Six Degrees of Virtue: Hypocrites Au Naturel

The dexterity with which we distance ourselves from others can be quite amazing. In conversation with a friend I said, “I never wear makeup or style my hair.” I said it as a matter of pride, as if it were a display of moral fortitude, that I had somehow defied the cultural norm and become a rebel without mascara. She looked askance at me and said “When was the last time you dyed your hair?” I burst out laughing at my foolishness.

My little glass house is surely less breakable than yours.

“I don’t eat at McDonald’s.” McDonald’s either has a subversive, brilliant marketing strategy or we are very adept at maintaining our delusions. Being seen in that line waiting for our Big Mac and mouth burning apple pie has become as shameful as being caught looking at internet porn and just as tantalizing. The trap has been baited. But I resist, piously eating salads at restaurants…garnished in booze-soaked chicken, 15 kinds of cheese and a dollop of sour cream. The lies we tell ourselves…

“I don’t shop at Walmart.” This is one of my favorite bits of hypocrisy. Walmart has become synonymous with cheap goods, bad employment practices and cruel photos on the internet. But look at other retailers – cheap goods, shoddy employment practices and horrendous customer service. Don’t bother placating yourself – you shop at some version of Walmart. By the way, if you’re taking unflattering pictures of people in public for the sole purpose of mocking them on the internet, you’re wearing a whole lot of ugly.

“I never read those rags in the checkout aisle.” If you watch the news, welcome to the world of tell-all, celebrity gossip and likely unverified information. We’ve gone garbage info writ large. At least the tattler magazines know what they are – and that might make them slightly more virtuous than CNN or MSNBC. I rarely watch the evening news, but wow, when did Twitter users become unpaid reporters for the networks? I do not care what Bitsy Palmer from Michigan thinks about a murder trial (sorry Bitsy), although she is quickly becoming more reliable than the news anchors.

“I don’t allow my child to watch a lot of television.” Although 2 hours of Minecraft, hunched over that laptop she begged and begged for is edifying. Or maybe you’ve hypnotized your captive non-mobile infant with Baby Einstein videos while you are similarly hypnotized by Facebook postings of cute kittens or the cause of the moment. Sometimes we’re sick of being interactive with creatures that are still fascinated by their own fingers or by any jokes involving bodily functions. Your child isn’t going to grow up to cure cancer just because he is learning how to put mixing bowls on his head instead of watching Sesame Street.

“I don’t use Facebook.” Yes, I’m a real diva with this one. Somehow, your time-wasting efforts are so much worse than my Netflix marathons or flipping through a yoga magazine wondering why anyone would wear white yoga pants before or after Labor Day – or skim reading blog posts while simultaneously giving myself a pedicure. Let’s face it, none of us are even slightly making the world a better place with these activities. They may help us unwind or breathe for moment or just entertain us away from unpleasant realities, but time-wasting isn’t particularly qualitative and eventually, may I burn in hell, I will have to use Facebook to promote a book. My first Facebook comments from friends will be high on ridicule and mockery.

“I hate tropes and stereotypes.” I walk a very fine line with this one. As a writer, the trick is to learn how to describe something without stereotypical and cliched phrases. As a human, it’s our go-to assessment, depending on our personal prejudices. When I hear the words hunter, or wealthy or diet from someone’s mouth, my mind immediately fills with assumptions about ethics, morals or intelligence. Knowing it is likely that I am wrong is useful, but it doesn’t stop the thoughts. As for tropes, if I hear the phrases “check your privilege”, “rape culture” or “So this happened” one more time, my brain will implode. Yes, overuse does dilute meaning and impact. Just like calling everyone who disagrees with you a Nazi or a socialist. Check your historical and political science definitions, please.

I acknowledge my hypocrisy because it makes me less likely (one would hope) to condemn others for theirs. It’s a complicated world and humans are complex, inconsistent beings. As a parent and a woman, I have often heard that tone. The “I would never do that” tone. People call each other names and do their best to set themselves not just apart, but above others. I’ve got bad news for them: your virtue is not unassailable, but that’s okay. It just kind of makes you a jerk. Like the rest of us.

25 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Virtue: Hypocrites Au Naturel

    1. Everybody talks about how important it is not to be judgmental, but I think that’s a ridiculous premise. Of course we’re judgmental – that’s how we make judgments for everything from safety to relationships. I just like mocking myself when my judgments are paper-thin excuses to feel better about myself!


