By: Bern Morley
I have a problem. Or maybe it’s not a problem at all. Maybe my problem is that I can’t tell if it’s a problem. And maybe THAT’S the problem.
Because here it is: I think I might be too polite.
I identify closely with the ‘Very British Problems’ Twitter account, a funny, satirical site that pokes fun at the British for being too stuffy and – dare I say it – polite. The problem is, as I read through them, I not only giggle, I happily agree with them on so many levels.
But then I wonder if these really are only “British” problems – or are they simply situations that plague the socially awkward among us and lead us to be FAR TOO POLITE.
For example last night the hairdresser burnt my neck with his careless use of the hairdryer but * I * was the one who apologised to him. His reply? “Beauty is pain darling.” Do you know what I did? I smiled and nodded… Because I’m a dickhead.
Here are some more examples over politeness going too far:
1. Never wanting to use an exclamation mark yet worrying you’ll come across as miserable without one.
The problem with the written word is that there is no intonation and until someone designs a universal Sarcasm Font, we will have to resort to punctuation marks and emoticons to get our enthusiasm across.
I’ve become so used to putting a smiley face into my correspondence that I no longer know where to draw the line. The exclamation mark DOES make things look super friendly but can also come across a little maniacal. It’s a fine line.
2. Saying you’re pleased with your haircut despite the deep inner sadness it is causing you.
I once believed this was only a women’s pain, but now I realize it is a pain shared by both sexes.
You sit and watch your reflection in the mirror as your world slowly falls apart. But do you stop them? Oh no, you don’t even make a move or say a word as they shear off more than double the amount of hair you requested. Instead, you continue to answer the extraordinarily personal questions they ask you as they annihilate your fringe.
Then you smile over excitedly and agree to be up-sold on some unnecessary hair products while taking out a second mortgage just to pay for it all.
3. Keeping absolutely still when someone else walks in when you are in the toilet stall.
Why?! I mean we’re not exactly in the toilet to get updates on the NASDAQ are we? We’re in there for one reason and one reason only. Why, then, do we get stage fright? Why do we have this great fear that someone will, heaven forbid, hear us – how do I put this (oh the irony) politely – break wind? We will probably wait out the other person OR make an inordinate amount of noise with the toilet paper to cover our tracks.
Special mention goes out to the far too polite cry “Someone’s in here” when someone (presumably a blind person) pushes on your door even though it clearly says ENGAGED.
4. Getting stuck in a “fine thanks, how are you?” loop.
Urggh. Me. On a daily basis. Often it’s because I a) can’t remember their name or, b) don’t know where I know them from. This prevents me from moving the conversation ANYWHERE because I have no effing point of reference. The weather can occasionally save me from this round robin.
5. Attempting to deal with a line-jumper by staring fiercely at the back of their head.
I’m pretty sure I’ve never called out a line jumper in my life, especially in the supermarket. Why? Because I’m too damn polite, that’s why.
I do give a mean stare though. A real ‘don’t f*ck with me’ stare to the back of their head.
6. Saying sorry when someone knocks into you, even though it wasn’t your fault.
How often do find yourself walking along, minding your own business and some jerk pushes past you, only for YOU to be the one who apologizes to them?
7. Being incapable of placing your items on the counter in a shop without saying “just these thanks”.
Oh, as opposed to all the other shit you DIDN’T place on the counter? The cashier is thinking exactly this but will thankfully, never say it.
8. Not wanting to be the one that takes the last piece of communal food.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rejected the last piece of garlic bread in a group dinner situation even though I’m pretty much willing to hand over my firstborn child for it. Everyone at that table wants it but we are all just TOO damn polite to say so.
I throw down the challenge to all of you – next time you find yourself in this situation, take it. Just DAMN WELL TAKE IT and enjoy that delicious bread.
9. Panicking in a sandwich shop and allowing a distressingly odd combination of fillings to happen.
I’ve walked out with a liver pate, beetroot and seeded mustard on rye bread sandwich, that’s how cornered *I* have felt.
10. Feeling as though you must keep your hands excessively on show in a shop, so as not to be suspected of thievery.
This is kind of similar to the feeling I get when a police car pulls up beside me. For some reason I feel the need to act COMPLETELY cool so as to not attract attention. Which of course just attracts attention and makes me look suspicious even though I’ve done nothing to look suspicious about.
Such a vicious circle for the overly polite person.
So I ask you, is all of this politeness just going too far? Should I just become less of a pussy cat and more of a tiger in these kind of situations? Or should I be like a leopard and not try and change my spots?
Or should I just stop making analogies that involve cats?
I think for now I’ll just keep being a polite, possibly lame, but nice person. Well, a nice person with a terrible haircut.
This article was originally published at Debrief Daily. Reprinted with permission from the author.