Depending on whom you ask, I am either exceedingly nice or an obnoxious bitch.
Not long ago, I expressed some opinions and held my ground and found myself in conflict with my brother, on social media, where he chose to make it public instead of private. I do possess some very strong opinions and some of them controversial if you happen not to be a left leaning atheist, for instance. My brother objected to my making my opinions obvious, and insisted that they offended his wife. He then picked a public fight, in which while I did not back down I also said much less than he did. I did not pull my punches for the sake of niceness, but I kept my responses succinct while he lectured, attempted to shame me, threatened and finally made good on his threat to 'unfriend' me. This all happened less than a month ago and I am still reeling from it but I do not regret the way I behaved. I have always had a very good relationship with my brother and if ever I was going to chose to be nice just for the sake of it, that might have been the time, but I do not back down when told I must shut up because I am wrong and it is not nice to express my opinion.
I was raised to be nice. There is a definite slant towards ladylike behaviour in my upbringing and my parents are people who do not believe in rocking the boat. My mother, in particular, seems to believe that one should only ever say nice, agreeable things and spend life striving to be as inoffensive as possible. While I do tend to present a ladylike demeanour and have had this pointed out to me often, I cannot be someone who keeps her opinions and ideologies to herself, though hopefully I have some sense of when to let them loose and when not to. I generally do not use this blog as a forum for my world view, though neither do I attempt to hide it. In my encounter last week with an opinionated and at times seemingly arrogant man who did indeed do most of the talking, I was not just being a nice, polite, Canadian doormat. It was not a confrontational encounter as was the one with my brother. When I'd had enough, and wanted to leave, I said good bye and I did so and I am not left with any bad feelings about it.
Regrettably I seem not to have made it clear that I did chose to stay, to listen to what he had to say, to at times point out where I thought he was talking nonsense and to express my own point of view. I happen to enjoy a philosophical discussion, and he happened to have some convoluted ideas. I did not feel put upon. I often felt somewhat smug as he defended his slightly bonkers ideas quite poorly with a great deal of educated sounding bluster, but I was also genuinely interested and formed the opinion that he was well educated. I could and would have left at any time. The fact that three hours went by does not mean I was trapped, it means I was engaged. I may have cut it off sooner if I'd actually known the time, but I didn't.
I found the encounter, amusing, a bit odd, and yes, I do tend to be polite, and nice, but I also enjoy encounters with other people that go beyond small talk. I crave such interactions with others and am perfectly capable of doing a great deal of talking myself. I consider it my civic duty to sometimes let others talk more and try to direct some of my verbosity onto my blog. Like now.
I am known to some as a very nice, mild, gentle person and to others as someone who has the strength of her convictions and isn't afraid to be who she is. I suppose I am both and if you only know me one way, you do not know me well. I am a very candid person, which has mislead more than one person to think I reveal all. I am capable of dismissive scorn and warm acceptance and I am generally in control of which aspect you see because I allow very few people to see all. If I value you, my relationship with you or wish to keep a given situation pleasant, you will get the warm, accepting and nice version of me unless you do something to change that. The difference between how my brother behaved towards me and how this stranger in the cafe behaved were vast. My brother underestimated me; he expected me to be passively nice and when I did not perform accordingly took me to task for it, as though this niceness should define me entirely. The stranger in the cafe expected me to have my own opinions, expected me to question or challenge his and credited me with the ability to remain unflappable in the face of our difference. He indicated an initial hesitation for fear of offending me with one of his ideas and I assured him he would not. I told him I would just as likely offend him and I may have.
Thank you for all of your comments on my previous post, for your sympathy over my plight and the offered advice. When I wrote it, I did not imagine it would come across as it apparently did but I do assure you, I can safely visit local cafes and not be taken advantage of. I will even take on anyone who wants to criticise me for ending a sentence with a preposition.