In my life I have come across a few people who can be diagnosed as having Niceness Disease.
However it is my best friend who has the most severe case.
The first time we met was the very first lecture at university, age 18. She was quiet within the group, one thing I am not. I put it down to her simply being shy. However, then I got to know her.
Bullied terribly throughout her teen years, she was forced to move from her school and take her exams in a college environment. Treaty with cruelty and then isolated, friendless. Perhaps this is a story told too often, but listening to tales of her beautiful curly hair being filled with glue or set alight whilst she was jeered at, being labelled in the malicious fashion that only certain teenagers are capable of doing, caused such resentment in me.
I have never been bullied, never throughout school, university or even socially, and so I don’t know what it feels like to have to go through experiences of outward group cruelty. To dread every encounter with nasty people who have no knowledge of me, other than aesthetically. But I know it would make me spiteful and overly mistrustful and generally angry.
She isn’t any of these things.
I diagnosed her with the Niceness Disease early on in our friendship. She refused to see the negative in any of the people around us. And there were a lot at university. Even if she did see the bad, especially with some of the lecturers we shared or some of the drunks we witnessed rolling around on the nightly buses, she never made a single derogatory comment of any fashion. Not even a frown or raised eyebrow.
Her history of teenage abuse had given her a scary amount of compassion and love. Something, that even now I find hard to reason with. It didn’t matter how horrendous the situation was, how much our water bill came to, how many times our smoke alarm decided to wake us up in the early hours, she was kind and considerate. She was calm. And rather than getting stressed or upset, she would laugh at my cynicism and sarcasm.
The Niceness Condition also brings with it an inability to say ‘no’ with any semblance of certainty. We’d go to late night Japanese films for no apparent reason. She joined me constantly as I pursued my own passions, such as painting – something she had never done before.
But more than that. She didn’t abandon me when I told her about my epilepsy. In fact, quite the opposite. Instead we ended up sharing a house and remain in touch. She has witnessed so many seizures. Even some in public with onlookers. And not once has she disappeared.
But still, it’s more than that. I believe in some ways The Niceness Disease is mildly contagious. I remain my cynical, miserable, sarcastic self, and yet when I’m with her I always try to mirror her outlook – and rather than immediately looking for the negatives, and being suspicious about everyone and everything – I search for what she sees. The Good.
I admire the strength that Niceness Disease brings. This particular friend, and others with the same affliction, leave themselves open to be taken advantage of, used and generally mistreated. But still, her Niceness remains.
Cursed, but uniquely good in so many ways.
Afflicted with the dreaded Niceness Disease, and yet strong beyond reason.