Sunday, January 29, 2012

THE LIMITS TO CUTENESS

I remember two of my late maternal grandmother's favorite words: "adelantado" and "antipatiko."  


My Lola Tating would really grit her teeth whenever she said those terms to describe people who have crossed the boundaries of what she felt was important to one's dignidad and amor propio.


But I guess that sort of thing is all but gone nowadays, right?  Together with the generation of grandparents ... and even parents, the way of the world is so different now that what was considered good manners and right conduct about thirty years ago are now archaic behavior. You know, something that approximates gladiators bashing their brains out with clubs and chains ... or Christians being fed to lions.  That sort of thing.


If my Lola Tating were alive today and heard half the things I hear ever so often, I would ask myself --- what would she have done? What would she have said?  Oh, she would have gone into her trance and start sputtering complete paragraphs in Spanish machine-gun style which nobody in the household understood except my Mom.  But even if I look back with amusement at the way my Lola would give such premium to manners ... and propriety, it still and will always make a lot of sense.


Even if we all have to concede that time brings such inevitable changes that not even Bible-wielding, Miss Etiquette tome bashing zealots can stop, one can only look at the scenario and ask ourselves --- how far or better yet  --- where have we really gone?


Is something apparently wrong done by too many already considered right?  (Is that how you call a certain social practice --- or malpractice --- a part of evolving tradition?)  


What is that thin dividing line between straightforward honesty to in-your-face crassness?    In a world that demands pagpapakatotoo and chill ka lang, what is that demarcation between being downright true to one's self from being insensitive, inconsiderate ... and even textbook bastos?


Worse, what is the margin that divides pagpapa-cute from being apparently nakakaumay, nakakadiri, nakakaduwal or even nakakasuka?  Whatever.  We are living in an age that celebrates the various shades of gray that there is no more clear distinction between black and white.  And what makes it worse is that nobody really cares.


I imagine I am writing this because I have reached that point when I keep asking myself if something I experienced was actually a sample of kabastusan or have I just transformed myself into an official fossil?  Despite all my attempts to remain au courant (I know the lyrics of the choruses of Moves Like Jagger and Superbass!) and within the groove of the world below thirty years of age (I can use steady and astig in six different ways in all possibilities of available sentence forms!), I still get appalled by certain seemingly acceptable behavior.


For instance, has it been considered cute to openly, blatantly, shameless and unequivocally not ask but demand a gift?


Case Study 1:


    ME:      Hey, how are you doing?  Merry Christmas!
    PERSON:  Merry Christmas! Gift ko?


At this point, my entire body temperature drops as I stare at the creature waiting for him to acknowledge that he actually gave a punchline.  But nothing follows. Instead he says:


    PERSON:  Saan na ang gift ko?


And when the conversation has reached this point, I give myself two options which include:


a) Smile, give a perfunctory so apparently fake goodbye then leave.
or
b) Go into a tirade that goes: "Kapal ng mukha mo ... ang tanda-tanda mo na, naghihintay ka pa ng Christmas gift? Ano ka? Special child?!"


or


Case 2:


      PERSON:   Huy, s'an ka na? I was trying to call you last
                week pa?
      ME    :   Oh, I was in Boracay with some friends.
      PERSON:   Wow, saya naman ... Pasalubong ko?


I do not have to even wait for some really cheesy canned music to come in blasting from the Universe to redeem the level of cantankerous brazenness of creature pretending to be homo sapien demanding a pasalubong from ... uh, the second most beautiful beach in the world?


What did he actually expect?  A t-shirt? A pair of board shorts screaming EAT ME IN BORACAY or a bottle of smuggled white sand taken specifically in front of the most expensive resort in Station 1?  Do you actually expect any souvenir from Boracay? If I had my way I would take him there and have a tribal tattoo done right on his face.


My question is --- really now? Is it socially acceptable nowadays to be downright kapal-muks because it is supposed to be cute?  My Lola Tating would have screamed, Cabron!


