Popularity in Human Life: What about Me?
There seems to be a strange phenomenon sweeping cultural life. I call it the “vote for me” phenomenon. “Dancing with the Stars,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Oprah’s OWN Show.” You name it and somebody’s voting for or against somebody. I get the idea of increased social engagement and that the increased volume of web traffic looks great to advertisers.
On the positive side, the idea of matching values, instant feedback, and being appreciated is a good thing. It just feels a little strange, especially if you’re on the outside of the ‘inner circle’. I’ve always felt a sharp pang of empathy for the kid who got left behind, the boy who didn’t make the team, or the little girl who didn’t get invited to the party.
One of my favorite stories comes from an old Erma Bombeck Mother’s Day column, called “My Favorite Child.” http://www.envisionevolution.org/uncategorized/my-favorite-child/ Erma speaks to the heartbreak of the one left behind. In human life, we can’t all be famous and we won’t always be the favorite. But what’s a well-intentioned person to do? I realize you can’t vote for people with whom you don’t connect but how, then can the ‘non-winners’ feel ever valued and appreciated and ever develop enough confidence to keep trying?
Though it seems counter-intuitive, Alice Walker speaks of a ritual from a distant culture where, when someone is behaving like an ass, instead of chastising the person, you place the ‘not so good one’ in a circle and surround them with love. Oh, to live in that culture. It’s great to vote for the favorite, the hot shot, the one with all the glory, but there may be a more important human need, the next evolution in kindness and compassion, a vote for the one who doesn’t quite get it and may never ‘succeed.’ What might a little love and inclusion do?
Erma Bombeck – My Favorite Child
Every mother has a favorite child. She cannot help it. She is only human. I have mine – the child for whom I feel a special closeness, with whom I share a love that no one else could possibly understand. My favorite child is the one who was too sick to eat ice cream at his birthday party – who had measles at Christmas – who wore leg braces to bed because he toed in – who had a fever in the middle of the night, the asthma attack, the child in my arms at the emergency ward.
My favorite child spent Christmas alone away from the family, was stranded after the game with a gas tank on E, lost the money for his class ring.
My favorite child is the one who messed up at the piano recital, misspelled committee in a spelling bee, ran the wrong way with the football, and had his bike stolen because he was careless.
My favorite child is the one I punished for lying, grounded for insensitivity to other people’s feelings, and informed he was a royal pain to the entire family.
My favorite child slammed the doors in frustration, cried when she didn’t think I saw her, withdrew and said she could not talk to me.
My favorite child always needed a haircut, had hair that wouldn’t curl, had no date for Saturday night, and a car that cost $600 to fix. My favorite child was selfish, immature, bad-tempered, and self-centered. He was vulnerable, lonely, unsure of what he was doing in the world, and quite wonderful.
All mothers have their favorite child. It is always the same one: the one who needs you at the moment. Who needs you for whatever reason – to cling to, to shout at, to hurt, to hug, to flatter, to reverse charges to, to unload on – but mostly just to be there.