Monday, May 25, 2009

Missing Genes, Part 2

Very few people would deny that, say, the ability to hit a golf ball like Tiger hits it is more than just “practice, man, practice.” Most of us figure there’s more than a little genetics involved in being able to cook like Child, sing like Ramey, or paint like Monet.
But, now and then, I start to wonder if there’s some degree of genetics at work in some “smaller” things…more organic things. Personal stuff. Ever wonder about that?

For example, I mentioned last time that if there were such a thing as a “tact” gene, I was definitely born without it. I will never be an instinctively tactful person; I can work at it, but it’s not going to come naturally.

But there are a lot of other “parts” that, apparently, I lack, and people I cannot be. Like:

The “Self-esteem Fairy.” This, of course, is the person who runs around sprinkling affirmations like pixie dust. This is the person who first thought that giving grades in school damages precious little egos—yeah, we can all see how great an idea that was—and was no doubt behind the institution of those colorful Participation Ribbons for kids, so that everybody gets “rewarded” with something…no matter how “average” their performance may be. (The fact that this practice rewards mediocrity, thereby diminishing the self-esteem of the kids who really do excel, apparently escapes this chick. And why is it almost always a woman?)

I do envy this person both their desire and ability to make everyone feel wonderful about themselves—something I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically lack!—and their status, since in today’s culture, their “gift” seems to be particularly valued. However, I have yet to be able to cultivate this particular talent…which leads me to think this deficiency is chemical, rather than psychological, in origin.

Another gene, apparently, I’m missing…

The “Social Butterfly.” All my life, it seems, it’s been that when it comes to social situations, I’m the one on the outside looking in. I’m not the Girl Everybody Wants to Go Out to Lunch With. (Heck, I’m not even the Girl Everybody Invites to Lunch.) I’m not The Girl Considered to Have Fun Ideas. Sometimes, I’m not even considered The Creative One, or The One Most Likely to Keep Everyone Else Loose. And I have to admit, this lack in my life hurts.

This might well be due to my personality: I do tend to sit back and listen first, and jump in with both feet later; because I do that, people may think either that I’m a snob, or that I don’t like them, or that I prefer my own company 99% of the time. From time to time, any or all of these assumptions might be true (!), depending on the person, but that doesn’t diminish the sense of loss I feel when people don’t even think to ask me if I’d like inclusion. Odds are, I would. I’m just shy enough—and I’ve just been burned by rudeness enough times—to want them to go first. My experiments, and experiences, at “insinuating” myself into groups turn out, at best, lukewarm…and I’m rarely over the feeling that I’m a sixth wheel somehow. (Yeah, sixth. As in the one that’s not even necessary in an emergency.) After you go through enough of these experiments, you get the hint: apparently, I lack a key social gene, and that’s a shame. Because there are very few things I love better than making people laugh—and I think that, should I get invited out for a few more lunches, there might be a lot more smiles in the offing for everybody.

The final gene, however, that I’ve discovered missing…well, that’s a bigger one. And that matters more. But realizing its lack has led me, finally, to a place I needed to be all along—one I actually was in all along, and just didn’t want to admit it. But this place is a place of peace, and I really, really need that kind of peace in my life at this point.
So I’ll talk about that one…next.


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