This morning, as I was getting dressed, I turned on the television. The channel was tuned to HBO, which was airing a movie that I later identified as Bride Wars.
Based upon the scene that I watched, I will not be watching this film anytime soon. But I did catch a piece of dialogue, a phrase really, that I liked a lot. In the midst of a verbal confrontation between two characters, one woman accused the other of “people-pleasing” her way through life.
I love this line, despite the paucity of good dialogue surrounding it.
Like the angry female character in the film, I am also not a fan of people-pleasers, and in many ways, CHICKEN SHACK addresses my distaste for this brand of human being.
I define people-pleasers as those individuals who construct their lives in such a way as to constantly conform to the expectations and ideals of others. These are the people who believe that all manner of pomp and circumstance must be adhered to without exception, lest the offending party be judged as uncivilized, uncouth or just plain rude. Proper dress and appropriate decorum are goals for which these people-pleasers strive feverishly. Rather than allowing themselves to be judged upon originality, creativity, or authenticity, people-pleasers purposefully amalgamate their persona into cookie-cutter constructs of those around them. They base their entire existence upon inflexible tradition, a rigid set of cultural norms, a stringent and assiduous devotion to proper etiquette and comportment, a blind and unquestioning adherence to religious doctrine, and an enthusiastic embrace of popular culture.
These are the people who purchase gifts based upon numerical equity and perceived expectation, find great comfort on the social acceptance that comes with the well-timed thank you note, and throw elaborate birthday and graduation parties so their equally uninteresting children can achieve their own station on the social ladder. These are the societal wonks of the world who would never dare to break a dress code and only listen to music on Top-40 radio stations, shunning anything that might be perceived as weird, different or unpopular. Image is everything to the people-pleaser. Without even being aware of it, their goal is to become as unmemorable as possible in their constant attempt to look and sound like everyone else around them. They avoid confrontation and controversy at all costs, dodging the honesty and forthrightness that can sometimes result in animosity in favor of behind-the-back sniping and anonymous cruelty.
As you can probably tell, I do not like this kind of person at all. People-pleasers make it difficult for quirky, odd, strange and unique individuals to be themselves. They demand conformity and often vilify those who do not meet this exigency.
Most of all, I just don’t understand people-pleasers. I cannot imagine why anyone would invest so much of themselves into the opinions of others. Admittedly, they are easy targets for my novel, but I have also discovered that their righteous indignation and overwhelming numbers can be dangerous to the less-than-conforming souls of the world. This is an issue at the heart of CHICKEN SHACK.
Nicholson Baker said it well: There is a feeble urgency behind all forced mannerisms of finery- haste and pomp cannot coincide.
Ambrose Pierce did as well: Politeness, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.