Tuesday, November 3, 2009

what's so great about "nice" or damned with faint praise

Women are raised to believe that "nice" is good. But what does being nice entail? Does it mean that you never intentionally hurt anyone or express a negative opinion in public. Does it mean you worry over them, and cater to them and make sure their every need is taken care of. Does it mean that you're the fairer, duller sex? How does nice play out in the real world? And is it even possible?

I don't hail from the land of nice. My family values are fight first, fight second, fight third, and imagine that's love.

But this isn't about me, it's about Amelia. Was she "nice?" Or was she playing nice for the crowd. In an interesting interview, Hilary Swank says pretty much the opposite of what she's quoted as saying in Town and Country. "I think Amelia was a very private person. So, you know, what she was expressing out in the world might not necessarily have been what her true thoughts were." Good luck finding those true thoughts in The Fun of It,. Amelia writes about her first solo flight across the Atlantic. "The first place I encountered was Londonderry, and I circled it hoping to locate a landing field but found lovely pastures instead. I succeeded in frightening all the cattle in the county . . . there ended the flight and my happy adventure. Beyond it lay further adventures of hospitality and kindness at the hands of my friends in England, France, Italy, Belgium and America."

Her authorial voice is always courteous and respectful. Forget emotion. No fear. No anxiety. No sadness. It's all of a piece. When she describes her childhood she covers the years where her father's alcoholism lost him job after job with this. "What we missed in continuous contacts over a long period, we gained by becoming adapted to new surroundings quickly."

The hidden Amelia is the one that fascinates me. I don't care how she died. I don't care where her plane went down. I care how she lived. I want to know what she felt and who she was. . . to me the smile's a dare.

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