the golden rule
by Miss What's-Your-Name-Again?
Just for reference, in case you forgot, this is the conversation we had today that has prompted me to write this note. It took place in the classroom, right before lunch.
You: Miss… Uh, Miss…?
(Here I give you my name, for at least the fifteenth goddamn time today.)
You: [What’s-his-name] did like this to me!
(here, you make a flailing motion with your hands, like you’re… well, I can’t think of a real life situation in which you would ever “Do like that” so I can’t really explain it, and What’s-His-Name, the alleged culprit, stomps over with as much rage as a 6 year old can muster.)
What’s-His-Name (Bobby? Bill? Bryan? Who knows): HE DID IT FIRST!
Me: (to you) Did you?
You: IT’S THE GOLDEN RULE!
Now, this gave me understandable pause. You so kindly elaborated:
You: “… If someone does something to you, you can do it back.”
So, I guess first off: I’m so sorry I laughed. I’m really sorry. You guys were so mad and it wasn’t fair, but between What’s-His-Name stomping around and clenching his tiny little fists, and you reenacting your own weird, chicken-dance of fury… it was just fucking hilarious from beginning to end. I adore you both to pieces.
From my own understanding, the “Golden Rule” is something along the lines of: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” But you know what? I honestly like your definition better. Because, when you’re a grownup, if you go around treating others nicely and expecting everyone to be super sweet and considerate back, well, the only thing that makes you is kind of a chump. Or a martyr, which is what I like being, according to my therapist. Life isn’t like kindergarten (except that it remains messy and strange.) If someone steals your lunch money, or tells you they’re going to play with you and no one else, and then ends up playing tag with the prissy blonde in pigtails right in front of you, or promises to help you with your science project, but ends up stealing your idea and working with your arch nemesis… There is no teacher to tell, who will force the perpetrator to listen as you express your feelings using an I-Message, and then repeat your feelings back to you and apologize. People betray people, with often little to no consequence, and it will leave you feeling hollow and angry and dumb for being so nice to them in the first place.
But once you’re done feeling angry and stupid, and maybe having enacted some very small vengeance that is within the confines of the law and a half-decent moral code, you will realize there is a tiny nugget of truth to the “Golden Rule.” Just maybe not what we are taught to infer from it in kindergarten. It feels good to be nice; it really does. I’m nice to people because it makes me uncomfortable to be not nice to people. When people are nice back, great. When they’re not, well, I’m still glad I wasn’t the person to be a duplicitous jerk first. But I guess that’s because I enjoy being a martyr.