If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I take that phrase to heart. Whenever I’m with a group of people and I’m not being addressed directly, I think to myself, what the hell? You can’t think of something nice to say about me? Not one thing? It doesn’t have to be anything over the top. Hey Rob, nice pants. Thanks, I just took them right out of the dryer. That wasn’t so hard. I’m always saying nice things to people. Hey, nice haircut. What a great story. Of course I like that sweater you got me for Christmas. I like it so much I almost hardly ever wear it, because it’s one of my most prized possessions, and I don’t want to risk spilling anything on it.
But sometimes I take it a step further. Like maybe if you’re not saying anything to me, not only do you not have anything nice to say, but maybe your head is filled with all of these terrible things you wish you could be saying to me, but you’re holding it all in, because, well, your parents always used to say to you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say …”
So I hate it when I run into people and I’m like, “Hey what’s up? Great to see you.” See? That’s something nice that I just said, that it’s great to see you. And that person will just be like, “Hey? What’s up?” I’m sorry, but what’s your problem? What’s going through your head? Are you pissed at me? Am I bothering you somehow?
And I want to get all up in that person’s face and tell them what I really think about them. Looking at me funny, not saying anything nice to me. Well you know what? I think you’re really ugly. And your car’s a piece of shit. And all that stuff about great to see you? Well, even if it was great to see you, it’s definitely not great to see you anymore. And I want to tell you that. But it’s not nice. So I don’t say anything.
But that’s not nice either. So I tell you that I like your jacket. And you still don’t say anything. So I say that it’s great to see you again. I know, I already said that. But what else am I supposed to say? Nice shirt? I can’t go from jacket right to shirt. It’s too much of an emphasis on appearance. On clothing. Nice sneakers.
And now it’s just blatantly obvious, to me anyway, that I’m trying to draw something out of you, something nice, about me. Something nice that you can say about me, instead of just standing there, not saying anything. You can’t even pretend can you? What’s your problem?
I’m getting angry. And that’s not going to draw out any compliments. I go inside, inside my head. I go into my brain where I keep a repository of nice things that people have said to me, about me. I find a memory, one time I’m playing baseball, and it’s my turn up, and I had struck out like the previous six at-bats, so finally I get a piece of the ball, there’s a clink. It’s a grounder, it has almost no momentum. It stops before it even rolls to the pitcher. He actually has to leave the pitcher’s mound, to run up to the ball to grab it before he throws it to first. It was close. I thought I was safe. But I got called out. I walk back to the dugout and one of my teammates says to me, “Hey Rob, nice hit.”
And that was a nice thing to say. But it’s not making me feel better. Something’s wrong, something with this memory doesn’t add up. And then it hits me all at once, that that guy wasn’t really being nice, he was being sarcastic. I had just naturally thought that, since I hadn’t even come close to hitting the ball before, and now that I at least hit it, not the best hit, but a hit nonetheless, I thought it was a genuinely nice thing to say. But it wasn’t. That guy shouldn’t have said anything at all. Or he should have said, nice try. Or he should’ve said nice hit, but he should have meant it, like, really meant it. That sarcastic prick. I couldn’t see the sarcasm immediately, but now I can, and I’m trying to use this memory to calm me down, and it’s not working, and I’m not saying anything right now, and that’s bad, because if you’re not saying anything, it’s because you’ve got nothing nice to say, and I’m the nicest guy ever, much nicer than you. I’ve complimented you like twelve times already and you’re just staring at me, not saying anything, slowly backing away, turning around, making a run for it.