There, the title got your attention. I’ll diverge to say that the band Aveo (A Seattle band that opened for Death Cab and Ben Kweller… I have their cd “Battery”, I like it a lot… you’ve probably never heard of them… God, I’m a pretentious indie fuck) has a song called “3:33 AM/The Insomnia Waltz”. It’s now two hours after 3:33 AM. Irrelevant.
You know what? I can’t say exactly what I think of you. I realized this tonight at dinner; well, at post-dinner… at Eat’n’Park midnight breakfast buffet. Four people know what brought this on; the specific case is not that big a deal. The point is: It is very much a faux pas in our society to say exactly what you think of someone.
Say there’s someone you don’t like. And you don’t have a “legitimate” reason for not liking him. (“legitimate” reasons include: he actually committed a crime against you. That’s about it.) You can’t say bad stuff about him when he’s around- I mean, he’ll hear you. What if you’re not around him? Nope, can’t say anything bad then, because then you’re a sneaky sly backstabber who acts nice around someone and says bad stuff behind his back. What can you do? You can imply stuff; you can sugarcoat it enough so that the people you’re talking to know what you’re talking about, but you didn’t say it.
Which has the exact same effect as you just saying it! So why can’t you do that?!
Joe once said that he wanted to post on his blog or something: send me an email, and I will tell you exactly what I think about you. My immediate reaction: “great idea!” But then he said, “well, you can never do that unless you’re graduating.” I thought for a minute and realized– that’s true. Why? Think about it- those emails you would write would become a swift zephyr through your social house of cards. That’s obviously true, right? But why does it instictively seem like it would be so destructive?
Now, in an ideal world, all of your friends are people you admire entirely, because that’s how the best friendships are. If you each respect the other person a lot, you have the same status, and yet you both think each other’s at the higher status- as a result, you always want to be around that person. Petty squabbles get discarded, because your stake in each minor bicker isn’t important enough to risk ruining your relationship with this Person of Higher Status.
Maybe the problem is that life ropes you into friendships with people you don’t admire. Through classes, jobs, SnS/other activities, you have to spend a lot of time with people you don’t like. Minor annoyances become major grudges, and soon you realize you want to say a bunch of stuff about people that you just can’t say. Now would it be better to get that all out in the open? I don’t know! If someone does something that bothers you, is it worth it to say it? In an ideal world, would it be worth it to say it? On the one hand, it’d be a lot more complaining. On the other… I mean, honesty is good, and having all these grudges pent up inside is undoubtedly bad.
Now, if you were Jesus or something, you could just decide not to have these grudges, and then you wouldn’t, and then you would love everyone equally. But A, you’re not Jesus, and B, that sucks, because if you love everyone equally you don’t love anyone particularly, and you have a bunch of vague friend/acquaintances. It’s almost like you have to know all these acquaintances to appreciate your real friends.
The above paragraph is the reason I think that this problem is not unique to me. To not have this problem; that is, to not have friends whom you really don’t admire; is either to be very lucky or to be Jesus. (“Jesus” used here as a vague embodiment of a creature that loves everyone equally, and not as a specific religious figure) Of course, I could be wrong: I could be a real ass and you all think everyone else in the world is great.
And again, maybe this isn’t a problem, because to appreciate great friends you have to have a contrast of okay friends. And for each okay friend, I’d say overall, it’s more than worth it to take the good with the bad. So what am I even writing? I don’t know- it’s 6 AM and I deserve to get all dumbass-psychological once in a while; hey, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. You readers deserve something a little deeper than the usual “life is great! life is bad! life is great again!” meanderings of this blog… if this is a window inside my mind, I don’t want you to think I’m shallower than I am. But if you’ve read this far, read the next paragraph:
Admittedly, this post so far is a bit judgmental. To say that I have friends I don’t admire is to say that I think I am better than some of my friends. I don’t think that; not consciously. If I reason about it, I think that most other people in the world rank better than me as a person, mostly because I haven’t really been through any hardship in my life ever. On the other hand, I don’t have self-esteem issues here; I feel good about myself as a person, because I think that I’ve done just about the best I could with what I’ve been given. Some people, I can say, I am better than you as a person, because I have taken what I had and made the most of it better than you have.
