Compliments, False Flattery, and Destructive (To Reality) White Middle Class Mores
Yesterday I received a compliment that I felt was genuine and did not acknowledge it. I slept on it and decided I needed to make it known that I did hear the compliment. For me compliments are hard to accept. Compliments are something that I have learned to be suspicious of because my family and surrounding people did not compliment freely. A compliment was not given unless it was genuinely meant. There was no need to puff up someone just to have them puffed up. No need to act like something was what it was not.
It was not until I went out in the world and worked around white middle-class people and/or aspiring (not necessarily white) to be middle class people that I learned how compliments are used as a tool. How compliments are not always meant and are often used to manipulate people and situations.
My first full time job was in a very large hospital medical records department. Every day false compliments flew around from all directions. At first, I was caught up in the false compliments, and then slowly I began to see differently. I could not understand why a person would tell another person her hair and clothes were very pretty just to turn around and ask others during their morning bagel and coffee if they had seen that hideous outfit so and so had on, –and what in the hell did she think she was doing with her hair. Alternatively, tell another person they were more than deserving of a promotion, or capable of getting into graduate school, or even snagging a doctor for a date and then spout the exact opposite opinion when out of that person’s earshot. The behavior was not female specific either. We had our token male homosexual (who had no qualms in leading an acid tongue fisk) and our few poor oppressed we are in the minority menz who relish in the false flattery and subsequent gossiping as well. So spare me the “it is what women do” shit.
My job was to coerce doctors to do what the fuck they were supposed to do (maintain their charts to JCAH standards). So doctors who wanted something or needed to get out of something, like reinstate their lost admitting privileges, complimented (or bribed, but that is another story). On the other hand, employees (and my director) who wanted doctors to do things the doctors did not want to do, flattered, complimented.
It is really an uncomfortable position to be in for a realist, and even a more uncomfortable position for someone who can easily keep up with who said what and when. I learned a lot of lessons in life working those seven years among those two-faced “I want to look like I am better than those white trash and blacks whose very existence fuels my false superiority” people. For example, I learned that when in a quandary, certain people are offered up for sacrifice over others, and usually there are markers that determined who would be the sacrifice.
Call me crazy (I am aware of my use of this word), but I thought it was crazy-making when everyone and I mean everyone was telling one employee, Debra that her new shiny engagement ring with the big fat-fat diamond was beautiful, and then talked behind her back and said first, the ring was not real and second, they did not believe she actually had a boyfriend much less a fiancé. I was glad to know I was not alone, (no, I was not above gossip) because I too was suspicious of the authenticity of her story, the genuineness of the stone and the existence of her so-called light-skinned 6’ tall dark-black curly haired college educated professional job having 280z driving boyfriend. Then when Debra confronted me, after hearing someone else talking about her and then in an attempt to save themselves, blamed it on me, I admitted I said it. I admitted it because it was what I thought and because I knew that so many other people had said it long before I did. Therefore, I assumed they would admit to having taken part and it would be proven that I did not start the story. I was wrong. No one admitted anything. Not a word. When the jury came back, it was I and me alone who had thought it, said it, and spread it. Even when I confronted people in private, mano a mano, they denied they had a part or refused to discuss it at all. It was surreal. It was the first time I had witnessed collective lying and denying with no one willing to break ranks. It was disorienting because I was not confused, I was not in doubt, I was 100% sure of what I knew. The feeling is like the time in your childhood when you feel something or see something and when you mention it to the adults around you, you are told to be quiet or that you are wrong, that it did not happen.
Yes, it was the first of many lessons I would learn about white middle class behavior. Moreover, it helped me really understand how fragile the perception of superiority is, so fragile that it cannot afford the Truth. And people will go to great lengths to keep the perception going. They will defend one of their own without being asked. They will lie. They will misconstrue. They will feign innocence. They will call Truth vulgar and cruel. They will accuse others of doing exactly what they are doing. They will reverse reality without a thought in the world. They will, for lack of a better term, suspend reality.
There is nothing feminist or radical about upholding white middle class mores.