When I looked at previous drawings from several years ago I was amazed. These are really good I thought, but would never say out loud. I could hear the accusatory voice of my upbringing say, “Who do you think you are?” Could see the finger point at me, feel the sting, the slap. I was raised not to think too much of myself and you know it worked. “You’d forget your head if it weren’t attached!” I was raised that to toot your own horn was anathema. In my culture bluster and boast were verboten. To pat yourself on the back, to parade, plume or preen were not welcome. With modesty, a core value ostentation and pretension were forbidden. To Puff out one’s chest, to swagger and strut were tasteless. My upbringing was the enforcer. Culture, quoting Dr. William Thomas, is the “sum total of shared habits and expectations.” Told you can’t walk chew gum and scratch your head at the same time were you raised to be a high-achiever? Or trapped too long in the playpen?
Coy and demure were feminine; bludgeon, blunder, bluster and bluff were not. The pressure was to conform. I was scolded, “Girls walk, girls don’t run,” When I wanted college I was told, “If you’d just read the Readers Digest cover to cover for 20 yrs. you’d have a college education. Women just go to college to find husbands.” When I wanted college I was asked “Why?” In today’s culture, it’s “Why not?” When I handed in a paper should I have been flattered or insulted when the male college professor asked, “Where’d you get this?” I wrote it.
Accused of “high-brow” it was suggested I use the low-brow language, withhold the right word and dumb-down vocabulary. Former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Rose Bird (1936-1999) claimed that women traditionally submitted at some level to men. Sociologists set out to study was this true. Do women really dumb down to men.
In my culture it was mandatory that we hide one’s light under a bushel, acquiesce for another’s sake. A motive for dumbing down is to conceal in order not to cause someone to lose face, be humiliated. Sociologists dub it “Impression management” when we guard what we say (or might blurt out) in order not to appear superior. Out of concern for others feelings we play dumb, acquiesce, and exercise constraint for another’s sake.
Dumbing down can be manipulative to gain advantage. Another motive is belonging as opposed to the risk of ostracism as a result of your better-than symptom. The issue at stake causing dumbing down behavior is potential loss. When you admit your competence or superiority there is the possibility of adverse consequence.
On the other hand: “Oh, He/She’s so conceited! What a show-off.”
Contrast this dumbing down with its antithesis: the coworker who foists her grandson’s photo in your face, proof of her superior gene pool, the extreme aunt who when you complain of a headache has a brain tumor, or the extravagant uncle who when you landed a Northern pike he caught a Sturgeon, or the cousin who bought a new car strictly to flaunt at his class reunion. It is vanity to display or exaggerate. The most self-demeaning, self-effacing sons I’ve known had braggart blowhard fathers. “The whole point of man, the essence of us all, is contradiction, “ Frank DeFord wrote.
Compare and contrast: Context is everything:
Sociologist claim people will seek their own equal as water seeks its own level. Shared experience is valued; VFW military veterans are both able and willing to share war stories. Peers share experience
Roger Rosenblatt echoes this, Envy no one ever. Whether you dumb down will depend on who that person is. A classmate or a coworker can’t depend on you, count on you for help or guidance or advice when you dumb down
At times accomplishments will pale and diminish compared to the attorney, the doctor, the college professor, a minister the people– we look up to and respect. We accept and expect nothing less than competency & mastery, expertise, knowledge and/or experience. Dumbing down is out of the question.
The boss is not our friend and we are not their equal. Ours is the subordinate role to our job/work supervisor. The boss expects our best; just don’t best your boss. We defer of necessity. We don’t expect the lo-income entry level employee to be bright, intelligent or well-educated. The unsupervised employee is lorded over the punch-in time clock/hourly employee. .
Dumb down out of your commitment to make this thing work in the Dating Game and it might backfire. First impressions could make or break. And don’t bore the blind date with comeuppance. Richard Burton advised, “From none but self expect applause.”
And your status is not a concern to a fellow passenger on public-transportation. They have no further use of you.
According to the sociologists’ study not dumbing down indicates feeling accepted and belonging (vs. alienated and excluded); having healthy self-esteem (vs. feeling insecure); and being at peace, content (happy) and balanced.
Affirmation, Victor Hugo claims, feeds more than bread. Humility is not showy. Reserve is elegant.
“Do you think I should?”
“Act now!” the ad will tell you as if you don’t need to think through your choices. “Choices are the hinges of destiny,” Edwin Markham wrote. What are your options, and how many do you have? Even squirrels hedge their bets, “Should I? Shouldn’t I cross the street?” with a flick of their tail as they exit the Trash Can Cafe. They don’t bus their tables. Where is The Last Chance Café. The Lamb doesn’t have a choice. The lamb can’t stop you from cutting his throat. In the slaughterhouse they apply Electro shock therapy to stun for an easier kill. You have survival instincts, but your computer can’t stop you from turning it off
There is the Before and After in our decisions, the toothache in the middle of the night. “If only I’d kept that dentist appointment.” “If only I’d known.” “If only I’d studied.” “If only I could take it back,” we say. What difference would it have made before the headache?
Before the Flat tire when you’d give anything to be back on the road. Fate. Run out of gas when you ignored that last chance to fill up. This is not new this not knowing, the feeling that this moment is forever. Ancient people consulted the Delphi oracles, seeking destiny through the Tarot cards. Even the songsters have lyrics about Saying goodbye. “Don’t think I don’t have regrets!” Did you ever think you’d be where you are today, could you have foreseen. Late night insomnia plays back scenes
There were times they warned you and you did it anyway, ignored advice. You could’ve taken their advice. “May I have your attention, please?”
There used to be game shows: “Pick Bachelor number 3!” or “What’s behind Door Number 1?”
Outcome hinges on Choices. Behavior determines outcomes as well. Habits. Malcolm Gladwell claims that destiny is where and when you are raised, circumstance and opportunity create the Steve Jobs and the Bill Gates. Anna Quindlen agrees that “biography is destiny.” How much do Genetics factor in taking choice away from you. Is it all Einstein’s Random Universe? Freud claimed anatomy is destiny. Heraclitus claimed character is destiny, and “style is character,” Joan Didion wrote.
How about the woman I knew who crossed the street in the dark coming home from work, and fell on her face and into the emergency room.
How about that walk down a country gravel road for that first cigarette to impress your city peers. How about the woman who said, “I wasn’t always this fat!” Did eating become a Pattern?
How about the scarred (and the unscarred) child of poverty, the scathed (and the unscathed) the injured and the surviving military veteran asks, “Why me?”[Michael Herr’s Dispatches.]
How about those dynamite caps the kids that I knew found and blew themselves up.
How about the woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s whose husband said, “It wasn’t anything she’s done.” We weigh Rewards vs. Risks. What you would’ve done. What would you take back if you’d only known. “Do you think I should get my hair cut?” the young woman asked. There was nothing wrong with her hair. There was something wrong she couldn’t fix with a cut.
Elizabeth Wadsworth Ellis was an outside child, conceived outside marriage, wed outside her culture, served outside her country in Serbia, Sofia and St. Petersburg, Russia, holds beliefs outside her upbringing and jumped outside airplanes.