Perception vs. Reality
“If people know I go out all the time, they think I sleep with everyone and/or am wanting to be seen. If I stay in, I’m considered boring and anti-social.” This is the beginning of a conversation/argument that I hear over and over again in DC. It’s also one that I’m in a direct line of fire for, from time to time.
For those that do not live anywhere near DC, let me explain. There is a lot going on in this city, almost any day of the week. Although not quite NYC, it still brings a level of energy that many people love to take advantage of, as much as they can, especially if they are single. Many of us work hard during the day and at night, we either need to unwind or in the case of those of us working from home, just need some human interaction that doesn’t involve a phone. Thus, we go out – and might go out a lot. Yet, there are those that judge – some for good reason – but most of the time for no reason at all. So let’s get to the heart of why the rumor mill is so fast and furious in this area…
DISCLAIMER: Let me begin by saying if you are easily offended, quit reading this post. I’m not good at filtering and as such, might say things you don’t like.
I’d like to begin by chatting about the different types of personas that create this cause and effect. I’ve included the top five below:
1. The once single guy/girl who is now in a relationship and now feels all other people appear desperate. I see this a lot. These are the ones that may go out with their single friends, may also organize home group dinners (to include said singles) but usually love to hang out with other couples, as it’s more within their comfort zone. Their perception is skewed, they forget what it’s like to be single and are completely consumed with the relationship, to a point where they aren’t sure who they are anymore. While they may appear happy, secretly, they miss the days when they can go out with their friends and have a good time – as in “going out, out” and not worrying about having to maintain a level of conservativeness, so as not to upset their other half.
Before you get all defensive about your relationship, claiming you can still do whatever you want and therefore are a well-balanced individual, think about the following example…
Work trips that result in the following sequence of people getting into a ton of trouble in the evening: Married people with kids, married people, people in relationships and then single people (often those that go to bed first.. sober).
There is a reason for this… although yes, you do not technically have to “answer” to anyone, you still do. It upsets you, you get jealous and you judge others for the good time they are having. Then, when you have a little bit of freedom, you end up going AWOL, waking up the next morning, wishing you never did it… until the next time you get that little bit of freedom. Bottom line, this particular persona has no room to judge.
How you work with this persona: Have fun, be gracious if they have hosted something (it does take work!) and let them have their opinion. If/when their relationship doesn’t work out, chances are they will have a lot of friendships to repair and honestly, we’ve all been there at some point, just take it for what it is.
2. Speaking of jealous… this should probably take number one but I’m writing this in no particular order. Single, taken, etc… there are those in this city that are extremely jealous of others, which equals insecurity in themselves (honestly, I could take up a whole post on this alone). Sometimes, I believe that men can be worse than women in this persona group. However, as of late, there are a few particular ladies that have taken to starting rumors or worse yet, just being highly negative about others. Whether you fall into the first persona or not, spreading rumors or otherwise just judging another without having any reason to do so (excludes if they have done something mean directly to you, which in that case, comment away), not only makes you look bad, it just causes more rumors… about you… which turns into an indirect judgment of who you are.
Honestly, accept the fact that there is always going to be someone hotter, smarter, more personable, wittier, funnier, in better shape and/or more successful than you. I know it hurts to read it but when you can accept it, it just gets a bit easier to be out and about, while not carrying that negative aura with you. It comes across as insecure and while you may feel better/”cooler” for having the latest gossip, or starting a rumor, it actually comes back to bite you ten-fold because you are no longer trusted. Think I’m full of it? Re-read this paragraph again and keep re-reading it until you are out of denial.
Spreading rumors, simply because of jealousy/insecurity provides us all a knowledge that not only do you have strong opinions of others, but that you are deflecting what is going on in your life, by creating rumors for the sake of just feeling better (temporarily) about yourself.
How you work with this persona: This persona is what causes so many of us to have shallow conversations, i.e. not trust others, to form normal friendships. The easiest way to deal with this is to just listen and not respond. If you’re a good enough friend, spend some time chatting to see what the real issue is.
3. A guy or girl has been burned. I believe this has happened to all of us at some point in our lives. Inevitably, for a period of time, someone ends up angry and wants to go on a rampage, swearing off “the group” or worse yet, wanting to take revenge. Although somewhat harmless at the end of the day, it’s serious self-sabotage, disguised as a need to take others down. It’s total drama and there’s a strong need for that person or persons to just take a break.
Still, they tend to be overly observant to when you are out and about, looking for any and all fodder they can find. With their “sharp detective eye” comes a sharp tongue. They also happen to fall to number 2 for a period of time.
