Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I am Teflon

All (at least most) of us have our triggers. Some barbed remarks slide off like a bundtcake from a well-oiled pan; others stick like burnt paprikash. 

The comments that float unheedingly by, while barbed, don't excite the immune system the way others do—those flip, supposedly innocent words that awaken the self-questioning monster within. 

As the Good Book (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) says: 
One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right?   
Ford Prefect (an alien) deduces: 
At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior. If human beings didn't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths would probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
Think once. Think twice. I am so very, very frightened of brainlessly opening my mouth and unintentionally awakening another's insecurities. The worrisome part is that one can't know what may be another's perceived weakness. We all have our baggage, and my baggage is not yours.
In Henry Alford's "The Remarkable Shelf Life of the Offhand Comment," he opens with an incident where he was thoughtlessly admonished to be "a little more effusive." As I can relate, that critique haunted him for years, haunting all social interactions. 
As the article relates, there are a few types of shots: 1) the statements that reinforce our personal fears; 2) the remarks that make us question our beliefs/taste/self; 3) comments that are so mind-boggingly stupid that they trigger sensations of superiority and, in turn, guilt. 

To illustrate type 1: I have—bless genetics—epic dark circles. I am familiar with every means to cover them up, yet for the most part some purple leaches through the layered concealer. I receive plenty remarks casting aspersions upon my night's sleep or general health to shake my faith in ever looking good. 

To overcome these shots, one can 1) Be snarky. However, in my experience, that rarely achieves anything. Usually the other party is blankly humorless, and will not grasp the point. 2) My preference, which is to be compassionate. While it is not an excuse, when under stress, disciplining the mind-mouth connection can be difficult, and the "better left unsaid" slides out anyway. We've all had our moments. Cut 'em some slack. 

As for those transgressors who make it quite obvious that they are being bi—, um, catty, all I can think is "nebach." How sad that they are such miserable human beings that nastiness gives them an ego boost. 

A dangerous possibile outcome is grudge nursing. Grudges can become part of one to the point that shedding it is the equivalent of cutting off a toe. Let it go. Please let it go. For all our sakes.    

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