I’m known to coin phrases. One of my favorites? “There’s always a Nellie Oleson.” Anyone who grew up reading or watching Little House on the Prairie barks a knowing laugh. And anyone else just stares blankly at me! Both reactions are fun. And the statement rings so true.
Fact is, there is always that person somewhere in your life. That one person who gets under your skin, who acts as a challenge to you. Whether as a minor yet annoying inconvenience, or as someone whose very existence seems to defy yours. Perhaps that one person you can’t help but think privately about, “Everything would be a lot nicer if they just would just go away.”
Nellie Oleson exists for you, in some form, in your life somewhere. And every time you think she’s gone, resolved and moved on, another one pops up in her place. Her character is able to be so easily understood because there is always someone who plays this part in each of our lives. After all, Life is always about the overcoming. Of some thing… even some one.
It’s easy to habitually ignore whatever she has to say. That nasty ‘ol Nellie Oleson! She’s always such a pain! But the fact is, sometimes, as conniving as she can be, as cruel and awful as she can sound – sometimes your Nellie is right.
Nellie has no vested interest in you. Hurt as it may, and as frustrating as it can be to think she’s won and maybe gotten to you, Nellie has a way of pointing out the truth of the matter, in all it’s rawness. It doesn’t matter that she’s your wrongful tormentor, nor for how many times. When she’s right, she’s right. Telling you what your friends didn’t want to say. Sporting her evil little smirk. Pointing out what you didn’t want to see. That this time, and boy do you know it, you’re the one who is wrong. Pointing out that flaw you want to forget, making known your weaknesses, revealing who you really are.
You don’t just hate her. You hate how she makes you feel. Because deep down it sucks to see yourself without the ignorant bliss or the rose-colored glasses your friends and loved ones are all too happy to loan you. You’re not always rosy. You’re not always nice. You’re not always right. You don’t always make great decisions. Sometimes, those pants do make you look fat and sometimes you’re dead wrong. Sometimes even an emperor needs a loud mouth kid to tell him he’s a fool without any clothes on. Someone’s gotta do the job. If your friends won’t, the Nellie in your life will. The fact is, Nellie has an unabashed way of testing you and holding up the mirror so you can really see yourself. Think you’re a good person? Think you’re really something? Think you’re better than Nellie? Are ya really? Even now? Even under pressure?
Maybe there’s a lesson in all that, a role she needs to play, a purpose to fulfill. After all, how can we change and overcome what we cannot see? She may not be soft and cuddly, but Nelly won’t try to protect us from ourselves.
Perhaps even you’ve been a Nellie yourself. And maybe she’s not as bad as you think.
Fun fact: Alison Arngrim, the actress behind the TV personality of Nellie Oleson released a 5 star book last year called: “Confessions Of A Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson And Learned To Love To Be Hated.”