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Don’t Be an Asshole

One of the great rules of living… seriously, don’t be an asshole.

(First, a matter of semantics: Asshole is one of those rare obscenities that has a very unambiguous meaning. Somehow, and don’t ask me why, most curse words have double meaning, like “fucker.” Said with a wry smile, that word can be strangely endearing, and of course it can be hurtful too. But asshole… that’s usually quite clear and reserved for a particular kind of loathsome individual.)

It’s hard to say what defines a true asshole, but most people don’t have trouble picking them out. For me, it’s a person who has a reliable disregard for the feelings of others, especially strangers or subordinates. Feeling is the key word here. Sarcastic and sardonic people say and do things at the expense of others, like call them fuckers, which can be crudely fun. An asshole goes one step further and makes you feel inferior, usually by overreacting, overcompensating, or drawing attention to some shortcoming or idiosyncrasy that can’t be helped.

Beyond that, everyone’s definition is a little different. Yet somehow, when an asshole reveals himself, every soul in the room knows right away: When there has been a great and irreversible sea change from saying and doing, to feeling. Whatever that guy did to make this happen, don’t do that.

We’re all assholes from time to time. When it happens, just say you’re sorry. That’s easy. Otherwise, you will gain a just reputation for being an incurable asshole (see #19) that will be very hard to shake. In the real world — where it doesn’t matter how far you can throw a football or how much time you spend in the tanning booth — no one likes an asshole. They don’t hire them, they don’t trust them, and they don’t sleep with them (more than once).

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© 2012, Ian Mathias

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