Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Judging You: Reality vs. Fiction

So here's the thing about people: I generally like them. I KNOW, LET ME EXPLAIN. I'm talking about people I've gotten to know. I generally like them. Like I don't want anything bad to happen to them and I don't mind talking to them at a meeting or a party. I don't have a long list of enemies.

Strangers are a whole different issue--lots of strangers annoy me. I don't want to listen to your phone conversation, I don't want to see you kissing your girlfriend, I want you to take your screaming baby home instead of browsing the shoe department at Target. I want you to walk faster in the airport terminal and I would love it if you stopped being rude to the barista at Starbucks. Strangers get on my nerves. Often.

But people I know? I mostly like them. There are people I try to avoid because I don't enjoy my time with them, of course. The people you say hi to in public but you don't invite to join you unless someone else mentions it first. However, the number of people I truly loathe is pretty small. Easily less than a dozen over the course of my nearly three decades. These are people I hide from in public. People who make me genuinely angry. The thing I've noticed about these people is that it's usually mutual hatred. They don't want to be around me any more than I want to be around them. We'll both look away and act like we haven't seen the other. When forced we'll make small talk centering around the weather. I'll try very, very hard to control my face because I've no poker face whatsoever. (I was physically yanked away from one of those unfortunate dozen once, in a pub. Apparently I was being "really rude and making faces." Allegedly. Well maybe if she hadn't been such an idiot and told consistently terrible stories, I wouldn't have been making any faces...allegedly.) 

Confession: most of those people that I can't stand? We've either been facebook friends at some point** or I've creeped on their social media. I've checked out everything short of their LinkedIn profiles, because LinkedIn is a NARC and tells people who looked at their profile and it's too easy to forget you're logged in when you're google stalking someone. So yeah, I've kept tabs on those people. It's tempting to take a peek from time to time and find out if you're still dating that girl who isn't as pretty as my friend that you dumped. On a bad day, yeah maybe I will judge the bridesmaid dresses you chose for your wedding. Sure, I've made a mental note of the grammar in your status updates. Oh please, like you've never done that.

It's a morbid curiosity. I have to know. 

Let's table that topic for a second. I have a point, I promise.

Lately I've read several books that I really enjoyed despite not liking a single character. The characters are well written and interesting, but I can't stand them. I wouldn't want to hang out with any of them. (The books in question are Gone Girl and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen--I recommend all three.) I'm still reading Freedom because I had to take a break from the characters for a few weeks. Every new situation has me asking them what they're thinking. I put it down and read a couple other books before I felt I could deal with Franzen's creations again. But it's so good! 

So tell me: why is it ok for me to hate them and still read about their lives, while I'm considered childish for reading about the lives of real people I can't stand?*** It feeds the same morbid curiosity, right? I mean, the books are far more compelling than a boring instagram feed. I get it, the guy at your coffee shop knows how to make pictures in your latte. Every single day. Great. But we're allowed to question a character's choices. Sure, I question the judgment of Flynn's main character and I'm engaging with the text and developing critical thinking skills. But I question the choices of a former nemesis and it's rude and judgmental and petty. WHY? Which is it, world?? Make up your mind!  

Anyone else? No? Let me know.

**It should be noted that I did some spring cleaning about a year ago and removed people I can't stand from various profiles. It felt pretty good and I've been much less tempted. You proud? 

***For the record, I'm talking about observing. I'm not talking about commenting or sharing or any other troll-like behavior. Just reading and commenting internally and keeping it all to myself unless I have to call my BFF about it, but that doesn't go any further. If you're doing shit like reading your ex's facebook and commenting on it about hating her new boyfriend, you need a different hobby.

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