Amelia Earhart was a childhood hero of mine. Of course by childhood, I refer to a period of time that stretched well into my early twenties...but I'm growing up now.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Putting the "Prop" in Appropriate: Part Two

My brain is rather stuck on this question of appropriateness, after recently recalling a repressed memory from pubescent years:

Following an incident with an “inspirational performer” named Magic Charlie, my high school had to have an assembly one year about appropriate assembly behavior. This consisted of an hour of speeches and skits from teachers, the ASB, and the principal on the subject. According to the great logic of the public school administration, students who already can’t sit still and shut up during an assembly will pay attention to an assembly that spends an hour telling them to sit still and shut up. (If you find this example of administrative lunacy amusing, the Library of Kari suggests you look for Up the Down Staircase, by Bel Kaufman at your local library.)

The tagline for the assembly was “Funny? Yes. Appropriate? No.” The funny referred to the fact that during Magic Charlie’s inspirational talk and display of supposedly awe-inspiring basketball-handling skills, he was repeatedly pelted with wadded paper and insults of the “your momma is so old, she has to use Super Polident” variety. The appropriate referred to the notion that even though poor Charlie’s shtick was aimed at a much younger audience (and was apparently much appreciated at my little brother’s elementary school earlier that same day), we students shouldn’t have taken it upon ourselves to make him want to cry, take his balls and go home. And so as punishment, we were pulled out of class (oh darn) for an assembly warning us that there would be no more assemblies if we didn’t learn to treat the presenters with more respect. The skits that were part of this cautionary assembly (exaggerated parodies of the actual incident) did nothing to downplay the fact that the taunting of Charlie had been very funny – not nice, considerate or polite, but nonetheless funny.

I still have a hard time not busting up laughing every time the phrase “Funny? Yes. Appropriate? No.” pops into my head. But, it’s the sort of thing that makes me wonder about my own responsibility as a person who likes to share her twisted version of comedy with the world. How do I decide where to draw the line between “okay funny” and “wrong funny”? I suppose it’s like deciding whether or not to wear a hazmat suit to a bridal shower. Funny? Yes. Appropriate? Well, maybe from a practical standpoint, because cold season is upon us, and plus I don’t want any punch or romantic sentimentality spilled on me. But will it reflect well on the subject of the occasion or even on myself as perpetrator of the joke? Probably not.

I’ll just tell people the gremlins made me do it.


Putting the "Prop" in Appropriate: Part One

I often find in my job that it is good idea to never overestimate people’s knowledge of what is appropriate in a particular situation. I know this sounds rather harsh, but let me give you an example: Every year our office is throws a holiday shindig at an exclusive business club in Downtown LA. Now, this club does not allow jeans to worn by guests (I’m guessing that they might be inclined to look the other way for Donald Trump, but for those not planning growing a bad-toupee-looking monstrosity on their head anytime soon, it’s best buck up and follow the rules). So, one of my yearly holiday tasks is to let people know, as they RSVP, that they should dress nicely for the event. From past experience, we are aware that left to their own devices people may show up in tuxedo t-shirts and beach pants. Surely, I’m exaggerating, you say. Well, perhaps, but I get to write the blog. Not you. So there. *sticks out tongue*

Another interesting task I’m sometimes called upon for at my job is that of tact consultant. Colleagues will tell me that they want to tell another co-worker something difficult in a “nice” way, and so they look to me as residence keeper of the “niceness”. (I know, I don’t understand it either.) Basically this is the difference between saying, “Get the heck away from my project, and by the way, did you know you smell like a Hyena?” or saying, “I know you’ve got a lot of responsibilities on your plate right now, so let me lighten the load by shouldering this project. Oh, and I had a buy-one-get-one free coupon for Glade Plug-ins when I was at Ralphs yesterday, would you like one for your office?”

It’s also a good idea for me to not overestimate my knowledge of what is appropriate in a situation, as I tend to forget that I should not tell people about my gremlin minions who are secretly helping me take over the earth…Oops!

Consider this part one of two. Part two will be up shortly.