This Is Us

Don’t Marry the Nice Guy

Why settle for a pushover when you can have someone who holds you accountable?

Emily Kingsley
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readDec 8, 2019

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Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

EEvery year, my family loads up our Jeep and makes the seven-hour trip to my tiny hometown in upstate New York. I have deep roots in this town — it’s where both sets of my grandparents grew up and where much of my family still lives.

It’s quaint and picturesque except for the constant reminders of generational poverty like the rows of busted-out cars in the front yard of a single-wide trailer home with clear plastic taped over its windows. Each year when we visit, I feel surer that it’s a place I could never live.

This year, on Black Friday, I took my kids into town to peruse the aisles of Amish cheese, honey, hats, and hammers in the general store where my mom works. I was browsing the selection of dried soup mixes when I got that spooky feeling like someone is standing directly behind you.

“Boo.”

I turned around to see a man several inches taller than me with rosy cheeks and a big smile. He wasn’t instantly familiar to me, but his voice sparked something deep in the inner recesses in my brain.

It was a shock when I figured out that I was face to face with my old high school boyfriend. His eyes were the same, but his cheeks had rounded. His beard and hair were speckled with gray. His frame had thickened with the weight of adulthood and although he looked happy and healthy, his overall appearance, much like my own, was a little weathered.

I don’t feel old enough to have not seen someone for 20 years. But I did some quick calculations and that’s what I came up with. We chatted for a few minutes and quickly caught up. Both of us are married with kids, houses, and jobs. After such a long time, there were no open wounds or jagged edges to make it awkward. There was also no desire to spend more than a few minutes in conversation either. We exchanged a handshake that turned into a limp hug and parted ways.

LLater that day, when I was back at my parent’s house, I mentioned that I had run in to him. Everyone in my family had the same response: “He was such a nice guy!”

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Emily Kingsley
Human Parts

Always polishing the flip side of the coin. Live updates from the middle class. e.kingsleywhalen@gmail.com. She/her.