If you have a brain full of facts, trivia, observations, pictures, miscellany, garbage, etc., simply because you stuff it as full as it will get with these things, you are like me.  Finding new things, observing odd things, sorting out details, Hoovering up all you come across, that’s how I have always operated. The idea of going to SCHOOL, when I was three and four and suddenly aware that that was where my brother was every day, was absolute Disneyland for my Electrolux brain.  Note that the social aspects of going to school with other kids was an entirely different and surprising set of data, but that is for another blog post.

Having that dumpster-full head at the ready is something you then have to learn to control, or at least I did. The joy of having such a possession leads to sharing, like a new car or a promotion, and it is not always the thing people most want from you. This may seem obvious to neurotypical people, to whom social norms come easily. Not obvious, however, to some of the rest of us who see all the dirt paths along the side of the paved highway, or the thousand windows and secret passages in a perfectly ‘normal’ room where everyone else comes and goes through the door.  

Herein is born the pedant, the know-it-all, the one who cuts into conversation with “Well, actually . .” at certain [mostly unwelcome] junctures.  

And therein is also born, hopefully, a lifetime learning curve on over-sharing. If you care about having friends, being invited places, or enjoying family gatherings, you must learn. Family has to invite you, for the most part, but it’s preferable to be wanted.

To illustrate, in law school our faculty held a seminar on the post-Soviet struggle in the then-titled Czechoslovakia to return property to families who had been disenfranchised by the communist government. From castles to artwork, no easy task.  Having spent two years living in the communist version of that country, and having absorbed a great deal about its history and its people, I was enthralled to learn from legal experts how they were going to address and right these wrongs.  The lawyers presenting the seminar gave an overview of the renewal of property rights, and offered some successes they’d had in making reparations to citizens and heirs of those affected.  My mind was exploding with ‘but what if . . .?’ and ‘but when . . .?’ questions. Surely the twists and turns of determining ownership, interpreting succession rights, separating out family disputes on who played what part in the Soviet regime, were all playing a huge part . . . you see where this is going, don’t you.  They were working in generalities, I was dancing in the weeds. Indeed, they asked for questions.  My question went down into those weeds, and of course when I could see the fading smile and deadening eyes as I tried to work my way around the complexities, I received a curt “That’s very specific, but not for our work right now.” I wasn’t going to be allowed to play in that legal sandbox. Sigh.

Refine, refine, refine. How to know when the time is right for joining the chat? Where do you rein in that feisty brain full of shit or step hard into the world of asshole-ry?

Enter social media. A few years ago a European sports correspondent whom I enjoyed and followed on Twitter gave a strong and strident reference to Americans who don’t care about any country but their own. A very cogent point. He illustrated that point by saying “All Americans who use the phrase ‘God Bless America’ are shedding hate on the rest of the world. All of them.”

Ahem.  He’s so right that any country who puts itself above all others doesn’t play well on the world stage, self-centered and selfish Americans are a plague, among other salient points.  But . . . God Bless America? I could see all those open windows, damn it. Yep, I answered, with my “Well, actually . .”  Yes, there are racists and anti-immigrant Americans who use that term and wave the flag and thereby fit that bill entirely. And there are sheltered, less-educated Americans who hate the rest of the world simply because of it’s “otherness.” But I’m here to say that this term is also used by many citizens as a wishful hope for America, or perhaps a grateful paean to the good things with which the country has been blessed. Like “Vive La France!” or “God Save the Queen!”  Not all who say “God Bless America” are meaning to say “. . and screw everyone else.”  Same reaction, of course. Angry and brutal refutation of my premise, and a scoop of scorn added to the response.  My surprise was quite real. He’d never seemed the type to paint with such a broad brush, but what I guess I hadn’t caught was it was a rant. A thrust of opinion. My point may have merit [I still think so, of course!], but it was not the moment he was open to sophistry. He blocked me.

Just last year, I was part of a group on Twitter tearing their hair out over how so many millions of people had not only voted for Trump but were still loyally defending his racism, calls for violence, and disdain for the laws. One woman stated bluntly that all white women were to blame. Since a poll showed that over 53 percent of white women supported Trump, there is no question that is a tragic number. Not just that, but this woman said it was the sole reason we had been stuck with Trump. The only reason, I asked? Yes, the answer came back quickly, and there was mass agreement and ‘likes’ hit. Oh, well actually that number was from an exit poll, and the real number analyzed from actual voter rolls was 47 percent. Also the percentage for white MEN was almost 10 percentage points higher. The response? How dare I come to “Black Twitter” and challenge their premise. Note that the avatars of the speakers did not show me their race, but mine did. Me: Wait, what? Firestorm ensues. Nobody but me is surprised. Yes, many white women were guilty Trump supporters. That was all that mattered, and I mean that sincerely. The rhetoric around that premise was important, even if it wasn’t accurate. The venting of the anger, the betrayal, and pointing out to white America that they were still heavily racist, that’s truly what mattered.

This is not an excuse, but an explanation, if you can see the difference, for how I struggle to find balance. So I keep refining and re-evaluating the cues. I’m not blind to them, I just don’t always get them right.

The brain that gives me a leg up in trivia competitions also creates other unintentional battles. Well, actually, not battles really, but . . . wait, never mind.

2 thoughts on “WELL, ACTUALLY . . .

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