As I've gotten older, I've spent a lot less time listening to what people tell me they think they want, and engaging them in conversation to help them find out what they actually do want — because most people don't really know.The crème de la crème. Part one, from one Mefite:
I pronounced breakfast with an extra "r" (breakfrast) until I was in high school, when friends started teasing me.
I used to think small talk was the most boring, pointless thing ever, until I realized it's often a way for people to feel more comfortable with one another before continuing the conversation. It's like handing someone a small familiar appetizer before bringing out one's personal plate of weirdness. Makes things go down a little more smoothly.
It took about ten years of casual biking to realise that you shift gears down to go up hills, not up — I always thought I was just really bad at slopes.
It took me a while to realize that people don't want to hear me yammer on about whatever I'm interested in, or give them unsolicited advice on whatever I believe I know more about, and that you becomes a lot more likable when you really listen and ask questions about another person's interests, rather than focusing on how they relate to you.
Thinking Seattle was the capital of Oregon.
It turns out it's more important to be pleasant than smart. (Both ideally. But as soon as statistical or ideological perfectionism starts trading off with being friendly, you're losing.) I always thought smarts trumped everything else. It took me a very long time to realize that getting buy-in and building relationships are far more important and effective than being clever.
When I first learned the word "defenestration" it was using a cat as an example. For the longest time, I thought it could be used on cats and on cats alone.
Until last year, I thought the spread of bagels and other snacks on movie and television sets was universally sponsored by Kraft, and therefore called the Kraft services table (rather than craft services, for people in the craft of production). I used to idly wonder how they won this contract and why so many actors were eating Velveeta.
It was until I was 8 or 9 — even after spending my childhood listening to the Beatles — that I realized that Ringo Starr was not Sinbad the comedian. When I saw Ringo on TV I thought he looked so much like a pirate that he must be this "Sinbad" I'd heard about.
You know how we get Vitamin D from being in the sun? I thought until my mid-20's that this was because the sun beamed it into us from 93 million miles away.
It took me many years to discover that it is more useful to be liked than to be right. That people almost never say what they mean or think, but what they say is a clue to what they think, if you can only decrypt it. (I was a little Aspergery when I was younger.)
For a long time I thought blog was pronounced "bee-log" and was short for bio-log or something like that.
There are two things I've done wrong for most of my life. [epic follows]
I was a freshman in college before someone told me that "anyways" isn't a word. That same year I learned that telling people something isn't a word isn't a great way to make friends.
If I'm envious of someone's success, it's because I haven't put enough time in on my own shit. When I'm doing the work, someone else doing well doesn't eat at me at all.
Even up to the time I was in the fourth grade or so, I thought the word 'ass' referred to the male genitalia.
Sturgeon's Law has a non-obvious implication: if 90% of everything is crap... 10% is good. Even country music. Even hip-hop. You just haven't looked. My taste in everything has greatly expanded since that dawned on me.
Had a girlfriend start spontaneously sobbing in the car. Eventually, she eeks out, "That's so sad, I've never seen a hearse built just for babies before." I looked in my rear-view mirror: a PT Cruiser.
In a Chinese restaurant, the fastest way to get a fresh pot of tea: take the lid off the pot and put it back upside down. It will be a matter of seconds — well, minutes — before they replace it with a new one.
Until very recently, I thought Gene Shalit was a fictional character created for The Critic. He looked so goofy and "Gene Shallot" sounded like a joke name!
Pretty much anyone who's any good at creating anything feels like a bit of a fraud most of the time. It's a byproduct of never being satisfied with what you've produced, which is the motive force behind most creative enterprises.
One thing I've learned but I'm still trying to perfect is that I don't have to be in every argument, and the phrase "You know what? I really don't know enough about that to make an informed comment" is really, really awesome.
As a kid, I thought earthquakes were caused by that ball that chased Indiana Jones around.
It was my girlfriend's brother who commented that the They Might Be Giants song S-E-X-X-Y was probably about someone with Klinefelter Syndrome.
I stopped being intimidated by people — bosses, teachers, professors, superiors, people who seemed completely self-confident, unlike myself — when I realized that all of them, the great and the meek, have to sit on the toilet, too.
When I was about nine, I heard the word "gangbang" somewhere. Naturally, I thought it described a big fight, so I happily used it this way until I was about 12, presumably mostly to other people who didn't know what it meant either. Then I was watching the Superbowl with my parents and about 20 players wound up in a huge pile. "It looks like the aftermath of a gangbang!" I said. My dad replied that a) it didn't and b) it wasn't really a word I should use. I later looked up gangbang in the massive dictionary at school (for that is what we did before the internet) and felt very silly and rather embarrassed.To which another Mefite replied with part two:
You think that's bad? During my orientation for grad school, we had a "community building" afternoon where we did all sorts of cheesy games to get to know each other. One of the games involved the teams doing some sort of relay race that involved writing down ways we could get to know each other better throughout the semester. Anyway, there was a complete breakdown in the game about halfway through, when one of the students, a German guy, wrote...you guessed it, "gangbang."
Needless to say, many people were shocked, horrified, outraged, and I honestly think it hurt him socially, at least for that first semester. Later on, he and I became friends, and he brought it up. He really had no idea why people were so upset. And while we were talking about it, it occurred to me that, when he wrote "gangbang," he really meant "orgy."