Maybe this is nitpicking.  Maybe this is only one very apparent sign that menopause is on the way but there are so many changes in social behavior that bother me.  For instance:




(a)  Yes, there are numerous benefits to group texting ... It certainly spares you the trouble of writing by hand or even having something printed or undergo risograph just to wish all your friends a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year ... or Kung Hei Fat Whatever, right?  Just press the keys ... then send all, and even your friends who have died six years ago and who still hold a sentimental part in your heart will receive the message in his corner in heaven.


But when you get a message like, "Kumusta ka?  Ano ang gawa mo?  (How are you?  What are you doing?)" or "Saan ka? (Where are You?)" for a text message, then you certainly feel so insulted.  You know that whoever sent this message is not merely greeting his world of friends a good morning but is actually waiting for some nincompoop in the herd to actually reply and acknowledge his existence.


Sheeeesh.  Now talking about vampires, right? Such energy vampires ... that telecom companies make money out of!


(b) There are people who really go out of their way to make you feel bad, right? And worse, they make it sound like they are saying all that crap because it is for your own good.  That is something that really gets my goat.


I have told my friends time and again ... that according to approximately six books on modern etiquette written within the past fifteen years by at least four authors that ... it is bad manners to call anyone fat.  Can I repeat that just for the sake of those who chanced on this blog and still moves his or her lips while trying to decipher what is onscreen?


It is considered impolite to call anyone fat.  Come to think of it, no one has any right to comment on the addition of substantial or inconsequential weight (or its reverse) to anybody not unless you are the person's (1) personal trainer   (2) physical therapist  (3) caregiver or (4) family physician.


Does it give such a rush of pleasure for anyone to say, "Huy, ha? Ang taba mo ngayon, ha?"  (Hey ... you're so fat nowadays, huh?) Does this also imply that the speaker gloating over the Human Porker is flaunting his or her supine features that boast of exquisite curves or near perfect fat percentage?


For whatever reason --- such questions and observations do not indicate friendship ... but insensitivity ... not unless the other party is practically as big as a buffet cabinet and is about to flop over and bust his entire circulatory system.  That case, you do not need gentle persuasion to warrant the attention of your friend about his weight.


You need an ambulance.


(c) Well, I never lie about my age.  I am actually proud of it. I am proud of my age because I know I still look good having gone this far and with even farther more to go.


But I now understand why some people --- especially women  --- would rather reveal the pin codes of their ATM cards or reveal the exact size (down the millimeters) of their husbands' penises than expose their real biological age.  (Yet I know some women who would also shout to the world their real age, then strike a pose.  They would scream, "Yahoo, I am fifty-something!" or "Proud at sixty-five" --- Pak! Posing! Snap-snap!)  These are women who spend forty five percent of their waking hours in the gym taking up Pilates, Body Jam or Retro Dancing or Belly Dancing or even Pole Dancing ... OR ... These women have bodies that can best approximate that owned by the Bride of Frankenstein.  They are proud of their timelessness brought about by every available option and advantage brought by science.


But anyway, that is only half the argument. One has to be sensitive (and must have very good reasons) to ask for another person's age if it is apparent that the other party is past his or her golden years.  Worse are those who ask for your age, then go: 


"Talaga lang, ha?  Fifty-seven ka lang? No way!"
(Your immediate dilemma is which do you choose: give him a slow and painful death that would make him beg you to end his life or a quick blow that should send him straight to hell where he can ask the age of Satan.)


or worse: after replying to his question about your age, he goes ---


"Wow, really? Ang tanda mo na pala."


(That does not require any dilemma whatsoever.  Death should be instant but still painful to which you will justify by saying, "I am just making sure you do not get to feel old in this lifetime.")


Ah, well ... it is as if issues like these are still considered big.  There are those who will feel that this sensitivity of mine is simply kaartehan ... but still.  I still believe in what my Lola Tating used to say about people who are adelantado and antipatiko.  


I still believe my lola was right.



















11 comments:

  1. I'm not sure if it's just me, but I also find it rude to:

    1. ask a person how much he/she gets. Even HR people excuse themselves first before they ask this. worse they can do is say the word,"roughly"

    2. ask someone to give you gift, just because he/she gave you one, as if you're obligated to.

    Don't we just wish people would be sensitive sometimes?

    anyho, another great read sir. I always look forward to your entries :-)

    have a great week!

