Thanks to Masuma for sponsoring this episode of The Cut, every piece of jewelry we wear tells part of our story.
Our jewelry boxes are like diaries, housing, memories of where we come from and our achievements and the tokens given from people we love, reminders of the ones we lost.
And when someone gets that, Masooma makes perfect jewelry to celebrate the many layers of you from go to like chain necklaces and hoop earrings to Moore's statement making eye catching chokers and pendants, Masooma has jewelry for every occasion.
I've been wearing my gold chain Masooma choker almost every day because it just makes me feel a little bit more dressed up.
I mean, every time that I have a really good day or something happens that I really want to remember or Mark, I like to make it concrete with something special, like a trinket or a piece of jewelry that I can look back on and remember exactly how I was in that mindset, because jewelry is always so much more than just an accessory.
Whether you're marking a new moment or looking to add to your everyday collection, elevate your every day. Now, with 15 percent off from Masuma, visit the website at Masooma Dotcom, that's mycetoma and enter the promo code that cut 15 at checkout.
Hey, I just want to tell you about another podcast from Bushkin Industries called Double Date.
Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue fell in love on live television and went over 40 years ago on Doubleday Eavesdrop as they visit the homes of their favorite long married celebrity couples for intimate conversations about enduring love and all its challenges.
Family and career, conflict, addiction, illness, jealousy, everything under the sun here from couples like Viola Davis and Julius Tennen, Sting and Trudie Styler, Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka and so many more. Listen, wherever you get your podcasts. The cut, the cut, cut, cut, cut, the cut, the cut. I had this one fleeting moment when I realized I might be too Californian for New York.
I was in the elevator in Midtown Skyscraper and someone else stepped in the elevator after me and I just knee jerk impulsively asked what floor you go into, to which this New Yorker gave me a sideways glance, reached past me like I wasn't there and pressed the button for.
I lived in California for the last seven years, and now as the prodigal son returning back home to New York, I am shocked to realize that I have become so nice.
And I used to be so annoyed by people like me, people who make conversations on airplanes, people who always want to lead with the good news and chime in with the positive reinforcement. And my God, now I've become one. I cannot count how many times my New York colleagues have told me to please stop profusely thanking everyone and stop apologizing to everyone, and I just can't seem to revert back to my old, gruff New York self that I once was.
And that's when this tweet hit the nail right on the head. West coasters are nice, but not kind, and East Coasters are kind, but not nice.
That tweet from the handle Jordan that has been retweeted over 30000 times.
Yeah, my name's Jordan Green. I wrote a tweet on my coffee break that went super viral.
Jordan is a UX designer based in Seattle, culturally on the West Coast. Niceness is priced more than kindness for how you appear saving face, essentially, whereas on the East Coast, there's like the the heart of gold trope where there a person is like, really mean and gruff. They're just a rough, hard drive and son of a gun. But she gave that man a dollar when he really needed it most.
So for a super low stakes example, if you see someone who stubbed their toe, the nice but not kind response is, oh, I see you stuck to it.
So I can imagine that really hurts the kind.
But not nice response is you're an idiot for like walking around without your shoes on your shoes. And here is an ice pack. It's about the delivery. That's what niceness is. Kindness is actually addressing the need.
As Jordan tweeted, West Coast liberals, radicals are really good at sounding nice.
But I've seen a lot of organizers and activists from other places get frustrated because nothing happens.
After a lot of talk, they'll use all of the proper terminology, all of the proper language. And then at the end of the day, like they won't howl like they believe in that kind of like, why me? The tweet because I. I used to believe that just saying nice things helped and that does help. But it doesn't help enough. Like nice things is super important because manners are social lubricant. Right. My grandmother is from the south.
She is a black woman from the south. She taught me always to say please and thank you anyone. That's a person, a darker skinned person of color in a particular context. They need to be nice. And it does come from a place of safety, right? It comes from a place of like trying to navigate a world that's actively trying to kill you. And once you have compassion for yourself, the kindest thing I guess you can give to yourself is the permission to.
To just not be nice, you don't have to be nice. There's so much baggage around niceness, like you don't have to be nice and yet you do have to be nice.
It's cultural. It's political. It's gendered. It's racialized.
Like, do I have to be nice to have color telling me to smile? No, but it also might be unsafe not to. No matter who you are, someone is trying to tell you to be nicer or be less nice. Like I was definitely told not to be nice when Leanin came out and girl bosses were having a moment as though being nice is at odds with being honest or productive or authentic or efficient or kind.