How you work with this persona: This is where the motto “be nice to everyone” comes in. No, it doesn’t mean being fake, it just means being cordial and friendly, steering conversations into healthy, positive territories. The easiest thing to do: just avoid the drama and provide advice where need be.
4. The one that wants to be liked by everyone. This type of persona is relatively harmless although it comes with a price. This guy or girl wants to be accepted and as such, will offer up any and all information they have on others, including rumors they know are not true. (Cue any scene in a high school hallway.)
How you work with this persona: So how do you get around this? Just be nice to them – no need to engage them in gossip and if they feel the need to start, just either listen and walk away, or politely say that you aren’t interested in hearing it because “x” person being discussed has always been nice to you.
5. The one that will plow over anyone to get what he/she wants. These are my favorite, as they are the most amusing, the most shallow and the least likely to have a truly fulfilling life. They yank photographers to take pictures of them, they bully their way into clubs, they demand whatever they want and quite literally sleep with (what they deem) are the hottest and/or wealthiest men/women in DC.
How you work with this persona: Just avoid them.
So what if YOU are the one CREATING the perception? Here are some guidelines to help you stop it (or at least give way for someone else to hop in the spotlight).
1. Checking into Foursquare or Facebook. Yep, I’ve had to learn this one the hard way (a few times). If you’re making more than one stop in a night, just don’t even bother, as people begin to think you are out and about to be in the “scene”, which in my opinion, is completely ridiculous – especially if you aren’t the one grabbing a photographer, trying to get attention everywhere that you’re “out and about”. If the check-ins are for significant events, then I say check-in away.
Although I’ll tell ya, Foursquare and Facebook check-ins definitely have come in handy for some people who needed to re-trace steps, in order to find a lost phone, credit card, where they were all evening, or even girlfriend. On the downside, if you have a stalker, it might be a better idea to leave the check-ins alone.
2. Don’t pester a photographer. The fastest way to getting judged is proof. That’s great that you want to be in every magazine and email blast but seriously, it gets old and your reputation goes from “isn’t that cool that you were in…” to “oh, there you are… again…” to “oh that socialite just wants everyone to know him or her…”
3. Pick and choose your destinations. Sure, I’ve been out a lot this summer but the sheer bulk of them have been birthday parties, going away parties and time spent with good friends having real conversations. Still, as a good friend once told me, “Round out your activities – organize a group to go on a hike or wine tasting somewhere.” He’s right – there is so much more to do in this world. And, that leaves you free to check-in as much as you want because in my opinion, doing active things is positive inspiration for everyone
4. Don’t sleep with everyone. I cannot stress this one enough. Sure, it’s summer, you’re out, you’ve been drinking and the guy/girl you want is suddenly more attainable. That doesn’t make it right. This would be the number one rumor that gets around the fastest and in addition, creates a ton of tension – especially if its within your direct group of friends. (No, I’m not saying don’t date within your group of friends – just don’t get tangled up in meaningless sex, as it seriously won’t lead to anything you thought you were getting.)
5. Keep yourself in check. Are you getting drunk every night? Are you constantly sputtering off things that are incoherent or rude? Chances are, you need to quit drinking and/or take a break.
6. Take a break. If you feel yourself about to spin out of control, stay home and even off Facebook. You seriously aren’t missing anything at all and it will all pick back up where you left off. Breaks are good for everyone.
7. Listen, don’t speak. Unless there is something said that you can relate to, it’s best to just hear someone else out when they start a rumor/gossip too much. It’s not worth it to get involved and then next thing you know, you’re part of it.
8. Confront others nicely. If something is said that is disturbing, and you do know the person, nicely confront them. There’s no harm in hearing anyone out.
9. Backup who you say you are. Smoke and mirrors is a phrase used a lot here. Be intelligent when you speak – if you say you are passionate about “x”, be prepared to back it up.
10. STOP GIVING A CRAP. Yes, this was a lot for me to write to get to this point. I could easily have just said this alone but what’s the point unless I provide some context? Honestly, 90% of the problem with people in this city is them being too worried about their self image, thus denying themselves a happy life. Just STOP IT (as said by Bob Newhart in the clip below).
At some point in my life, I’ve been guilty of one persona or another and I’ve learned some very hard lessons. At the end of the day, and over the last two years, I’ve learned that no matter what, rumors will happen for the dumbest of reasons and quite literally, there is nothing you can do about it. Whether the rumor is true or not, doesn’t matter. The scene you cause because of it, is what sticks. So, go out, have fun, be responsible but for the best time, stop worrying about others and focus on YOU.