Thursday, January 12, 2006

Taboo with a purpose

Thinking about it further (when trying to get to sleep), something came to me, and I decided that it was easier to type than write down to type later.

Maybe lifting the ban on certain taboos that don't need to be taboos just isn't a good idea. Maybe people in general aren't mature enough to discuss peoples' salaries. There are so many assumptions you can make about someone if you know their salary, and with those assumptions come preconceived notions, perhaps based on something that isn't even quite true. Weight... certainly your weight can bring about negative connotations, deserved or not. Age brings even more assumptions.

Maybe these things are forbidden from conversation out of politeness for people who would have to give out information that could be heard or overheard by someone who would use it improperly, or refuse to answer and then look like they have something to hide. You might think that you could know the answer to that question and treat that fact objectively, but the person asked may have their doubts, or have personal issues arising from the commonly held societal views on that fact. You don't ask those questions because it's generally impolite to make someone feel socially uncomfortable, and you don't often know how someone is going to respond. I guess it's even worse when you ask the question and you already know the other person would not want to respond.

6 comments:

ianonymous said...

Tell me, how can you think so highly of yourself yet be so simple?

I, on this very rare occasion, am at a complete loss as to what to say to this and your other post concerning basic manners. Seriously, are you so dense as to not understand the basics of human interaction, which govern what you consider to be bluntness and most other people, consider to be nothing more than self indulgent egomania? These things aren't taboo, Spomey, they are simply rude. No one cares how much your fat ass weighs, or how old you are, or even how much MS is overpaying you to bitch incessantly about working on weekends and following coding conventions. They aren't off limits because of some taboo, but simply because in polite society, it is best not to limit the scope of conversation, allowing others to easily participate. This is why people generally discuss such inane topics as the weather, or local sports scores etc. Engaging in a discussion on your "taboos" assumes people want to hear about you, puts in them in a position where they cannot easily "discuss" you, and generally monopolizes the conversation. Posing such personal questions to "open" the conversation makes some pretty blatant assumptions about others trust for you; it is the very height of rudeness.

Someone once told me that: "good manners are nothing more than make others feel comfortable around you". The only people that consistently complain about such conventions, which I grant you change over time, are selfish little creatures who care very little for the feelings of those around them; fortunately for everyone else, those people tend to ostracize themselves from society.

Travis said...

That's an interesting comment, and very much self-serving and full of crap. That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm not at all saying that I or you or anybody else should frequently use "hey, I'm 24!" as a conversation starter. If these things were so totally uninteresting to other people, they wouldn't come up in conversation.

Now, what you're saying is pretty true for conversations with random groups of people whom you're not terribly familiar with... cocktail party kinds of conversations. These are conversations I roughly never find myself in. In a group of people whom you already know, people who talk about inane things like the weather are probably the rude ones, because they know before they say it that no one is interested in the topic. People talk about sports because they're interested in sports. And people are interested in the "taboo" topics I mentioned, because they still come up from time to time. Someone asked for the ages of everyone at the table, and it sparked an interesting conversation about peoples' age, how long they've been working at Microsoft, school, and so forth. Everyone answered readily except one woman who refused to. Not long ago the weight question came up, also not by me. It doesn't limit the conversation; it's a perfectly valid way to start one that everyone can participate in, because everyone has a weight and most everyone has feelings about the subject. It may be rude because it's a sensitive subject for some, but not because it monopolizes the conversation in any way.

No, what you've described is an entirely different affliction, the person who talks about themselves or topics only they care about for too long. And while this may seem to be me, keep in mind that you're reading a website which, by design, contains writings by me, on myself, and other topics that I care about. My blog is not representative of conversations, and is a very different kind of interaction.

You've taken my post, changed the meaning significantly, and then used it to prove the same point about me that you enjoy so much. It makes me repeatedly wonder whether I fail so horribly at writing that this keeps happening, or that this is what happens with people who really only know you through your blog, or if you just enjoy poking me.

Travis said...

You have pointed out one important fact, though, and that's that I do focus on negative things. I bitch on here quite a bit. I don't know why that is or when it started. Maybe I just am more passionate about things I don't like and wish were different. That's a quality that goes along with software very well, but not with writing or speaking. Maybe it's because I sometimes feel silly writing posts about things that are great and how great they are. But, whatever it is, I'm working on it.

LauraJean said...

My blog tends to be mostly bitching as well. I once made a resolution to be more positive, but it failed.

I find it much harder to be like, "Wow, my day was really great today! Nothing bad happened. I went to class and lunch and class and dinner and now I'm doing my homework. Yay!"

It's true that bad things tend to stick in our minds more. They also tend to be a little more unique and invoke some type of (negative) emotion, thus prompting me to blog about it.

ianonymous said...

I can't fault you for being a bit negative. After all, I generally believe that not only is the glass half empty, but the first half of what ever it was tasted dreadful anyway; one of the many results of working in software.

In answer to your question: I suspect that it has a lot to do with only knowing you though your blog, as I don't derive any specific pleasure in poking you. Perhaps, had you not formed your initial opinion of me based on the fact that I was associated with JDE461, I could have gotten to know you in person as opposed to through your blog. It is that matter-of-fact attitude, as a matter of fact, that generally causes me to post such smug and/or flippant responses.

Travis said...

I think that, honestly, I probably focus so much on negative things to happen to me because my life is so positive. I'm seriously basically always happy. Even when I was miserably sick, and even though almost every crunch time, I'm happy. I just have a peace in the knowledge and assurance that everything works out in the end. And relatively speaking, I've got it pretty damned good. I'm also easily annoyed, and I mostly post about things that annoy me, not anything that causes me any particular rage.

And, yes, ianonymous and I basically know each other from this blog and a few selected prior incidents that were also not face-to-face, which is not exactly a way to start a positive, reinforcing friendship.