May 13th, 2013


How unusual

This morning as we were checking Facebook before work (because we like to stall, even though we like our job), we got caught! By a friend who wanted to chat. She asked us what we were up to, and we said we were just checking Facbeook before getting to work. She asked us if we usually don't start work until eleven, and we said we usually start between ten-thirty and eleven. She replied, "As long as that works for you guys."

We were a little taken aback for two reasons. First, she's unemployed so who is she to comment on our work process? That wasn't a good reason to be upset, though, because we know her, and she probably didn't realize how backhanded the comment sounded. She was probably sincerely trying to validate our choice. I think. The second reason we were taken aback is that we didn't say anything to indicate that we felt like we were doing anything particularly bad by starting work so late, and her validation was completely unsolicited.

Not that we mind people acknowledging what we do. In fact, we like it. But we don't think quickly enough to realize that the backhandedness wasn't necessarily intentional. We asked her if she thought our schedule was unusual, and she very diplomatically replied that she thinks it's great that we can make our own hours...very carefully not answering the question.

I should take a time out here and point out that I'm not trying to disparage our friend. I'm just trying to figure this thing out, and I figure I may as well do it here.

See, she's had a very difficult life, and as a defense mechanism, she's gotten into the habit of trying very hard to tell whoever she's talking to whatever they want to hear. In fact, I think a lot of people with less difficult lives have gotten into the same habit, but have perhaps gotten better at it because they have more capacity to hone such people skills. But the problem with that is that we don't think like most people, so it's hard enough for the people who are better at it to say what we want to hear. We're difficult like that. What I really wanted to hear was her sincere opinion about whether or not she thought our work schedule was unusual. We fully admit that we're slackers who wouldn't be able to handle a regular nine-to-five job.

And this could take me into two different streams of thought. The first is the one about how I hate it when people try so hard to tell me what I want to hear. I value honesty and good communication, and I think the best way to make everyone happy is to not try to flatter people all the time. If you don't want to tell someone you think they're a weirdo for working so late, just don't bring it up. The other stream of thought is the one about seriously, when will people get it through their heads that "unusual" is not an inherently negative term?

I think people have a difficult time not thinking in opposites. They need to separate the good from the bad, so they can take hold of the one and avoid the other. But...okay, for example. We were talking with a different friend about humility. He's had a lot of bad experiences with people who pretend to be humble but really aren't. So he has redefined humility to mean "confidence." Apparently, because those people, who were "modest" and self-deprecating but also backbiting and spiteful and had to be right all the time, obviously weren't really humble, humility couldn't mean what they thought it meant. So it must be the opposite. The idea that it could mean something different but not opposite didn't seem to have been considered. (We think a good synonym for what real humility is would be "teachable.")

So back to "unusual." Unusual just means "different from the usual." It doesn't mean "worse than usual." It doesn't even mean "weird" (which, by the way, we're totally cool with being called). But because of this whole opposite thing, if usual is good (which of course it is, or else why would it be usual?), then unusual must be bad. You don't want to call someone unusual--then they'll feel like they're doing something wrong!

Of course we don't think our friend is a bad person for thinking that. We just wonder why it seems so firmly ingrained in people's psyches. And I'm totally losing my train of thought here, so maybe I should stop rambling. The point is, just because something is different, that doesn't mean it's automatically bad. It might be bad, but it might also be good. Or it might not be good or bad. Just unusual.

Today I'm thankful for getting work done today, having now seen an episode of Sofia the First, being able to chat with friends on Facebook, the adorableness of Page sitting by her water bowl, and getting to have mapley brown sugar Poptarts for a snack.