Everybody’s an Asshole

Please note: This post isn’t aimed at or inspired by any specific individuals or events. It’s just a personal philosophy/life viewpoint kind of things.

It’s true. People don’t like to talk about it but Every. Single. Person. IS. an Asshole. They just are. We can’t help it.

Typically you hear about the goodness of humanity. Every time you turn around there’s another dewy eyed optimist talking about the inherent kindness of people as individuals and as a whole. Random acts of kindness. Paying it forward. These popular ideas emphasize it. Well, I’m here to tell you, if everyone can be good or has good in them then ,by default, everyone can also be “bad” or do mean, big fat jerk  things. And everyone does. Everyone. I’m not exempt, you’re not exempt, and that really awesome person feeding the homeless over there isn’t either. Yes, even Mr. or Ms. Give All My Free Time to charity, the greater good, and helping others is an asshole. Maybe less of one than some other people (or maybe they’re a bigger asshole than most and are compensating),but still, even they are an asshole too.

Around Christmas time, just a few months ago, I was in the drive-through line at Panera. I usually don’t buy food on the go, especially not anything other than McDonald’s or Taco Bell decent stuff but I had a gift card and a breakfast sandwich sounded really good after work. As I pulled up to the window to give the girl my card she told me, in her perky morning person customer service voice, that the customer in front of me had paid for my order. She looked at me all bright eyed and expectant. There was a pregnant pause. Then I put my gift card away and accepted my free food. I know she was waiting for me to “pay it forward” and “keep the chain of kindness going” but, dammit, that’s my gift card and I’m not using it on some asshole who probably makes twice what I do just because someone else paid for my breakfast. Besides, they probably ordered a sandwich and a coffee. I’m not taking that chance…that’s bullshit!

It’s a little thing, but I was definitely an asshole in that situation. Usually my asshole nature shines through on little things but sometimes I go big too. I won’t deny it, I can be an asshole.

I think my son summed it up pretty well in a note he wrote to a classmate who had been giving him a hard time. When the other kid called him a “damn jerk” it was the last straw so he wrote the kid a letter. It went something like this:

Dear So-and-So,You’ve been really mean to me and my friends. Just leave us alone. You’re an ass… But I guess now I’m an ass too.

You see, my then eight-year-old boy got it. The other kid was being an asshole and deserved to have that pointed out but then by calling him an ass he was being an asshole too. Yup, we’re all jerks.

Of course, my son was the jerk who got in trouble when the teacher found the note but he learned an important lesson…If you’re going to cuss out another kid at school, don’t put it in writing.

Another way of saying it, the way my co-blogger usually puts it, everybody is somebodys villain. Maybe that’s a little nicer.

When I meet new people I basically assume right off that they are going to be an asshole on some level, it’s just a question of what level. The question isn’t if just how much and in what way. Are you a giant asshole all the time? That might be a deal breaker and maybe I don’t want to talk to you or be around you if that’s the case. It just depends on if I can live with your asshole qualities…and, of course, if you can live with mine. When I do business with companies and people the possibility (and sometimes probability) that they are trying to rip me off is something I’m very aware of. Maybe that makes me cynical, I’m pretty sure it just means I’m realistic. If you give people the benefit of the doubt you are bound to be disappointed a good percentage of the time. Why not just acknowledge that people are assholes and expect that to be the case? Then when someone is not or is even pleasant, honest, and kind it’s a great surprise. I mean, look, you expected them to be a jerk and they’re not. There are so few good surprises as an adult; being realistic with your expectations creates more opportunity for good surprises.

We all have an inner twelve year old trying to be a selfish jerk all the time. It makes everyone behave like an asshole at least some of the time. That’s okay. Without a little assholeness the good just doesn’t seem as good. It’s all about contrast and perspective.

( And now a bit of shameless self-promotion: If you like this, check out a post I wrote last year about low expectations that’s along the same lines.)

