Great Expectations - 0: Horribly Unpleasant Surprises - 183
04.17.2004

Good etiquette is a bizarre behavior.

Polite niceties required in civilized society result in some very strange paradoxes. We are trained throughout life expected to make certain polite mumbly noises in certain situations, as well as to expect certain polite mumbly responses to our polite mumbly noises. I expect that these expectations are not as much there so that we don't end up beating the crap out of each other, as many suspect. Rather, I suspect they exist purely because we can then have expectations. After all, as much as we may say we like surprises, that's just another polite mumbly noise. In truth, if we ask someone for their honest opinion, we don't actually want their honest opinion. We want a compliment, we want reassurance -- we want anything but the other person's honest opinion.

Therein lies a paradox. If you don't make polite mumbly noises, the mumbly noise recipient will storm off in a huff or balk in horror or, as per the aforementioned suspicion of others, punch you in the nose. However, if you do make polite mumbly noises, and the mumbly noise recipient ends up finding out that after the mumbly noise episode passed you ran off to call a mutual friend and gave your honest opinion to them about the mumbly noise incident, the mumbly noise recipient will, of course, storm off in a huff or balk in horror or, as per the aforementioned aforementioned suspicion of others, punch you in the nose. If you tell the truth, you're fucked. If you lie, it's usually found out you lied, and you're fucked. Oh, the perils of human interaction.

It is for this reason that the average human being fears the mentally ill above all others. They're no more a threat than anyone else. Oh no. Statistically speaking, you are far more likely to be maimed or decapitated by your longtime lover than the wackjob on the corner. Yet even so, a person will cross a busy street and risk being hit by a Mack truck in order to avoid the dishevelled young woman screaming profanity at a brick wall. Why? Simple: no expectations.

If you walk up to a stranger and say, "Hi. How are you?" you can expect a small handful of possible responses. "Fine. How are you?" Mumble. No response other than staring even more intently at their newspaper. "Fuck off." We can anticipate and brace for these responses, and are therefore safe. No surprises. However, if you walk up to a paranoid schizophrenic and say, "Hi. How are you?" you have absolutely no idea how they will respond. "You're one of them! AAAAAGH!" "The chair is very chatty with Wiccans, don't you think?" "How do you talk with the alien in your teeth?" Or simply, "Fine thanks. You?"

Surprise.

This is not to say that someone with paranoid schizophrenia doesn't have rules of behavior. Far from. The rules are often very extensive and quite strict. Problem is, no one else knows what they are.

I like talking to schizophrenics. Bipolars in a manic episode are quite interesting as well. Of course, I have difficulty with polite niceties, so I feel a certain bond with them. I, too, surprise others, perhaps even more so than the homeless schizophrenic in that I lull others into a false sense of security.

What would happen if we just responded to polite mumbly noises exactly as we wish? Surprise! It's not that I seek out rude behavior or deliberately desire to be cruel to others. Me, I don't have a censoring button. You know, that's the button that exists between your thought brain and your tongue brain, the one that, when pressed, initiates a lockdown procedure. "Red alert! Red alert! Honest and improper oratory has entered the larynx! Seek out and destroy! Prevent escape at all cost!"

Actually, that's not true. I do have a censoring button. Unfortunately, it's developed Tourette's syndrome. It wants to censor, it just can't seem to do so before the vocal folds vibrate. Oh no, it happens after I've spoken. Therefore, I say what I honestly think in response to mumbles of all kinds, and immediately afterward realize the potential consequences of what I've just said. Luckily, however, I have no shame, so I live a low-stress, guilt-free life. My friends cannot say the same thing. I might as well start a group insurance policy for all the medication and therapy they'll need from associating with me.

Should you ever have the great surprise of meeting me or anyone else baffled by mumbly sounds, I feel it is in your best interest to be aware of some of the polite mumbly noises you should suppress at all costs, simply for the sake of your own mental well-being. Write them down, keep them handy.

"How are you feeling?"

"Really, you shouldn't have."

"I couldn't possibly accept this."

"Does this dress make me look fat?"

"So, what do you think I should do?"

"Wouldn't you agree?"

"I love you."

"Have as much as you like."

"Anything you need, just ask."

"Call me anytime."

"Can I get you anything?"

"Make yourself at home."

"So tell me about yourself."

"What do I owe you?"

"Tell me when this gets annoying."

"Do you mind?"

Yes, yes I do.


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Last 5 entries:
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12.30.2006:New Year's resolutions we can actually keep



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