But ultimately, my intent is not to say that I’m better than anyone else, it’s to expose my subconscious, and by getting it out into the open, to understand and control it. Most of my judgment of other people is subconscious, so I’m just exploring the darker corners of my psyche. If you understand and appreciate that, thanks. Otherwise, don’t let an online post piss you off towards me; please talk to me in person before harboring another one of those hidden grudges because of anything I say online. The printed word on the white fluorescent screen is an expressionless messenger; emotions don’t translate too well, and things can get taken too seriously.
Oh social norms, how I adore thee.
I feel like I’m the only one that ever comments on this, but whatever.
You ask a lot of questions.
I think the biggest reason people don’t post complaints to people’s faces is because we don’t want to harbor conflict every time we’re in contact with the person.
This is true especially in our community. At CMU, we only have 5000 undergrad so it’s easily possible to see everyone you know at least once a week, whether you pass by them after one class or hang out with them every day. We don’t want memories of anger and conflict coming up every time we see them approach. We don’t want to duck our head every time we hear them talking around the corner. I think we put up with appearances of nicety because we wouldn’t want people sharing their negative opinions about us with us all the time, so we don’t do it to them. Conflict takes work and has lasting repercussions.
I don’t know. It’s 3:13AM the following night and now I’m starting to ramble.
My tummy hurts.
dan, as always, i have comments. sometimes i think you should occasionally talk to me before and/or during posting to your blog.
1. people can be honest. scott did it. it was refreshing.
2. you can be honest to people’s faces. i do it a lot. not exclusively, but i do it. it’s hard for me to lie to people. as caveat (sp?), i do my best not to hate people at all and not to dislike them for little reason. i will admit that (esp around certain others (for the record i am not thinking of certain people but anyway)) i talk behind backs. but if it’s something that won’t go away, i usually do it to their face too.
there’s no easy answer, and go play in the snow won’t help this time. but i feel like too many people look at the world in a it’s-that-way-and-i-can’t-change-it-so-i-might-as-well-compromise-my-values kind of a way.
i should also start reading your whole post before i comment.
i think you also have a hang-up on comparisons. people asked me if i liked (singapore/cmu/classes here) better than (the us/smu/classes there) a lot. my answer is that they are different. not better not worse, better in some ways worse in others, just different.
do you really have to decide if you are a better or worse person than someone else? what factors do you even use to make that judgement? do you have to love EVERY thing about someone to love them? just try to appreciate and bask in those differences.
I’m commenting in your blog! Which I have secretly been reading for months now without commenting in. But this post hit close to home for some reason. I think the reason is I know exactly what you are talking about. We *are* thrown into relationships just out of being friends with that person’s friend or being a part of that social sphere (S’n’S is a prime example). Mike is right in saying it would make things awkward to say stuff to people’s faces. Beej is right in saying it’s good practice to TRY to like and get along with everyone because that’s the good thing to do. But it’s a hard thing to do. Especially for me. There are a lot of people in S’n’S, for example, who I can’t stand. And it’s not because I think I’m a higher status of admiration than they; if anything, I feel like I’m the most despised person in Scotch ‘n’ Soda these days. But people still piss me off and do things that make me harbor resentment for literally years at this point. And my problem is I’ve grown more open and honest, if not blunt, about how I feel about people, I think. But whatever. I’m graduating, right? Heh. Anyway, my point is, if it’s a minor thing that you don’t like, I say feel free to tell that person to knock it off–if he/she is your friend, he/she will understand and try not to bother you. But if said person is merely a superficial acquaintance for political reasons, he/she probably will take it the wrong way, and blow it way out of proportion. This, I think, is the root of much drama these days. And it sucks. Anyway. Rest assured that I like you, Dan Tasse.
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