Give Some to Get Some

Most days I have better conversations with my 8 year old nephew than I do with other adults. Kids are pretty easy, though. Give them a little attention and you’ve secured a captive audience. The same rules don’t always apply with adults.

At a certain age, big people revert back to chasing flashy things like an infant who has not yet mastered language. Not being an expert in attention grabbing myself, I end up feeling like white paint on the wall. I exist, but, nobody pays attention. People assume they know everything about me because they know where I live and what I do, but there is so much more than those basic facts.

Partly, it is my fault. I shy away from having eyes on me, so I don’t make a big deal about my personal victories. Still, it is disappointing to be approached by a friendly face who is only anxious to hear about how my sister is enjoying her latest adventure, or what my brother is up to these days. I smile and respond politely all while looking at the person and thinking, “Did you know that Winter Orchard White has a subtle tinge of gray that compliments any decor?” White paint, like people is more complex than it appears.

It has become so normal for me to feel unseen that I’m shocked to the point of disbelief on the rare occasion when someone actually does notice me. I grow immediately skeptical searching for their angle. At some point, I started assuming that anyone who takes an interest in me may have mistaken me for someone else.

Earlier this month, an old friend came to visit. I have not seen him much in person, but we stay in touch on social media. I know where he lives. I know a little bit about how he spends his time. What more do I need to know, really? But in person, as one conversation led to the next, the Acadia White Benjamin Moore paint that covered him slowly washed away, and I was amazed to discover the fun, smart, kind, and clever man underneath.

I had taken my friend for granted in exactly the same way I hated people taking me for granted.

I learned a lot during his short visit. Not only do his niece and nephew adore him, but adults revere him as well. I tease him for too being chatty, but the truth is he is friendly. He doesn’t wait for others to notice him. He sees people and acknowledges them. He is interested. He makes an effort, and in return people remember him.

Looks like I was wrong, things don’t change so much as you get older. With adults, just like with kids,you have to give some to get some.

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Hollow Chocolate Bunnies

Have you ever had a conversation with a person who manages to turn every topic around to be about him/herself? No matter how skillfully you steer the conversation, this person continually reminds you that he/she is the center of the universe. I call this person, “The Hollow Chocolate Bunny” (HCB): a perfectly molded exterior with nothing inside.

HCB aren’t filled up by things like close friends, knowledge, adventures, life lessons, and the most important aspects of self: self sacrifice, selflessness, and self effacement.

HCBs are victims of excess. They may be excessively attractive or excessively wealthy. Perhaps they are only children excessively fawned over by their parents-whatever the trigger, HCBs are showered with so much praise and adoration that they eat, drink, and sleep their own awesomeness. They end up brainwashed into believing that everyone else on earth is meant to revolve around them.

HCBs are surrounded by the subservient (HCB wanna be’s) telling them what they want to hear, so they have no incentive or drive to discover how to earn love and attention which makes the gift of their “specialness” truly a curse. Because no one can be honest with them, they have no real friends. Because the only topic they understand is themselves, they have no real knowledge. Because they are nothing more than a hollow shell, the only thing they can truly feel is emptiness.

Bad skin, modest bank accounts, large noses, mediocre careers, crooked teeth, and lack of charm introduce average Americans to the struggle through awkwardness, insecurity, doubt, stress, and self loathing. Facing the low points, learning to handle them, and figuring out how to get noticed and earn love and respect are rights of passage. The culmination of good and bad experiences fills up the space inside and provides a healthy foundation allowing non-HCBs to care about more than their own DNA. Still, next to the obvious perfections of an HCB, anyone might initially feel lacking. HCBs can get a long way in the superficial circles of American society, but a side by side comparison with an HCB is like the ad comparing the ipad to a windows tablet. The windows tablet displays all its additional features, and the ipad asks, “Do you still think I’m pretty?”

So, the next time you are stuck talking to an HCB (and I know you’ll be thinking “OMG! Hollow Chocolate Bunny!!!”), remember to appreciate your unique filling and try steering them toward an HCB wanna be, or if that fails, a mirror.