Day 146: The Affirmation “You Are a Polite, Nice, Good Girl” Is as Much a Curse as an Affirmation

Oops, a day late.

I heard this phrase, “What a nice, polite, good girl Ruthann is,” so many times as a child and teenager. I certainly bought into it so much that I didn’t explore or know what I actually thought or believed outside of that concept. Certainly I’m grateful I wasn’t labeled cruel, or impolite or bad. However, the diamond of my personality as a young Ruthann had only a 6 polished facets: Nice, Polite, Good, Smart, Graceful and Grateful. It was far from a fully cut diamond. And I do hope that we each can polish more facets (aspects) of personality as we age.

I took a pilgrimage at age 50 as a moved from the Mother stage to the Crone stage of womanhood. This trip was inspired by several New Age speakers at a Peace Conference I attended (thanks to a generous donor) in Costa Rica. I traveled to visit all of the neighborhoods where I had lived, to take photos of all of the homes I occupied and to meet as many of the teachers, friends and neighbors as I could from every decade of my life. It was a rewarding reminiscence of who had allowed me full or partial expression and how I had developed.

On that trip, I went to a nursing home in La Grange, Indiana to visit my first music/piano teacher who mentored me for 11 years. My high school English teacher, Miss Hardiman (her colleague and friend of 30 years) informed me that “Pauline” was suffering from dementia. As I entered the nursing home, a nurse told me that Mrs. Larsen probably wouldn’t recognize me.

I came into her room and introduced myself to this tiny bit of a woman lying on a small hospital bed. She was delighted to have an unexpected visitor. She looked at me and asked again who I was.

I replied, “Ruthann Pippenger, I went to Brighton School and you taught me piano.”

Mrs. Larsen turned her head and looked me square in the face and said, “Oh yes, you are the sweet NICE Pippenger girl with the China blue eyes.” And for 20 minutes we had a clear and beautiful conversation about our many years of collaboration with music and performances. We shared how much we both enjoyed feeling exulted goose bumps when a performance went perfectly. She understood when I told her that I had recently realized that moments of oneness with a piece of music were really moments of meditation. Mrs. Larsen’s clarity of mind and soul and our conversation filled me with joy and appreciation. The “sweet nice” label I had expanded. I had not known about but basked in the “China blue eyes” label which have faded with age.

Yes, for 30 some years I was the NICE polite Pippenger girl. It took years of therapy and encounter groups for me to develop other facets of my personality: to be the polite and honest, nice and authentic, good plus feisty, rebellious and creative, sweet and strong independent woman I hope I am today.

Please share if any “positive” label ended up being a limit to your fully functioning self? And I believe that we need to care how we label youngsters so they can fully develop.

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