Last week my friends participated in a Fun Way to Pass the Time that was making its way around Facebook; this one was the Alphabet Game, where you ask a friend to assign you a letter, then you take the letter you’re given and post it on your wall, and ask other friends to come by and leave you a word (or short phrase, depending on how you play) that describes you and begins with that letter. If they want, you can give them a letter too, and thus it keeps going and everybody gets lots of fun compliments.
As it turns out, this is also an excellent way to hunt down the latest hidey-hole of your inner demons. Here’s how: My friend had a letter on her wall, so I gave her an appropriately complimentary (and accurate) adjective, then requested a letter of my own, for kicks’n’grins. And the letter she gave me was P.
So I went to my wall, posted the letter and the instructions for the game, and waited for the responses to start coming in; and about a half-hour later, I realized my shoulders had tensed up a little bit, because I had spent that time brainstorming possible responses, and what I had come up with was Portly, Plump, Pudgy, Porcine, Piggish, Prudish, and Pissy. The most complimentary thing I’d thought of was “Persnickety”, and even that’s pretty borderline. And yes, I know these were my friends that I was polling, and so they would theoretically come up with nice things to say about me, but I, in all seriousness, could not for the life of me think of even one thing that started with P and which I perceived as both accurate and non-pejorative.
Not. Even. One.
After a little while I came back, braced myself, and checked for comments. And you know what the first one said?
I quote: “Poet, philosopher, philanthropic, pleasant, persuasive. Should I keep going?”.
And that was followed by “Prism, as in, filled with rainbows and capable of spreading them around.”.
Eventually I also collected “Perfect” and “Pleasantly Pedantic”, among others, but I tell ya, those first two were like … I dunno, like a fist of love square to the gut. I think I actually, literally said “oof”.
Because of all the words I had brainstormed, not even one of those had made the list. Heck, not even the spirit of any of those had made the list. I’d gotten so mired in the voices of my inner demons that it hadn’t even occurred to me that there might be another voice out there with a different opinion.
Now here’s the real kicker, the “coulda knocked me over with a feather” response. Hold onto your hats.
The “Poet, philosopher, philanthropic” responder came back to my comments to tell me that her daughter had requested that she add “Pretty” and “Positive” to the list.
For a bit of perspective, the daughter in question is 12. And for a bit more perspective, she’s got Asperger’s Syndrome, which means a lot of different things to the various people it affects, but in her case, one of the symptoms is that she calls things like she sees ’em, whether or not what she’s saying is technically considered socially appropriate. Thanks to her parents’ patience and constant coaching, she’s learning how to respond to social cues (from what I can tell, it’s kind of a call-and-response thing for her–seeing a grimacing face means “stop talking”, for instance); and sure, she fudges a little bit on the truth sometimes, because as Dr. House has often quipped, “Everybody lies”, and besides, she’s a preteen girl. But if you ask her for an opinion, you’ll want to brace yourself, because she’s going to give it, without embellishment or facade, with absolute honesty and exactly zero tiptoeing. Personally, I find this kind of refreshing, but that’s neither here nor there; the bigger point right now is that She Who Does Not Do Much BS-ing called me “Pretty”.
Look, she’s a smart kid. I can’t imagine she doesn’t know the word “plump” by now, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if she knew “porcine”. She reads a lot, y’know.
But instead she went with Pretty. And Positive. To go along with Philanthropic and Poet and Pleasant and Prism.
So the good news is that I found another splinter cell of inner demons, and am currently working on beating it to death with a big psychic letter P with the word “PRETTY” written on it. It’ll take a second, I’m sure, but the drones have reported their location and we’ve sent in a strike force. Stay tuned.
The other takeaway is this:
I thought–incorrectly–that I’d put my friends in a predicament where they were going to have to figure out the polite way to say “piggish”. I thought that I might come back to find people trying to tap-dance delicately around the words “pouty” and “prude”.
I thought that I might have no responses whatsoever, because people would decide that if you can’t say anything nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all.
And as it turns out, I was dead wrong.
So that’s your Something to Think About for today, ‘Tracters: what are some things that your inner demons tell you which, if you asked anybody else, would be diametrically opposed to the responses that you receive from outside your own head? What are some of the things you currently think about yourself which are just dead wrong, at least from an outsider’s perspective?
Is it possible, even a little bit, that if you asked a 12-year-old who pulls no punches, she would describe you as “Pretty”, no matter what the fears inside your skull are saying about you?
It’s true that you’re the expert on your own reality. That is absolutely true.
All I’m saying is that every once in a while, it might be worthwhile to check in with the outside voices. There’s a very real chance that you’ll be blown away by what they have to say.