It is a curious human trait that solicitousness can sometimes infuriate. When I was younger, I thought that being nice to everyone would inoculate me against their anger. I felt that if I were blameless and sweet to everyone, no one would ever blame me. The sourest people got my sweetest treatment. The prickliest got my smoothest soothing-est greetings. I thought no one would ever be mad me because I would nice them right out of it so that even if I, by accident, managed to infuriate, I could dissuade them from indulging in the fury toward me.
I’m not sure why I continued to think this for so long despite so much evidence to the contrary. I knew people who, no matter how nice I was, could find any reason at all to become enraged. And I didn’t just know these people, some of them lived in my house. But somehow I thought I could still smother the fire of fury with niceties. The fact that it always failed didn’t shake my idea.
It wasn’t until I found myself enraged by niceties myself that I began to understand the flaws in my previous thinking. There’s something about someone treating me like a dangerous animal, like someone who must be tiptoed around, that makes me want to become a dangerous animal, or at least snap at hesitating fingers outside my cage.