A few years ago, my girlfriend, Jaclyn, took me out to a trendy restaurant for my birthday. The type of place where middle-aged men flirt with 5'9″ hostesses and water goes for 10 bucks a bottle. It wasn’t long after we were seated that the adjacent table’s conversation began to leak into my ear:
“Yeah, he’s crushing it at Goldman.”
“In this weather? I’m not taking the Ferrari.”
“Blah blah blah Aspen.”
It didn’t matter that it was my birthday. It didn’t matter that my girlfriend worked hard to get us in to this exclusive establishment. It didn’t even matter that music and laughter filled the room. All I could focus on were these two douchebags sitting next to me. Slicked-back hair, shiny watches, heavy cologne. Jaclyn couldn’t help but notice my preoccupation and we skipped desert. I was ashamed. She was confused.
Were those guys obnoxious? Sure. But why did I care? Why did it incense me? Why did I let complete strangers, who may defraud investors but never harmed me personally, ruin my night? Then I realized.
I know nothing about the world of finance, I got a 490 on my math SAT.
I don’t know how to drive a stick, and I’ll never be able to afford that car.
I’ve never been to Aspen, and just the thought of going is daunting.
Had those gentlemen been talking about Bartending, Chevy and Ronkonkoma instead of Goldman, Ferrari and Aspen, I know my reaction would have been far less severe. It’s sad to admit but I was intimidated and insecure. They reminded me of my own failings. “Those guys were morons! You’re telling me that I can’t do what they do?” And the sad truth is, no, probably not. Rather than just accept it, I vilified them. It’s a highly immature and pointless behavior.
What I’m saying is nothing new. Your mom always tried to explain away bullies with “He’s just jealous.” However, recognizing the impetus for your bully behavior is a good way to stop it.
“Why are you acting this way? That’s why? Dude, you’ll be successful. Just because they have something or know something you don’t doesn’t make you a shitty person. You have positive qualities that they do not. Remember that time you ate 54 wings in an hour? Bet they can’t do that!”
Did I become a hotshot I-Banker crushing it in the Hamptons after that? Fuck that noise. But I did understand my reaction, stopped it, and reminded myself of my own positive qualities.
I haven’t ruined a dinner (for that particular reason) since. I’m still not immune to explosive diarrhea, especially after wings.
Do you feel that feel? Do you think there is a beneficial reason to hate strangers that I’m missing out on? Share your thoughts in the comments section and let’s all drink tea and talk about our day.