Don’t get me wrong…

So often the introductory assertion, “Don’t get me wrong…” in fact predicts just the opposite intention, “You’re damn right I think so!” Seemingly we’re provoked initially to shield or outright hide our predominant disposition by characterizing it as some less direct offensive. At a minimum the initial statement, “Don’t get me wrong!” Is a caution to what follows, a hint at qualification. The last thing it is however is mistaken. In that sense at least the statement is undisguised.

What is of greater interest and appeal than the literary analysis is the examination of the psychological imperative which promotes such condescension in the first place. Why do we feel obliged to introduce our clarity with such ritual obfuscation? In short why can we not just be ourselves?

Whenever I undertake an enquiry of human nature I am aware of the possible misconstruction arising from the inescapable inclination to see in others what we see in ourselves.  It is almost an axiomatic conclusion. And when it is wrong, it can be hugely embarrassing and often as equally damaging to both parties. Having said that (now there’s another of those cautionary ambivalent openers) the frequency of hearing others say, “Don’t get me wrong…” invites me to assess the delicacy as reflective not only of my own behaviour. The words are suggestive of a similarity which thrives among many of us who, while convinced of our own propriety nonetheless persist to apologize for our entitlement to express it. This is a regrettable method of communication. First, it obscures the message; and, second, it diminishes its authenticity.

Candidness – or the willingness to submit to it – has been for me a journey of a lifetime.  Even now as I approach the finality of my days I am reluctant fully to disclose my thoughts. My hesitancy is not merely a fear of translucency. It is as often a reluctance to appear harsh about my personal opinions.  Some thoughts after all can be very hurtful to others notwithstanding the assuaging element of legitimacy from the subscriber. However apart from that questionable altruism, and given that most of us respond instinctively to perceived threat, I accept that retreat or disguise is a natural accommodation of openness in most instances. Indeed as often as truthfulness can be hurtful to others, candidness can be damaging to oneself.  This at least is frequently the initial view of the venture. So conditioned are some of us to the possible perils of behaviour that we willingly adopt an armoured conduct as a constant mantle to eliminate debate. Effectively we become conditioned to the obfuscation, sometimes to the point of deceiving ourselves.

Herein lies the damaging result of blaming others for getting you wrong.  It isn’t they who have got you wrong; it is you who have got them wrong, you who have questionably predicted their inner sentiments, you who have quirkishly ascribed to them a paramountcy of influence or importance, you who have mistakenly assumed and as often encouraged their priority to entitlement. The evolution of a life is always fascinating.  My experience has apparently been accentuated or even exaggerated by what I no doubt tiresomely maintain is serendipity.  I find there are constantly things happening in my life which open another door onto another pasture onto another stream and on and on it goes. If I were to apologize for anything it would be for sounding like an aging Pollyanna. And yet my conviction is both avid and genuine. And if I have learned anything about this intriguing subject of directness and openness it is that almost without exception nobody else cares. It is not because others are uncharitable. Nine times out of ten it is because they’ve got other things to think about, just as each of us has better things to think about than your battle with authenticity. So, allow me to respond by saying, in the future spare us the dilemma; just say what you mean and get on with it!

Post Scriptum:

By coincidence after I had begun this monologue, I received the following email from a friend. The narrative apparently arises from an article I shared though I confess I am uncertain which in particular. The allusions are frankly inexplicable but I confess appreciating the general thrust of the words.  What I extract from this animated conglomerate is a metaphorical youthful vitality which long ago evaporated but which nonetheless invigorates the present.

March 17th, 2024
St. Patrick’s Day, Southern Ontario

Ah yes! There he is! The Billy Chapman I once met in Ottawa, who stole us and taxied us off to France across the Ottawa River to give us a thrill. Friend of Fiona, he was. They were all friends who knew each other at Neuchâtel. I didn’t know why Chris decided to invite Carol and me. Neither of us had even been so much as over the ocean, much less experienced a junior college in Switzerland. We were just rough rubes from the semi-slums of the USA, interesting in our own right, but limited in our knowledge of worldly ways. Carol may have seemed pure if not simple. And Jake was irrepressibly butch, and not entirely because he wanted to be but because he knew of no other way to be.

Following Billy’s lead, the group of six were thrust into a bar in which men gamboled around, dressed as tarts, looking fetching to Jake until he saw the tell-tale signs of their disguised masculinity. Then, they became curiosities to be enjoyed at arm’s length or more. Still, that night was the one night in Jake’s circumscribed life in which he drank freely and with gusto from his single glass of beer but the beer in that glass never dropped more than an inch below the rim! And to think that we might have called it all off at 11 pm, except for Billy’s insistence that we all go to France!

Yes, I remember that Billy! He was a rascal of the first order. Funny. Entertaining. Non-stop frivolity.

I’m now glad to know that he lived long and well rather than short and kooky. Now that we are both beyond the three-quarter-century mark, probably wondering what horrors of old age lie in wait for us, I am glad to know that Billy is still capable of applying his digits to his keyboards in order to proclaim his presence in the world.

Well done, Billy! Well done!