Friday, March 12, 2010

"I’m Just Sayin’. . ."

I’m not sure how it works exactly, but the magnetic strips on the backs of my credit cards consistently pull me into cute boutiques. Regardless of the physics involved, once I‘m there, I seem to have no shortage of excuses for buying adorable outfits: “It’s not like I’m going to find clothes like this at Target!” “Hey, I’m supporting a woman-owned business,” and my personal favorite, “At least my money’s not going to some godless corporate headquarters.”

Pathetic, isn’t it? Why can’t I simply look into one of the boutique’s magical, well-lit mirrors and just admit to my suddenly-slimmer self that I spend way too much money on clothes? I’ll tell you why: only the Dalai Lama is able to be that honest with himself about his appearance, but then His Holiness doesn't have that wide a range of wardrobe.

The economic implications of self-delusion are harsh; however, there is a form of self-delusion that takes an even greater emotional toll on innocent people, and that is the unsolicited observations of those I call "Obliviots". You know the kind: self-appointed "Truth Crusaders" who have deluded themselves into thinking that it is their missionto be cruelly "helpful" under the heading of "I'm just sayin'." Listen, when I fool myself into running up a credit card bill, that's one thing, but these pinheads justify running over people's feelings like it's nothing. They really think they can dodge the “How rude!” bullet by simply tacking the phrase “I’m just sayin’” onto their hideous comments. As if a disclaimer could actually soften the blow of a lobbed bomb like, “You look you haven’t slept in a week.” What kind of moron would claim ownership to such an onerous comment? The last thing I'd admit to is that"I" was the one who was "just sayin'" Yet the perpetrators of this verbal assault seem to think their honesty is admirable. Like, if you can’t handle it, well, that’s your problem, not theirs. What the hell?? It's not like your conversation comes with fast forward button where you can just skip past the unpleasantness to the end. (Don't we all wish??)

I suspect this is a by-product of our dialed-in, depersonalized techno-culture, where people forget they‘re talking to real humans with real emotions. Then again, I’ve listened to so many of these pinheads describe weepy rashes into cell phones while I was trying to enjoy my dinner out, I should be used to it by now. But they don't understand that the difference between loudly offering advice to movie characters and “telling the truth” to a friend/acquaintance/ unsuspecting person standing in line ahead of you is that whoever’s on the business end of your truth stick is actually affected. Yes, it’s true, even if you gamely but lamely qualify it with “I’m just sayin’.” Suck on that.

You know what? A taste of your own medicine to all you obliviots: The next time someone, anyone, tries to offer me an unsolicited “helpful” bit of advice, I will put my hand in their face and say, "I'll listen, but it's gonna cost you. Be as truthful as you want, but you'll owe me that cute top I've had my eye on. It's only $100. Oh, and by the way, go piss up a rope.

I mean it. I’m not just sayin’.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Surly Teens and Ostriches

I recently visited Safari West, a wildlife refuge in Santa Rosa where animals can roam free and observe human behavior. At one point, an ostrich named Lena wandered over to our truck and began pecking at the Astroturf on the side step. She was undaunted by the lack of actual grass sliding down her rather long gullet.

“Can’t she figure it out by now?” we wanted to know, but the guide merely sighed.

“She does this every day.”

“Demonstrating her superior brain power,“ said BBFE (Rich, the best boyfriend ever). Our laughter drowned out the sound of her pecking, but it got me to thinking: is this behavior really restricted to massive birds whose eyes are bigger than their brains? How often do we humans futilely peck peck peck at something that will never yield satisfying results? “If I can make the perfect holiday dinner, our family will get along,” “That group treats me like crap, but I know can get them to like me,” “If I could just explain my side of things, he would understand.”

Round and round it goes, with only the hope of resolution but no results.

Peck peck peck.

Case in point: a certain son of mine is in the hideous throes of an adolescent malaise that can best be described as, “My-mom-is-the-cause-of-everything-I-hate-about-my-life-itis,“ hereafter referred to as Surly Teen Syndrome, or STS. The irony of this disease is that doesn’t affect the teen so much as it makes the lives of those around him/her miserable. My initial reaction to STS as a mom is to try to “kiss-the-boo-boo-and-make-it-all-better“: find what’s really bothering him and work things out. Trouble is, he’s got no desire to do anything different; this “Mom-is-evil” mindset frees him from examining how his behavior affects others. And one thing Surly Teens will do anything to avoid (especially boys) is self-reflection. That, and thank-you notes.

After stifling my next impulse, which is to swing him by the hair and throw him out the window, I revert to trying to “win him back” by joking him out of it, showing him that I’m still the nice Mommy he used to love to cuddle with, and not at all the wicked Medusa he now sees me as, all to no avail. But this begs the question: aren’t I essentially the same person I’ve always been? As his mom, I will always, always love him, no matter what, even if I don’t like how he acts sometimes. So why should I have to prove it?

But until recently, that’s exactly what I was trying to do.

Peck peck peck.

No more. I am comfortable enough with myself to recognize that my “please-love-me” response to his behavior is a desperate ploy, not genuine self-expression. Now I can truly relax in the face of the shrugs and grunts, because I know who I am.

One more thing about ostriches: the guide told us that if you’re being attacked by one, curl into a ball on the ground and remain still. The ostrich will forget what it was mad at in about thirty seconds and wander off.

So: the same "superior brainpower" that makes the ostrich peck peck peck in vain also makes it forget what pissed it off. Frankly, a little bit of forgetfulness might not be a bad thing: here’s hoping my Surly Teen’s short-term memory will become more like the ostrich’s, where the reasons for his attacks will eventually slip his mind.

Till then, no more peck-peck-pecking for Mommy.