Part 4 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem
Most of us -- the exceptions are unconscious slobs and oafs -- don’t like even the thought of being laughed at by others for the “wrong” reasons. Of course it’s great if they laugh if we say something purposely funny, like I used to read from a book of riddles: "How do you drive a hot rod? Go on your honeymoon." But we hate it if they’re laughing at us because of horrible appearance, something stupid we’ve said, if they think our parents look funny, or they’ve tricked us in some way.
Most of this starts in childhood, when everyone’s looking for conformity, lack of conformity, poverty, some physical defect, a defect in your family, or your mother’s army boots. I used to have an adult in my life -- at school -- who would say things like, “Your dad’s short, you’re short!” He thought these things were funny and worth saying over and over, not just to me but most kids.
Certainly if you’re walking past someone, maybe a group of guys, you’re aware that their whole group dynamic has some stereotypical aspects to it. They’re a distinct group, you’re an outsider. Anything about you that's different -- and it doesn’t have to be significant -- will be used for laughs. If that ever happens to you, stop and give them a psychological diagnosis about every in-group’s longing to set themselves apart by looking for even small differences between themselves and others.
You get enough of this completely despicable behavior, and you think, "How can I get back at these bastards? That's when you start hatching at least the outlines of a plan. Destruction of their car. Getting down to brass tacks on their other possessions. Sabotage of their school records, raiding a farmer's market and piling spoiled fruit and vegetables on their lawns, squeezing out their pimple medicine and refilling the tube with hot sauce, etc. I no longer advocate anything like that -- it's illegal and no one should do it -- oh, crap, I just got something in my eye, wink wink.
That said, if it’s merely kids trying to get laughs, you can laugh along with them, although I don’t see kids do much of this anymore. In fact, I don’t even see that many adults -- or the stereotypical hoodlums of old -- doing it. They’re all off with prostitutes, doing drugs, robbing liquor stores, or some, to their credit, are quite good citizens, guiding tours in local museums, serving in schools as adjunct staff, teaching assistants, or are away from the main drag in other specialized helping agencies. Do-gooders are getting the last laugh.
Still, let’s assume it still happens somewhere, like way back in the days of old. If you let it get to you, as most of us have, it poses a threat to your self-esteem. It’s happened to me a time or two, and you start thinking and you look around. What can I do about it?