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.