      1. Bravo! Bravo, says the one with the un-plucked eyebrows and unshorn armpits: my semi-stance against cosmetics and beauty-queendom. Kind of an ‘uglier than thou” posture. You will note that my legs are shaved in the summer months. As for hair colour, I whisper a prayer of thanks to the gods of genetics every time someone comments on my non-gray status.


        1. Genetics meant that my hair started turning white when I was in my early 20s – to young to resist cultural expectations of age, I guess. It is a habit I have decided to let go at 50 (a few years from now), but we’ll see how my vain brain resists.
          I can be pretty judgmental when it comes to other women’s standards of beauty – the things they do to feel good about themselves. We all have those things, though. I remind myself constantly that the quality of those choices is very subjective and nothing someone else does diminishes my choices.


  1. Ha! Great post. Love it. And I’ve been caught in the act more than a few times myself. Guess that’s what makes us human.


    1. I have to regularly brain check myself on hypocritical judgments. Most of the time, there is something going on with me that has little to do with whatever I’m judging, whether it be a spate of insecurity or I’m feeling anxious. It’s hard not to laugh when I realize how hypocritical I’m being.


      1. I know. I do laugh when I realize what I’ve been doing. Happened just the other day in fact. And now I’m going to get another chuckle out of it 🙂


  2. Admire this piece and its author a great deal. Extremely well thought out and executed. You were thorough at covering plenty of bases.

    Especially enjoyed it reading it as I did from the saddle of my high horse, for I am not ever guilty of any of the hypocrisy you described.

    ; )

    Happy Easter!


    1. Thanks for your kind compliments! Of course, I wrote this post due to the excessive amount of saddle sores I’ve earned riding high on my own horse. Lately I’ve been in numerous conversations where somebody said “I would never…” and all I could think was: good for you, I just did that yesterday. And now that you’ve reminded me, I’m going to go do it right now.


  3. Joke’s on me. I can’t help but Like this post, even though it’s a shallow response and an admission that I admired an essay that mirrors me most unflatteringly. Thanks anyway!


  4. Well said. Other’s hypocrisy is so much more fun to comment on. The Nazi one really gets me. When is the last time that ended well for someone and yet it keeps popping up.


    1. The Nazi one to me is so startling, especially when relatively minor things like grammar or unequal things like feminism, seem to trigger it. It strikes me that the speaker put very little thought into what he or she is saying and seems to have no sense of historical context. In other words, it’s incredibly lazy. The same with throwing around the word “socialism” and “terrorist”. Words with such specific meanings get decimated by people who should absolutely know better and then get reiterated by people who don’t have a clue.


  5. Check. er… check. And check. My moral snob-itude can be very situational. I don’t do a lot of things because I can’t afford them, but I make that into a moral stance. Give me a little extra cash, and I’ll queue up at MacDonald’s, too.


    1. Situational moralizing. Such a great point, Sandy! Having been on both sides of the coin, I did posit many of my choices as some sort of virtue depending on circumstances. I can feel very pious about organic produce, but that’s only because right now, I’m able to afford it, just like when I was broke and used the public library all the time (still do, but also buy books now). Now I have something else to ponder…situational morality. That can’t be a good thing…


  6. Moralizing is an errand for the truly delusional. I gladly own up to my hypocrisies. I despise Wal-Mart for their corrupt employment practices and hyper-aggressive strong-armed tactics, but I’ll shop there when needed. I’m past the time when I can be all high and mighty about extolling the virtues of living a moral life when I’m living one less than moral. Who am I to be all judgy? I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of me because I shop at Wal-Mart, or let my daughter stay up late on weeknights. The last time my mother-in-law tried to get all sanctimonious on me, I reminded her to tend to her own broken home first before she passed judgment on other people’s homes.


    1. I think we like to pick and choose our delusions based on what we actually can manage to do, whether through circumstance or choice. Our rationalization skills are second to none. I try to remember the two by four in my own eye, before noticing the splinter in another person’s eye, but that’s not generally my first inclination! People who are strident in some particular view tend to be trying to counterbalance something else in their psychological makeup that is less flattering.


  7. Guilty here too. What’s so good about this post, other than your excellent writing, is that we become aware of our crap and own up to it. It’s a good place to start. Thanks for this, Michelle.


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