Some years ago, before its recent financial woes, the retail store Sears had a catchy jingle that went, “Come see the softer side of Sears.” It was about how the store, known for its hardware, heavy mechanical goods, and power tools, also sold things like fuzzy sweaters and silky nightgowns. Potential customers were invited to “come see the softer side” of the retailer and maybe go home having bought new sheets or a fluffy bathrobe.
It’s not lost on me that, especially online, sometimes I come off as a really cantankerous person. There are a number of reasons why I’m like this. A lot has to do with my own personal baggage and traumas from my childhood. A lot of those damages were caused by my family of origin. Some were caused by people outside of the family. I’m not necessarily trying to blame anyone for this, by the way. I think everybody has the potential to unintentionally damage other people. We all have baggage, don’t we? Sometimes, that baggage causes pain to others.
For instance, I know that my father wasn’t an evil man. Most people who knew him would never think that about him. He was outwardly a very nice guy– at least to those who didn’t have to live with him. They saw him as a “peach”– soft, sweet, and fuzzy on the outside. But the truth is, he had a lot of personal problems that were brought on by his own upbringing and situations he was forced to face in his lifetime. Like, for example, his time in the Air Force during the Vietnam War era. He went over there and came home with PTSD. But he was also the eldest son of a violent alcoholic who was abusive. He never dealt with that issue adequately, so he passed that crap along to others. I was one of the recipients of his crap, and sometimes I pass it along in the form of being cranky online.
I don’t necessarily blame my grandfather for my dad’s crap. Like my father, my grandfather wasn’t an evil man. But he did have problems, and sometimes his problems became problems for other people. I know that my grandfather caused his family significant pain. I also know that he was a very funny man, and according to my Granny, he was a very kind person… when he wasn’t drinking. He was, in part, a product of his environment, just like we all are. He didn’t come of age in an enlightened time. I’m sure our strong Celtic heritage didn’t help matters much.
So anyway, this morning, I noticed that one of my sisters went on Facebook last night. She is a “friend”, but she almost never visits Facebook, and comments and “likes” by her are even rarer than that. I was surprised and amused to see comments and reactions by my sister. Then I looked at my Facebook feed and realized that an average person looking at it might come away with the idea that I’m kind of a bitch. I mean, seriously… it’s like looking at The Atlantic’s feed, which lately mostly consists of “doom porn”. A lot of my status updates are cranky. My blog posts, which I share on my personal page, often have cranky titles. I often share “bad news”. On the other hand, I do try to share “cute” stuff, too… like funny animal videos. But, by and large, my feed is kind of pessimistic and crotchety.
While we were eating breakfast, I looked over at Bill and said, as objectively as I could muster, “I see that Becky has left me a few comments and reactions. Looking at my my latest posts, I must come off as kind of a bitch.”
And Bill deadpanned, “I don’t think that’s ALWAYS true…”
I had a good laugh at that, and took a picture of Bill, who laughed with me. He knows I’m not always as cranky as I seem. Over our twenty years together, he’s had long talks with me. He’s seen me cry when I listen to especially beautiful or moving music. He’s heard me laugh when he says something funny, which is pretty often. I am easily amused, so offline I laugh a lot, even if I seem like a crab to people who have never met me in person. He’s heard me say loving things to him, and especially our dogs, who accept us the way we are. He knows that there’s a lot more beneath my prickly, bristly exterior. I can be kind and generous and very soft and emotional. But if you don’t actually know me, you might never see that side. Instead, I sometimes look like a jerk to other people. I’m kind of hard, rough, and coarse… kind of like a coconut. But beneath the shell is sweetness.
Maybe it’s not always a bad thing to look like a jerk, though. It’s kind of a defense mechanism, isn’t it? If I manage to turn someone off before they ever get to know me, maybe they aren’t actually worthy of knowing that softer side of my personality. It’s said that real friends are true rarities. Most people want to know you when you’re doing okay. It’s the ones that hang around when things are bad– and don’t have any ulterior motives for hanging around– that are real friends. I mean, a person could be dying of a terrible disease. If they are very wealthy or they have something of value to others, maybe others would hang around in hopes of being named in a will or something. But it’s the people who care for those who can’t give them anything that are real friends. In my experience, those types of people can indeed be rare.
So, when someone is good to me even when I’m feeling cranky or irritable, I pay attention. I give double points to those who make me laugh when I’m feeling like that. And I give triple points to people who don’t mind my many idiosyncrasies. For instance, yesterday I was trying (and failing) to finish my latest jigsaw puzzle, while listening to my HomePod. A karaoke version of the song “Hello Young Lovers” came on. I like that song, so I joined in… Bill complimented my “performance”.
I said, “Thank you. You are a very tolerant man.”
And Bill said, “And you are very talented woman. It would be different if my ex tried it.” Then he gave me a grin, Stanley Roper style.
To put this into context, Ex once serenaded Bill with her version of Juice Newton’s 80s era song, “The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known)”. Because he’s a very good man, he listened to it with a straight face. For all I know, it really was a sweet moment between them. Ex reportedly wanted to study music, but was told she needed lessons before she could major in music at a local college. But now, Bill can’t bear to listen to “The Sweetest Thing” anymore. Ex actually ruined a lot of songs for Bill. Some of them are good songs, too. Like, he doesn’t like “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow, because Ex used it in one of her object lessons. And he doesn’t like “To Really Love a Woman” by Bryan Adams for the same reason. For the longest time, he didn’t want me to play Kenny Loggins’ children’s album, Return to Pooh Corner, because of Ex. Ditto to anything by Sesame Street or The Muppets. But he doesn’t mind when I burst into random song… or when I redo songs, replacing their words with silly, profane, or disgusting lyrics. At least when I sing, I do it with feeling and on key. 😉
Bill has proven to me time and again that he’s a real friend. So he gets to see the softer side of me whenever he wants. Or, at least he sees it after I’ve calmed down and had some dip.
The coconut vs. peach idea isn’t one I came up with. I’ve often heard certain cultures described that way. A lot of people think of certain southerners like peaches. They’re sweet, juicy, fuzzy, and warm on the outside. But beneath that sweetness, there’s a stone pit of a heart in some people. Those sweet “honey lippin'” types who are nice to people’s faces can sometimes be, deep down, hardhearted people who would disown their own family members for being gay or marrying someone who isn’t the same religion or race. And some people think of people from New York City as being more like coconuts. They’re gruff, cold, and hard on the exterior… but when something really terrible happens, they are compassionate and kind. Of course, neither of these stereotypes always apply to every situation. Some people from up north are mean. And some southerners are extremely kind and loving. But you get the idea, I hope…
Anyway, Mr. Bill wants to go to Wiesbaden and get a Swiss “vignette” for our car. We need one because we will be passing through Switzerland on our vacation, which starts next weekend. So I will close today’s post and get on with the day. I hope you all have a good Saturday. I’m really not as irritable as I seem… and contrary to some people’s opinions, I can be quite introspective. I just have some baggage full of peaches and coconuts.