Mizzable, unpraised child

I remember reading that there was an island nation whose people were affronted if you said “Thank you” to them. To their way of thinking, expressions of gratitude felt like insults. Why wouldn’t they be kind and helpful? Why would anyone suggest otherwise?

I think this kind of cultural difference is in play now between the generations here. Someone recently commented on the propriety of food servers giving their names and asking their customers for theirs. I said no server has ever asked me my name and I hope they never do. Which, I will admit now, sounds snippy.

“Why?” came the simple query back. “What would that mean to you, if your server asked your name?”

I can’t explain it. At least, I can’t explain it without your concluding I’m an asshole. I don’t want to know my server’s name. I don’t know why they should know mine. I like a friendly exchange but this isn’t that kind of relationship.

“Oh,” came the answer, which I interpreted to mean: you’re an asshole. I mean, I even sounded like one to myself. At least, my being an asshole was one possible explanation.

There’s an awful lot of niceness going on all the time in the younger generation and a lot of it rubs me the wrong way. Which pretty much makes me an asshole, and that rubs me the wrong way. All the marketing is so damned adorable. I’m getting boxes of food from an outfit called Imperfect Produce and they can’t communicate without being cute as all get-out. I log into my account just to ask for yams or something and the page comes up in pink and flowers and says Welcome back, Mary! You look nice today!


This is all wrong. I look nice today? Well, yeah. But how do you know that? You don’t know that. You’re just guessing. And I’ll bet you say that to all the people on the other side of the internet from you.

I just called some outfit on the phone and the answering robot explained, while redirecting my call, that our communication might be recorded so “our listening experts can learn how to be even more awesome.”


Everyone means well–grossly, overbearingly well–but this doesn’t sit right with me. It’s all a matter of upbringing, I think. I do not remember a time I was praised as a child, at least by my parents. My sister reported that no matter what I produced in the way of artwork, for instance, it was always accepted by my folks as just a regular, day-to-day offering. Nothing special. “That’s nice, honey,” maybe. To this day overt praise embarrasses me, at least in person. I get all squirmy.

I’m led to understand, though, that this is not the normal way of going about things now, and kids are praised lavishly for any behavior this side of sociopathy. And maybe beyond (“People don’t like it when you hit them, Heather, but awesome left hook”). I can’t help but think that has to feel false and counterfeit to them, but maybe it doesn’t. Maybe if that’s what you’re used to, you’d feel bereft and ashamed without it. I don’t know.

Love is a whole other thing. There’s no limit to that. Can’t give a kid too much of that. Bring it on. But praise? Eww.

And when everything you do is awesome, there’s no more Up. There’s nowhere to go.