Friday, April 15, 2011

What Not to Say…

Over the past couple of decades, I've noticed the advent of two parallel yet warring tendencies when it comes to human interaction.

On the one hand, there's the "Say Anything" trend. This is in direct contrast to the (apparently) outdated maxim that "Silence is Golden." American society seems to detest silence, to the point where we now must fill every moment of our lives with some kind of noise. Most of which issues forth from someone's mouth; without even allowing for a second or two of pause to THINK about whether that utterance might be useful, welcome, or even appropriate. (In fact, in the case of most of our 21st-century media noise, the rule would be "the less appropriate the better.")

Gaining popularity alongside this phenomenon has been what I'll call the "Thin-Skinned Movement." People take offense at anything and everything. First, we no longer ignore perceived slights. We don't waste time or moral fortitude focusing upon the intent of someone trying to console, encourage or commiserate with us. If they don't say exactly the right words at exactly the right time, we throw up our hands and fume, "What the *&#@ is the matter with them?!?" Secondly, the new rule is that there is no such thing as a verbal gaffe or an unintentionally inconsiderate misstatement. We scrutinize every word—especially of any public figure or entity—searching for things that insult or annoy us. (You'd think we could put our time to better use…?) Then we make a very public and very messy stink about it, loading up the courts with lawsuits and endlessly escalating the generally antagonistic atmosphere that exists everywhere you turn.

Come to think of it, who knows that the "Thin-Skinned Movement" wasn't indeed spawned by "Say Anything?" It's no longer de rigueur to think before we open our mouths, or even to just shut up. Skin endlessly pounded by verbal barrages might tend to become somewhat thin, I suppose…

My feeling about all this is that we should just chillax and figure out how to get along. If we don't, it's going to be a short and mine-filled road to hell for us and our society-at-large. We need to get over this "It's-all-about-ME" attitude that we have so lovingly embraced, and go back to basics like "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," "Love your neighbor as you love yourself," and "Before you criticize your brother, walk a mile in his moccasins."

Now, however, I find myself in a situation where, as the word gets out about the café closing, I'm going to be the target of all kinds of attempts at advice, consolation and commiseration. In my chronically exhausted and stressed-out state, it will be an interesting (to say the least) study to see how well I can walk the walk. For instance, when a little old customer reacts to the news by advising, "Hey, you should sell out to old Frank over there. He needs something for his wife to do," I should probably NOT respond with, "Oh…he wants to kill her?" (Yes, this actually happened yesterday… I really need to slap myself upside the head for that one.)

I think that I will probably be doing a lot of hiding out in the kitchen for the next three weeks… J


  1. Honestly, I think part of this started with Wendy's (I think it was Wendy's) "have it your way." Next thing we knew we weren't just looking for burgers our way, but EVERYTHING our way. Since it's virtually impossible for everybody to have everything their way ALL the time............we end up with the madness we see today. Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

  2. it seems like these days everyone has an opinion and they are right and everyone else is wrong. im young, i guess.. and it seems the people my age tend to jump to conclusions before they hear the whole story. no one knows how to relaz and those who say they do are probably lying. disagreements can not be resolved in a mature, peaceful manner. fingers are quick to be pointed and judgements are laid out in seconds. its disgusting. i wish i knew how society behaved when my grandparents or great-grandparents were teens.

  3. I think you've just defined one of the reasons I've been so quiet. I really have been fighting for some peace of mind, and every time I opened my mouth, it was madness.

  4. It's a pandemic mouth dis-ease...sigh. I hope that the next few weeks go better than worse for you....and that some sense of humor arises within it all.