Is there a worse insult than Nice?

AFTER five years my daughter and her boyfriend might be splitting up.

He doesn’t know yet. Nor does she. It’s very sad.

She is my daughter so, of course, she can do no wrong. And he is very nice bloke. Not your average beer-swilling, sport-loving, singlet-and-tattoo-wearing ocker Aussie.

He hugs people when he meets them. I suppose you can’t have everything. But he is sensitive and thoughtful and genuinely the kind of man you’d be proud to have as a son-in-law or a husband.

Despite his ears.

So how can they both not know this is about to happen?

Because my daughter is not sure. He’s her best friend, she says. He is kind and generous, never gets drunk, works hard every day, is clever, creative, honest and charming. He is Nice.

I told her I thought she was unnecessarily cruel. Is there a worse insult than Nice?

But, she says, the spark has gone out of it.

I suppose this is a bad thing. Those who know me will remember that the spark has not gone from my relationship with my wife. It has plenty of spark. They are still flying into the heavens from the consuming bonfire that was our marriage a short while ago; but we’re getting over that.

Personally, there are times when a sparkless relationship sounds attractive. Sparks mean fires and fires mean ashes; and lots of singed hair along the way.

But I know what she means.

So why not just end it? Tough though it will be on both of them, why not remember the good times, remain friends if possible, and move on.

Because, she says, how does she know she’ll meet anyone as good as him in future?


Now, daughter or not – that’s dumb.

The answer to that is a clear as clifftop beacon on a moonless night.

She won’t.

I’m sure he’s a one-off. Not a one-off like the Sydney Opera House; more like a corner fish-and-chip shop. There might not be another like it in the world, but when it’s gone, there’ll be no comets in the skies to mark its passing.

She’ll need at least half-a-dozen blokes to be able to gather up all the good things about this one into a bundle. She’ll find one that’s honest and one that’s clever and one that’s kind; but the honest one will be a miser and the clever one will be a drunk and the kind one will spend all his waking hours watching footy, cricket and swimming on the telly.

I pointed this out to her, but there wasn’t any need. She knew it anyway, deep down inside.

But it doesn’t make any difference. There’s no spark.

We are a weird species.

On the one hand we want a life of placid ease. No shocks, no pain, no fears – and no spark.

And when we get it… we want spark.

Do you know what a spark is? It’s heat applied to a very small particle. If you take out the matter of size, it’s no different to a bomb. They explode in your face.

I know – in the past couple of years I’ve dealt with a few marital sparks that felt like nuclear weapons.

And you know what – I’d still rather have the sparks. Even with the burned fingers and the smell of singed hair.

My wife says there was never a question of anything else, where I’m concerned. Because remarkable though my qualities are, she says, Nice is not one of them.

I sniffed and said that sparks were nothing more than the things you got when you banged two rocks together.

She said I should speak for myself…