Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stop Crying, Stupid

Sometimes my children cry, because that is what children do, right? They're little, they get over-wrought, and they react to stressful situations to bursting into tears.

A lot of the time, we as parents are fine with that, because a lot of the time a kid has good reason to cry. If they've fallen down and skinned their knee; if another kid's been teasing them; hell, even if they just dropped their ice cream over the fence of the giraffe enclosure; we get it, and it's natural for a child to cry in those situations. These are upsetting and painful occurrences and tears should feel entitled to flow.

But look. There are times when a kid's reason to cry is, frankly, fucking idiotic. Like crying because you want to hold Mum's left hand, not her right hand. Crying because your sister got to flick the light switch and you didn't. Crying because your juice is in the wrong one out of two identical Dora the Explorer cups.

And at these times, we as parents do not offer comfort and solace. What we offer is, "Stop crying. That is a stupid thing to cry about."

And we do this because we do not want our children to grow up thinking it's OK to fly into hysterics over things that just do not fucking matter.

I feel quite comfortable with this approach to parenting - not surprising, given I have long been aware that I am a flawless parent. So it's always distressing to see someone who grew up without anyone to step in at the appropriate moment and say, "Look, shut up. You are making a big fuss about NOTHING and you sound like a moron."

And so we get people who go out into the world and flounce about performing the grown-up equivalent of crying because you're holding Mum's left hand. Like, for example, writing an article about how hard it is looking younger than you really are.

Hey, I'm sure it's annoying looking really young, but then I'm sure it's annoying when your twin gets to hold Mum's right hand. But there's such a thing as a proportional response. In this case the proportional response would be to maybe say, in a soft, almost inaudible voice, "I wish I didn't look so young", maybe once every five years or so. The UN-proportional response, the response that is roughly parallel to cluster-bombing illegally parked motor scooters, is to write an angst-ridden op-ed about the subject, featuring actual quotes from an actual psychologist: a psychologist, by the way, who I'm fairly sure has violated several major professional codes of conduct by responding to the author's inquiries without ever using the phrase, "Pull your head out of your arse, princess".

Read that article. Feel the waves of pain radiating off your screen as you hear of how a colleague thought she was too young to get married! Wipe away a tear at the heart-rending story of the beautician who thought she was 18! But before you do, let me put in a quick trigger warning: this article contains graphic descriptions of a young woman being asked for ID, and frank discussions of being called "kiddo".

The similarities between this and the film Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire, are uncanny: it's so true that cruelty and disadvantage have many faces.

It's when the aforementioned psychologist, Meredith Fuller, gets involved that the piece really fires its afterburners and turbo-boosts itself straight through the tunnel of self-indulgence and out into the wide, dusty plains of West Stop It You'll Go Blindville.

"This is a serious issue, it’s not silly at all," Fuller lies. The distance between "People think I'm young" and anything that could be realistically called "a serious issue" is the distance between Pol Pot and Mr Squiggle. Meredith you are not doing her any favours by telling her it's a serious issue: sometimes people NEED to be told to shut up.

"Everyone has the right to project the true sense of who they are," Fuller continues, as if this article is about a gay man forced into an unhappy marriage to avoid being beaten to death by local hillbillies, rather than a young woman forced to endure the agony of people saying, "Wow I thought you were younger". It's also terrible advice: no way does this author want to project the true sense of who she is: projecting :"crybaby" so publicly can only hinder her career.
‘‘The most important thing is that you are being heard,’’ Fuller says. ‘‘People should know that by saying, ‘Oh, you lucky thing,’ they’re not listening to you, they aren’t being respectful, they’re actually only trivialising your real concerns.’’ 
Oh God. Meredith. Nobody is trivialising her real concerns: she doesn't have any real concerns. She might as well be complaining that the homeless people keep making her feel guilty about her chauffeur. She's concocted these "concerns" exactly the same way my kids invent stupid reasons to bawl their eyes out. Her only real concern is that one day she might meet someone who tells her the truth about herself. Shame it couldn't be you, Meredith.

Of course the story has a happy ending as our heroine resolves to "walk taller, conduct myself with professionalism and be confident in my aptitude". Whew! It was touch and go, but looks like she's managed to overcome her adversity. It's inspirational to be sure, and we can all learn a lot from this latter-day Helen Keller, who didn't let the devastating handicap of youthful looks stand in the way of her dream of bitching about it.

I don't just want you to shut up: I want you to grow up. You and everyone else who thinks that every minor inconvenience that crosses their path is a licence to scream oppression to the whole world. You and everyone else who thinks that having a feeling is the same as having a point. Not all feelings are equal. Sometimes your feelings are ridiculous, and sometimes your opinions are stupid, and whining "But I reeeeally feeeeeeeeeel" doesn't make you sound any less of a git.

There are people with real problems in the world. There are people with moderate troubles in the world. There are even people with fairly insignificant but still momentarily distressing issues to deal with. But if you're a person who can't even find anything that difficult in your life to complain about, please, just thank your lucky stars that your life is so serenely charmed, and resist the temptation to email the editor of your favourite lifestyle website with a fantastic pitch for a personal story of woe and heartache.

What I'm saying is, you're a fully-grown human being with a functioning brain. Just take the left hand and dry your goddamn eyes, petal.


Anonymous said...


Apple said...

Yes, thanks anonymous for that breathtaking insight, and nuanced analysis by immediately going for the "ad Hominem" button Bravo *slow clap*.

Whilst I fully agree, (with you, Ben) that its really nothing to moan about (looking younger than you are) the root cause of the issue is patriarchy and male privilege.

To be part of a world where you are not taken seriously because you look too young or too old is something that happens to women and far less often to men, who when young and in business are labelled as "fresh" and "full of energy" rather than "inexperienced" or "immature" as women usually are.

As for those over the age of 50, one only needs to look at the boardrooms and political parties of this country to see that men still run the world.

More to the issue than the initial writers analysis would suggest.

Social Media Exchange said...

Thanks for sharing the idea there would be some apprehensions from segment but i am up for it.

Helen K said...

I've suffered from the same problem - then I realised that dressing like an adult rather than a tteenager, speaking and acting more confidently, could overcome these initial perceptions. Who'd have though, huh?

#supermum2012 said...

Oh Ben, you have made my day, I am now off to actively look for young looking women to deliberately irritate.
You are a champ

Unknown said...

I shared the 'youthful look' affliction. Everyone would always say how young I looked, always surprised. I had to agree, I looked wonderfully young, fresh faced, pretty, good skin. What do you know? I thought that was great and used to say that should stand me in good stead as I age (didn't work out :( but never mind). No one failed to take me seriously which I put down to personality and behavior. She might try that?