Monday, May 14, 2012

Am I an Ass?

A high school girl told me this story:
A boy in her class said to her: "You should wear lower-cut tops, so we can see more of your puppies."
The girl, staring calmly into his eyes, replied:  "Do you know you're an ass?  I'm thinking maybe no one ever told you, and you should know."
I imagine the question, "Am I an ass?" rarely comes up in people's personal meditations, especially since what is an unwelcome, hurtful comment to one person might be, to the speaker, an innocent and sincere remark.
If the comment is labelled racist, sexist, anti-semitic, or offensive, the complainer is labelled oversensitive or unable to take a joke.  But sometimes people do see themselves in a new light.
In the late 1980s, I was teaching English to an all-male college engineering class.  One day, just before class ended, I read them a story I wrote called "Ma Bell's Revenge."  The story is about my former partner who would violently smash things when he was angry, particularly telephones. The story begins with me returning a smashed phone we had rented from Bell Canada.  (Back then, phones could be rented.)  They replaced it with a new "husband-proof" phone called The Harmony.  The customer service rep said, "It's so light that it won't hurt if he throws it at you."
The story ends with my partner returning from the hospital with stitches in his lip.  He had thrown the phone down so hard, it bounced up and hit him in the face.  The class laughed at the end of the story, at the man who couldn't control his temper.
As the students were leaving, one of the boys approached me slowly.  "My girlfriend says that I break phones," he said.
"Do you?" I asked.
"Yeah, I guess," he said.
Our eyes met.  It was clear that after hearing my story, he was seeing himself as an ass for the first time -- and he didn't like what he saw.

1 comment:

  1. I actually ask myself this question often enough because I've realized people have a hard time being honest about your shortcomings. I still don't know 100% what the answer is but I do try not to be an *ss. The other question is, is trying enough? :)