So we in the Midwest are just coming out of a little thing called a Polar Vortex, which up until recently might have been mistaken for the lesser known fetish of “Santa Porn.” On the morning of January 6, my wife Stephanie and I woke up at oh-dark-thirty and shoveled the better part of a foot of snow off of our driveway…in a wind-chill of minus 20. As the local weather guy put it, “It hasn’t been this cold in a generation. If you’re thirty-years-old, you haven’t felt anything like this since you were 1!”
All I could picture was a gaggle of parka’d moms with their toddlers in this Godforsaken tundra. “My little bundle may never feel this kind of frigid for 30 years. I think a wet-diaper and a onesie will really give him something special to remember!”
So when we came in from the cold, I popped on the local news to see when we might climb into the positive single digits. During the wall-to-wall team coverage of “Snowgasm 2014,” one reporter said, “I talked to a family whose mother was from Alaska, and she called this ‘amateur hour.’ She then went on to say, ‘If you think this is bad…blah blah blah.’ Guys, my eyelids are frozen open, and I am now unable to blink. Back to you in the studio.”
(Okay, she really didn’t say that last part.)
But what she did say really got under my skin. Because I was so grossly offended by that Alaskan mom, I tried to think of the most hateful thing I could possibly say to her if I met her on the street. “Oh yeah, Sarah Palin?! You think that’s bad?! Well I lost a testicle to cancer! How’s that for amateur hour, HONEY?!”
Of course then I’d be hosed if she came back and said, “Double mastectomy.”
To which she’d be hosed by my friend Hannah’s “Rotationplasty.” Trust me…look that one up.
“You think that’s bad…” is about the worst thing you could possibly say at any time, ever. It is an instant negator of someone’s feelings. For those of you who have been keeping up with these blogs, you know that I’m hugely passionate about feeling what you’re going to feel, good or bad, embracing it, and living in each precious moment. I also harp on the fact that everything is relative, and what is “amateur hour” to someone is pure hell to someone else.
Look, I understand that commiserating can be healthy. I’m not even saying that comparing battle scars is a bad thing. All you have to do is watch Jaws to realize that. But once you utter those four words, you have utterly failed in being a decent human being.
So the next time you see someone wallowing in misery, no matter how much you really want to say those words, don’t. Ask them what they’re going through, how they feel, and if they’re scared. And if you have a gentle way of relating to what they’re going through, all the better.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go salt the driveway for the next round of snow we’re getting on Wednesday. Of course, it could be worse, I guess. I still have one testicle. And Madame Insensitive is probably back in Anchorage by now.