December 29th, 2002

MacCauley

why I shouldn't do nice things for people I consider my friends.

So, there's a whole mess of drama going on the crack bored right now about Pika, and Never, and money and what not. Don't care much. I've my opinions on the folks involved, and a couple of people know what they are, and no one else shall learn. I mention this only as a lead in to a comment Pika made in this thread, and it got me to thinking.

Her comment is partially the title of this entry. If anything, this whole ordeal is only another reminder why I shouldn't do nice things for people I consider my friends.

I have a huge beef with this statement. Not particularly against Pika, because many many many other people have made it. You are drawing the wrong conclusion completely. It's the same as falling in love, breaking up, and vowing, I'll never fall in love again, because someone might hurt me.

How dumb is that? Seriously. The problem wasn't doing nice things. The problem wasn't falling in love or making yourself vulnerable. I can understand being gun-shy about doing such things. But there is a real problem if you are making this statement, and it's not with the other people. That is, expecting something in return for being nice, or falling in love. The something being expected in return is to be treated nicely. People are going to do shitty things to you. Some of them will be people you have only done mean things to. Some will be people you have done nice things to. Some will be a mixture. It you resolve to stop doing nice things for people so that you don't get treat shitty, all you have done is ensured you aren't doing nice things. The same amount of crappy things will be done to you. Or maybe more. You have taken away from the world, not given to it. And in the process you haven't increased the amount of nice things done for you. And you haven't protected yourself from being hurt.

Being honest, nice, generous, or whatever else you call a virtue, is it's own reward. Seriously.

Doing things for other people is fulfilling. I do nice things for people, and usually tell them that one of my conditions is they don't tell anyone else I helped them. Why? Because people knowing and flattering you and passing that stuff on is a drug! But it's a false high. You come down, and it can turn on you. When that happened in the past, I started to expect people to recognize me for the wonderful person I was. My goal is to help everyone I know, but swear each of them to secrecy. Well, one of my goals. I have other goals involving a fine naked woman, so my goals can be a mixed bag. But I digress.

You know what though. There are lots of tangible benefits to doing things for people without expecting anything, even nice treatment, in return. One of those benefits is that people pretty much do treat me nicely in return. I don't have to worry when I go to bed at night about who I've pissed off. I get to go to bed pretty self-satisfied, because pretty much any day I see someone else is a day I can be nice. If I base my happiness on whether other people treat me well, then I am pretty much guaranteed to have a few restless nights.

Don't get me wrong. If someone treats me badly, I probably won't go out of my way to help that person. I might still help them out some, but I probably won't look for opportunities to help them, like I do normally. (And yes, I do that normally.) Not because I want to stick it to them, but because it becomes too much work to be kind to someone who actively fights against it. But I don't take that at carte blanche to become bitter and tell the world to fuck themselves.

Books

James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

Last Good Kiss coverApparently this is a pretty famous novel. I remember reading it years ago, and then occasionally using the names of the characters from this book in Yahoo chat as aliases. But I hadn't read it recently and it's been long enough that I didn't remember the story at all. So I pulled it off the shelf and re-read it over the last couple of days. Damn glad I did.

C.W. Sughrue is the private detective in the story, but it's not really a mystery. Well, there is a mystery. Catherine Trahearne hires Sughrue to find her ex-husband who is floating around the West on a drinking binge. Sughrue finds him and while he waits for the man to get out of the hospital, spend a little bit of time trying to find Betty Sue Flowers, the daughter of the proprietress of the watering hole where Sughrue has found the author Trahearne.

About the actual plot, I can't reveal too much more without ruining it. Suffice to say, everyone loves Betty Sue Flowers. Even when she has been gone for 10 years, Sughrue falls in love with her. But she is bad for people. Everyone who falls is love with her is ruined, as are many of the people around her. The prose is descriptive, and the characters are a strange combination of hard-boiled and emotionally fragile.

Yep, definitely read this book. It's only about 230 pages as well, so it goes by pretty quickly.