You may have noticed there was a blog here updating the world on my life over the past week or two, and now it’s gone. On Friday night, a friend of mine contacted me to say “Talking about your problems with other people on the internet isn’t likely to win any friends or help you solve your real-life inter-personal disputes.”
Since I’m usually blogging about people who have no longer decided to be my friend and why that decision was made, I was very confused by this. He then went on to remind me how much he did not like it when I blogged about issues with him, and that, really, nobody likes when I do that. So, I said “Whatever”, and took the blog down. Peer pressure means a lot.
I then went on to do some thinking. The thinking went like this: “OMG! I’m nice and sensitive and smart and entertaining, and yet, people don’t like me. I am shunned by social groups, have people stop talking to me for reasons I don’t understand, have been threatened in order to get me to leave town, embarrassed socially by strangers, know more than one girl who has made “not knowing Alayna” a relationship condition, don’t get invited to parties all my friends are attending, and generally have a small circle of people who really “get” me. What am I doing wrong? I’m a great friend! I should be adored and loved by all! Why is my awesomeness and love of life not apparent?”
I have to admit, I am very perplexed by the world. Apparently, self-expression in the form of sharing what’s happened in your life does not win you friends. Discussing your feelings does not win you friends on FB, because people remind you to stop complaining and how the world has bigger problems. (Yes, but I don’t know the world. These are *my* problems and feelings? Why am I not entitled to discuss them?)
There are a lot of things that don’t win you friends, and I’m afraid I don’t know what they are. However, here’s what I’ve observed during my time in Atlanta regarding the kind of person you’re supposed to be if you want to be someone who is invited to parties and whom others can actually tolerate in a social setting. Please note, this advice is written with a heavy dose of snarkiness and sarcasm (you’ll see this on the list as a quality others may not like about you.). Perhaps, in the future, I will write a new etiquette book, “Surviving the 1950′s Social Scene In 2013″ (or whatever year it happens to be finished.)
1)Don’t have any secrets in your past that may cause other people to judge you, or reflect scandal, impropriety, or imperfection in any way. One of my favourite books is Edith Wharton’s “Age Of Innocence”, about New York society in the early 20th century. One of the characters, Countess Olenska, is charming, beautiful, cultured, well-traveled, and many people secretly admire her or fall in love with her. Yet, as far as society goes, people incessantly whisper about her and are not inclined to invite her to social functions. Despite the fact that she brings a sense of life and adventure and refreshing honesty to those around her, she has “scandal” in her past, and her disposition is too “free-spirited” to suit those around her. She generally feels terribly alone and misunderstood, especially because some of those in her social circle are her relatives, and she can’t figure out why being a charming and lovely person does not win her acceptance, and even her admirers keep their admiration to themselves in “polite society”.
It’s 2013, and society has changed little. Unless you’re famous, having disreputable secrets from your past is the curse of death. If you tell people about your colourful and scandalous life, they are shocked and don’t wish to get to know you. If you wait until you know someone and then thell them, they feel betrayed, because they never would have been friends with someone like you if they’d had all the information that allowed them to judge you based on your past actions, rather than who you are today. This is especially true if you live in the Bible belt, but have broken most of the Commandments. If you want others to like you, don’t do anything wrong. And if you do things that are wrong, either have the good grace not to be caught like everyone else, or act as suitably shamed for your life of sin as your society deems you should. Some people may actually like you and admire you for your colourful life or unconventional outlook, but don’t count on them to ever express that in public, because that is not how society works.
2)If you have feelings, don’t tell anyone. An instant way to not win friends is to have feelings and express them. If someone has hurt your feelings, if you are annoyed, if you feel disrespected, if you are sad, if you are going through a tough time in life, only your close friends and perhaps your relatives will care. (I say perhaps because my relatives made it clear they didn’t care, and told me to take my whining back to Atlanta when I was sick and in need of medical attention.) In social situations, being hurt is “oversensitivity” and being displeased is “high-maintenance”, while being sad or expressing negative thoughts makes you a “downer” and discussing your life openly is just “too much information”. This is especially important on the internet, where the people who know you want to know more about you, as long as it’s suitably happy and superficial and doesn’t allow anyone to really know you.
3)If you have thoughts or opinions, don’t express them. Again, people care about what you’re thinking, but if you start talking about literature or philosophy or the meaning of life, you’ll immediately become “boring”, “heavy”, and “depressing” to those around you. If others are discussing politics and religion and you don’t believe in either, it’s best to nod and smile. If others are talking about their happy personal lives, and you happen to have a happy yet non-conventional personal life, it’s better just to not let anyone know you at all. This will make you liked and socially acceptable. Remember, it’s always better to be boring than scandalous or offensive. If you are a woman, smiling and talking to other women about perfectly neutral topics is the best way to go. Do not flirt with the men around you, even in jest, because you will immediately make estrogen-fueled enemies. Also, do not give the impression that you’re “one of the guys”, unless you actually are a guy, as the idea that you can bond with a guy in a way his wife/girlfriend cannot is threatening and cause for social banishment. Do not spend too much time talking about yourself in an attempt to get others to relate to you or to get them to open up, or because you misguidedly think “People will like me if only they understood me”. False. They will simply think you are egocentric for talking about yourself, and weird for being open about the “real you”.
4)Cut down on the free-spiritedness. You may think your crazy adventures are entertaining because your friends laugh, but every story you tell or crazy night out you plan, there is someone who is judging you for your unsuitable behaviour. Enjoy life within the constraints of the society around you, lest you be disapproved of for being “different”. Don’t talk too much, too loudly, flirt, tell off-colour jokes, try to be witty, or express your personality. Remember when your mother told you “Be yourself, and everyone will like you?” She lied.
5)Make sure your dress, personal style, and mannerisms don’t stick out. You may think you’re perfectly ordinary and non-objectionable, but if you wear skirts when everyone else wears jeans, or polo shirts instead of t-shirts, you’ve provided an instant reason for others not to like you. Conformity, conformity, conformity. It is also helpful if you have a job that others respect or can relate to, yet is interesting enough that others don’t avoid you in case you’re discussing your latest project. If you have a job that is odd or unconventional, avoid mentioning it too much, or others will stare blankly and wonder why you can’t be steadily employed by a respectable corporation, school, or government agency. However, not talking about your job at all is also a recipe for disaster, because people will get curious and Google you to find out if you’re really a drug dealer, car thief, or stripper. These professions may seem interesting, but it turns out, they are not socially acceptable.
6)Do not be snarky, sarcastic, witty, or rude. Most of the time, people will not understand you, and if they do understand you, they are not likely to be impressed. First of all, many people are so self-conscious, they’re afraid that your “joke” may cause them to be judged in the future—as we’ve established, the one thing that brings about social disapproval and ostracism—or that you’re passive-aggressively saying you don’t like someone. This is even true if you’re known to be the sort of person who will just say “I do not like you.”. Secondly, others are likely to feel stupid if your particular brand of snarkiness is something they don’t get, and that makes you wrong. Thirdly, you may think you’re witty, but in reality, others find you obnoxious and tiring. If you write a blog like this one or keep a constant stream of banter going in your conversations with others, you can count on pretty much never being invited to anything, by anyone, ever. Also, you’ll have the vague sense that people don’t like you, but not know why. This is why. Unless, of course, you’ve already done one of the things mentioned above. Then, they already didn’t like you before the snarky remarks you made, so you might as well.
7)Like doughnuts and M & M’s, life is best when sugar-coated, at least in social situations. If people wanted to hear the truth, they’d turn on the news or read a book. Making other people feel like they are the most awesome people in the world and avoiding being the centre of attention is important. When you do speak, you have to be extra careful to ensure that nothing you say may accidentally have a double meaning, or can be taken in an insulting way. For instance, I personally have been de-friended for using the word “crazy” in conversation, and because I proudly called myself an “uber-liberal person”. Ooops. If there is something about anything that you dislike, it’s best not to mention it, because nice people like everything and everyone, at least to their faces.
8)Don’t talk about other people, unless they’re the socially unacceptable individuals everyone else is already talking about. Because that’s just rude, isn’t it? It’s also important to remember that you will call unwanted attention to yourself by expressing you like or admire someone that other people do not. It’s fairly obvious that being socially acceptable means liking and disliking the same people everyone else likes and dislikes, even if that’s not exactly how you feel. Did you not learn anything from high school?
9)Don’t assume that because you think you’re “nice”, others will like you. You may be a very kind-hearted individual who makes an effort to know others and do nice things for them, but there are still things that are fundamentally wrong with who you are and possibly worthy of judgment. You may not even know what’s wrong with you as a human being until you hear it from other people. After all, people are not *born* knowing why they should not like themselves, they must be taught by society to recognise their inadequacies.
10)Know when to concede and accept defeat.If you know that others do not like you and all attempts to win them over or make others see the “real you” have failed, or you’re just so scandalous and/or insufferable that you’ve alienated large groups of people, you have a few options. You can become a really happy misanthropic introvert, use your disenfranchisement from society to launch a career in the arts, or you can become so intimidating to others that they may not like you, but they’re going to shut the hell up about it. Also, you can move someplace where people don’t care about whatever it is that makes you so disliked in your current surroundings, or where people find your personality “normal” rather than “objectionable”. This is not recommended if people have confronted you and tried to bully you into leaving town, because why would you give someone who dislikes you the satisfaction of making their life easier? That would not be a self-respecting behaviour.
Alternatively, you could decide you just don’t care what others think of you or anyone else. However, don’t be surprised when you realise you’re suddenly the least popular person you know. Caring is essential, even if you don’t, not really. After all, deep down inside, you really do. Just don’t tell anyone, because your honest emotional vulnerability makes others uncomfortable 99.5% of the time.
I’m sure these useful tips will ensure I continue to not be invited to social functions throughout 2013, but it’s cool. They may just save you from that social faux pas you were accidentally going to commit, and make certain that you are still seen as acceptable by those around you. And, you don’t have to worry about me. I know that somewhere, someone is reading this…and that person may like me. And if that person doesn’t like me, well, my comments are disabled.
Let the fabulous self-delusion continue!