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  2. Hee-ley-ree-yus!!! the age thing gave me kabag from laughing so hard!! Good one, made me Sunday morning, now to pray not to be caught in any one of these situations lol.. btw it's not kabastusan but most likely sheer lack of breeding, tacklessness and/or the simplest of explanation - Stupidity...

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  4. that is why i never hesitate to call people "antipatiko" if they deserve it....they should be made aware, right?..keep it coming, joey

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  5. I heard the "ÿou're fat"comment from someone considerably older than me. akala ko younger people lang ang capable non :) but you know, i've lived abroad and ive heard most of these things only hear in the Philippines. For people who are supposedly nice, we can be very rude at times :)

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  6. ok the fat comment drives me up the stinkin wall! i'm currently pregnant with my second child and my 2 year old's daycare lady (who we only see once a week and is an older filipino) feels compelled to pet my belly like it's a dog's chin (yes, from the underside). she accompanies this offending gesture with a concerned look on her face and a "concerned" tone in her voice as she state the obvious ... that i'm "so big na!". i'm pregnant! wtf!

    in general, filipinos (especially the women) feel like they are doing you a favor pointing out all your flaws that you've a. recently developed b. that you are aware of and conscious of and c. things you might not have noticed. weight, acne, missed fashion steps, you name it, they are on it. all in the name of concern and "friendship". lord help me but it takes all my self-control to not slap them and tell them to just eff-off. mind you i was born and raised there. 18 years is long enough to know how it goes and is probably the source of my limited patience. but at 39 and with years of distance i'll tell ya, i've about run out.

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  7. about the fat commnet- maybe it's considered a compliment dating back from the days when to be thin was maybe suggestive of one having ptisis (or TB)...it's not only the Philippines, but other asian countries (our young HIV health educators more than a decade ago near the border of china now the site of a freaking conflict in burma)and in african countries...I was not happy at all when I was told I gained weight after an R&R by national staff in a refugee camp health program....and they could not understand it...

    so maybe that is it- it's a compliment that life seems to be well for you since you're eating well compared to about 40% of the country's population...

    I think texting while having dinner or a conversation with somebody is quite rude...and very few apologise for having to text while having a meal with someone...that makes me feel also like coming from jurassic age...

    anyway- great post - and maybe it's late but Kung Hei Fat Choi to you...

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  8. I can totally relate.

    I work in a telco - at lahat sa Pilipinas ata e may telco concern. Masabi ko lang na nag-ta-trabaho ako sa X telco, may kasunod agad na reklamo, tanong, panawagan o paki-usap, kahit saan at kahit kailan. Kahit sa hospital noong may sakit ako. Kahit ngayon ko pa lang siya nakilala. Kahit na nasa bakasyon ako. Sanay na ako, at nandyan na hong committed ako sa aming customers - partida lahat naman ata ng tao ngayon e customer namin - pero may lugar naman ang mga bagay.

    Manners and etiquette. Actually empathy lang naman yon. Pag nalaman ko bang taga-Merlco ka e nirereklamuhan kita ng pataas-na-pataas na singil habang nag-di-dinner ka sa restuarant? Kung taga media ka e nirereklamo ko bang nakaka-bobo ang TV programming ngayon, habang nakaratay ka sa hospital? Naman...

    Anyhoo, thanks for the post. About time someone respected airs this concern already. Sana marami pang maka-basa. :)

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  9. Nice and entertaining read. Thanks.

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  10. Agree with you on all aspects Sir Joey. I would also like to add kids attitude and actuation s nowadays. when I was a kid My lola's ( I have two old maid Lola's courtesy of my Dad) had this strict policy that kids are there to be looked at but never to be included in conversations which I find irritating as I am very talkative as a kid but of course I still adhere to those rules or I'll get the endless talak in spanish also by my lola's or worst the kneeling on salt thingie. Going back I wish that my lola's are still with me so as I can put my pamangkins in place as you've mentioned kids now are so adelentado and in addition intrimitida's and intrimitido's . I wish my Lola Poleng is still here shouting invectives such as sinverguenza to this kids to put them in their proper place lol.

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  11. Very entertaining but so true.

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