And so I wanted to talk with someone who has taken niceness all the way to success, someone spectacularly, unabashedly nice.
I mean, I think there's a part of me, they're just like authentically nice and does like to, like I do, annoyingly wake up very early and like a particularly good mood. I don't know what that's about.
That's Jonathan Van Ness, hairdresser, yoga instructor, Starr of Queer Eye on Netflix and host of the podcast Getting Curious. We all love Jonathan.
OK, a huge part of your brand to me is that you are very nice. And how do you feel about that word when I use it to describe you?
I mean, ninth grade, I do feel like I am nice. I feel like maybe the only thing that's like more of a bummer about it is like if you're not feeling really nice when you meet somebody and you disappoint them because like your cat sick or you're late or you're like a nightmare or whatever.
And, you know, I am literally that nice, if you like, 80 to 85 percent of the time.
I mean, no one, not even Jonathan Van Ness can be nice 100 percent of the time, not in this Internet.
The hardest thing for me has been like just seeing like really like dehumanizing, like cruel stuff written about me, like on Twitter or like really cruel articles. That stuff like hurts.
I feel like the Internet has gotten meaner. Like you feel like the world has gotten meaner. Yeah, I do. When did that happen. I don't know. I don't know. I just don't know. But you know what this guy told me in rehab once he said not I love it's like one of my favorite quotes of all time.
He said, not knowing why I was an alcoholic is not what made me crazy. Needing to know why I was an alcoholic is what made me crazy. So it's like people have always been mean. They have always been cruel. Isolation, not isolation. Post pandemic, pre pandemic, pre Facebook, post Facebook. It's always been around. None of this is original.
I mean, do you have any I mean, this sounds weird, but do you have any tips grow up in a city where people call you faggot and chase you around with pitchforks your whole life and then get addicted to drugs and survive a lot of abuse and crash and burn lots of times and then move to Los Angeles, where you get more rejection and abuse while navigating the HIV social safety net while recovering from drugs. Yes, that's how I did it, so it so extreme discomfort, I spent a lot of my life in extreme discomfort and suffered a lot of abuse and a lot of neglect and a lot of bullying and a lot of different ways.
And that is someone who also like had like a lot of other like privilege and like social capital and like, you know, I had a roof over my head and I had food to eat and I still went through that shit.
So I don't know. It's like where I just go to therapy, it works fine. The therapy that works for you find like a yoga that works for you.
Yes, yoga and therapy. We love them. They got me through the year, but I still feel like these are tools that are helping me just sort of barely scrape by.
And I haven't lived in the extreme discomfort that Jonathan has.
And I don't have the extra pressure to be nice all the time that Jonathan has.
Like if Jonathan agrees to take a selfie with a friend, suddenly a line will form and it will be hard to stop and hard to disappoint people by saying no, even though Jonathan's tried.
Maybe I'm just going to say no. Like, it won't break anybody's heart. It's like just maybe sometimes, like, you just need to say no. But then, like once I said no to like a thing like here they are to like I'm talking more like selfies, like fleeting things that should stick with me for like weeks.
Like, I wish I could go back and find the person to take it, you know, like how much I appreciate.
OK, at that point in the conversation, it just seemed like keeping up niceness was only a way to disappoint other people and make yourself guilty, that once you start trying to be nice, you're forever beholden to the tyranny of your own niceness. But that wasn't exactly it, really.
That part in me that was asking for the boundaries that actually like bringing up stress in me, like just feeling I didn't have time for myself. I didn't have, like, any of my own personal space or autonomy. And as a survivor of sexual abuse like that, something is really important to me, is like my personal space, like my autonomy. But I realized that I was like a part wanting to set a boundary. But then I realized later I was like, oh, like, I don't need to set that with them.
Like, if I feel safe and it's like fine and I have enough time and stuff really, like, I just needed to adjust, like how I treat myself when I'm not out in the world.
This is what Jonathan has learned to do, to stay nice and yoga and therapy as a part of this. But really, it's a mental shift.
I feel like when the more resentful, not as nice psych comes out, it's like when I've been people pleasing too much and just saying, like a lot of yes and yes. It's just it's just it's yes. And then I like but really I wasn't taking time for me and I wasn't really being able to do what I was actually passionate about. And so then sometimes like the energy can come out sideways and frustrated and irritated or not nice.
