Thursday, November 18, 2010
Who Are We?
Are we who others think we are? Or are we who we think we are? Or something in between the two?
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a Starbuck’s having coffee. One table away, an argument was raging between a man who appeared to be in his thirties and a slightly younger woman. I will take some editorial liberties remembering the exact words, but here was the gist.
He: “What makes you think you’re always right? Most of the time you’re not. You’re wrong about almost everything.”
She: “No, I’m not. You think everyone thinks you’re really smart and have all the answers, but most of my friends don’t think that at all. They think you’re stupid and stuck up!”
He: “Everybody knows your friends are all idiots.”
She: “My friends think you’re an idiot, even if you boast about being a PhD. You know what PhD Stands for? Phony Dummy!”
He (gets up): I’m outta here!
She (stays seated): “And you think you dress well? You think you’re a male model? You get all your clothes at Sears and you smell like Hai Karate!”
He: “F*ck you!”
She: “No, f*ck you!”
Throughout the debate I tried very hard to appear as if I’m not listening, assiduously stirring my coffee and staring into space. The young woman turns to me, makes a face and says, “He’s such an asshole!” Then she leaves, going in the opposite direction.
I know even less about the woman. Maybe her friends are all idiots, but I doubt it. Most people have at least one friend smarter than they are. I have several; in fact, just about everyone close to me is way smarter than I am.
I guess the point to all this is the realization that whatever image I have of myself is probably false. There may be a core concept that has some value but most of what I may see as both assets and shortcomings is probably inaccurate. My leaving a dollar in the Starbucks jar does not make me a big tipper, even though I might think it does. What I take as wittiness may be incredibly boring to others, and a head full of worthless trivia does not make me the fascinating person I may think I am. Nor, for that fact, do my limitations define me though for years I thought they did. Now I try to live with them as best I can, while working to mitigate their effects on others. I’m not often successful but at least it’s worth a try.
So. Who are you?