Tagged: judgment

Smug

“Yeah, when I was in New York on business…”

“Those 2 weeks I was in the U.S…”

“The food is terrible… all those hamburgers and hot dogs…”

“American culture?  What culture?”

“There’s not much history there, is there?”

“Ugh, that American accent… I can’t understand a thing!”

“The thing about Americans is…”

 

I mold my teeth back into a stiff-lip chiclet smile.  Heh, heh.  Very amusing.  They look so comfortable, self-assuredly snickering at a caricature of a country they love to shit on.

I observe with fascination the smug joy in their eyes, the derisive wheezy laugh.  All driven by a glaringly misguided, yet gloriously seductive need to be better than.

Why should I rain on their shit-parade?  I wouldn’t dare spoil their moment of naive delight by questioning their pseudo-intellectual, stunningly brash hubris.  There are indeed plenty of things to criticize, sure, but they’re pulling at low-hanging rotten fruit.  The bland revelation is too simple, too deliciously satisfying to resist.

Is this how they go through life?  Satisfied with a facile, self-serving version of reality, with no desire to learn more?

I’m not offended at their (perhaps unintentionally) injurious comments; that would be too easy.  No, I’m learning.  This is a pernicious trap of logic, a hasty generalization.  Such exchanges remind me to work to avoid this pitfall myself.

“Mm-hmm.  Whatever you say.  On to page 2…”

Deny

No, no no…

 

My class was meant to start 2 minutes ago.

I’m upstairs, fumbling through my bag, ripping through the contents.

Where is it…

I’m aggressively breathing, forcing air through my constricting airway.  I feel flushed, my heart is racing, and hot tears are starting to erupt.

No.

I find my homeopathy tablets and shove some under my tongue.  Breathe, take control.

I feel trapped.  I’m deeply uncomfortable.  I want 5 minutes to go outside and breathe.  I want to walk and keep walking until I get home.  I want to walk straight out of this reality, if it means I can get myself back.  But for now, I have to swallow those needs and do my job.  The only thing I can control right now is my breath.

I crunch through what’s left of the tablets, take a gulp of water, and paste on a smile.  I descend to greet my student, who looks a bit annoyed at being kept waiting.  I’m 5 minutes late.

A thickly sweet voice says, “Thanks for your patience.  Shall we begin our class now?”  A body goes into a classroom.

Me dissolves.  Breath remains.

Mock

“I’m afraid of being made fun of.”

 

How many times have my students confided this fear in me?  Ashamed to struggle, flustered at their mistakes, looking like they want to disappear.

I wonder, What’s the big deal?

Since when do strangers’ opinions matter?  Why are we so ready to give away our confidence to imaginary people who fictionally criticize us?

This mentality seems to speak to the greater idea that unless you’re going to be great at something, it’s not worth trying.  Anything less than excellence is insufficient.  You run the risk of entering the annals of history as a Failure.

 

Is our sense of self-importance that inflated, that our failures, never mind our very existences, will be remembered for more than 5 nanoseconds?

 

Push the logic a bit further, and it falls to pieces.

I screw up, forget things, commit acts of thoughtlessness.
I have a funny accent when I speak foreign languages.
I’m sure my lipstick is never smooth and flawless.
I trip over my feet, my skirts ride up, I get parsley in my teeth.
At times, I have no idea what to say.  I get testy on occasion.
I ruin recipes and often write what I think is garbage.

So what?  We all do.

Criticism from one person is fleeting.  As is the embarrassment of screwing up.

More than fictional criticism that hasn’t happened yet, we should be afraid of leaving this world with regret in our hearts, at not having tried.

Let’s get over ourselves, and just do it.

