Words fail me. If you followed Larry Nassar’s sentencing hearing, I bet you’re right here with me.
I know how I feel about aspects of the hearing, but there is no word for the overall feeling this situation elicits. I feel awe for the unimaginable strength of the 156 women who read Victim Impact Statements just feet away from the man who tried to ruin their lives. Disgust for the monster in the prison uniform. Disbelief that he was able to get away with so much for so long. Grief as I watch a rage-filled father lunge at Nassar. Hope that this hideous situation will serve as a moment of reckoning for all of us.
So here’s what I’m reckoning with at the moment: Niceness.
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
“Is that a nice thing to say?”
As a lifelong people pleaser, I’ve said all of these things to my children, many times. Being nice is important to me. I can’t stand it when people are mean or dismissive for no reason. I love those adorable shirts that little girls wear, decorated with messages like “Choose Kindness” in shimmery, curlicue script. I’ll be damned if my own children are going to act like entitled jerkwads who treat waitresses and customer service people like disposable doormats.
What do we do with niceness in a world where a human garbage bag like Larry Nassar gets to prey on girls who were taught to be nice to adults? What do we do with manners in a world where a whole assortment of coaches, friends, and colleagues turned a blind eye to Nassar’s crimes because they were taught to never rock the boat, never be the squeaky wheel, never burn bridges?
As a mother, how do I balance #choosekindness with #reality?
It’s important for my son and daughter to know that they are no more special than anyone else. It’s important for their actions to reflect this belief. Before they step on anyone to get ahead, they had better reach down and help their teammates stand beside them.
It’s equally important for them to know that they deserve as much love, respect, safety, and kindness as everyone else. It’s just as important for them to ask for what they need and feel confident that they deserve it when they get it.
It’s my job to teach them how to speak up when someone crosses a line. It’s crucial that they know these lines exist, that they keep these lines strong and clear.
How do we raise children with suits of armor and open hearts? What kind of life do you end up with if you surround yourself with impenetrable walls? But what do you invite into your life if you have no walls at all?
How do I raise my children to be respectful, but also to know that respect goes out the window as soon as their gut says something is off?
I don’t have answers for any of these questions. Just like I don’t have a word for how I feel as I follow the Nassar situation.
I will probably never find the balance between nice and fierce, but I will never stop looking for it, either.
Maybe we can start small. Maybe, on the back of those adorable “Choose Kindness” shirts our daughters wear, we can add a message to balance it out: “Don’t EVER mistake my kindness for weakness.”
Shazam is an app that identifies the title and artist of any song it hears. While apps like “Selfie Editor” and “Order Unlimited Quantities of Chipotle Without Feeling Like You’re Spending Real Money” have not added to my life in a positive way, I can say that Shazam has legitimately made my life better.
It’s helped me discover new artists I love, and it’s brought me back from the brink of a nervous breakdown when I couldn’t remember who sings this damn song. Shazam always gets the last word in marital disagreements about classic rock songs, before said disagreements escalate into yelling matches (YES IT SOUNDS EXACTLY LIKE JOE COCKER BUT IT’S GREGG ALLMAN WHO’S NO ANGEL!!! WHY DON'T YOU BELIEVE ME???)
For all these reasons, Shazam is one of my favorite apps. Apple’s recent purchase of Shazam is the perfect opportunity to increase its reach and help it solve even more of our first-world problems.
Apple Bigwigs, I humbly submit my list of Shazam Spinoff Ideas:
Treezam: I’ve always wanted to be the smart person who could identify trees during nature walks. The problem is, you could tell me the name of the tree and it would go in one ear and out the other. I think it’s brain damage from being a mother of two children who never stop asking questions. I have no current capacity for retaining things like tree names. With Treezam, you can point your phone at any tree and it will tell you not only the regular name, but the Latin name as well. You know, so you can feel smart and stuff.
Let’s say you’re at a party and you have to introduce Bob to Betty. Problem is, you can’t remember Bob’s flippin’ name. (Refer to brain damage mentioned above.) Just discreetly point your phone at Bob (pretend you’re checking the weather) and it will display his name, along with any information you may want to tell Betty (Bob just got a new job) along with any information you may want to withhold from Betty (Bob gets butt hurt when you talk smack about his hockey team).
I love me some Dateline, but I’ve noticed it’s about 75% longer than it needs to be. Ain’t nobody got time for the umpteenth photo montage of the same dead lady with her shady-looking husband who may or may not have dunnit. Just give us the good stuff so we can go put the laundry away! Shazdunnit allows you to point your phone at Lester Holt’s face and get an immediate run down of whodunnit, why they dunnit, and the length of their prison sentence.
On Monday I am Miss Meal Prep Pinterest Lady 2017. By Thursday I am melting Cheez Whiz on leftover Chick-fil-a waffle fries and calling it poutine. With Shaznomnom, all you have to do is point your device at your open fridge, and it will give you a list of recipe options based on what you have. If your fridge fails the dinner test, it will give you the phone numbers of five local restaurants that deliver.
Have you ever wanted to get to the bottom of your Forever Roommate’s current ‘tude without having to actually talk about it? With Shaz-amor, just point your phone at the resentful/irritated/concerned look on his or her face and you will get a rundown of what you did, why you are a bonehead, and what you can do to make it better. No more guessing! Just unpack the GD suitcase from that trip you took two months ago, for the love of Samsonite, and peace will be restored to your household.
It happens to the best of us: you walk into the room and completely forget why you’re there. Instead of feeling like you’re one step away from needing full-time Adult Day Care, just point your phone at your own confused face, and Shazroom will tell you that you came into the kitchen for the labelmaker. Now if you could just remember which cabinet you put the DANG LABELMAKER in. Do any of you know a good Adult Day Care center? Asking for a friend…
...was the name of my column in Phillips' Finest, my middle school newspaper. If it was good enough for seventh grade, it's good enough for "adulthood."