The Downside of Hope

My dad used to say “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”
He’s a retired dentist, my dad, and he used that saying a lot with his patients. When there was a filling that was deeper than it looked on the x-ray to the point that it might need a crown, he would sit the patient up and explain the situation showing them the x-ray and pointing out the cavity and what made doing a filling iffy.
“We can do the filling today but it might end up needing a crown. I have to tell you about the possibility but we can hope for the best. Let’s hope for the best and be prepared for the worst…just in case.”
He was willing to give the filling, a much cheaper and less extensive procedure, a chance to work before doing a crown unless ,of course, they just wanted to go ahead and do the crown. Most dentists would just do the crown. My dad hoped. It’s one of the reasons so many of his patients loved him.
We had this one guy who was terrified of coming to the dentist even just for a cleaning. One time he fled the office right before his appointment, just bolted. After a bit the guy got to the point where he’d stay but he was always pretty nervous. He used to say that when people asked him what dentist he went to he would lie because he didn’t want my dad getting so busy that it’d be difficult to get in to see him.

When I was nineteen I went to work for my dad. I had just had a baby and he needed open heart surgery which meant I had to keep the same insurance through that whole process. Pre-existing conditions were an issue with changing insurances fifteen years ago. I was paying for the insurance since I had stopped working at the job I had when my son was born that provided it. I didn’t really know about things like Medicaid and Government assistance so I moved back “home” and started working in my dad’s office. This was a less than ideal situation for both me and my parents; there was a bit of resentment about the whole teenage pregnancy thing.
Up until that point I didn’t like my dad very much. I was the classic stubborn, rebellious, independent teenage and he the very strict, conservative father.
That never goes very smoothly.
It wasn’t until I begrudgingly went to work for my dad that I saw him as a person and not just a parent.
Working with my dad and seeing how much his patients valued and appreciated him made me respect my dad as a person. It was an unexpected benefit of the job. Many of the lessons I learned through working with my dad have stayed with me over the years. The whole “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” philosophy is just one of them.
But the point of this isn’t to brag up my dad or tell tales of my teenage years, really it’s about dating.
Maybe it’s a little weird that I started a post about dating with a story about my dad but I promise this is not going to be about “Daddy issues”.
I repeat, there are no Daddy Issues here.
Just wanted to make that clear.

It’s been about three months since my first real, actual, bona fide post divorce date. This is my first foray into the world of adult dating. I’m pretty sure I’m doing it all wrong. Is there even a right way to do this? But I am learning a lot, about people and about myself.
I don’t really consider myself a cynic, though I’m pretty sure things come out sounding a little cynical once in a while. (At this point my co-blogger is probably thinking A little?? Once in a while?? )
I prefer to call myself a realist, especially when it comes to people. You have to deal with people as they are, not as you think they should be or as you really, really want them to be.
People are who they are (I wrote a whole post about this a while back) and they are going to be who they are. No matter how much you hope for a person or a situation to change it’s not going to. It’s just not…unless something about it changes. People don’t change unless they want to change and even then it’s hard. Being realistic about this makes for less disappointment in life.
I know this.
But sometimes I act like I don’t and think and behave like people will be different.
Dating has been one of those situations.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not deluding myself into thinking that I’ll find my “soul mate” (I think the concept of a soul mate is pretty much bullshit) or that some knight in shining armor is going to come sweep me off my feet and take care of all my problems so we can gallop off into a rosy sunset and live “happily ever after” (another concept that I think is bullshit…happily ever after sounds pretty boring anyhow).
No, I know that that’s just not reality; it’s a common misconception based on the lies that Hollywood and Disney have conspired to sell us in a mostly successful attempt to keep us unhappy with our “normal” lives so we’ll buy the shit they’re selling.

I recently found myself getting upset because people behaved exactly how they told me they would. People will show you or even tell you who they are. Believe them. I know, I know you think they’ll be different because the situation is different. Because you are different.
They won’t and it’s probably not even if you are which, face it, chances are you’re not. We all have a tendency to recreate the same situation over and over again. I’m trying really hard to be aware of this and avoid some of the situations I’ve been in as far as relationships go.
There have been some not so fun ones and I don’t want to do that again…ever.

