Monday, March 10, 2008

Day 65 - "I shot you down...bang bang"

I was scolded this afternoon for pointing at a couple in a Dallas BBQ restaurant who were drinking giant frozen (presumably strawberry) margaritas.

"Oh, you mean those margaritas, that they're drinking?"
"Dude, you're so rude!"

My roommate was half-kidding, I can only assume (and I proceeded to be genuinely rude minutes later in the subway, forcing my way into a train car while blocking a young boy no older than 10 tried who was trying squeeze his way out), but I've been scolded more than a handful of times in my life for pointing at people.

My question is - who the hell cares about being pointed at? And why?!?

Let's go over what it means to be rude. Generally speaking, it stems from a lack of courteousness or concern for some kind of social convention. Now, there are plenty of things I do that are considered to be rude, which maybe speaks to the larger picture of my general attitude towards social conventions. Amongst many other things, I am known for:

Speaking too loud,
Talking with my mouth full,
And pointing like a nut.

Now, the first two, I'll grant you, are a little bit rude. Not everyone within shouting distance should have to hear what I have to say, nor should they be subjected to the contents of my mouth. Noted. But honestly, WHY does having your finger extend towards someone get treated with such disdain? What's the big f-ing deal?

Let's look at situations in which people point at other people:

1) Someone asks a person for help (or perhaps, the location of a particular person), and is directed, via their finger - to another person. Or else a person directly points at another (i.e. a waiter) to get their attention.
2) A couple, or a group is talking about another person and, if one member of the conversation is unaware of who is being talked about, the person in question is shown, again via a finger, as a point of reference.
3) One person(s) is attempting to mock another person by pointing him or her out at an inopportune time - a "Nelson Muntz moment," if you will.

Now, generally speaking, #1 is generally not considered to be rude. If there's any confusion, its immediately allayed when one carefully explains the situation - "I need your help/this person said you could help me," etc. and that's that, no rudeness. So that leaves #2 and #3. And really, in either of those situations, the reason you might get offended is because they are speaking ill of/insulting you. If that is the case, then it's not the pointing that's the issue. It's the thought behind the pointing. Which, in most cases can be easily avoided with some subtlety (À la the classic "palm over pointed finger" technique). In fact, more likely, if you are speaking ill of someone, instinctually you're less likely to point at them, since you don't want them to think you're talking about them.

So, generally, when I am pointed at, I say to myself: "oh, they're talking about me. I wonder what they're saying. Is it about the shirt I'm wearing today? My sexy bald head? My hilarious bits? I'll be sure and ask them about it later." Maybe you don't do that. But maybe you should.

The point (hah!) is, there is nothing inherently rude about sticking one's finger in the direction of another person. People who place all their negative thoughts about themselves onto others are perpetuating this misconception. We as a society need to buck this dated notion, right now!

So stop complaining about the pointing people, and just get over it. Yeah, that's right, I'm talking to YOU!


Yeah but I'd still rather be playing: THIS


Jacqueline said...

I point all the time. But it IS rude. I agree with you Matt that I would NEVER point if I was saying something BAD about someone. However, I advise you begin to use the Disney method of "directing" whomever you are speaking to to the exact line of vision of the subject of the point. This is exactly like a point except that you use the entire five digit community in unison. More of a "Welcome to whatever you are pointing at". You may end up looking like a synchronized swimmer out of water but there are a lot less feelings hurt in the end. Just try it.

Marcy said...

Modern etiquette instructs people to:

Greet relatives, friends and acquaintances with warmth and respect
Refrain from insults and prying curiosity
Offer hospitality equally and generously to guests
Wear clothing suited to the occasion
Contribute to conversations without dominating them
Offer assistance to those in need
Eat neatly and quietly
Avoid disturbing others with unnecessary noise
Follow the established rules of an organization upon becoming a member
Arrive promptly when expected
Comfort the bereaved
Respond to invitations promptly.
Accept gifts or favors with humility and gratitude.
Acknowledge gifts or favors with prompt tokens of thanks (e.g. a thank-you card)

Rolando said...

"Let's go over what it means to be rude. Generally speaking, it stems from a lack of courteousness or concern for some kind of social convention."

You just answered your own question. By pointing, you're showing a lack of courteousness towards a social convention. Now, I understand it may seem like a silly and random social convention but, really, most of them are. It's not the rules that are important but the fact that we as a society agree on a standard of conduct and follow it that matters. Otherwise you have complete chaos instead of civility.

That's not to say, though, that we can't change social conventions. In fact, it's imperative we do because that's evolution. However, if you're going to direct all the time and energy to it takes for social upheaval, doesn't this seem like a petty one to waste it on?

It's like those really random laws about masturbation and sexual practices that date back to the 1800's. Changing laws take so much time and effort, some are best to just ignore. Until some hillbilly prosecutor uses it to keep you in the slammer.

Maybe we should do something about all this pointing after all...