Doug Stanhope likes to say that it’s our flaws that make us interesting. I agree, but it hasn’t necessarily worked out that well for me in my life and I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to how to deal with that.
Next time you stay at a hotel, take a look at the art on the wall. It will be incredibly banal and boring, probably a still life of some fruit or a sail boat on a lake on a sunny day. No one has ever looked at a piece of art in a hotel and said, “Wow that was beautiful! It made me think and made my day better.” It’s not because that kind of art is more expensive. It is because the purpose of art in a hotel room isn’t to provoke you or challenge you or uplift you. The purpose of art in a hotel room is to take up space and to under absolutely no circumstances offend anyone, no matter how easily or unjustifiably they may happen to be offended. I guess I have an ego, but I sort of consider myself to be a work of art.
One person I used to work for told me that he thought I was a fantastic person worth knowing, because he “got” me, while at the same time pointing out that not everybody really did. I’m really open. I’m a terrible actor. Like Popeye once said, “I yam what I yam.” In a work situation, I probably need to protect myself better, but in a life situation I sort of believe in my choices. See if I meet 100 new people, 90 might immediately think I’m a shambles and judge me too harshly, whereas ten will become intrigued get to know me and become lifelong friends, who would stand at the gates of Troy to defend me. My alternative sadly as I’ve always seen it is to conform to the shallow norms of society and wind up with 100 people who think that I’m ok and move on. I probably would win more popularity contests, but I also would have no genuine friends. I’m cursed because those 90 people I mean no harm to are either not inclined to get to know me better or are not forced to do so.
I used to coach little league, and the first time I met the parents it was a disaster. I was this 23 year old kid, who didn’t have kids of his own, and they sat there and wondered about me. After about four weeks though, they loved me. They saw that I cared about their kids, and would do anything for them. They wouldn’t trade me for anyone. Like Jim Rome says, I’m sort of like beer and no one really likes beer the first time they taste it. Actually, I still don’t really like beer all that much. In turn, a lot of the people I love and cherish were people I thought were goofy losers the first time I met them.
A lot of people are like politicians when you first meet them. They are dressed impeccably. They have their resume out and ready to go. They know just the right things to say to not offend you. A lot of those guys have a piece of coal for hearts. They are cheating on their wives with their interns. They cheat on their taxes. They wouldn’t go an inch out of their way to help their so called friends.
I like to vote for the other guys. The guy whose clothes are all rumpled up, because he’s been in his office all night working. The guy who tells you the truth no matter how much it hurts or makes him look bad; the guy that will wake up in the middle of the night and drive you to the hospital when you are sick. I suppose there should be a middle ground, but face it I’m sort of an eccentric, and sadly, people love to judge other people because it makes them feel better about themselves.
I just wish that the whole world could give each other a little slack.
I love Larry David and his show Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry has some genuine faults (he mostly is unable to tell a small inconvenient truth, which then explodes and makes him look 1000 times worse), but essentially he’s just a fairly likable guy, who is incredibly odd and neurotic. I’m a lot like that, too. Sometimes on the show Larry will do something incredibly nice. He’ll go way out of his way to help someone and it will still blow up in his face because of some little tick he has. Some people even find him and the show to be outright annoying, but I’d like you to consider the following.
Larry is the true butt of every joke. Post-Seinfeld, Larry David could have made a show assailing all the morons, who just don’t “get” him, but he didn’t. He made a show instead mocking his inability to fit into the world as well as everybody else does. He’s the goofball, and he pays the price every single time. The show is sort of a cry to be understood by the world.
If the world could sit Larry down and say relax, we know that you are a neurotic mess with a good heart, they would all be far better off and Larry would be known as the relatively harmless, kind, and goofy person he is, because Larry is never really rude, he’s just always Larry.
It’s a problem I have a lot because I have a really self-deprecating sense of humor. If I wanted to I could viciously turn my barbs at other people and destroy them, but I usually turn them inward and mock myself. People who get me know that I’m just making it look like I put my pants on one leg at a time so we can all be equals. People who don’t get me say to themselves, gee what a mess. Some other people even somehow become insulted.
One of the things I strongly believe is that you shouldn’t be insulted unless the other person was truly trying to insult you, but a lot of times people don’t have the time or inclination to find out.
Here’s one case where this happened to me. I was eating dinner with a couple of friends and a few people I had never met. I started to mock myself a little. I talked about how in a lot of ways I fit the stereotype of a woman rather than a man. I fall in love deeply and emotionally like a woman, and the television shows and movies that I like are what most would consider “chick” territory: Felicity, Beverly Hills 90210, Say Anything, Some Kind of Wonderful.
We later became better friends and she revealed that she at first thought that I was putting down women, but in truth that was the last thing I meant to do. In fact, I was mocking men and the stereotypes that they held precious in defining manly behavior. Putting down women was the last thing on my mind.
So anyway, I guess that I know this is a problem I have. I just hope that I can work it out without having to become banal and fake, and I wish that people would work harder to understand each other, because a lot of those people you hated after that first impression could have been one of the best people you ever met in your life. Well, unless you were running for political office and were choosing a campaign manager.