Saturday, February 18, 2006

Being a Good Sport.

I have a bad voice. Between having a tiny vocal range and being rather tone deaf, I cannot carry a tune, as they say, in a bucket. I will be the first to admit this. In fact, I am the first to admit it, and I frequently make jokes about it.
This Friday night, I was singing some song to myself. A friend turned to me and said, "Wow, that is totally off-key. You know, you make me off-key sometimes, have you noticed?"
I smiled a little sheepishly and shrugged and we kept walking. I stopped singing.
This friend is a kind, sweet person, and I do not think that she would turn to anyone and tell them that they are fat, or ugly. I do not think she would turn to people in general and tell them that they are off-key. But I have it a habit- no, I have made a constant effort- to be a good sport. To joke about my flaws. To laugh when other people joke about them. To pretend that I don't actually care that my voice is bad.
But...here's a newsflash, world. I do care. I love singing and I wish that my voice was not painful to my ears and to others. I wish that I could lose myself in beautiful music. I wish, because I am not a saint, that other people would like my voice and compliment me on it. I wish that I was perfect. I wish that I could sing as loudly as I want, and not have to keep my voice down so it won't ruin the music for everyone else.
And when I joke about my voice, that doesn't mean that I don't care about it. It means that I am being honest with myself, that I am telling myself that it's not the most important thing in the world, that I am working on my modesty, that I am indicating thatI don't take myself overly seriously, that I'm demonstratng that I am aware of my flaws, that I'm telling the world that I am someone who can laugh at myself, that I'm being funny, that I'm hoping, a little subconsciously, to have someone say, 'No, your voice is fine'....In other words, doing a whole bunch of things, of which not caring is not one. (Sorry 'bout the double negatives...)
And so if you make a joke about my voice, I will probably grin with you. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. Not that I am offended- I made a committment several years ago not to be insulted, and I am keeping it middlingly well. But...it hurts.
And I know it may not be fair to expect my friends to realize this. If I am intent on hiding this from them, and from myself, how should they be expected to guess it?
But...just a word of wisdom, people. No one likes casual comments about their flaws. No one. No matter how much they may joke about, or pretend they don't care. No matter how much of a good sport they try to be.

5 comments:

Mike said...

Good point.

Irina Tsukerman said...

Hmm... I think you may want to make up cues to give people when to draw the line with their jokes.

e-kvetcher said...

Tobie,
I always get in trouble over this with my spouse. I am very self-critical by nature and so I tend to be overtly critical of others.

One thing I've noticed about myself: Sometimes I will talk about myself in a self-deprecating way but then get upset when others say the same about me.

Have you said that you don't like your own voice in front of other people? Maybe that gave them an opening to be more critical than they would otherwise be?

And Irina - no, I'm not blaming the victim

Tobie said...

Well, see, as I've said, I do joke about my bad voice in front of my friends. Which is why I know that it's not fair to blame them for doing the same. After all, why shouldn't they assume that I am sincere in my not caring?

But...still. I mean, come on. I have friends who joke about how bad they are at a certain subject, but I do not regard this as an opening to turn to them and say, "Boy are you stupid at math." Why? Because I think that a fairly basic understanding of people says that just because somebody jokes about something, it may still hurt. In fact, it is quite likely that they are joking about it because it hurts, because that is a way to minimize it and let people know that you have no false pretentions.

Look, I realize that I'm not being fair on this friend, which is one of the reasons that I am not angry at her. And I realize that I brought this upon myself by my persona of not caring. But I still do think that a good ground rule for human existance is: never gratuitously mention other people's weaknesses. It's just not cool.

Richard said...

0) Obviously, I can't comment on your voice, since I've never heard you sing, but I'm sure that it's a nice voice all the same.
1) That was not a nice thing for your friend to say.
2) There really is no excuse for pointing out a flaw, perceived or real. It's either lashon haraa or simply rude, depending on to whom the point-out-er is speaking.
3) llamas!