Center

I’m not a spotlight reveler.  I’m the one reveling in anonymity and dancing in the negative space around the spotlight.  Like an escaped prison convict, I tend to go wide-eyed and freeze up in the blinding light of attention.
But when you get married, it’s kinda the point to be the center of attention.
Dress shopping and decision-making are turning things a bit sideways, as I learned yesterday.
Wedding dress shopping, first stop.  The bridal shop saleswoman is a mousy woman with wire-rimmed glasses and short dark hair.  She listens expectantly as I describe what I’d like, hoping to end the choreographed dance around the Price Question as soon as urbanely possible.  Finally, I name my budget, and the woman curtly responds, “No, madam, that just isn’t possible.  For what you want, you’re looking at X.”
X is several hundred euros more than I had imagined.
There are three people watching me fidget, and make a snap decision.  The potency of my French turns from espresso to dishwater.  I feel hot, and my throat starts to tighten.  I’m looking blankly into the seller’s eyes, and noticing that despite her calm mask, her skin is flushing.  My skin flushes in tandem, and my tongue swells.  The silence is oppressive, and I suddenly feel like a foolish girl.  I step outside my skin and envision how I must look, slack-jawed and cloddish, with my simple thumbs curled through the belt loops in my careworn jeans, surrounded by pristine white gowns.  I feel so inadequate.
“Well, then, I suppose it’ll have to be that much, but no more.”
“It’s you who decides, madam, not me!”
I can feel the eyes of my mother- and sister-in-law on my back, silently sharing this clumsy moment with me.  I want to evaporate.
My heart sinks as I try on several gorgeous wedding dresses.  I let my hair loose, and I admit to myself that I do look very nice.  My throat is still tight, and I manage to squeak out that, indeed, they flatter my figure.  I purse my lips, and as six eyes expectantly wait for a definitive “yes,” and that signature bride-to-be’s squeal of glee at finding The Dress, I feel myself crumbling inside.  I feel like a hollow doll, slathered in pretense and lace.
What’s the tactful way to say that this doesn’t feel right?  That I’m not cut out for this ostentatious charade?  How would Emily Post orchestrate my exit strategy?
“Well, this is a big decision that I’m not ready to make right now.  I think I’d like to sleep on it.”
I take the woman’s business card, slide it into my bag, and smile as I show myself the door.  Damn, that was rough.  But I’m happy that I listened to my gut instinct and did what was right, albeit uncomfortable:  I said no.
Even if I stumbled and scraped a knee back there, I think Emily would be happy with my (somewhat) diplomatic retreat.

Judge

Commute to work.

There’s the middle-aged homeless man, always perched somewhere on this commercial street, who I pass nearly every day.  He squints upward at me, and we exchange nods and hellos.  From time to time, I’ve given him my spare change, a bottle of water, some clementines from the market.

Today, I smile my usual hello to him in response to his greeting.  Our daily call-and-response.

I see a young, bearded man, about 25 years old.  I’ve seen him and other chipper young people, wearing a different color vest every couple months, canvassing for clean water, AIDS research, human rights protection… All noble causes that have web sites I can consult for more information.  I’m not looking to receive a lecture from a bright-eyed twenty-something about how I should be using my money.

I smile my hello in response to the perched man’s greeting, then see the young man approaching, in his fluorescent yellow vest, arms open wide and incredulous.  “How about you give him a sandwich instead of your ‘hello’?” he chastises me in French.

I feign ignorance and reply in English: “No thank you sir, have a good day!”

I walk off, brain buzzing in thought.  I wonder why he intervened.  I’m sure he thought he was doing the Right Thing.  He was so sure that he was justified in confronting me.  He decided that I was someone who needed to be put in her place, that I needed a lesson in how to be decent to other people.

In his mind, I’m a cold, uncaring, callous, selfish woman.  Am I?  In my mind, he’s a self-righteous busybody that projects judgment onto others, which saves him from directing it inward.  Is he?

 

We love weaving narratives from dubious scraps of information.

 

It comforts us to find a demonstrable cause-effect, an explanation to justify a conclusion we’ve decided.  How much of our reality has been decided, packaged and sealed up, and stamped “TRUE” in our brain?  No longer subject to analysis or criticism, or even logic, how many of the beliefs that guide our lives have we etched in stone?

 

That stranger is laughing as I walk by because they’re mocking me.

My friend hasn’t called because I’ve done something wrong and they’re mad at me.

I never win anything because that’s my fate.  I was born a Loser.

That dog chose to piss on the tree nearest me as a power move; that dog has it out for me.

 

My silly brain makes these sorts of little decisions all the time.  But I’ve learned it’s generally a good idea to subject them to review before filing them under “TRUE.”