Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The joy of curmudgeonry...

What the...Tom? Is that you?
Photo by teresatrimm via Flickr

Today was the day I was going to list thirty things I'm thankful for--as a tribute to Thanksgiving. Friends and acquaintances on Facebook have been listing things they're grateful for every day this month and I thought it would do us all a lot of good to see that I'm not grumpy all the time. I have joy, too.

But I changed my mind. For one thing, I couldn't come up with thirty things. And, frankly, it's just not in my nature to ooze happiness; it doesn't feel right. And to be perfectly honest, I think a blog post listing thirty wonderful things would be dreadfully boring.

Instead, I thought I'd examine the best part of me: curmudgeonry.

But let's just get it straight first that it's true that I am not always upset, angry, critical, or logical. Sometimes I'm downright happy. I love cats, and chocolate, my husband, my children, the stars and the moon, and mushrooms--in all their fanciful varieties, movies, and pizza, and food, and Zumba. I love stuff. Squirrels. Bunnies. Music! From metal to reggaeton to Pachelbel. I am absolutely mad about No. 1 Ticonderoga pencils. And books! All sorts of books. I have read Gone with the Wind more than sixteen times!

I love a lot of stuff.

But I do enjoy being critical.

For me, being critical is the best way to parse truth from fiction, to find reality amid the fantasy that permeates our culture. To me, being critical is life.

I like to cut through nonsense to discover fact. It makes me feel real; it makes me feel alive. Sure, it pisses me off sometimes; it has to, with all of the rampant crazy in our world. But I'd rather be upset that people's rights are being denied, or that religion is infiltrating government, or that stupidity is writing textbooks, than to just shrug and say something ridiculous, like, "Your truth is your truth and mine is mine."

Because, no. There is only one truth and it's the truth. And I love the mental exercise of finding and revealing it.

I love being critical of films, art, music, and books. I love hearing other people's opinions while forming my own--knowing that others' opinions often sway ours. I like that. Going from what I think, to what you think, back to what I think again, and around and around, to finally come to a conclusion of an opinion that will no doubt change over the years.

I love how Gone with the Wind grows less religious every time I read it and how my husband insists I'm only reading my own biases into it. I want to smack him. But I love it.

I love that I don't love everything I see or read. And I love that, as harsh as I am, my sons are increasingly more discerning.

You might think, how can you enjoy anything when you see so much to criticize, but that's just it! Inevitably, something comes along, like Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one, anyway) or Brave, to fill me with amazement about how good something can be, and I'm walking on a high knowing I've found another gem.

Not everything can be a gem, you know. Their value is in their rarity.

Another thing I love is grammar.

I love pointing out other people's bad grammar for no reason other than because it's fun.

Being critical of others helps me be a better writer, a better person. That's it! That's really it. Curmudgeonry, for me, is an exercise in self-improvement--a constant judging of how not to be, of what not to fall for, of what and who I am, and want to be.

It's almost as if I love that the world is crashing down around me and I'm happy just holding up one of those dainty drink umbrellas to keep the worst off me while nitpicking about the debris at my feet.

We're not meant to be happy all the time. The problem for me is that people think it's bad form to let anyone know we're not happy.

Well, to hell with that!

Why is complaining worse than gloating? Or talking about how wonderful everything is? Why is it okay to go on and on about how beautiful the rose is, but not okay to point out its thorns? Do the thorns make it less a rose? Are people so intent on ignoring the thorns that we're no longer allowed to speak of them? So, half the rose is sacrosanct and the other is shunned?

Yes. But, stop it!

Let's talk about all of it. The beauty and the horror, the joy and the sadness, the glory and the vile. It's all life, after all. It's all worthy of our attention. When you buy a dozen roses sans thorns, you're only getting half of what makes a rose a rose.

So, tomorrow, I suppose I will be no more thankful for the things I have, and the person I am, than any other day. Because, as I'm sure you know I must point out, it's just another day like any other.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Haters gonna hate"'s what they do...

Photo by Brilhasti1 via Flickr

A long time ago, on the Internet, in a Zumba instructors' forum, there was this whiny little wanker who would stir up trouble nearly everywhere he went. And one day, he created a thread to whine about how some other Zumba instructors had called him a whiny little wanker on Facebook.

What a whiny little wanker he was.

In typical Internet forum fashion, the mob jumped in to ease his worries. "They're just jealous!" He was praised, and pet, and plumped up, and fawned over and told how wonderful he truly was. And the offending parties were lashed and slaughtered and denigrated.

Then the inevitable happened: someone said, "Haters gonna hate."

And that was it. All was saved. The whiny little wanker went on as if nothing ever happened and is probably still a whiny little wanker to this day.

When I was in middle school, we didn't go past, "They're just jealous!"

That was all we needed to stop ourselves from having to consider that maybe what someone was saying about us might be a little bit true--oh, hell, no! They're just jealous!

And this self-aggrandizing phrase didn't slander our nemeses so much. They're just jealous, after all. It happens. And it comes and goes, and maybe later they'll feel better.

I'm not sure what happened. Somewhere along the way, "They're just jealous!" stopped being enough. Maybe somebody realized how immature it sounded. Maybe somebody felt like it wasn't enough that they were just jealous--they had to be much, much worse than that to call me a wanker!

And the creature known as the hater was born.

Now, anytime someone criticizes you, or isn't all in on your thing, or bursts your bubble, or pulls you down a bit from that ego cloud you're riding, it's not that they're right (god, no! It was never that!), and it's not that they're just jealous. No.

They're haters!

They're people who are so miserable in their puny little lives that all they can do is spread hate everywhere they go.

Don't worry your pretty little head over what they said. It's not true! It can't be true, because everything you do is wonderful and how dare anyone else not like it? Or not like you! Egad. It's just not possible. No. Only someone filled to the brim with hate could possibly have a bad thing to say about you!

When I had my first child, black and white was all the rage. It was said that babies only see in black and white.

Do you see what I'm saying?

Every time you call someone a hater, you're being a big whiny wanker of a baby.

They're not haters. They're people with lives just like yours. They love other people, just not you. They laugh and sing and watch movies. Just like you do. They just don't think you're all that. They're not haters. They don't spend all day hating things. They just don't think that thing you absolutely love is all that and they don't mind saying so. Just because they say so doesn't make them awful people.

Do school girls still run around in packs picking on other girls? Sure they do. But they're not haters either. They're adolescents.

Don't be an adolescent. Grow up. Stop trying to label anyone who doesn't fawn all over you a "hater."

I understand that reading literary novels makes a person more compassionate. Why? Because it helps us gain empathy for more than one view of the world: black or white.

So, go read some literature for chris' sake. Consider that people who criticize you, or don't like you, or think being perfect all the time isn't a noble goal just don't like you, and don't mind saying so. And once in a while, stop and evaluate yourself.

Maybe what they're saying has some truth to it.

I mean, after all, you are the type of person who labels anyone who dares to criticize her as some kind of evil villain called a "hater."