And Jonathan found they could circumvent the not nice feeling if they literally put themself first. This is why Jonathan does exactly what they want, the very first thing in the morning, like for me, literally, I'm not kidding you, like if I have a Kazuma eight, that's like a proper work thing.
Like, I really probably did get up at 5:00 so I could make coffee and like needlepoint and like, look at my cats, which is so not how I wake up, like hit snooze a bunch of times.
And then I gave myself up to take my vitamins and try to work out and try to start emails. But Jonathan starts with one of their passions.
From needlepoint to ice skating to advocacy work to gymnastics to comedy writing, I've always been able to figure out a way to fit it all in if I just prioritize what I'm most excited about, like first thing in the morning and then like leave the other stuff to like later in the day. And so me being passionate and enjoying what I do like that might come across as nice sometimes because it's like I'm fine, I'm in a good mood. I'm going to be around.
I'm like into what I'm doing. But if someone doesn't want to take me seriously but they're actually in my orbit, they will soon take me seriously at some point. And I guess I just don't really have to worry about how someone's going to judge me for my demeanor. I mean, people have been judging me for my demeanor since I can remember. Too often, niceness gets set up as this zero sum equation, that niceness comes at a cost that if you're nice to someone or give someone else your time, you're subtracting it from yourself.
Like last week, I was waiting to meet a friend who is running very late and I thought maybe I should just try to be late more often just to reclaim my time and respect myself.
And then I thought of Jonathan and I was like, no, I shouldn't try not to be nice because it's not a zero sum game. Niceness is more like a yeast that can be fed in order to grow and multiply. It has nothing to do with being a doormat or not making space for yourself. You know, I am nice, but I think you can be nice and also be, like, assertive and set your boundaries and not take no shit.
And you can still be nice. All those things. But if you're not Jonathan Van Ness, if you don't naturally wake up at five a.m. and a pretty good mood.
Is it worth all of the work you need to do to be nice? Depending on who you are, niceness might be a pattern of behavior learned to save your life or hide from your power or sways your guilt.
It might be a time suck. It might be an energy suck and at best an expendable accessory. So why not in the name of collective liberation? Shake it off. After the break.
Support for this episode of The Cut comes from Bournvita helping you rethink how you drink, because the way we drink, what we drink changes a lot over the course of our lives, and especially now without a lot of outside context and without a network of friends support.
It's kind of hard to gauge what your drinking habits might be right now. And drinking less or at least more mindfully is never a bad thing.
And Ryvita can help you do it.
Ryvita is a Web based program that can help you get your drinking to a level that feels healthy to you based on your own behaviors and goals. Rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy for Vita uses proven tools and techniques to help you cut back over six months.
It works by helping you notice the negative thought patterns we might experience in our relationship to alcohol.
And then Ryvita gives you the tools you need to break those patterns because of Arvydas Web based, you can access it from anywhere and also totally private so you can prepare for the future in confidence and you can try Bournvita risk free with a 60 day money back guarantee now at us, Bournvita Dotcom, that's us dot Varvara dot com to learn more and get started.
If you are having trouble meeting your goals or focusing at work or sleeping at night, better help is here for you. It's not a self-help class and it's not a crisis line. Better help is secure online professional counseling with licensed therapists who have the tools to help you feel better. It's therapy. Just fill out a questionnaire about how you're doing and better help will match you with your own licensed therapist. And under 48 hours, no more awkward therapist waiting rooms.
No more limitations on the types of experts in your area and in between weekly appointments. If you need more guidance, you can send free unlimited messages to your counselor. We'll get back to you with timely, thoughtful answers. And if the match with your therapist just doesn't feel right. Better help will help you find a new one for free. Better help is a more affordable option than traditional therapy and financial aid is available. This podcast, sponsored by Better Help and listeners of the Cut get 10 percent off the first month.
I better help Dotcom's the cut get started today. A better help dotcom the cut. Is it better HELOC Dotcom the cut and join over one million people who've taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced, better health professional. In the very extreme case study of Jonathan Van Ness, cultivating niceness is a lot of work and a lot of effort and came from a lot of painful experience, and it's not without some guilt. So what's it like to just throw niceness to the wind?
I recognize that I am probably the other end of a spectrum, so if Lovely Jonathan is one and I'm probably the other.
