Here’s three brilliant stories that connected in my mind on a lovely Tuesday night, while I wrestled with an idea that went against my values.
I was in a movie theatre with a girlfriend, super excited to be out and treating ourselves to some good quality entertainment on a Tuesday night – and I noticed some stuff which normally doesn’t hit me, but this time stared me in the face:
Tickets that told us where to sit.
A movie theatre showing VERY loud ads that were also incredibly stupid.
Candid shots that wouldn’t stop moving… and trembling
Some major effects like bass, suspense, colours and drama.
How do I know the ads were dumb? Flashes of scenery, old ads catering to fifty year olds and spoke to the audience like we had turtle- slow thought processes, everything felt condescending.
They couldn’t even capture attention or tell a story.
It was like, besides having the urge to eat and shower and sleep and go out, we didn’t have deep struggles or deep thoughts about life. These ads were catering to primal urges. It was like being in a brainwash session from Zoolander.
You bought the cinema…. and these ads. You buy them, they buy you.
Like I’ve written before, we live in a technology saturated world- data driven 24/7, where we get deliveries and can’t keep up with work.
To make it sweeter, my friend told me how much fun she was having playing dumb with Mr Muscles on Bumble who from the start, was sending superior and confused signals. #typical
Her motive was to have fun and get some experience flirting with guys. I couldn’t disapprove of the project. But it really hit me as the movie came on, how much I was being sent special lessons.
And a case of ‘not getting it’ which my friend realized much later:
A girlfriend I knew in high school had sat down with me and told me her life for the last seven years, and explained the situation with her soon to be Greek ex- husband.
‘I’m not smart at all,’ she told me whereby I looked at her with unbelieving eyes. The same soon-to-ex had been with her for seven years in total, and every time she started with someone else while they were having a ‘break’ his jealousy got the best of him and they were back on. They got hitched on the suggestion of his mother – I think.
‘All the guys I went out with in the meantime, had got married straight after me,’ she told me.
‘I think you’re getting a very obvious message here,’ I replied. And this ex is worth several million thanks to properties and businesses.
The universe was telling her to get away every time. But we like to be blind and deaf to signals.
My last date was a huge example of ‘playing dumb’. He didn’t open up to me until he legitimately asked me out and we were finally meeting up one on one. Meaning it wasn’t until then that I got signs of some amazing intelligence and opinions on many things.
At first, I couldn’t understand and I revolted against the idea of hiding the true self from people. And then I understood – you get ahead in life, if you agree with scores of people, hang onto your bosses word, play your role well. Play the mask well.
I asked around, even to my parents while on holiday, what’s the use and meaning of a guy keeping his opinions and pretending to be dumb, around lots of people?
My stepdad replied, with his bucketload of wisdom: his former Italian flatmate had kept his opinions away and made sure no one knew what he thought, in order not to be boxed in – pegged – or stir the social waters. The last thing key players or social people want to do, is stir the water and make people feel uncomfortable. So they create a comfortable atmosphere and stick to the superficial topics or daily musings.
This makes sense when you’re south European and have over ten groups of people you speak to. Playing dumb can win in many situations; even my youngest bro, my housemate, does it well to escape jurisdictions. I think in a way it’s a lot like the playgirl mask I cultivated; stay low, live your life, don’t stir the social waters and avoid judgment. Like in Memoirs of a playgirl.
Except I state my opinion when I feel people are open to listening, I don’t hide my position.
And I’ve felt that suddenly the universe was sending me signs as to how to act, in order to get around – ahead – and win the game.
By hiding the self from ‘enemies’, looking subservient, juggling conversations, ‘telling people what they want to hear’.
It wasn’t one particular message that hit me, it was the sum of the whole. And ultimately my recollection of chats I had with my last guy which may or may not have driven me up the wall.
Because it was against my values, and baffled me. And now I get it.
Play the game, or you’re out.
‘You need to know how to play your cards,’ my old date hissed earnestly one night over the phone.
Listen to people’s behaviours – tell a guy’s insecure ego that he’s golden – show bosses what they want – basically align to other people’s perceptions and expectations.
And at the bottom of the well it told me the most mortifying thing: how people can’t handle the truth. How we all have to play several masks to soothe multiple things. How our true selves and identities are in major trouble.
But we know very well how to flirt to survive and perhaps enjoy life.
And ultimately, the people who know how to play the game, play it well, actually do get ahead. Or to some degree. Maybe they won’t win friends – in life, at work – but they have decided some time ago what their real priorities are.
Playing dumb or being straight up? Which one is your norm?