Friday, August 5, 2011

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

My blog title is actually the title of an old book. The book was a parody of the more popular How to Win Friends and Influence People. My uncle tells me that though it is several decades old, I could have authored the book (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, not the other book). Why would he say such a thing? He obviously would have a reason, but probably not a very good one. In this particular case, it seems that I insulted a doctor at his hospital by telling the man that he bears a remarkable physical resemblance to Warren Jeffs. Who would have thought that a mere observation of a possible physical resemblance between the doctor in question and a public figure would create such controversy? I didn't suggest that the man has seventy-nine wives or engages in sex with twelve- year-olds. I merely verbalized my highly subjective observation that the man bears a noticeable likeness to the LDS Prophet-in-Chief. Who would've guessed that it was such a hot-button topic? While I don't find Warren Jeffs particularly attractive (I described him earlier as looking somewhat corpse-like), but then again, he's not exactly the Elephant Man or Camilla Parker Bowles. I didn't realize I was disgracing the entire family by saying that.

Some things we can say may seem fairly benign, while those on the receiving end of our words inevitably take offense. Comments pertaining to weight, even when intended to be compliments, must be worded carefully. "You look thin in that outfit" will usually be taken to mean, "It's obviously an optical illusion brought about by the particular outfit you're wearing, because in anything else you look like the 'before' picture in a SlimFast ad." Likwise, if one observes, "You cut [or coloured] your hair" to someone and then says nothing else about it, it's obvious that the person making the statement is not fond of the other person's new look. If a person undergoes cosmetic surgery, should one comment on it? It would seem that the recipient of a cosmetic procedure obviously was dissatisfied with his or her pre-procedural appearance, or else he or she would not have undetaken the discomfort and the expense to make the change or changes. Strangely enough, people often do not appreciate having attention called to a cosmetic surgical procedure recently undergone. I suppose they want others to pretend they've always looked the way they look now. If it's a cosmetic procedure gone wrong, such is all the more true. If a woman's lips look like doughnuts with too much yeast, don't mention it. If a man had a bad hair transplant, just let it go unless he says something first; then you can either lie or commiserate based on your reading of the situation.

I have trouble with these issues at times. I was taught to be honest and to tell the truth. My uncle said that having been taught to tell the truth doesn't give one license to hurl any insult that pops into my mind at my intended victim. I will admit that I was not entirely pleased with the doctor I suggested bears an uncanny resemblance to Warren Jeffs. He had just told my uncle that if I don't drink the nutritional supplements he prescribed, my computer and cell phone should be taken away, along with television and any other privileges I have. (The fascists think they're being humanitarians because they're allowing me to breathe unimpeded.) What did he expect me to say, that he looks like Jake Gyllenhall? People need to be realistic.

I was just talking to an aunt (not the one married to the dictator uncle) and was explaining my predicament. She laughed and said it may be genetic, because my mom used to make teachers and other authority figures angry by suggeting that they looked like Jim Jones, Charles Manson, or Gary Gilmore. If it was a female whose skin she wished to get under, she'd say the person looked like either Billie Jean King. I personally don't think Billie Jean is all that ugly, or especially wasn't in my mom's day, but whatever floated her boat is fine with me. I'll share with my uncle that it's not my fault that I'm blunt to the point of rudeness; it's genetic as well as environmental. I was both spawned and raised by a woman with the social skills of Chelsea Handler or Joan Rivers.

Furthermore, I happen to know that my uncle is not as incensed as he pretends to be. He sometimes speaks too loudly when he is talking about me to his wife, and I hear what he says without even trying to eavesdrop. He and his wife were laughing hysterically about the incident with the facist doctor, and my aunt agreed that, now that it's been mentioned, she, too can see the resemblance between the doctor in question and Prophet Jeffs.

In order to help others avoid the pitfalls into which I've become entrapped, I will give you two lists.

This is a list of people to which others will be flattered by any suggested physical resemblance: Denzell Washington (if the person is not a racist), Alex Ferrer (if the person is not my Uncle Jerry), Jake Gyllenhall, Jesse Spencer, the guy who plays Dr. Wilson on House (sorry; I can't recall his name), Ryan Reynolds, Brad Pitt, Jon Stewart, Jay Z, Ben Affleck, President Obama, the good-looking guy from Glee,
Neil Patrick Harris (unless you're a homophobe), George Clooney, Will Swenson, Jonathan Bennett, Hugh Jackman, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, Stephanie March, Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, the Duchess of Chadwick, Pippa Middleton, Natalie Portman, or Alexis Bledel.

This is a list of people to which many people would be affronted by the suggestion of a resemblance: Warren Jeffs (apparently), Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson, Gary Gilmore, Carrot Top, Linda Tripp, Debbie Rowe, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Guy Fieri, Peewee Herman [Paul Reubens?], the Elephant Man, Nancy Grace, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Larry King, or Donald Trump.

My lists are merely advisory. If you perceive a resemblance between a private citizen and anyone on either list, make a verbal note of it at your own risk.

May peace be with you, because it's probably not going to be with me, and it may as well be with someone.

P.S. Does anyone really care in the least whether or not the probation Casey Anthony served in jail is reccognized as valid? Does anyone care where she is right now?

Does anyone care in the least about any of the Kardashians besides just wishing they would all go away?


  1. My wife has the same problem with honesty. She, too, has an IQ of genius level. She was invited to join MENSA, but found the members all either weird or a bit crazed, so she didn't bother.

  2. I don't care about the Kardashians, and I don't have cable, so I suppose I'm lucky enough not to have to see them very often.
    As for Casey Anthony, I don't care about that either. She wasn't convicted of the crime, nothing will bring back the sweet little girl.
    I actually had a problem along this vein the day before yesterday. A friend and I, (not very close friend, but I feel comfortable with her) were discussing what pregnancy has done to change our bodies and she showed me her stretch marks on her belly. She is a very pretty woman, and is very fit, she is training for a triatholon, but she was indeed right, her stretch marks are bad. Very numerous and large. What should I have said? (I said "oh", very helpful I'm sure.) I don't want to make her feel bad about her appearance in any way! But I don't want to lie either and say oh you can't even see them! It's a dilema.

  3. Amelia, my Aunt Jillian's younger brother Timmy says that you should have said, "Wow! I am seriously impressed," and then moved on to another subject. Consider the source, though. Timmy has one year of medical school which means he knows absolutely nothing but is dangerous enough to give out really bad advice.

    Matt, my mom was invited to join MENSA. She was offended by the mere invitation, because she says that no one with any real mission in life, intelligent or not, has time for a club whose members sit around patting themselves and each other on the back for being intelligent but do otherwise nothing of value for themselves or anyone else with their supposed intelligence.

    My dad says if I ever join MENSA they will disinherity me. Oh, wow. I'll lose out on half of roughly three hundred dollars. I don't want to join MENSA anyway, so I'll probably go ahead and collect my share of the pittance of an inheritance.

  4. Actually, that might have worked. It acknowleges their existance, and the fact that it IS impressive what her body will do in order to keep those babies safe, without calling them ugly. Which I don't think they are anyway. Everyone's full of scars and stretch marks, we get wounded. We heal. It's beautiful.

  5. That's an interesting take, Amelia. Timmy may be smarter than he looks and not just another pretty face. Actually he is pretty bright. He has an engineering degree and just completed his first her of med school. Maybe he'll be a wise doctor someday.

  6. Tell him thank you for me, I will keep that response in mind for the next time I am discussing things that make people self concious but are none the less, impressive.