This is such Cole cool. Yeah. I mean, I'm well, I'm an asshole. Yeah.
Tzachi Cole is the author of One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter. And she's also a culture writer at BuzzFeed News. Five years ago when I started there, it said in the employee handbook that they had a no haters policy. And I remember laughing and I went to my boss at the time and I was like, should I leave? Which is interesting because Tzachi, kind of like Jonathan, also grew up as an outsider in a notoriously nice place.
Jonathan is from the Midwest. Tzachi is from Canada. Jonathan develops this as a defense mechanism, but it is effective for them and it is helpful. And it's and I really admire it. I mean, it didn't work for me, like when I was nice, it didn't work. I didn't get anything from it. People did not treat me better. My life was not improved. I did not receive kindness. In turn, it was a waste of my time.
I find the indiscriminate niceness industrial complex very frustrating. Like, I just it makes me crazy. Like, who is this for? Like, I don't feel that good about it. I don't think anybody else does either.
Like everything you're saying flies absolutely in the face of being Canadian.
Oh, listen, this is the other thing. Canadians are some of the most brutal people in the world. And I'll tell you why. In Canada, the rule of law is passive aggression. So if you accidentally shove somebody, you bump into them on the subway or whatever and you don't say, I'm sorry, they person will turn around and look at you like you ate their dog. There is an expectation for a kind of very high level of of surface politeness, that sort of ideology, that behavior gets weaponized against certain people.
And I know for me it's been weaponized against me. If you're not nice, that means there's something wrong with you.
But, you know, as a human woman who also isn't white, I mean, sometimes I'm in places where I can't be nice. I don't have I don't have the luxury. I don't have the time, and I really don't have the patience. And so it's just not something that I've ever invested in. I was also raised by mean people. My parents were jerks. My brother's a jerk. Like we're kind of like a jerky family. We're Kashmiris, which is like a specific kind of brown, difficult person.
Trust me, you talk to any Kashmiri, they're all like this.
We're like kind of depressive or real sour. There's not a lot of us left either. So we got to bind together and be mad.
I mean, statue's mad, but I think that's different than being mean. She calls herself an asshole, but. Just because she doesn't suffer fools gladly with niceness doesn't make her cruel or anything. Not at all. Yeah, of course it has consequences. You can you can literally I think you can Google me and my Wikipedia has a controversy section. Like it's of course, it's of course, it has blowback. But who's the blowback from and do I care?
Sometimes I don't you know, I'll write things about people and I will get emails all the time that are like, that's kind of that's a little harsh. And I kind of mean and it's like I need to be nice to Joe Biden. I don't hear the argument of you should be nice more than from people who are comfortable. You know, like I don't no one's saying to the cops, could you please be nicer? I've I've yet to hear that.
It's always perk to protesters. It's always to activists. It's always to creative's. It's always to writers. It's always the people who are pointing out or trying to do something about things that are systemic and wrong. And, you know, like let me let me be nice about like trans rights may find a way to do it nicely. Like, what the fuck does that mean?
It could look like what Jonathan Van Ness did in 2019, they made a big trip to Washington, D.C., and there are these great photos of Jonathan joyfully walking through the halls of the Capitol in a flowing skirt, grinning arm in arm with Nancy Pelosi.
And on the surface, I really thought Jonathan was trying to nice their way into political advocacy when actually Jonathan was using the cachet of their niceness to flip expectations, at least with the speaker of the House.
Well, in that case, I mean, I think I actually asked for like five minutes alone with her and we had like a major conversation on the speaker's balcony about prep and prep access and racial equality and why we need more access for antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV and why we need more access to prep. We had a very candid conversation that I think she was very much like I thought you were talking to me about something else like that. It just it got very serious, very fast.
And I think that sometimes I get, like, my little Erin Brockovich disease and I just want to fucking tell somebody something. But usually that might not be related to them. But it's like a matter of, like, integrity. It's like that's when it becomes worth it. More to me like to be unpleasant. If there's like something about equal rights, systematic racism, like those are the things that I find to be more worth it, to be like we don't say that.
We don't do that.
Niceness is more than a social lubricant handled correctly. It can be a powerful tool.
Rather than being a way to avoid hard truths or sidestep them, niceness can be a scalpel to delve right into them, a way of truly giving and receiving honest feedback. To anyone, not just Nancy Pelosi, one thing I've learned from not only doing hair, but just from years of therapy is to like ask for what you need up front so that you're not resentful about it, asking for what you need up front from yourself at the start of your day from others in moments of conflict.
