Then Again, Maybe Not
Monday, October 22, 2012
So, remember last week when I wrote all about how identifying and fulfilling the pleasures of others can be one of the most incredible things we can do for one another? Yeah, scrap that. This week, I’ve learned all about the opposite: how to stop pleasing others at your own expense.
It’s really a conundrum to me. Every time I think I learn some fabulous truth or infallible rule, I inevitably learn that there are circumstances where its opposite is also true. Take the golden rule: “Do unto others as you’d have done to you.” It’s a great rule of thumb… generally speaking. But specifically speaking, it’s terrible!
Let’s say, for instance, that you’re buying a car and I’m your friendly neighbourhood car dealer. I like facts and figures, whereas you like things that are fast, shiny and red. When you come in to my dealership, I bombard you with all of the latest fact, figures and comparisons, overloading you with so much information that you’re paralyzed and unable to make a decision.
The next day, you visit the dealership down the road, where another salesman listens to your desires, sits you in the fastest red convertible on the lot, and makes the sale almost immediately. I see you in your shiny new car and wonder what I did wrong. I gave you all of the data proving that the matte blue station wagon has the best fuel economy of anything out there. I treated you exactly as I would have wanted to be treated, and that’s why you went elsewhere.
I find it amazing that none of the rules I ever learn is absolute. Everything seems to be about context (and yet, I’m sure if I think about it long enough, I’ll find an exception to this rule as well.) So when I was writing last week about finding the joy in fulfilling someone else’s pleasure instead of always fulfilling my own, I didn’t know that this week I’d be advocating the opposite position. But weddings do bring out the best in people.
And I see more clearly than ever how Bridezillas are born, as they strive in vain to please everyone around them at their life’s grand event. This week, I assisted one of my friends with her wedding. It’s been a long time coming, but there have always been obstacles in the way for this couple. Finally, this bride realized that she really did have all of the resources around her to make her wedding happen. (We may have convinced her that she would just have to pick a day, and everything else would simply fall into place with a little help from friends.)
I, for one, offered to arrange one of the most vital of wedding elements: the bar. I met with her to discuss the final details, and we got the planning underway. I thought we had a good handle on things, but even with all of the outsourcing she was able to do, there were still minor emergencies (which, let’s be honest, are never minor to a bride in the context of her wedding. Never.)
But my friend fought off the Bridezilla title like a champion, and took her hiccups in stride, with true grace and patience. I was ever impressed. Although I’ve never been married, I’ve worked at enough events to know the pressure and atmosphere that can occur when things don’t go as planned. Now multiply this tenfold at a wedding. Then keep in mind that her ‘hiccups’ would have been classified as major meltdowns in my mind (but of course, I didn’t mention a thing. “Of course, it’ll all work out fine, I’m sure!” I would chant whenever asked.)
And sure enough, it did. The day before the wedding, all was in place for a fantastic event, until I got one of the last calls from the bride. She wanted to know what kind of wine we had purchased. It was a Gewürztraminer, something with a bit more broad appeal. Oh no! The bride’s mother only drinks Chardonnay. The bride tells me she’ll run out and make a special trip for a couple of bottles, just for ‘Mum’.
Then, another call. Did we buy Coke or Pepsi? “Oh, coke? I’ll have to run and grab some Pepsi for grandma.” Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself, “Are you crazy? Let them drink water, for all I care. They’re here for the wedding, not for the Chardonnay and Pepsi!” But of course, I hold my tongue. Who am I to say what the bride should and shouldn’t be stressing about in the final minutes leading up to her wedding?
But I did take a mental note to self: sometimes not pleasing someone is the exact right thing to do. Perhaps they just need some perspective on what’s truly important, which pleasures to indulge and which are better left unmet.
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