Everywhere I turn, there’s a jerk, lazy leech, sarcastic teen or self-righteous hypocrite. Oh, and over there is a vapid airhead, a redneck drunkard, a pretentious hipster and a self-important blowhard on a cell phone.
The world is a plague of annoying people. But the real winners are on the news – the corrupt, cocaine sniffing politicians, serial killers and rapists, war criminals, kidnappers, human traffickers. Is there any good in the world?
I am the kind of person who makes snap judgments. I don’t want to but it just happens. I meet a new person and believe they are nice and kind and generous and everything I want a person to be.
But then, this new potential friend says she wants to get breast implants instead of funding college tuition. And I’m done – I’m sorry, I can’t be your friend. I can’t even talk to you now. Big breasts instead of college? Are you serious?
This is my fatal flaw, my cynical, misguided and pompous tendency to discount the merits of another human being based on one trait that I can’t accept. And why? Am I special? Was I endowed with superior moral fiber? Am I qualified to determine who is a good person and who is a jerk?
I have many flaws that someone would consider fatal. I am cold and unfriendly. I make sarcastic jokes that sound mean. I don’t really listen that well. Based on a bare framework of a few vague characteristics, I can be interpreted as a real rotten human being.
But I’m not. And neither are those people I pretentiously discount as unworthy of my affection. But deep down, I know I am only tossing them out because I just don’t have the time or energy, or the desire to once again be disappointed. Snap judgments protect me.
A former pastor of mine said the average person only has enough energy left – after work and family – for six close friends. I thought he was joking: I only have energy for my husband, family and career, and no friends. On to the sad story: I have many times devoted myself to a new friend, who when the circumstances that brought us together were eliminated, excised me surgically from her life. I prefer to avoid the sting of rejection.
But despite the emotional baggage I carry around, the desire to protect myself from yet another passive dumping by a former friend, the active judgment and dismissal of almost perfect strangers isn’t a sound life practice. Though the world is full of jerks, you still need – and want – their company. You have to at least hold out an accepting hand.
As I get older I realize there are plenty of flaws in the people I love – and I still love them, despite those annoyances. I’m certain I can find one nice thing about someone I dislike – that one admirable trait, or common interest, or redeemable quality – that can transform the jerk from enemy to acquaintance.
Yes, I said acquaintance. I told you – I have no energy left for friends. The curmudgeon will live on.
JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.
She worked for five years at a local newspaper, followed by three years as a secretary.
She recently left the office life to pursue a full-time writing career and now works in her pajamas.