And actually, Jonathan has a really practical example from their hairdressing days.
I really can count on one finger. How many times I, like, made someone cry from a haircut?
This was one of those times it was one of my favorite clients I love so much.
She's really sweet. And so she came in this one Saturday morning a and I had had a night the night before. And so I wasn't feeling like my brightest 8:00 a.m. Saturday stuff that I normally would. And I was like, OK, Tina. Her name was like, put your head down. And she looked down. I just don't think I realized, like, how low the chair was. Plus I had her look down or that when I made that first step by step, I was like, oh fuck, it was so short.
And she felt it. And she was like, that's like the shortest Bob you ever given me.
And I was like, OK, so here's the deal.
If you really get weird right now and really get upset about how much shorter this is going to be, like you're going to end up with like a Kate Gosselin, it's going to be really bad. But I can make it good if you just like. I just need you to be cool and I'll be cool. It's going to be shorter, but it's going to be more like lip or chin length. And I do remember saying, like, look, I'm so sorry, but like, I just need us to ratchet down our nervous systems right now so that this could be cute.
It was really just like saying, OK, lead with relief. My therapist also says that a lot to lead with relief. Look, I'm sorry. Then as for what you need up front and we all ended up OK, and her haircut really was adorable and she loved it. And actually, it's not even adorable is actually very sexy, very gorg, very like don't fuck with me boys, which is kind of what she needed it in that moment.
And she literally came back and maintain that haircut for the first time in like our six year relationship because she was like, oh, this is really cute. I love. Jonathan and Souce both believe in honesty. It's just that one of them is dedicated to niceness and the other isn't. But it's not like one way of being is easier than the other. In truth, being nice or not nice, take the same amount of energy. Either way, if you give a shit about other people at all, it's going to weigh on you.
I don't know any of those people who are like, I'm a jerk and I don't care those. I don't think those people are liars. Like everything I like. You know, you go to bed at night and you're like, OK, time to think about every interaction I've ever had and what it means and whether I will have to apologize for anything like, of course, I do that.
So even though Sasha and Jonathan are on different ends of the spectrum. The spectrum curves, it is probably a little bit of like horseshoe theory that Jonathan's here and then the horseshoe goes around and then I'm here. So we're actually not that far from each other on those two ends of this weird arch. But I think I mean, it depends on what kind of personality type you have.
Nice is great. If it works for you, by all means, use it. I don't think there's any merit in requesting that someone be nicer or less nice than they are.
But maybe niceness just isn't the thing to fixate on. There's so many better words than nice and don't be mean and don't hate like compassion would be a good one. Generosity would be a good one. Greater good.
I think it's just like if you do want to be nice, you might as well just do it in the most effective way possible as a means to an end and not an end itself. Not as an excuse, not as a crutch, but as a way to ultimately get to what is kind. Cut podcast is produced by Bob Parker, Jasmine Aguilera and ME executive produced by Nishat Kawa, Stella Buckbee and Hanna Rosin, mixed by Brandon McFarland, who wrote our theme song special Thanks to Corrine's A Cadenas and Sangita Thinker's.
We are a production of New York magazine. Subscribe today to support their work at the Cut Dotcom Slash Subscribe. I'm Avery Woman. Thank you for listening.
If you're having trouble meeting your goals or focusing at work or if you're feeling stressed and having trouble sleeping, better help is here for you. That's not a self-help class. It's not a crisis line. But our help is secure online professional counseling with licensed therapists who have the tools to help you feel better. Just fill out a questionnaire about how you're doing and better help will match you with your own licensed therapist. And under 48 hours, no more awkward therapist waiting rooms, no more limitations on the type of experts in your area and in between weekly appointments.
If you need more guidance, you can send free unlimited messages to your counselor. We'll get back to you with timely, thoughtful answers. Plus, if the match with your therapist just doesn't feel right.
Better hope will help you quickly find a new one for free. Better hope is a more affordable option than traditional therapy and financial aid is available. This podcast is sponsored by Better Help and listeners of the Cut can get 10 percent off their first month at Better Help Dotcom.
The cut get started today at better help dotcom the cut visit better dotcom, slash the cut and join the over one million people who've taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced, better health professional.