that I can’t do it all in one day.

But I don’t watch Oprah and take notes. I don’t even really watch it half of the time. It’s on in the background while I work. And some of the shows are just dumb. But when Oprah finds a way to make someone believe in herself when she used to think she was hopeless? I really like seeing that. Maybe that’s why I keep this webpage going, sometimes. I get mail from some of you who went and had a colposcopy and wasn’t scared anymore after reading my story. Or you’re going through a break-up and you find comfort in my similar experience. You learned how to use a tampon, or you bought a bra that finally fits. It’s when some of you write and say, “I felt really shitty today, and you made me laugh.” It’s when someone writes and says, “I didn’t know why I felt this way. You put into words all of the stress I was feeling and did it in a way that I feel better.”

That’s what Oprah does for me sometimes. I don’t feel alone when I hate certain parts of myself. When I want to be this big self-esteem-filled girl power role model but I really feel like a doormat loser, it’s good to have something to turn to that says, “We all feel like shit sometimes. We all have flaws. You can’t be everything to everyone.”

Man, how I want to be everything to everyone. I hate it about myself. But it’s true. I want to make everyone happy at all times. You, right now, the one that reads but actually hates me but is just reading to see if I fuck up? I’m so sorry. I just want you to be happy. I almost want to fuck up just to make you satisfied. You, the one who reads that hates me because you want what I have? I want to show you all the shit I have that sucks, so you don’t idolize me anymore. I want you to see the pain and the heartache I have. I want you to see my fears and my doubts so you can realize where you’re stronger and better off than I am. You, the one who hates who you currently are and wants someone to look up to? I want to be your role model. I want to be the cool girl that you think is fun and friendly and a good person to try and be. I want to be that good person for you. I want to be strong for you. I want to succeed for you.

I want to be everything for everybody. And really, I should only be everything to myself. I’m working on that right now. In relationships, I have a tendency to just try and please and be everything that person needs. In friendships, I tend to drop everything for whoever it is that needs me right then. I focus all of my attention one person at a time, and I tend to neglect myself. And the worst is, while I’m focused on one person, I feel guilty for all of the other people I’m neglecting. If I’m with a friend, I feel terrible that I haven’t called my parents. If I’m on the phone long distance, I worry about the friend I have down the street that I haven’t called in a week. I feel like I’m constantly catching up with people. I feel like I haven’t done enough for them.

I feel these things even though I know they aren’t true. I want to change these thoughts in my head. I’m doing it. I’m getting stronger. But I’m certainly not done. I still have toxic people in my life. I still do things that hurt myself. I still put others ahead of me sometimes. I am still my mother’s daughter.

But I don’t have to make excuses for other people anymore. I don’t have to justify other people’s actions. If someone needs to apologize to me, I’m not going to do it first to make it easier for that person. If someone has made me upset, I won’t waste time wondering why they made the choices they made, wondering if they thought of me, wondering what I could have done to prevent it. If someone else is having a hard time, I won’t try and find out what part of that is my fault. I won’t try and fix their problems out of guilt or fear that they might end up blaming me. I won’t get upset on behalf of other people because I feel like they aren’t taking things seriously enough.

I won’t make people feel bad for taking up my time. I won’t guilt other people with my own guilt. I won’t blame other people for my anger at myself. I won’t feel guilty when someone offers me their support. I won’t feel guilty for being upset. I will allow someone to hug me when I’m crying. I will not apologize for my tears. I will not hide my tears under shame.

I will not waste energy wondering why people make the choices that they make. I will not assume that I am involved in people’s actions or choices. I will not wonder where I fit into other people’s lives.

I say these things now, I want to make these changes now, but it’s all going to take time. I’m showing you right now the weakest parts of me. I’m saying them here to remind myself later where I was. Because I want to leave some of these things behind. I was looking at email from a year ago, and I was shocked at how much I didn’t care about myself. I’m much better now than I was then. I was miserable and lost, leaving my life up to the choices of other people. I did what I always thought looked like the right thing to other people. I didn’t ask myself what I needed, what I wanted, and what I thought was going to happen. I just waited and worried. I did so much worrying over the past year. I worried about every single person in my life. Even when that person had no idea I was fretting about them. At the end of that time, I realized that I didn’t even worry about me. The next thing I knew I was living in Los Angeles and starting a completely different section of my life. Moving to Los Angeles is one of the few things that I have done for myself. But even that choice was filled with the thoughts, feelings and choices of other people.

I think that’s why I started buying makeup. It’s completely for myself. I think of it as total pampering. It doesn’t help anyone or impress anyone. Giving myself a facial or a pedicure only treats me. Man, this all sounds so Oprah. I’m sorry about this. But I wanted to write all of this down. Because people ask why I watch Oprah. I think that’s another reason. Nobody else in my life likes it. It’s totally for me and my own enjoyment. I don’t think about work or email or deadlines. I just sit back and have a big estrofest. It’s incredibly self-indulgent. And I am learning this year that it’s okay to feel good. It’s okay to do things that only make me feel good. I don’t have to do things based on what makes a large group of people happy. I don’t have to base my decisions on the expectations of others.

It doesn’t mean I don’t do it. And it doesn’t mean it’s not good to do every once in a while. But I’m learning. I’m seeing my own patterns. I recognize my weaknesses. I see what I do that is harmful to me. And a few years ago, I didn’t know that at all. A few years ago I would have just kept on justifying, rationalizing, accepting blame, playing the martyr and weakly accept the pain. I don’t want to be a martyr. I did that all the time growing up, too. “Look at my sad, painful life. It’s so hard to be me.”

It’s simply not true. I have a great life. I have a life filled with wonderful people and I live in a cool apartment in a nice city. I have my own car that I’m paying for. I pay all of my own bills. I am passionate about my career. I am paid for doing what I love to do. I have so much love in my life. I’m healthy. I’m happy. I have no reason to complain.

So I make little problems seem like huge ones. I let other people’s problems become my own. I need to let myself take more breaks and say the word “NO.” I really really really need to work on saying the word “NO.”

Okay, our Oprah moment is over.

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