Originally I was going to title this post “But What if he Doesn’t Call?”
See there was this guy I had (have? I’m not really sure at this point) been seeing. It was a fun little thing; I liked him (thus far) and was pretty sure he liked me (since he said so) and we were enjoying each others company. Of course, I’ve got a lot of demands on my time and so did he so we weren’t actually seeing that much of each other but, really, that was okay.
This guy, he did this weird thing though.
He called me…regularly… like on the phone.
Yeah, apparently that little text machine I carry around in my pocket is good for talking on too.
Who knew?
At first I thought “Huh. This is interesting.” but then I got used to it and kind of liked talking to someone who actually wanted to have a conversation with me on a regular basis. It was pretty cool.
And then it stopped.
Okay, maybe not stopped but became significantly less frequent. We played phone tag for a few days which was followed by a couple real short conversations. There were a few “I’ll call you later”s that didn’t happen. That’s just irritating.
There was a little bit of a shift in the dynamic somewhere in there. I was calling him (or texting things like “Call me when you get a chance.”) more and more. It seemed like he was “getting the chance” less and less.
I started to wonder if I was pestering him. Wait, isn’t the guy I’m seeing supposed to be interested in talking to me too? What’s going on here?
So I decided it was time to give it a rest and let him come to me so to speak.

This is where hope comes in.
I really hoped that he would call me. It was constantly on my mind, obnoxiously so.
I am NOT one of those girls who obsesses over whether a boy will call or not. I’m not! As I let time pass and waited for this guy to call me I realized I had to prepare myself for the possibility that he wouldn’t.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. It’s pretty difficult, even for a realist like me, to be mentally prepared to essentially be rejected.

And there it is, the downside of hope.
Disappointment. Rejection. Possible pain.
Is it worth it if that’s the possible outcome?
That is the question.

The Key to Happiness is Low Expectations.

said Barry Scwartz (His actual wording is “The secret to happiness is low expectations.”).
I kind of thought I said it first, that it was an original idea of my very own. Turns out Solomon (ya know, the biblical guy) was right when he said “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Or something to that effect.
So this guy Barry Schwartz has a whole book about low expectations leading to higher levels of happiness. I haven’t read it but I did watch his TED talk about the book which is called “The Paradox of Choice”. It frames the concept of low expectations contributing to happiness in the context of choices; I came to this conclusion based more on my interactions with people.

Another way I’ve phrased it, to myself, is “The key to not being disappointed is low expectations.”
This idea is one I developed over the past couple years of life experiences. After being let down, stood up, blown off, and generally disappointed with people it occurred to me over and over that if I expect less from people I won’t be disappointed and angry when they aren’t there for me or don’t follow through with what they say they’re going to do. They would merely live up to my expectations of them.
Maybe this sounds cynical or pessimistic. I won’t deny being a little cynical at times but I think , in this case, I’m just being realistic.

Think about a movie that has gotten a lot of media hype. The reviews are great, the ratings are high. You go to see it with high expectations. Chances are you are going to be disappointed. Your preconceived ideas of what the movie should be lead to a less than satisfactory experience when you actually get around to see the movie.
Now think of the last movie you saw that you just didn’t expect that much from.
You weren’t disappointed were you? Chances are it was either exactly as bad as you expected it to be or you were pleasantly surprised. You thought it was going to be terrible and ,hey, it really wasn’t that bad…maybe it was even good. The blogger Ladygoogoogaga gives a pretty hilarious example of this.

