On a recent trip I traveled to a place where there are a lot of smart people. Smart people look alert and always seem to be taking things in – much like meth addicts. They usually don’t talk as much as dumb people, either. Dumb people look like they are thinking about something dumb all the time, or maybe all of their bandwidth is being absorbed by remembering to breathe and thinking about gluten. I was staying at a hotel near Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. I do not know much about the college, but it is my new alma mater – nothing wrong with my own college (Auburn University – GO WAR EAGLE TIGER WHATEVER), but it is known largely for a football program I don’t care about. I walked all over the Lehigh campus. It was effing beautiful, if a bit heavy on the stairs. It looked like something a bunch of CGI nerds would create for a movie about a magical boy who went to a mystical school of wizardry (if such a story or series of stories were to exist).
So I bought a Lehigh University shirt, and any time someone asks me if I went to school there, I say, “No, but I would if I could do it over again…and I was rich…and smart…and Asian..or Jewish…any of the smart races. No, I couldn’t go to school there.” A school that nobody talks about that has no football team (maybe they do. I don’t know). Whatever will the SEC fantards say to attempt to insult me? “HAY! Yer Mascot is a dang ol’…BIRD…er sumthin. Yew ain’t even got a football team, homo. Y’all a buncha’ dang homos…n’ injuns…but the kind whut live in gas stations, not teepees.”
That is what every southern college football fan sounds like. Period. I’m kidding, jacksplatter. Put away your deer rifle and click this link –
I talked to a few students since I was the creepy old guy walking around campus in this particular situation (and I like talking to strangers just as much as my wife hates that I like talking to strangers). They were different than the students I have met in other places. They had causes and projects and it was multicultural celebration day and so on, but they also had no problem laughing at themselves or others, and even had a lighthearted way of almost mocking whatever they were in to. The Philippino kid said he was in finance, and the gay chick said ‘he means nursing finance – the nursing part is understood’, and he shot back something about softball and camouflage shorts, and everybody laughed. At the festival some of the groups had food, and the Jewish guy said “Ours is the only one that isn’t free.” And then in a hushed tone “Those guys are saying we don’t even have a right to this table.” Pointing to another table of a swarthy nationality I had never heard of. Nobody considered the remarks “hate”, but rather just kind of a realistic look at stereotypes that happen to exist because they are mostly true. I thought “These folks are certainly much smarter than I was 20 years ago or am now. Must be nice to be that bright.” And that got me thinking about things that offend people and why.
What is being offended (other than a way for stupid people to feel important)?
It’s basically an emotional reaction to something you didn’t want to hear, read, or see.
The inability to have any response to a situation other than your own emotional reaction seems like a personality disorder, especially since it requires the offendee to believe that their feelings matter to anyone other than themselves. I may be wrong about this, since I know nothing about the definition of disorder and am probably a pile of them myself, but it is definitely not healthy or productive. Being offended, except in very specific circumstances, is a waste of time. Yet for millions of people it is their default state.
People constantly remember events incorrectly because of how something made them feel. The key is that your feelings are something you created. It’s dishonest to say “I asked him where the coat closet was and he screamed at me”, because you’re slathering your dumb emotions all over the actual events. Whenever you are faced with an interaction, conflict, compromise, whatever, the first thing to do is remove yourself from the equation.
Did I offend you?
I get lots of great and thoughtful emails from great and thoughtful people. I also get emails from pitiful people who take the time to sit down and compose a series of words intended to make me (angry? Sad? Not sure) by saying they think I’m ugly, dumb, not funny, whatever. The idea that someone would take time out of their life to attempt nothing more than make another person feel bad is one of the saddest notions I have pondered, and I want to help these people by encouraging them to kill themselves. Occasionally someone will say something negative about fly fishermen or woodworkers or 41 year old white guys and then say “Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.” I promise you did not. In order to offend me, first I have to know who you are. Second, I have to respect you and your opinions. Third, the offensive statement must be directed at me personally, not just a group with whom I may be affiliated. If any of those three criteria are not met, I have nary a shit to give.
New rule – you can only be offended by things that are directed at you by someone you respect. “Hey, you look fat in that headband” can be offensive if said by someone looking directly at you and pointing. The statement made on television that headbands make people look fat is in no way directed at you or your fat head. The person in your television is not really in your television. Quit assuming you are so important.
Being offended by someone else’s mistake -
I used to live in a condo and I was on the homeowners board. One afternoon Heather came pounding on my door because someone parked in her spot. She was all pissed and wanted them towed and burned at the stake. She had written a shitty note with “MOVE THIS CAR ASAP OR YOU WILL BE TOWED!” in girl cursive with a purple ball point pen. I wish I still had it, because it was adorable. I told her we can’t tow cars because a tow truck can’t get into the lot. I also asked her how long they had been there. She said “I just drove up a second ago. People are so RUDE.” Yes, she made a billion assumptions based on nothing. I knew whose car it was, and explained to Heather that the car belonged to a woman (this will sound like bullshit, but it is not) who has a retarded brother who lives upstairs. She brings his groceries once a week and parked in that spot because it is closer. When the woman came out, I told her that she should use the visitor spot if she can, and also told Heather that if someone is parked in her spot, she could use one of the visitor spots next to hers for a few minutes in case it is something like this.
