Monday, August 23, 2010

I Can't Do That Because I Am Astonishingly Well-Bred

Do you have those moments when you just stop and think, "I wish I didn't know better than to do that. I wish nobody had ever taught me manners and I was in such a state of ignorance that I could say or do something without feeling the slightest twinge of guilt or social embarassment." I think this often. Here are the top five acts I would commit had my Mama not taught me better than that:

1) Following oddly dressed strangers, taking their picture, and sending it to friends to mock: It is my humble opinion that  if you go out into the wild sporting an uncomfortably deep camel toe, spandex/fanny pack combo, or anything acid washed and bedazzled, you have granted the right to all onlookers to document and distribute your image to be laughed at. I have so often longed to run after an inappropriately dressed denizen and ask them to pause so that I can capture their ensemble for posterity. Besides, if this practice was socially permissable, the number of poorly dressed people on the street would diminish considerably. Really, it's a service. Clearly, they have no person in their life setting these kinds of boundaries and saying, "No, Bob, you can't wear a beer-gut exposing belly shirt in public. Invest in those 6 extra inches of fabric and do everyone a favor." This kind of peer-shaming will help them establish better personal boundaries with their wardrobe and improve their abilty to seek gainful employment and romantic partners.

2) Telling people what you really think of them: I don't especially mean yelling at people and telling them all the ways that they are terrible human beings, though that would be nice, too. I mean providing piercing psychological insight into their displeasing behavior. For instance, when I'm being yelled at in a meeting by an unreasonable vendor, I'd like to be able to pause the conversation, and say, "Look, Clive, I know that you've been really pissy since you got that divorce. But yelling at me won't bring back your wife and kids. You know what I think? I think that the person you're really screaming at- is yourself. Just think about that next time you want to get snippy about contract terms." Pointing out people's Daddy issues, codependent  tendencies, or attempted use of material goods to fill the empty void in their life might make things a smidge awkward in the interim, but both the exposed party and their therapist will thank you in the long term.

3) Crying in public when you are upset: Sometimes, when I am tired or annoyed or hot, I want to be able to openly pout. Not just that, I want to be able to cry. Without dignity or reserve- the way you see frazzled toddlers wailing in department stores. It's not the adult or productive thing to do, but it really does make one feel so much better. I should be able to carry on without judgment or censure.

4) Being honest about why you're not going to do something: I'm not not going to your party because I'm tired or have to be up early tomorrow or don't like Chinese food. I'm not going because I don't like you. Or I don't like your friends. Or I do like you and your friends, but the idea of socializing with you for that length of time overwhelms me with a premonition of forced, dull civility that I have neither the energy or patience for. Or I'm really bad at bowling or karoke or dancing and it would be uncomfortable and embarassing to be compelled to engage in those activities in front of an audience that I will have to see again. See, if we are all just honest about why we're not going to go somewhere or do something, it means that when we are just tired or really do have an early morning or ill-disposed to certain ethnic foods, there are no hard feelings or suspicions because everyone knows that if there was another reason, you'd just say it.

5) Not pretending that you are interested in something that you are not: Why should I have to pretend that your grand-niece's most recent trip to the grocery store is interesting, much less worthy of photographic documentation? Why should I have to nod along and pretend your dream of becoming Poland's foremost street mime is sane and well-advised instead of mad and bizarre? Again, I go back to the service this would provide for society at large. It would keep people from making a fool of themselves and alleviate everyone else's obligation to pretend that they're not. It would help temper people's fixation on their young relatives, which is not healthy for any party involve. And, most selfishly, I would not have to plaster a vague and pleasant smile on  my face and nod along like a bobble-head.

Ah, rereading this I realize that in my heart, I am really very mean. So maybe it is fortunate that I am so astonishingly well-bred... otherwise, I would be quite the little monster, wouldn't I? Wouldn't we all?

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