An experience I had Last Mother’s Day shows the relationship between expectations and happiness and how it played out in my life.
I work every other weekend and my kids are with their dad on the weekends I work. Last year I worked Mother’s Day weekend but my ex-husband oh so generously let me take the kids for the day on Mother’s Day. I went straight from working a twelve hour night shift to his house to pick up the kids.
I just wanted to see my kids and have a nice Mother’s Day with them. You know, like in all the Hallmark commercials, full of smiles, sunshine, and happiness.
I knew they were alone so I called to tell them I was on my way. When I arrived they were not ready to leave. A couple of them were in a less than good mood, maybe they had been fighting with each other like siblings do. I was a little annoyed. My daughter and second to youngest son said “Happy Mother’s Day” and my daughter had made me a card. That was nice.
My oldest two gave me attitude.
That was not.
When we got back to my house the kids made me lunch…because I told them to. Then we all sat down to a rather grouchy meal.
At that point I remember thinking “I thought this would be a nice day, I should’ve just slept.” I was expecting to be appreciated and to enjoy time with my kids. That is the point of the day right? Most my kids are old enough to know and do something about this.
A little later that day my eight year old son told me that their dad had told them they “would probably have a new step-mom by this time next year” in reference to the woman he’d been dating for a month. Happy fucking Mother’s Day to me!
Here’s the thing, I was super tired. My kids were tired and probably having a bad weekend. Expecting a pleasant and lovely day was unrealistic and not especially fair to them. If I was more in touch with reality that day I would not have been so disappointed.

Here’s another example. There was this guy I would go out with from time to time. He always said nice things and really seemed to enjoy our time together. We’d make plans to go out and he’d say he was looking forward to it. Then five out of six times he would cancel on me. Sometimes the day before. Once or twice I would be on my way to meet him and he’d call or text with something that had come up. Each time I would be frustrated and upset. But every few weeks I’d make plans with him again. Most of the time I ended up alone, upset, and extremely disappointed.
This went on for a few months.
I let this go on for a few months.
I don’t think he was lying to me or making up excuses because he didn’t want to see me. I just think he had a lot of family drama to deal with and didn’t realize how much he was letting me down.
Obviously he was not a reliable person but I kept expecting him to be.
We all know at least one person like that.
We also all know or have had interactions with someone who is just a jerk.
I know everyone is a jerk or behaves badly once in a while; that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about individuals who make a habit of it. They repeatedly treat people close to them badly. They’re inherently selfish and can be pretty mean. Hopefully you’re not close to someone like that. It’s not a fun place to be. But if someone has been a jerk to you or treated you badly over and over again chances are high that they will treat you badly in the future. Expecting them to suddenly be or act differently is unrealistic and is only setting yourself up to be treated badly.
It’s like expecting Eminem to release a kid friendly album. It’s just not going to happen; that’s not who he is. He even says it in one of the songs on his latest album, “Everyone knows you are just an asshole” (referring to himself).
He’s not going to change. He’s going to be what he is and what he’s shown himself to be.

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To expect anything different would be silly.

I’m not by any means saying you should settle for or allow yourself to be treated badly.
I’m not saying you need to lower your standards in life.
Not at all.
Have standards. Have high standards. You deserve to be respected, to be treated with dignity.
Every human being does.
But you should have realistic expectations for people. There are no perfect people especially in relationships. If you’re waiting for prince charming or that perfect woman, guess what.
You will always be disappointed.

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Life isn't a fairy tale, you're not Snow White.

Having unobtainable ideals will guarantee that no one will live up to them. You are setting yourself up to be unhappy either with the person you do find or because you just can’t find anyone good enough.
People are who they are; you can’t change them but you can change your expectations for them and be less disappointed. If you have to lower your expectations too much then maybe that isn’t a person you should have in your life.

A conversation between my co-blogger(and friend and co-worker) and myself last night summed up the point I’m trying to make. The question was asked “What one person, dead or alive, would you have coffee with if you had the chance?”
I said Batman.
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She said her great-grandfather.
She knew him and admired him when she was very young and he was very old.
She said she’d like the chance to get to actually know who he was as a person. My response was “But what if you find out that he was a douche bag?” Yeah, I know, real mature language.
But what if you found out that someone you admired as a young child was not nice or not the person you had thought they were? Not only would you feel let down and disappointed, but the cherished memories you had of that person would also be ruined. It would be a major disillusionment.
She said that No, she wouldn’t be disillusioned or admire him any less because she “wouldn’t expect him to be anything less than human.”
How she remembered him would still make him the person he was to her.
Basically our conversation boiled down to this:
It is unfair to other people and especially to ourselves to expect people to be anything other than who they are.
Lower your expectations and you will not be disappointed.
Maybe it’ll even allow you to be happy.