The prompt: What is your least favorite personal quality in others? Extra points for sharing your least favorite personal quality in yourself.
My least favorite personal quality in others is faux politeness – the sort of situations where people air kiss your cheek and pat your back in lieu of an actual hug. To me – that’s a sign that trouble is ahead. What happened to hand shakes? Why must we pretend to be Continental – we are from Appalachia for Pete’s sake. It should be enough that we make eye contact, say nice things and avoid spitting.
OK, I’m kidding. But I grew up in a non-affectionate family. My one grandmother liked hugs, but most of the other adults were a bit aloof. There were outliers – my cousin Theresa was a genuine hugger. My Uncle Ron would pat our shoulders while taking our coats and asking what we wanted to drink. We called all of the neighbors “Mr. and Mrs.” (to this day, I do that) so there was a clear boundary. Adults were nice to us, but everyone knew where they stood, in part due to social structures and in part due to very clear non-verbal communication – NO AIR KISSING.
We were not Whoville. No holding hands in a circle and all that. But we did know where to go in an emergency – which neighbors would be genuinely helpful. And everyone still contributed flowers when someone last a family member. People bought Girl Scout cookies, chipped in for a Christmas Carol and intervened when the kids got too rough with one another.
So I’m lost now. I have no idea someone would air kiss me then thrust a knife in my back via social media. Well, I do understand it intellectually (I read “The Prince” many times) but I don’t understand it empathetically. If I don’t like someone, I don’t hug them. I would shake their hand to be polite. But I wouldn’t kiss them for Pete’s sake.
It’s not the touching – I’m fine with hugs and affection – it’s the artifice. I prefer being civil and polite to people I dislike or don’t trust or find repulsive – it is more honest. So I’m often blindsided when someone who hugs and kisses me and gushes about “my work” turns out to loathe me. Or when someone whom I know loathes me goes in for the hug/air kiss. Last Spring, I was at an outside event and literally sucked into a hugging fest with a who’s who of people who accuse me of all sorts of misdeeds – Laura just watched my brown coat disappear into a vortex of black wool car coats and jaunty scarves. I fought my way free, covered in disdain and the remnants of far too many cigarettes, to return to her. She just laughed and commented that those photos would be good blackmail. Ha.
Artifice. It can serve us well, it can be a survival tool – but it’s not a “good” quality by any stretch.
My own least favorite personal quality? I would say my lack of tolerance. When someone annoys me, it shows. I complain. I call managers. I send tweets. Sometimes that is productive, often it is fruitless. I can get very bent about someone not conforming to my social, political, legal, ethical, or moral expectations. I know that is tied to my need to control my environment and my desire for a predictable social order, but that doesn’t absolve me for being judgmental and uncharitable. Sometimes it is necessary because someone has to be the fall guy and point out that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. Sometimes it is my being cranky. And sometimes I’m not well and I’m being irrational.
I want the world to be fair. The world is not fair. Hence, I am bound to be grumpy and flee from the air kissing for the duration.