Thursday, February 28, 2008

Too pretty to blog?

An oft-heard conversation in my house goes something like this:
“Mom, why did I only get one Thin Mint and Lara got two?”
“Because I like her better.”


Fortunately, my kids are wise enough to know that to accept this un-motherly, and of course untrue, explanation is to be spared an hour-long lecture on The Inherent Unfairness of Life or Life Is Not a Zero-Sum Game or, my favorite, From Each According to Ability To Each According to Need.

Too bad that I am not the parent of the 18-year-old girls escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight who claim that they were just too pretty to fly. Had I been on the receiving end of such a lame defense I would have gleefully launched into my Pretty Is As Pretty Does speech, which would be great fun since it’s not one I get to use very often.

When I was in college at CU-Boulder, I thought I was rather attractive. Unfortunately for me, most of the girls there were more than rather attractive. I would occasionally go to a college bar hoping to catch the eye of a handsome fraternity boy. I would stand with good posture, trying to project an enigmatic alluring presence, hoping that someone would sense my intelligence, robust wit, and deep compassion for humanity. Well, it never happened. Not once. Finally tiring of plodding along a dead-end road, I decided to change my tack and give it one more try. I positioned myself near a table of 8 Sig Eps, reached into the depths of my being, and let rip an ear-shattering near-heroic burp. Eight heads turned my way. Chairs were pulled out, beers were purchased, and fraternity men jockeyed to be the one who’d take me home to meet the folks. Cosmic confirmation of Pretty is as Pretty Does had been attained.

What, say you, does this have to do with the poorly-mothered girls on the plane? In the twenty years since my stint in Boulder, my understanding of human nature has expanded beyond the Panhellenic membership base. Growing up I remember being unsettled by the apostle Paul’s words To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. This seemed disingenuous to me, an outright manipulation to attain a specific goal. But I think I’ve figured out what Paul meant, and modern-day evangelists would do well to take note.

Life isn’t always about me. In fact, life is rarely about me. Or you. It is about figuring out who everyone else is, and what matters to them. It’s about showing empathy and understanding, not forcing one’s opinion or will on someone else. My parents laugh when they meet someone who knows me, because the descriptions of what I am are so varied. Sophisticated and polite. Boisterous and raunchy. Well-read and articulate. Creative and unpredictable. Conservative. Liberal. Jock. Freak. Certainly all elements of my personality. But if I’ve properly assessed who these people –or even organizations — are, then also a reflection of them. Persuasion, cooperation, effectiveness, even friendship, require common ground. Emotional intelligence is necessary to figure out where that common ground lies.

The pretty girls, if they were thirsty and in need of a bathroom, should have better assessed the situation, the timing of their requests, and the duties of the flight attendants. If they had, their tray tables would likely have been overflowing with water and snack pretzels, and a flight attendant would have extracted the bathroom dweller on their behalf. Too pretty to fly? No, too self-absorbed and emotionally-retarded to fly.

Fortunately for my kids, this entire speech has been reduced to meaningful eye contact, one arched eyebrow, and a quiet snap behind my back. This isn’t about you. Reassess. Adjust to the situation. Or you’ll be getting no Thin Mints at all.



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2 comments:

MsMVNJ said...

Brava!!!!

b said...

This is just great...words for the ages I would think.

b