Sunday, April 6, 2014

Proper Social Conventions When Someone Insults You to Your Face

Warning: this post uses nasty and derogatory terms about ethnic groups as part of describing an event that happened to me this week in Beverly Hills.

Do you recall the first time someone slandered you to your face based on your sex, or color or ethnic group? Perhaps if you are black, it would be when someone used the "N" word?  Or if you are a woman, that you could not possibly be a scientist? Or sorry, as a Jew there is really no point in your applying for membership?   Or that you were a "fucking mick" or whatever?

Its a wonderful experience and I recommend it for everyone.  It builds character and moral fiber and also lets one evaluate one's response to a potentially confrontational social situation.   What is the right response to being insulted to your face?  Sarcasm?   A witty remark?   My own approach to this situation is to make a sharp comment about their mother and invite them to join me the next day on the field of honor.   Shall we say "pistols at dawn"?   But that is just me.

For those of my white friends who have never had this experience, I know of one very good rendition of it in film: and it is an oddly powerful soliloquy from the beginning of that little-known cold war comedy, The President's Analyst (1967).    In the movie, CIA agent Godfrey Cambridge is evaluating whether the character played by James Coburn is suitable for becoming the psychiatrist for the President of the United States.   So, Cambridge lies on the couch in Dr. Schaeffer's office and tells him the story of how as a young boy he did not know what the word "n*gger" meant and how he found out.   Its really a remarkable scene and not what one expects from a light-hearted comedy.

I believe that one's response to a vicious and/or ignorant insult should take into consideration the other person's circumstances.   What was their family life like, or their education?   Maybe society is at fault and we are not giving the individual enough slack?  What if the insulting piece of garbage we are interacting with has the misfortune of being stupid, pretty and rich?  What then?

We who come from what was formerly the middle class in this country  can not really relate to the hardships of growing up rich. The agonies of whether or not to fuck the non-gender specific musician friend, the issue of what to wear to the opening in Berlin, the problems of dealing with your dreadful little brother!   "Daddy! Preston got an airplane for his birthday and I only got a new car!  Its not fair!" Yes even these life-destroying traumatic events can occur to our rich and self-entitled elite causing them lifelong psychological damage.

You should keep these extenuating circumstances in mind as I relate this story.

I am sitting in one of my many doctor's offices this week in Beverly Hills when an attractive woman of perhaps 30 or so comes in, incensed with anger.  The name of the doctor she was going to see for the first time was not in the directory downstairs!   And when she tried to confirm her appointment she left voicemail about 1/2 hour ago and no one called her back!   In fact, the doctor had not gotten her message and gone out on an errand and they were trying to reach her.  Oh my God, that is so unprofessional she said.   She was confused and flustered, and being young and overdressed, she sat uneasily on the couch and typed madly at her latest model iPhone.

As I am talking to her, trying to calm her down a bit by telling her that these events are not about her, they are always disorganized a bit at this office.  Its part of their charm, I say.  As I am saying this, I just happen to notice that she is displaying a rather elegant, rather large watch.   Back in the old days, we would call this a more masculine watch, but of course that is not at all what we would call it today.  Something about that watch seemed familiar, and it finally occurred to me that it was very similar to the $15,000 watch that my friend Ed from England was fond of.    Now in fact I am not sure if this was really a $10,000 watch or a $20,000 one, they come in different models of course.  What a nice watch, I said.  Oh, is it, she replied?  Its something my mother gave me.  

The watch in question was in gold and seemed to be similar to this very expensive Rolex

Then I happened to notice that on her other hand she had several rings but one of them was obviously an heirloom of some sort.  It was clearly an antique ring that probably could benefit from a good polish of the setting.   These things are hard to judge if one is not an expert and can examine it under a loop, but my impression was that we were in the multiples of 10s here (10 thousands of course).   Just a guess.

This specimen is in the $35,000 range but does not accurately portray the ring in question which had a more elaborate array of diamonds around it.

So I decided to try flattery.  Noticing that she was very adept at typing at that little virtual keyboard, I told her so.  She replied with a sneer: "Its a generational thing" and went back to typing.

Thanks, babe, I really appreciate it. Old Granddad here knows the people who invented the technology you so stupidly claim as your own and in my humble opinion you should probably go fuck yourself.   But I didn't say that.    I stared at her in disbelief while I tried to think of something funny to say, and she ignored me.

Oh it must be such a burden to be rich!


For a list of watches priced between $10,000 and $20,000 see here.

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