New Times,
New Thinking.

18 August 2015

Six things you should do to make yourself a little nicer

Niceness is underrated.

By Eleanor Margolis

Nice biscuits are woefully underrated. I don’t mean “nice biscuits”, as a concept; I’m talking about those beige rectangles with the word “Nice” stamped onto them, probably lurking somewhere at the bottom of your grandma’s biscuit barrel, below crowd-pleasers like Custard Creams and Bourbons. And wrongfully so, as Nice biscuits are coconutty, crunchy and, err, nice.

The Nice biscuit (whether you pronounce it “nice” or “neece” – as in the place in France) is rather like the concept of niceness itself: maligned, belittled and almost entirely overlooked. Niceness has been hijacked by the “Nice Guy” – the sad dude who expects women to sleep with him purely because he doesn’t go out of his way to oppress them. Niceness has also been commandeered by sarcasm. Someone lets rip a protracted, reverberant and room-clearing fart. “Nice,” you say, even though it most definitely isn’t.

Niceness is rarely seen as anything more than nice, and is even less frequently awarded the grandiosity of something revolutionary. But what if, one day, we all woke up 10 per cent nicer than usual? I’m going to be super-nice for a second and bring Jeremy Corbyn into this without being at all mean. One of Corbyn’s policies for “a new kind of politics” is “equality for all”.

How nice is that? I’m not going to get too bogged down in the honking tautology here – I mean, if equality isn’t intrinsically “for all” we get into Orwellian territory. “Equality for all”, anyway, is something ripped straight from the homework of a 13-year-old tasked with concocting a personal manifesto to “make the world a better place.” I mean that in a good way. If we were all as idealistic as 13-year-olds, the world would be chaotic and sticky, but altogether nicer. Probably.

I believe, wholeheartedly, in a niceness revolution. Sure, I could stand to be much nicer myself. The other day, one of those charity people with clipboards asked if he could speak to me, to which I replied, “I’d rather die.” I can be decidedly un-nice. So can you. So can your mum. But, with my new mantra (“be nice”) in mind, I’ve come up with some fundamental rules for everyday niceness.

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1. Never leave pubes in the bath

This may seem trivial. It isn’t. When you live in a shared house, there’s quite literally no bigger “fuck you” to your housemates than leaving hair from your genitals – I repeat, genitals ­­­ for them to deal with. Eliminating the pubey evidence that you’ve bathed/showered is probably one of the easiest things in the world. If you can, say, make it through the hell that is adolescence, you can definitely leave a bath sparkling and pube-free for your housemates. Because, domestically speaking, there’s little worse than getting into that cosy, “I’m going to have a long bath” frame of mind and then coming face-to-face with your “friend’s” pube. Sitting there. By the plughole. Looking smugly defiant.

2. Be as leftwing as you can stomach

I sometimes feel like I’ve had it with the Left. Digesting the daily gripes of fellow Guardian-reading, idealist do-gooders can too often feel like chowing down on an especially ripe cat litter tray. But, if it’s a choice between that and doing a Melanie Phillips-style political 180, I’m Team Litter Tray all the way. Tories are the opposite of Nice. End of. Don’t be one.

3. Ghost not, lest thou should be ghosted thyself

Ghosting. That thing where you date someone for a bit, let on that it’s going well, then, out of the blue, cease all communication in the desperate hope that they’ll forget you exist. It’s had a lot of media attention lately for, supposedly, being this new phenomenon specific to Generation Tinder. We’ve all done it. We’ve all been on the receiving end of it. Cowardly at best, outright nasty at worst, Ghosting is so Not Nice. It’s time for us all to woman up (this applies to you too, men) and feed whoever you’re unhappily dating some line about wanting to “be friends” or not being in a “relationship headspace right now.” It doesn’t really matter, just don’t string anyone along and then vanish.

4. “Regards”: an email sign-off for emergencies only

If you haven’t spent a whole day wondering what you did to deserve an email with a “regards” (not “best regards” or “kind regards”) sign-off, congratulations on being emotionally bereft. “Regards” is a weapon that should only ever be used to signal, electronically, that you’re pissed off. Remember, a misused “regards” can and will ruin someone’s day, if not their entire week. “Regards” is the sign-off of the morbidly Not Nice. Of people who leave voicemail messages and fart on crowded trains. On the off chance that Hitler’s ghost emails you, you may use it.

5. Buy a fucking Big Issue

The first time I bought a Big Issue, it was purely to impress a girl I was dating. Like I said, I could stand to be a much nicer person. She worked for a charity, did more for oppressed people than tweet links to articles about them and, incidentally, was extremely pretty. On one date, I decided to show off my humanitarian credentials by forking out £2.50 for one of the magazines a homeless guy was shoving in my face.

Technically, it turned out, this guy wasn’t a Big Issue seller. I was left clutching a psychotic zine made from bits of rotting Evening Standard and, if I remember rightly, some leaves. My date seemed moderately impressed that I’d at least tried to buy a Big Issue. But she ended up ghosting me, and I totally deserved it.

Subsequently though, I’ve bought real Big Issues and realised it’s actually a good magazine. And, without getting all self-righteous and “did you know that for the same price as a flat white…” – just buy the fucking Big Issue from time to time. It’s only very slightly more difficult than the washing away your pubes thing, because there’s money involved. That is to say, it’s still extremely easy.

6. Tell your friends you love them, while sober

By the age of about 22 you should know that, three pints down, “I love you” means nothing. There is, sadly, no veritas in vino. There is, however, a whole lot of bullus shittus. I’ve drunkenly told the following people/things I love them: a possibly racist bouncer, a statue of Queen Victoria, a group of lost Belgians, a woman in a cat food advert, a kebab.  

I bet you anything your friends, the really Nice ones at least, are better than a kebab. Letting them know this, even if it weirds them out a bit, is the essence of Niceness. That is to say, something that may only make the world a 0.0000000000000000001 per cent better place, but at least you tried.

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