I’ve noticed that often when people talk, others don’t listen. I’ve also noticed that often when people write messages, others don’t read them. This should not be an epiphany.
I go to Yahoo to open my e-mail, and see a featured article on “How not to feel humiliated when dining alone.” Whoever wrote the article should be humiliated. “Tip #2—Try the bar.” Sitting at the bar sends a message, namely, “I’m looking to hook up with somebody here.” And tip #1, “Be bookish (i.e., bring a book)” doesn’t stop anyone from talking to you at the bar. And you don’t “people watch” at a restaurant the way you might sitting on a park bench—that’s just creepy. The whole article is patronizing. It says in a pitying way, “you like to be alone, and that’s different, but being different is OK!” in that cheery fake tone that makes you want to strangle the person speaking. If you’re so insecure about going out without having a babysitter everywhere you go, that’s your problem.
I recall a 4-hour conversation with a friend on Monday. One of the things we talked about was class distinction in the UK. As an American, I’ve never “gotten” the idea that how much money you make or what kind of job your parents held should have something to do with your worth in society. It shouldn’t matter if someone is the Queen or if they’re waiting tables somewhere, they’re still people and worthy of respect. Apparently, though, class distinction still holds weight in British consciousness. I mentioned this to my hairdresser the other day, and he probably said it best: “Some people buy a thousand dollar pair of shoes like some of us buy a pack of gum. And they hang out with other people who do the same, because that’s normal for them. I get that. I what I don’t get is how having that much money gives you the right to disrespect anyone else.”
There are days when I can ignore patronizing behavior successfully, even though talking to a patronizing person makes me feel like I’ve just taken a bath in the sewer. I’m thinking today is not one of those days. In general, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I’m in the face of that kind of fake nice behavior. I must have been an archer in a previous life, because when I see the target set up, my reaction is to shoot at it.
“Supposed to” is one of the most despicable phrases in the English language. There is respectful social behavior, and then there’s just ridiculously stupid convention that betrays anything resembling honesty and integrity. Carl Jung talks about the Shadow archetype. One explanation of the Shadow is that it is all of our repressed thoughts and feelings. Typically, whatever one “thinks” they are, they are also the opposite, and that can make one deeply ashamed. I’ve often thought about my Shadow. I flip flop back and forth between thoughts, feelings and self-concepts so many times, sometimes in a single day, that I start to think I’m a hypocrite. But then I remember that everyone, by virtue of being human, feels both ways about everything. I like to think I’m more honest about it. Still, I’m sure my Shadow will trip me up one of these days. Or my cat, who thinks he’s my shadow.