August 03, 2010

Oh, that is so cliched

December 22nd, 2009

Don't you just hate those irritating, cliched things that people say when you are feeling, for what ever reason, miserable or upset? You know the ones I'm talking about; all the: "no, you're way prettier than she is"

"It's his loss, not yours"
"You really have nothing to worry about"
"It's probably not as bad as you think"
"There are plenty of people worse off"
"Never mind, better luck next time"
"Aww, there's plenty more fish in the sea"

Yeah, you get the picture. The last of these particularly irritates me, not least because it contains an egregious grammatical error, but anyone whose situation is likely to invoke the usage of this cliche by the well-meaning friends and family is probably feeling like their life has just ended, and that it doesn't matter how many fish are out there, none have colours as bright as the one that has just been lost. It is also among the most insensitive, belittling and isolating things one could possibly say to someone such a situation; You might as well say "Oh well, just get over it". (and that really would be considered abominably insensitive). Although masked by an annoying piscine metaphor, that IS exactly what you are saying.

Whenever I hear the words, "there's plenty more fish in the sea" or, "There are plenty of people worse off", that just makes me feel so much better! I mean, what do you know! I've been deluding myself all this time, I guess there really ARE loads of other fish out there! I'm just going to pick myself up right now and forget about all my troubles just like that, and I feel so much better for having heard an age-old, worn-out, pointless cliche, thankyou so much! And as for the second...frankly, as cruel as it may sound, when I'm feeling low, I don't give a monkeys about anyone else right at that minute. "Yeah, I've just been dumped/lost my job/failed my exam...but it's OK, there are LOTS of people who've got it bad, so it doesn't matter that I feel lousy because OTHERS FEEL WORSE!"

In case you're wondering what has provoked my writing of this latest cynical, negative musing, I was just thinking about a text conversation I was having earlier today with a friend of mine. After employing one of the choicest cliches ("Awww, it wasn't as bad as you think it was, you have nothing to worry about"),I stopped, remembering that a few weeks ago when I was in a similar situation, the endless cliches and unhelpfulness just made me cross, lonely, and feeling like no one actually cared or actaually was even listening to what I was saying. I rephrased the text, in my OWN words (and avoiding sources of mis-interpretation that is the curse of modern-day electronic communication), and the text I eventually did send was much more heartfelt and like I'd actually put some thought into what I wanted to say. I think my friend appreciated it, for she said she felt better.

I guess I don't really have a point that I'm trying to make here, other than that cliches are not cool and not helpful - care ought to be taken before using them in anything other than jest. Anyway, I implore you, next time one of your family or friends needs your support or empathy, don't just idly cast aside their feelings by spouting off an unmindful cliche - try and think of something worthwhile to say.

One of my favourite quotes:

"The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief or bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing; not healing, not curing... that is a friend who cares".
--Henri Nouwen

Happy Christmas!

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