This story was later relayed to me by someone else as: “Heather said she asked you to help her get a car out of her spot and you were a prick about it.” I replied “Heather was a little emotional and may have remembered things differently than they really happened.” Her friend said “She does that a lot.”
Heather sucks and moved away a few months later. Hopefully to hell.
Any time you get mad at someone for some stupid mistake, ask yourself what the likelihood is that that person set out to piss you off in particular. The answer will almost always be no. You just aren’t that significant. This concept should be taught in marriage counseling and anger management classes if it isn’t already. Really it should be taught to children at an early age by their parents. That would solve a lot of problems.
Being offended on someone else’s behalf -
This applies very heavily to our national pastime – accusing everyone of being racist.
“That word/action/phrase/birthday cake is offensive to (insert race) people” is most frequently stated by white morons who, in an ironically racist way, seem to think that (insert race) people are not capable of speaking for themselves. You might be surprised at how alone you are in your stance if you ever asked a group of Native Americans of they are offended that there is a football team called the Chiefs. Most of them are busy working, raising kids, paying taxes, and doing other stuff that actually matters.
And don’t give me any crap about the poor manatees that can’t speak for themselves. I know that is different. Stupid fat manatees.
Let’s say someone makes a joke about something on stage or TV – dyslexia, for example (since I don’t have to worry about getting a bunch of hate mail from that lot) – and someone says “My nephew is dyslexic and it’s not funny.” Does your nephew think it’s funny? Wait. Before you answer, shut up. It seems the height of narcissism to be offended by something like this because you are assuming that the complete stranger who wrote that joke somewhere in another part of the country for consumption by the entire population somehow not only knew who you are, but gave a shit about you. Stop pretending that you matter so damn much and start working on being better at something useful.
Being offended by words -
I understand why some words are thought of as being offensive, but I refuse to let a group of letters have any kind of power over me. It is especially self-involved to pick a word that doesn’t really offend anyone and decide to be offended by it. I actually work with someone who thinks the word “gal” is offensive because it is sexist. That word isn’t really in my vocabulary, but someone else said it while paying her a COMPLIMENT and she got all twisted up about it. “GAL?!” she said to me, “What am I, a hooker? I’m going to write him up.” I told her that she was being stupid (at the risk of being written up myself), and for the next few days proclaimed that I was offended by the word “gluten” since that’s all she wanted to talk about. I’m really putting a fine point on it, but I think the reason I’m so tired of people being offended about things is that it is so damn self-important. “That word makes ME feel a certain way, so EVERYBODY has to cater to MY idiot ways and respect ME and MY feelings.” Fuck you.
People sometimes ask, “Why do you use the word ‘Retard’?” “Because I like the way it looks in type, the connotation it has, and I can use whatever fucking word I want, retard.” Is the short answer. “My cousin in law has a quasidifferent specrtrorelatable alterorder, so that offends me.” I made a pie chart to illustrate exactly where you fit in.
“But I’m not the only one with this opinion”, they sob between fistfuls of crushed strawberry pop-tart. Another pie chart for your ilk.
The loudest group gets heard –
It’s sort of like the phenomenon that happens on Marta – Atlanta’s version of public transport that has become a massive taxpayer expense and serves as a rolling prison for the criminally insane. Six assholes can sound like twenty by just being more obnoxious than everyone around them. The cacophony can’t be ignored on a train car, but society needs to start calling idiots idiots. Why do we all feel obliged to cater to the most whiney among us, even when they cry on behalf of a group of which they aren’t even a part?
I was once (actually dozens of versions of the same story) told by creative directors that “We can’t use that copy for the so and so ad because Geoff doesn’t think it’s funny. He has a pet armadillo that he rescued, so…” First of all, is Geoff being paid to be funny, or is he in accounts receivable? Second of all *whipping out a pie chart showing the ratio of people who do not have pet armadillos to Geoff*, and third, if Geoff is offended by armadillo jokes, how much does he really bring to the party? He can’t even spell his name right.
And everybody agrees those are valid points…but we’re going to play it stupid and go with the less funny copy anyway. Mission accomplished. One whiner with no basis in anything gets to outvote an entire group by the merest queefy whimper that he may be offended.
The good news is that it is starting to change. I am far from the only one complaining about what a bunch of pantywaists (thanks person who corrected me from my previous spelling of “pantywaste”, which I still like better, but admit is incorrect) we have become, and I’m seeing more stuff around that makes me think “how did they get away with that?” which is refreshing. It means that people are starting to come to terms with reality and understand that a joke at someone’s expense or a stereotype is not synonymous with hate. Maybe someday we can take all of the offended people and move them into their own neighborhood somewhere in Iowa. Asshole Acres. They can prance around in their skinny jeans, argue about parking spots, measure the height of each other’s grass, call city code enforcement if Christmas lights are left up one day past Christmas, argue about calling them Christmas lights, and have cage-free organic dinners with world music played on recycled instruments.
The rest of us can focus on being awesome.