Tag Archives: honesty

what you do when no one is looking

13 Jun

In The Little Princess by F. H. Burnett, the main character – a young girl called Sara who starts life the daughter of an affluent Englishmen riding the boom of colonialism – falls from her position upon her father’s death and finds herself poor and friendless. Having just traded in her furs and silks for the rags of a scullery maid, Sara wonders whether she, who has been always told she is a good child, really is one. Is she truly kind and gracious, or was she merely so generous because with her wherewithal, it was easy for her to be?

Goodness, as it turns out, is very often a luxury item.

I am currently rather poor. I am lucky to have friends and roommates who can cover rent and keep me off the streets and step in when unavoidable costs carry a few too many zeroes for me to be able to handle them on my own, and who apparently even enjoy buying me coffee and lunch sometimes. I am incredibly lucky, as this allows me to allocate my income to necessities like food and medication and bus fare. It’s a precarious game, but I’m currently making my life work through the gift of social affluence.

But monetarily, I am dirt poor.

Reference scale: My ability to transport myself around L.A. can switch over the gain or loss of a single dollar.

Today, at the Springfield airport, a food vendor gave me incorrect change.

They’d given me a dollar more than I was due.

And while back in college, when what I did and did not need to pay for was different and the impact of cost scaled differently, I probably would have not hesitated to hand back that dollar, would have felt not a single qualm – today, I felt it.

I had been given a dollar. An extra dollar. That was one more bus ride I could pay for. One more granola bar. One unit closer to being able to buy a new pair of shorts, one that wasn’t years old and close to literally falling apart at the seams.

I wanted that dollar.

But that dollar was not mine.

Mentally, I went through the math again and yes, that dollar was definitely not my due. But it was just a dollar. I could walk away. No one would notice. It wasn’t like I was taking much.

But the dollar. wasn’t. mine.

And what’s more, the food vendor hadn’t given me any reason to want to take more from them. There was no karmic justice in me walking away with that dollar. The cashier had been professional, efficient, polite, even friendly. The vendor, as far as I know, wasn’t some chain with terrible corporate practices. They had done nothing to me that required restitution. Honestly, if the cashier had been some massive jerk, I maybe wouldn’t have felt so bad about contemplating walking away with that dollar. Yeah, they’d have to go through the cash register at the end of the day and try to figure out why their sales weren’t squaring up. Were off by a dollar. Just one dollar. So maybe they’d just made an addition mistake… maybe it was really there, and they’d just missed it… maybe if they just… checked again…

If I’d been somehow massively inconvenienced or wronged, maybe I could have justified inflicting those consequences for the sake of having that extra dollar. Maybe, very probably, I would have been fine with implementing that sort of system.

Or maybe I would have given the dollar back anyway. Because as much as I theoretically can support less-than-perfect actions, I carry around way too much guilt, or something, to really be able to carry out those actions myself.

Yeah. I gave the dollar back.

And while it is no great thing, giving a single dollar back to a vendor that gave you too much change – internally, for me, it still meant something.

It was an opportunity, to show myself, at least, that my goodness doesn’t just scale with my bank account. That I am honest, even when it’s very hard to afford to be. That my values last, even when they carry real cost. Even when I could have justified taking advantage of a minor slip to gain a little bit for myself.

It’s relieving, in a way. To know that at least in this small way I will actually act in reality how I’d say I would, were the scenario presented as a thought exercise. That I’d behave the way that elementary school-aged me reading The Little Princess would have told me that of course I was supposed to behave.

I like knowing that I am who I think I am, even when no one is looking.

Warning: Contains Swear Words

17 May

Alrighty, folks. In case you didn’t read the title, I’m going to warn you right now that this post will contain swear words. If they offend you, you should probably stop reading. Right. Now.

Or keep reading. Whatever. It’s your choice. I’m not forcing you to read this blog. You did so of your own happy accord. Which is why it confuses me, a bit, when readers call me out on language. Which happens, funnily enough, in just one place on my blog: in the comments on the post about how I don’t think Frozen *quite* managed to be an all-out progressive movie.

Since posting, it’s been one of the pieces that’s driven the most traffic on this blog. However, it is on this blog. It’s not in a letter to you, or your hypothetical children. It’s not plastered all over windows, or on billboards. It’s here, in my own little writing space on the internet, on my personal blog that I’ve designated as “PG-13” in the WordPress rating section. I’m nowhere near as prolific as Chuck Wendig when it comes to beautiful bomb-dropping of words beginning with f and c and s and damn near every letter of the alphabet. But I do curse occasionally. A fuck here, a damn or shit or a fuckshitdamn there. I use the curses for emphasis. For color. For tone. For a multitude of reasons. Keeps me honest. Which, interestingly enough, is actually something that science has found a correlation between. Swearing and honesty/trustworthiness, that is. The more someone swears, the more likely it was they were being honest about what they said. Probably because swearing usually means you’re not fucking putting a filter on what you say to goddamn please some other person’s stunted sensibilities. If you’re swearing, odds are you’re not being too cautious about what you’re letting out. You’re not dodging around, beating bushes, sweeping under rugs in an attempt to conceal or deceive or mask. You’re just saying what you’ve got to say.

And here, on my blog, I’m going to goddamn say what I’ve got to goddamn say.

I, too, used to be someone who flinched any time a swear word surfaced. Whether in conversation, or on TV, in a movie, even in a book. But I didn’t sling some shit of a criticism at the speaker/author about having dirtied what they trying to say by using a swear word. Their words had no less effect, no less relevance or truth or fucking simple fact to it just because it happened to have some other random word that society has arbitrarily designated as a bad word in front of it. Unlike, apparently, some of the readers of that Frozen post I mentioned.

I’ve gotten comments that my use of swear words “distracted” the reader from the substance of what I was saying. Honestly, I’m not going to apologize. At all. In a post containing 1,849 words, if my use of three shit’s and one fucking distracts you, I’m pretty goddamn sure that’s a problem with your reading comprehension, not with my writing. Especially since those four swear words make up less than one fucking percent of the pure word content. Those four words, in fact, make up 0.2% of the post.

If fat made up 0.2% of a cookie, the FDA wouldn’t even require it being noted. If smog made up 0.2% of your city’s atmosphere, the climate scientists would be weeping in joy. If swear words made up 0.2% of a (not to toot my own horn too loudly) very intelligently written critical piece on the issue of continuing misogyny and sexism and body image slaughter in movies we show our goddamn children, if it is a set of letters that represent less than 1% of the blog post that offend you, then really, I think something is wrong about your priorities.

To the readers who have commented on the Frozen post in an actual attempt to have a real discussion, I applaud you. I appreciate you. I love that you’ve commented. Even – especially – the ones who brought up counterpoints disagreeing with what I said. The whole point of the post was to think critically. And you did. You’re wonderful. Thank you.

To those of you who might be reading this who instead felt the need to deliver a below-the-waist jab at four little words instead of spending that energy being disgusted by unrealistic standards or promotion of repression or the perpetuation of a system in which women are told they can only fail at making choices, then please, I have a request: Go. the fuck. away.

Good riddance.

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Also, I might love you forever if you buy me this shirt. I’m a size small. Please and thank you. 😉