Guess what, people. It's not all about you!
When I was a little girl, growing up in the countryside, I would look at the innumerable stars in the sky and feel small---and humble. When I married a man from New York and moved there, I would stand on a street corner in Manhattan, gazing at the hundreds of people who passed by, and experience the same sense of my proper place in this world. It didn't diminish me in my own eyes, but it gave me a realistic perspective.
Too many people today seem only to look in a mirror and see themselves---larger than life, beautiful . . . and ENTITLED. The Me Generation has infected too much of our culture, more's the pity. This narcissism causes us to be rude, thoughtless, self-absorbed, self-pitying, close-minded and self-righteous, yet confident we are always perfect and correct and super-smart.
Let's start with RUDE and THOUGHTLESS: How many people open a door for others, how many say Thank You for the gesture? Damn few! I ride the subway to work five days a week. I don't look my age, but I AM old (have been told I look around 60 or so). I don't mind standing (I'm on my feet for eight hours at work and it doesn't faze me), but I'm struck by how many young people are too busy with their stupid i-Phones (see my blog #1!) to notice and perhaps give me or other older folks their seat. Even worse, most men are (or pretend to be!) sleeping. Easier on your conscience, guys? Had a dismaying experience the other day. Crowded train. Most people seated were young, many male. A WOMAN stood up to give me her seat. She was at least 7-8 months pregnant. "Sit down, dear," I said. "I'm used to carrying my load---you're not." And everyone who had noticed or heard the exchange quickly looked away or pretended to sleep. I suppose, when you're entitled, you have no shame!
There were two instances the other day, on my way home from work, that blew me away. Subway. Weekend. Express trains not running---much longer ride. Three young people stood near the door. Singing. No, they were not entertainers, just friends singing songs. Interminably! Loud enough for most of the car to hear. Never once glanced at the other passengers, who occasionally smiled weakly at one another, clearly as exasperated as I was, but afraid to say anything. Finally, during one of the many traffic-delayed stops of the train, I stood up and walked to them. Smiled sweetly. (Hint: ALWAYS smile when you're about to throw a knife---gives people nothing to fight back against!) Said, "How would you like to spend a half hour next to someone who is playing a loud radio that they won't turn off?" They actually managed to look embarrassed, and mumbled about singing more softly, and getting off at the next stop anyway. "No," I said, still smiling, "please stop now." They did. But their selfish lack of awareness of any other passengers stunned me.
Then, coming up the subway stairs at my stop, I tried to reach for the banister (you learn to automatically hold on, as you get older). Young man sat on the bottom step, talking on his phone and blocking my access to the handrail. "Do you mind?" I said. He moved away with ill grace. (Entitled little shit!)
I was not surprised, when I reached the street, to find a full moon shining in the sky. Only lunatics (look up the literal meaning of the word) could be so blind!
And what about SELF-ABSORBED? Putting oneself first at all times? People do dreadful emotional damage to one another, or blindly inconvenience others in the name of their own self-interest. Men who casually father children, then abandon them. People who bring crying infants to restaurants or movie theatres, because they "couldn't get a sitter and just HAD to see the movie." Husbands and wives who casually have affairs and then make excuses for them. So long as they can excuse their behavior with high-flown words and phrases like "self-fulfillment", "expressing my inner self", or "seeking my true path", society tends to condone such rationales.Words and phrases, such as "responsibility", "duty to others", "delayed gratification", "consideration" and "self-sacrifice" are seemingly banished from today's lexicon. In today's successor to the Do Your Own Thing movement, it's only important to follow your own dictates, never mind the landscape littered with innocents that you hurt or annoy along the way.
I remember the first time I noticed this subtle change in people's behavior. Many years ago. I was telling a friend, some 15 years younger than I, a story of my days of early motherhood. (She had a toddler herself.) Labor Day was approaching. My husband was a struggling young lawyer and, with 3 children, we had very little money. We were going to spend the holiday weekend with my parents, and there was to be a formal dance at their country club. My father was quite successful, and I had had a very comfortable upbringing. I looked forward to the dance, knowing I could pretend for awhile that I still lived as comfortably. Since I sewed my own clothes (one of the marvelous bonuses of Hom Ec in school in those days!), I bought a length of printed fabric---gold and red roses---and made a lovely long gown---full skirt, sleeveless and scoop-necked. (Think of the stuff on Mad Men.) Then I spent two weeks with gold and red sequins and beads, overlaying the flowers on the front of the bodice. (Funny side note: Eyestrain can make one nauseous---until I learned otherwise, I was in a panic that I was pregnant again!)
The day before we were to travel to my parents, my oldest son (8 or 9 at the time), came home excitedly and told us that his Little League team had reached the finals and the playoff game was that weekend. It was at this point in my story that my friend gasped, wide-eyed with dismay. "Oh!" she cried. "What a dilemma! But what did you DO?" "That's the difference between your generation and mine," I said gently. "It wasn't a dilemma for us. We stayed home, of course."
And oh! How people wallow in SELF-PITY! Every small glitch becomes a personal insult. I work in a Bridal Salon. I can't tell you how many bridesmaids take personal offense over the fact that our seamstress doesn't work nights or weekends. (The brides are happy to take a few hours off to get their gowns altered, but those "entitled" bridesmaids? "What do you mean, she can't work on weekends? I'm a very busy woman!") My usual response? "Honey, altering that simple dress isn't rocket science. Go to your local tailor at your own convenience."
And a small pet peeve of mine---the Wind Chill Factor. In my day we said, "Boy, it's cold out today!" And dressed warmly. Now, with the WCF, people say "It feels like 20 degrees below!" and spend far too much time feeling sorry for themselves!
The late Robin Williams is reported to have said, "Cocaine is God's way of telling you that you have too much money." In my estimation, grievance-mongering is God's way of telling us that life is too easy!
When we spend so much time focused on ourselves and our wants and needs, we lose sight of what's important. So share those toys, children, and look up from your navel-gazing once in awhile---you'd be surprised how much more gratifying life can be when it's not all about YOU!