I was on a date sitting in a car, waiting for the light, when a fairly overweight woman dashed across the street. Out of nowhere, he exclaimed “whoa fatty! don’t hurt yourself.” It was a joke. I think. A shared moment of (hopefully) mutually shared shame sharing. My opinion of him fantastically changed in that moment, as did my mood.
I was sitting in the car and someone made a not especially notable traffic faux paus. I think they failed to move in the split second the light changed. The driver made a bitter comment about shitty drivers and acted like it is had ruined his morning.
Once again, I said little, but my mood and opinion shifted. Subtly.
Look, I know people have bad thoughts. Bad bad evil mean and sometimes completely accurate thoughts. And it is good to get things off your chest and road rage is as common as TV snacking.
But here is the thing, being an insecure person it took years to convince myself that when I am walking around in the world, people are not saying horrible terrible things and about me, and in general, noticing my every deficiency. Case in point: I am not skinny and don’t always look my best. Still, I assume, when I walk in a room people are not cataloguing every jiggle and bump. Another case in point: I am NOT the best driver. I am not dangerous (or so I like to think), but I frequently find myself hoping no one noticed my lame move.
And the thing is, I don’t think I am entirely off in my assumption that most people miss such things. Not (just) because I might be my worse critic, but because my scant 42 years in the world have taught me something even more meaningful: most people don’t notice, period. They just aren’t looking. They are in there own heads, or looking for familiar faces, or just selectively noting the most outstanding thing the room. So if I am not wearing a costume, I tend to assume, when someone notices me, it is because they like my outfit, or they know me. I don’t think it is because they noticed that I have rings under my eyes or have gained ten lbs.
Except. Except Except Except. Except when I hear someone verbalize a strongly emoted criticism of a seemingly average person or maneuver. Except when I hear someone point out that an averagely large women is fat and should be embarrassed to be running in public. Except when I hear someone bitch and moan because someone takes an awkward turn in a car, isn’t aggressive enough merging into traffic or whatever typical run of the mill driving shenanigans one out of every 4 driver seems to engage in regularly.
The world is not always the most hospitable place, and as such, I think within reason, we owe it to others to check our internal and external running commentaries on the typical “faults” and foibles we observe around us. I understand we all have moments when we have to purge. I have been more than guilty of calling a dangerous texting driver a dick for the whole world to see. But in general I am trying to learn that people are powerfully imperfect, and they only get better feeling secure in their moves, feeling supported in their actions. So when you assess someone as fat, or stupid, or a bad dresser, or uncommonly unskilled in something that you believe yourself to be blessedly competent in, feel free to examine why you truly feel so good to share your own dominance in such a relative way. Own the thought, think it, but think about why that thought has enough meaning to you to want to shout it, out loud, for a sensitive world to hear.
Or, at the very least, don’t say it around me.