Friday, September 05, 2008

I don't get this.

This is going to be my (own, personal) entry into the Friday (bleep) Off thread. (Because I'm going to be busy today, y'all).

Here's a personality trait I don't get: The person who has to squash the happiness of someone else by either (a) explaining all the downsides to why that person is happy or (b) going all one-up-man-ny and talking about how THEY'VE done better or how THEY did that thing YEARS ago.

A similar type of person is described on Cute Overload as a "Nuffer," which seems an apt term, so I'm going to adopt it here.

Some vignettes:

A member of your social circle has just gotten engaged. She (let's pretend it's a she) comes up all breathless and happy with the news. The Nuffer either says,

"Oh, yeah, that's been in the rumor mill for weeks"

or, worse, the Nuffer starts talking about how the happy couple will now have to pay a "marriage penalty" in taxes, and how expensive weddings have got, and what the divorce rate is, and maybe even segue into complaints about his or her marriage.

Nuffer: FAIL. U R doin' it wrong.

The correct response to, "My boyfriend and I just got engaged!" is "Wow, that's great! I'm so happy for you!"

You can then go on to add more congratulations or good wishes if you feel they are warranted.

If you have DOUBTS about the match, the time to bring them up is NOT when the newly-engaged person is standing there in your small crowd, beaming with happiness. The appropriate time is in private - and only if you are a close relative or best friend. If you're a co-worker or an acquaintance, it is not your place.


Second situation: someone at your workplace has received an award. The CORRECT response is to congratulate the person. The Nuffer response is either:

a. "Those awards are all political"
b. "Yeah, I won one of those 3 years ago." (with the phrase "what took YOU so long" implied)
c. Not reacting at all.


Third situation: an academic setting. Someone, after a long dry spell of article rejections, gets an article accepted. The Nuffer responds: "Oh, yes, I know that journal. It's a MINOR journal, it's very easy to get a paper into it."

Thanks a freaking fat lot, Nuffer. The polite response would be, "That's great. I'm glad to hear it."


Another situation - when I was a kid, I learned to read at 4. People used to think that was kind of impressive, back in the less-competitive 70s. It was something my parents were kind of proud of, something that they took as kind of proof that they were doing the parenting thing right. (I learned on my own, because they read to me a lot, and let me look at the words when they were reading. I don't remember trying to learn to read, I just remember looking at a book one day and realizing that I could figure out what the words said).

Even my school teachers in the very early grades were somewhat impressed.

But now, 4 is actually a terribly old age to have learned to read. Or at least according to the Nuffers. THEIR children learned at 3. Or even at 2. Obviously I was just not that bright, waiting all the way to 4 to learn to read. Why didn't my parents use flash cards? is the implication. Why didn't my mom read to me when I was in the womb, they wonder - no matter that back in the time I was born, people weren't so koo-koo crazy about pushing their babies to become little geniuses.

I've heard from friends who are parents that the whole Mommy Nuffer phenomenon is very bad, perhaps even worse than the Academic Nuffer phenomenon. Mommy Nuffers jealously compare developmental times (how much earlier were their babies able to roll over; how much sooner was their child at speaking his or her first word?)

And they also love to be the "parenting police": "Oh no, you let your child DRINK JUICE? Don't you know fruit juice is the royal road to childhood obesity? Quick, take it away and give the child plain water instead before he develops a taste for demon sugar!" Or, they do things like sniff superiorly and remark that No Child Of Theirs will ever watch anything so mind-rotting as The Wiggles or Yo Gabba Gabba.

And I wonder if some of the Nufferdom stems from a fundamental need to feel oneself BETTER than other people - better because their child is developing faster, or is less feral than very small children tend to be, or because they have somehow made their child's environment purer or cleaner or freer from the base taint of popular culture.

And it must be kind of lonely to inhabit that Nuffer Parent world, where you have to always be vigilant, where you are always looking for the ways other parents slip up so you can point them out to them.


Nuffers are people who are never impressed with anything, never happy for anyone else over anything. I don't get it. I don't get why they feel that way. Are they so insecure that they can't be happy for someone else? Do they think happiness is like a big pie, and someone else getting a slice means there's less for them? Are they so damaged somehow that they can't be enthusiastic? Do they always have to let their doubts or negativity about something show?

There is one person in my life who has developed into a Nuffer over the years. I am not sure what did it - whether it's disillusion over how his life is turning out, or a fundamentally sour temper crystallizing in middle age, or what. But I find myself talking with this person less and less because I am so tired by his Nufferdom. And I'm tired of having to take people who are broadsided by it (not being familiar with his tendencies) aside and explain that the rest of the world really DOESN'T feel so negative about their engagement/new baby/promotion/award/whatever.

So, Nuffers of the world: Take a chill pill. Learn to smile. Happiness is not a pie that is divided up; it is more like one of those magical sweets in the Harry Potter or Willy Wonka books that keeps regenerating itself no matter how much is taken and passed around.

And if you're going to do your Nufferly rain on anyone's parade today, you're invited to (Bleep) off. Because seriously: there's enough unhappiness in the world without having people trying to quash the bits of happiness other people manage to have.


Sheila O'Malley said...

Oh yes. That is one of my least favorite qualities in other human beings.

Maggie May said...

I agreee whole-heartedly. That is a horrible trait. They can indeed bleep off with bells on.

Kate P said...

Ugh. Insecure people. I'm trying to train one of those right now.

Rant on, Rantstress Ricki.