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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

See Chuckles Make The Rounds

There is an invisible persona in New York City that I don't like at all who is named Chuckles. He can be found in smug company, briefly possessing each individual. Have you witnessed deliberate and merciless humiliation of one person by a group and the ensuing laughter? Then you have been privy to See Chuckles Make the Rounds.

There is a kitchen scene in the film Diary of a Mad Housewife with a husband, wife, and two daughters who live in Manhattan. The husband, brilliantly acted by Richard Benjamin, plays the quintessential arrogant, pompous ass. His wife, who makes an innocent slip while speaking, is made fun of in the cruelest of ways - her husband repeats the slip to the daughters, encouraging them to laugh at and mock their mother along with him. Just a movie and inconceivable in the real world? Not at all. This was only to be my first introduction to the world of the smug, where I would See Chuckles Make the Rounds.

I was at the home of a girlfriend's family during a holiday season. Her sister was not as academically inclined as her husband or his family. During the dinner, there was talk of birds and birding, something which the husband and his family were particularly interested in. The wife, in a genuine and social spirit, pointed out a bird, visible through the dining room window. She had, however, misidentified it and was immediately mocked by her husband and his family as they took turns laughing at her in front of a table full of people, including their children. It was excruciating to see her humiliated so openly. I felt so badly for her. Unfortunately, it would not be the only incident in that family where she would be made fun of and where I would See Chuckles Make the Rounds.

It is a particularly painful memory for me as the incident was much too close to the scene in that film, forever burned in my mind, now reinforced by a live reenactment. To this day, someone identifying a bird brings back this incident, as does any interaction of parents and children laced with smugness. I wonder what the impact of such behavior will be on children who are subjected repeatedly to arrogance, abuse, or any other socially unacceptable behaviors by their parents. Are not the parents role models to learn from?

There is no better place than New York City to find pompous asses - the arrogant, elite, super-rich, overachievers, over-educated, super-successful, overconfident, and smug. And sadly, here, perhaps more than anywhere else, we have a large number willing to wield their enormous talents and achievements as tools in executing the most despicable behaviors aimed at humiliating others. To be expected in a city where it feels like everyone is an Ivy League school graduate and working as an attorney, medical doctor, or in finance at Goldman Sachs.

Recently, I sat adjoining the table of a family in a neighborhood restaurant (seen in today's photo). Although not at the level of the film scene or my birding incident, the interaction was disturbing nonetheless. It barely resembled a dinner - it was more like a meeting of the urbane sophisticates.

The preteen daughter was much too sophisticated, fully acting as a mature adult. When her father arrived, she put her arm awkwardly around his SHOULDERS, and asked how his day was. She did this like a wife or business colleague, not as his child. As they chatted, she listened attentively. Movements and etiquette were proper, with an air of unnecessary formality. The entire meal seemed to be an exercise in properness and one-upmanship.

Her mother recounted for her husband their daughter's misstep in referring to something as Medieval that was clearly was not of that time period. I felt badly for the daughter who had to maintain the standards and composure of an adult and worse, be made fun of by her parents. Our invisible friend had arrived. I was not pleased to See Chuckles Make the Rounds :(

Meet another pompous ass in Meetings With Annoying Men (Part 1 and Part 2). 

Related Post: Anything Except First Place Is...

7 comments:

Chenlambec said...

Great post, I never had a word or phrase for this, but that's a fitting title. Working in a restaurant I often saw chuckles make the rounds. Depressing truth, but a great post, and the atmosphere of the photo clinches it.

Anonymous said...

Oh hell, By reading your post today I saw myself, I do that unconsiously but now I know I will take steps to put an end to it.
That image makes the story - Excellent.

Heiko

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian

Thank you for your wonderful blog. I lived in your neighborhood for many years. I miss NY terribly, but I enjoy your blog regularly. Thank you so much for this.

I think I can shed some light on your musing about what eventually happens to such children (victims of abuse). In my experience, they populate the rooms of Al-Anon and AA, and quite a few other somethingA rooms. And so it goes...

Ruby

Leslie said...

Great post, great comments. Yes, let's all learn to hold ourselves to a higher and more compassionate (it begins with self compassion) standard.

Brian Dubé said...

Chenlambec - thanks for your validation in the real world as a restaurant worker. Maybe I coined a phrase :)

Heiko - congrats to you for not being defensive and awareness of what you do.

Ruby - I guess you may be right.

Leslie - thanks.

New York Hotel said...

Move your clocks ahead one hour, all of them - the coffeemaker, the oven, the bedside clock, the analog watch, the old VCR.

Cesc said...

Incredible, i like it a lot!!