I once asked my parents what other names they’d considered while pregnant with me. My mom wanted to name me Brianna after my dad (Brian), and he wanted to name me Sarah after her. With both of those ruled out, they looked into other names from my dad’s side of the family. In the end, great-grandma Helena won out.

Along the journey, my father suggested the name Nancy. He’d gone to school with a Nancy and she “never had a bad thing to say about anyone.” Everyone liked Nancy. Nancy was everyone’s friend.

Could people ever describe me the way my father described Nancy? Not yet, but I’m working on it.

{Now, to state the obvious, my father never meant to compare me negatively to Nancy in any way. At all. I’m looking to her as a guide only.}

It’s easy to suggest that Nancy isn’t a very realistic guide – could someone really be that positive? Always? It seems a little difficult. The more I thought about it, however, I had a realization: It’s not that Nancy never though bad things about people – she just kept them to herself. In short, my mother’s advice stands: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

What about dealing with mean people? I maintain that saying nothing at all wins out in the end. Confession time: I’m well-known (in my family at least) for having a quick wit when it comes to responding to people who I feel are rude to me or my loved ones. But… is that something I want to be known for? I’m good at being negative? Sometimes, silence speaks loudest.

Caveat: I will never hold my tongue in response to racist, homophobic, or otherwise hateful comments. No one should. Nancy never would have stood for it.


About Helena

Helena lives in Chicago with her boyfriend and two cats. Her boyfriend thinks she's awesome. Her cats agree.

Posted on March 24, 2011, in Who I Am and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Random: My mom’s name is Nancy.

    I think it’s ok and good to stick up for your friends or family. There are certainly nicer ways to go about that, though. Rudeness does not need to be met with more rudeness.

    I could probably aim to be nicer myself, even though most people would probably describe me that way in general… 🙂

  2. I like this a lot. Good story…and good moral to the story too.

  3. By not saying anything at all in the face of rudeness, you aren’t lowering yourself to the level of the person making the original comment. However, you can get caught up in a tacit agreement with your silence. There are times when a voice needs to be heard, as you have mentioned

    • I recently read about how difficult it is sometimes to speak up when you hear people saying inappropriate things. It often is, but I’m going to try to focus on speaking up in these situations and brushing off the others.

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