Being retired, I have time to think about dumb things we say and do and then write about them. Usually, the net result of this is that people think I should get un-retired. One friend said to me recently, “Dick, you need something to occupy your time.” I may have misheard him. He might have said “You’re a dick. Shut up,” but even if he did, this serves my point: We need to think about what we say and do.
I came up with a top-ten list of my own, but then I realized we have an internet, thanks be to Al Gore. So I looked over other peoples’ lists. It turns out that the other writers and I are often irritated by the same things. A few of theirs got added to my list. Maybe a few of these will get added to yours and we can all be irritated by them together.
Here’s the list in ascending order:
Number Ten: “Do you want an honest answer?”
I always wonder if this means they’ve been lying to me up until now. If you translate this question correctly, it means “Would you like me to just ruin your day or would you prefer that I make the rest of your life a living hell?” To people who ask this question: Stop it. If you’re going to be critical, pull me into the corner away from other people and have at it. Beat some sense into my head, but don’t preface it with that question, because nobody really wants an honest answer, even if it’s to their benefit.
Number Nine: “ I don’t mean to be critical but…”
This is sometimes disguised as “I’m not judging you, but…” It’s a subset of “do you want an honest answer?” but it’s annoying enough to have its own number. And we all know why. Because the person is lying. They are speaking a great untruth. They are about to be critical and judgmental. This can be translated as “I need to feel like a nice person right before I dump this load of crap on you and crush your self-esteem.” Do me a favor; take me over to the corner again (same corner) and just unload. Self-esteem is, by definition, my problem. If your advice is good, I’ll probably appreciate it eventually. If it’s not, well, that’s on you.
Number Eight: “I could care less.”
We use this one when we really do care, but we want to act like we don’t. If you’re going to use it, for heaven’s sake be grammatically correct. If you say you could care less, you are saying that it’s possible that your caring level could actually go down from where it is right now. The correct use of this ridiculous phrase is “I couldn’t care less.” That way, you can pretend that you’re done caring, that you are completely out of caring ability, that your tank of human kindness is empty. And then, you’ve really got them.
Number Seven: “Looks like Daddy dressed you today!”
This is for all the young fathers out there. While I don’t have to deal with it personally any longer, I’m here to fight against misandry. Misandry is the female equivalent to misogyny and nobody’s talking about the offensive manner in which males are treated in today’s society. This is one of them. You need to start answering this with “Yes, I dressed him. Yeah, it’s a crappy job and yes I know the stripes don’t go with the whatever, but they looked clean and didn’t smell and he doesn’t care what he’s wearing. We’re men. One day you will find us both on the sofa, watching the football game and scratching our genitals. Why, you ask? Because we can. Get over it.” And while we’re on the subject, why do I continually see kids’ things in stores labeled “MOMS PREFER IT TEN TO ONE”? Do men no longer have a preference that matters? You ladies talk about all the demeaning things that men do “unconsciously.” So let’s ALL be watchdogs and make sure we don’t use insulting language. In fact, let’s all just be quiet. You first.
Number Six: “Are we there yet?”
This one is in the list for my children thirty years ago, and their children and your children and any friends you have whom you consider to be about half simple. The best answer to this question is “If we are still moving, then we are, by definition, not there yet. But if you want an honest answer, this question should be ignored. Maybe by doing that, you’ll cause them to think about what they just said.
Number Five: “Um…”
If you feel the need to say “um,” bite your tongue. Wait until you know exactly what you want to say. Then start talking without the “um.” Saying “um” makes you sound like you don’t know what you’re saying and it drives the other person crazy. Crazy like um, like they want to punch you in the face. We have to work twice as hard, listening to you, because we have to take all the “ums” out and throw them away. Because “um” never eventually means anything. It just stays worthless. It was worthless when it came out of your mouth and it will be worthless twenty-five years from now. Nobody in the world will ever compliment you on the way you say “um.” It’s an official time out. It’s a foul tip into the stands. It’s nothing but a placeholder and we don’t need it. Most of us are willing to wait for something intelligent. Stop it.
Number Four: “Look, We’re in Hawaii!!!”
And now we start to get serious. It really troubles me when my friends announce on social media that they are currently not at home, and post photos of themselves on vacation. I’m happy for them, but they have announced to the Cat Burglar Society that their house is empty and un-guarded. And I found out these people steal more than just cats. Please, please, please post those things on the day you get home. Why is it necessary that everybody know immediately that your home is up for grabs?
Number Three: “I know exactly how you feel.”
Seriouser and seriouser. Let’s all try not to say this unless it’s actually true. And maybe not even then. If a person wants to talk, they will. That’s an opportunity for us to tell our story–if they want to hear it. Otherwise, maybe just being there is what we ought to be doing. But saying we know how someone feels is taking a mighty big chance that we don’t.
Number Two: Hiding Our Flaws
I have a lot of good, close friends. I’m aware of their flaws. Sometimes they’re not aware of them. But I realized that, in some cases, their flaws are as endearing, if not more so, than their strengths. We are asked, in this crazy society today, to live up to some pretty impossible standards. It would be nice if we all felt like we’re in the same boat; that we all fail them occasionally. It would also be nice if we all were able to admit it. I’m going to try to help my friends with this, since I’m the only one I know without any flaws. Some of my friends laugh at that. I don’t quite know what this means. But I’m certain that I don’t want an honest answer.
Number One: Being Offended
This wasn’t on my list originally. When I read it, however, I realized it belongs here, as Number One. I started trying to re-write it, and stopped, because this person said it very well:
“There are some people in this world who seem to believe that they have the right to never be offended, ever. This drives me crazy. Part of freedom of expression is that some people, some times, are going to annoy you or offend you. That’s part of life. And unless you’re inciting people to commit acts of violence, then you really can’t tell them not to.
Being offended is a choice. It’s the difference between getting upset about an insult and simply laughing it off. It’s the difference between trying to silence somebody else and simply acknowledging that they have different values than you do, even if those values are really f***** up.
I get comments on this blog all the time that I find offensive. I almost never delete them. Recently, I had a guy who made a sexist comment about women (the comment was to an article about dating, what a coincidence.) Instead of getting up in arms about it, I simply informed him that I thought he was an idiot. I probably offended him back. And now we’re not friends. It’s amazing how a free society works.”
BUT WAIT—THERE’S MORE! We’ll call this
Number Zero: “Awesome”
Yes, I know, you’ve heard me complain about this before. But I refuse to give up on a perfectly good word that has been murdered by its misuse. Can we just look at what the word “awe” really means?
Webster’s Dictionary: an emotion variously combining dread, veneration and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.
More definitions: extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear. “The awesome power of the atomic bomb,” for example.
Synonyms: Breathtaking, magnificent, wonderful, amazing, stunning, staggering, etc. etc. etc.
So, the dictionaries are describing some pretty big stuff here. In light of that, let’s look at some wrong ways to use it:
“Billy, you flushed the toilet! Awesome!”
No it’s not. It’s cleanly and hygienic and eventually expected. When Moses parted the Red Sea, that was awesome. Nobody saw that one coming. If you use this word in training your children, they will grow up thinking they should be in the headlines because they brushed their teeth.
“Hey, you’re five minutes early! That’s awesome!”
No it isn’t. Showing up on time is convenient. It’s thoughtful. It’s expected. When God created the heavens and earth, that was awesome. Someone being kind enough to be on time should not make you drop to your knees.
I give up for now. This awesome business could be an entire essay in itself—and probably will be.