Be Real

Perhaps it’s my own dislike of “social niceties,” but it is my genuine preference that people be honest and “real” when encountering me in public. People who offer fake smiles and empty salutations during passing social interactions are — as I see it — bogus and cowardly.

And, well, it just pisses me off!

From time to time, I encounter someone in public who knew me in my previous life (as a teacher). And many of them have made no secret of how much they despise me. Some have made hateful posts in some of the social media comment sections of news articles about me; some have made statements to mutual friends about how much they hate me (or, more accurately, who they think I am); some have blocked my social media writer accounts. And yet, when I bump into some of these people, they smile and say, “Hey Kurt! How’s it going?”

I don’t oblige the false kindness. I’m not rude or hostile, but I also do not mirror their false kindness.

This happened last weekend at a store in east Wichita recently. I was shopping with my wife, strolling happily through the store, looking for a few specific things, when around the corner walked a former colleague from Wichita East High School, the school where I taught when I committed my unfortunate crimes.

He, of course, gave me a bright fake smile and said, “Hey Kurt!”

With mere civility, I replied, “Hi, [name],” and kept walking. And then, almost immediately, I found my wife and told her we needed to leave. So I went out and sat in our SUV and waited until she’d paid and we left.

Admittedly, seeing people from that time in my life still rattles me. If for no other reason, it reminds me of the great life I had — the great life I threw away.

But it also frustrates me that people are so fake, bogus, and disingenuous.

I just wish people would be real.

If you don’t like me, don’t pretend to be happy to see me. If you think I’m a horrid person who deserves to spend the rest of my life in prison — or worse — I completely understand and (on some levels) agree.

Because to be honest, no matter how much you hate me, I guarantee you, I hate me more.

So if you see me in public and you despise me . . . fine. Honestly, I respect that. I understand that. But don’t pretend to be happy to see me for the mere sake of social civility. Just walk by. Or just acknowledge my presence with a nod. I respect that a hell of a lot more than being fake and pretending to be happy to see me.

Granted, for the sake of social civility, certain norms must be maintained. If a person hates me because of my actions, it’s probably not necessary or appropriate to point a finger and say, “Fuck you!” But it also isn’t necessary to pretend to like someone you hate.

So please, just be civilly genuine. If you don’t like me, don’t pretend you do. And if you want to tell me about how I’m a terrible person and about how what I did was awful, chances are, I’ll agree with you — I’ll agree because I’m aware that many people’s opinion of me is based on who I was, not who I am.

Hating someone for who they were is exponentially easier than taking the time to know someone for who they are.

If you’re not willing to take a minute to attempt to know me, then don’t take a minute to pretend to like me.

Just be real.

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