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The Land Of The Phonies

There are things I like a lot about America. The business values, a mentality that encourages the entrepreneurial spirit in everyone, the never-give-up, can-do attitude that people have whether they're competing for a championship or trying to bake a pie. And hamburgers, and steak. Probably some other things too, but these are the big ones.

The list about things I don't like is much longer, but on top of that list sits the unique animal that you will find everywhere in America; The Phony. Maybe there's a reason Catcher in the Rye is one of my favourite books, Holden really knew what he was talking about. The Phony is the person who shakes your hand and smiles at you and then the moment you turn your back tells somebody else that they hate your guts.The Phony is the person who says they're on your side and is the first to leave when the going gets tough. The Phony is the person who calls himself a friend but is only ever around for the parties, never for the funerals.

The reason I wanted to write about this topic today though is because I have a couple of stories that perfectly illustrate my point, including one that's still unwinding. These are stories of the typical North American Phony.

I remember when I was dating this bimbo many years ago and we ran into a high-school buddy of mine who was also with his girlfriend. We chit-chatted a bit, the two girls exchanged a few words, and as soon as they turned away the bimbo says to me, "Wasn't she so ugly?"
In America people find it so easy to destroy somebody's self-worth solely on their appearance. I was sitting at a patio with a few people a couple of years ago, and a homeless guy was walking around asking for change. Obviously he was raggedy looking, but somebody still found it necessary to make fun of his shoes because his toes were sticking out of the holes in the front. The guy who started mocking him though was concerned about issues like gay rights and the environment. What a phony.

When I worked in travel, it sometimes felt like it was a continuation of High School and University. Most of us sales people were about the same age so we got along pretty well and often met socially after-hours. It was a nice environment, can't complain. Anyhow, you would think that that after all the the time we spent together day by day, the beers, social outings, and friendly banter, a sort of connection is made where it's not unreasonable to talk about personal things every now and then, or to do each other favours here and there.

Truthfully though, it's very unreasonable. One of the guys there had a birthday party and invited the usual suspects. Oddly enough, one of our office 'friends', a girl with an overly enthusiastic and bubbly 'I love everybody' type personalities didn't show up -didn't even call to say she couldn't make it. I wasn't surprised, but he was puzzled by it since they were close. That Monday he asked her what the deal was. She snapped at him and said that he had "no idea what I had to go through this weekend" and that's why she couldn't make his stupid party. Then for the rest of the day, she was mad at him for "making a big deal about missing his party". If I may, you big phony, how is your so-called friend supposed to know what kinda shitty weekend you're having if you don't tell him? It's because you can expect no less from a phony 'friend' who talks about anything and everything except meaningful, personal issues.

What happened in my case was different but in some ways exactly the same. Here's a girl who's known me for over three years, who was always very friendly during the time we worked together, and who's also unwilling to help out the first time I ever ask for a personal favour. All I wanted was for her to get in touch by email with one of their local contacts for a trip I want to take. I needed some information in the form of the reply that they would give her. After about a month where the only thing I got from her were a couple of Skype messages with YouTube videos, I wrote an email and asked her to copy/paste my text and send it to the relevant person. Haven't heard anything about that either. I asked her again on Skype a couple of days in a row and still nothing. As we say in Romanian, she's pretending it's raining.  The thing is, if you don't want to do it, I get it (but tell me). If you can't do it (should probably be a good reason) I still get it. But to pretend that we're somehow friends and then you don't lift a finger and you ignore me when I'm asking you for something that's actually meaningful, that, I don't get.

I'm a hundred percent sure if I were to see this girl tomorrow she'd be like "Heyyyy! How are you?! We missed you here!! Blah blah blah." Over time, I noticed that the more phony somebody is, the more overly enthusiastic they are. They have to mask their complete disinterest with sparkly words and exclamations since they know this to be the formula for enthusiasm. But it's forced and it's fake. This doesn't necessarily go for every phony nor for every enthusiastic person, but to a large extent it's like that, especially in America, The Land of the Phonies.

Here's a heads-up. If you're Romanian, East European or any sort of immigrant and you move there, have fun. They'll all smile at you but as soon as you leave the room there are telling looks being exchanged and giggles at your accent and the way you dress and what kind of food you eat. If you happen to be in a position where Phonies are subordinate to you, they'll hate you even more. I've seen this kind of treatment first hand and more than once. You know what sucks the most though, some of the phoniness got to me. I feel like I really need to make a conscious effort to say what I think instead of some anti-confrontational placating bullshit that doesn't upset everyone. It's not a good way to live, but I've escaped.


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