Skip to content

Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Monthly Archives: March 2012

It has been a little while since I’ve added to the fictionary.

My apologies.

This is the fourteenth FWOTD.

eccentrick (ik-sen-trik)
noun

an individual’s inherently narcissistic belief that by engaging in seemingly “contradictory” behaviors, he/she has an unusual, peculiar, or otherwise interesting personality.

In other words, a manufactured sense of eccentricity.

For example: “Isn’t it weird that on some Fridays, I like to party all night and other times I just like to sit in my pajamas and watch a movie?”

No, it isn’t weird.

I praised Alanis a few weeks ago for (unfortunately but) fundamentally changing our use of the word “irony,” so it might not be a big surprise that I am pinning eccentrick in part on another female singer/songwriter from the 90’s: Meredith Brooks.

_
I’m a bitch, I’m a lover

I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed

The song above (understandable titled “Bitch”), which peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts in 1997, tells the tale of a proud, fierce woman who, so far as I can tell, is completely normal.  Yet woven throughout the lyrics is the implication that by acting differently depending on the singer’s mood or circumstances, she is worthy of our attention.

This mentality is eccentrick.

Though Meredith Brooks may have helped popularize this particular brand of self-absorption, eccentrick behavior is most pervasive in the world of online dating.  The unattached are so frightened of scaring off a potential mate that they find it necessary to hedge any statement or claim that could be considered strong.

Rather than be thought of as a “girly girl,” someone might write, “I love buying shoes but also like to lounge around in flip-flops!”  Rather than be thought of as a workaholic, that same person might say, “I take my job seriously, but I also find time to go out and have fun.”  Instead of saying anything, this person has said nothing.

Though the (faux) definition of this term is couched in negative language, the fact is I believe we are all guilty of this kind of thinking in one way or another.  We seem to be more than capable of giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt — or even patting ourselves on the back — when we act in a way that is antithetical to what we know to be “usual.”

As it turns out, we don’t view our contradictions as problematic when we weave them into our definition.

Yet when we are witness to another acting outside the scope of “normal” behavior, we immediately judge the scenario based on an objective, static understanding of the world around us.  We would never do something like that.  We would never be so drunk, or so wrong-headed.

We would never wear those pants.

“There are rules that must be followed!” we might say.

But our own contradictions?  Of course we can be forgiven!

Our own failings?  You just have to understand where we’re coming from!

We are precious snowflakes!

No.

As it turns out — we are not.

That we are not as interesting as we tend to believe we are is both good news and bad news, and the good and bad news is the same news:

We humans are all pretty much the same.

We want to believe that our contradictions are what makes us us, but the reality is that they simply makes us human.

 

You are walking across a major street.

There is no traffic light at this intersection.

You are in a crosswalk, legally.

You have the right of way.

A blue Ford Focus approaches, one block away.

At its current trajectory, the car will intersect your path in 5 seconds.

Technically, the driver is obliged to slow down.

Is there a part of you that wants to get hit by this car just to prove a point?

We love so very much to be right.

I have this thought almost every single day.  On the days that I walk home from work, I will access this (completely frightening) part of my brain no less than four times in a thirty minute period.  I fully admit this subconscious anti-prayer is probably the craziest thing that I continue to think even after determining it to be insane, but I seem to be completely unable to shake this brand of analysis from my frontal lobe.

And I don’t think I am alone.

We often say that our egos are fragile, but I disagree.  On the contrary, our egos are so sturdy that there is a part of each of us unwilling to sacrifice even a single bit of pride if it would mean kowtowing to a unknown person with whom we have had zero previous interactions.  In this respect, our egos are quite a bit sturdier than conventional wisdom suggests.

Even in circumstances where we would obtain no benefit — fringe or otherwise — and in fact would suffer a huge detriment, we are obsessed with being right.  Being right, above all else, is the best feeling in the world, and we know that because there is a part inside all of us that believes our being in a situation where we are right and they are wrong outweighs the complete and total bummer of getting clipped by a Ford Focus.

The hit-by-car example is extreme (because it involves our potential demise), but this kind of I-am-so-right-I-hope-someone-challenges-me internal monologue infects our lives in all kinds of (awful) ways.

When we are sitting on an insult — one we cannot wait to use! — praying that a permanent or temporary enemy verbally abuses us, our sturdy egos are showing.

When we hope we will spot a stranger steal a purse from an old lady so that we can track him down — because we are sure it’s the right thing to do! — we are confusing our own self-love with the far better scenario of living in a world without violent crime.

When we know the answer — er, “question” — to the Double Jeopardy “answer” and hope the Defending Champion will simply frown and shrug her shoulders, we are favoring our own internal righteousness over a stranger who has had — and will continue to have — no impact on our life.  It is more than a little bit strange that we root against another human in a simple trivia contest thousands of miles away so that we can have a moment of ego-stroking — even if no one is around to see or hear about it!

In the animal kingdom, “ego” is understood in terms of natural instinct.

For example, when two rams are butting heads in the wild, though we are tempted to personify their actions in terms of “pride,” we recognize that they are engaging in behavior inherent to their existing in the first place.  Rams accept these challenges in order to display dominance and prove their genetic worth to ewes (aka, “lady rams”).

Perhaps, even while walking in traffic, we are ultimately unable to shake these ram-like, animal instincts.  We want to be challenged.  We want to be able to show off our righteousness to passersby, even if our display results in a precarious situation.  We still have these aggressive pride instincts bottled up and desire circumstances within the society we have created to act on them.  Even if those circumstances involve a car and a crosswalk.

It is possible that humans have evolved slower than our social societies have.

That we generally lack serious conflict in our day-to-day lives speaks volumes of the society a sub-set of humans have been able to create, but puts us in the unique position of not being able to test our still-quite-functional animal instincts.  Our egos have been cultivated over time in a way that suggests our high opinion of ourselves comes not only from our parents clapping as hard as they can during our performance of I’m A Little Teapot, but also from our parents DNA and all of the DNA proceeding.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I need to get out of the street.

%d bloggers like this: