Saturday, May 7, 2011

Will You Stop Patronizing Me?

I'm an easy going kind of girl. Really, I am. I can pretty much get along with anybody. You can be stupid, and I'll help you get a clue. You're going to be imperfect (everybody is, you know, even you), yet I'll look over the imperfections easily. I have many of them myself.

But just patronize me, and you make an enemy for life.

So many have tried it. One guy in graduate school--a creative writing major--made it clear what he thought of literature majors. We had to work in a group together, three creative writing majors and me (a lit. major), and when the other three were going off on a tangent with planning, I said, "I don't quite understand."

Without blinking, this person leaned over, patted my arm, motioned to himself and the others, and said, "Don't worry. We're very creative people. We'll make sure you're okay."

I wanted to slug him. But since I am a pacifist, I didn't.

There was no shortage of such people in graduate school and academia. Usually it was a teacher of questionable worth who made it a point to patronize and insult the worth of the other teachers or graduate students around him/her in order to feel superior. But I always hated it.

Theatre has traditionally been a place for this as well, but until this last week, I hadn't really encountered it here in the community production of The Sound of Music. Sure, we have a couple divas, and they share their own little dressing room, keeping themselves aloof from the rest of us... but they haven't been too annoying.

Until yesterday.

We were just about to begin our second week of shows last night, and the girl who plays Maria came up to me with a few "suggestions." First, she wanted a bit more stage business for something, since she didn't feel like she could move the way she wanted to without it.

Okay. No big deal. I'd made adjustments for her before. Easy stuff.

But then she pulled out the patronizing card. She put her hand on my arm (always a bad sign), and said, "And be loud. When we sing together, especially. First the audience hears me sing," she says, "and then when you get up there, well, you know." And she makes a face.

Really? Did we have to go there? Three more productions, and we might never have to work together again. But she can't wait. She has to pull out the patronizing card and slap me across the face with it. I could spend the rest of the blog ranting about her acting skills, but I won't. She's not bad. And she can sing. And how well she does it is none of my damn business, since I'm not the director.

But neither is she.

I am grateful to be in the ordinary dressing room, and I'll take this as another reminder of how not to behave towards other people. We all have different talents, different strengths, and different weaknesses, and it's not my job to step on others while on my own personal journey.

It's also my job to do my best, despite the comments, and to do so with a positive attitude. Perhaps what upsets me most is that, even after all of these years, comments like this still bother me.


  1. It's hard to get over hearing stuff like this. It just keeps going round in your head, making you more aggrevated. Wish there was some sort of retaliation, short of hitting them upside the head!

  2. "Calm down, dear!"

    Okay, I'm off and running just as fast as I can....

  3. I am to mean, or inconsiderate, or out spoken, or whatever else you want to call it, to let this happen to me. I hope you don’t let it keep bothering you… if you do; you actually give those idiots more power.

    Forget what they say, and do your best. I know it will turn out great… no matter what you try.

    Happy Mother’s Day to all moms…

  4. I have learned to let a certain level of this roll off me. It happens and I'm in a male-dominated field (and, yes, women can be patronizing, but I've personally seen it a lot more from men perhaps because my field is male-dominated).

    Having said that, I'll accept it to a point without complaint. Cross the line, and you better have your ducks in a row (as more than one would be patronizer has found to his cost), because I will not be abused.

    Because I am also quite opinionated, even to a fault, I make a point not to give advice to people or critique anything unless asked. Those that know me, don't ask unless they want the unvarnished truth which can still be hard to swallow. Those that can't handle it, frequently don't ask and we both go our merry way. But I don't volunteer criticism.

  5. People will always disappoint.

    You are missed. :)

  6. This is definitely a topic that closes to me so I’m happy that you wrote about it. I’m also happy that you did the subject some justice. Not only do you know a great deal about it, you know how to present in a way that people will want to read more. I’m so happy to know someone like you exists on the web.