It’s 2004, a gorgeous spring Saturday, and I’m off work at about 2 or 3pm. One of the bonuses of working at this restaurant is a free meal. A nice, juicy burger cooked up by me, for me, just the way I like it and topped with the lettuce and onion how I like it, with just a hint of ketchup, extra cheese, bacon. A couple of seasoned waffle fries and an applesauce complement this. It’s delightful. Juicy, freshly made, and a beer to go with it.
I savor this bad boy. I mean it takes me ages. It’s so good that each bite is a reminiscence on every single perfect burger I’ve ever had. (and I would recommend this restaurant to you, if you lived in Michigan, except that the owner is a bit of a douche and stiffed me on some money for doing a menu design for him).
I’m almost done when I hear:
“You gonna nurse that burger all day?”
And here’s the thing: whether I want to nurse burger all day or take the last bite home and have it bronzed, it’s none of your business, mister intruder, Mr. Watching-Me-Eat-Whilst-Very-Uninvited. I am doing nothing to hurt anybody, not even hurting business at the restaurant, because it’s a slow lunch hour. I’m definitely not holding virgin sacrifices to appease the Undying One or consulting my Anarchist Cookbook as part of my plan to rid the world of the current US president. There’s no reason for either me or that guy to say a single word on the subject.
Except that’s what we do in the good ole US of A, isn’t it? We wrinkle our noses and cluck our tongues and tell people that smoking is bad for you.
Fast forward to today. It’s 2016, a gorgeous spring day, and I’m licking bits of lettuce with salsa and taco shell off the wrapper, even a bit noisily. I let go with a satisfying belch, too. It’s nice. Yet no one is saying a single word about it. Only here’s the difference: I’m in Korea, where people mind their own business quite a lot more than they do in Southeast Michigan (and elsewhere in USA).
I’m sitting here with my meal and my thoughts, and least importantly, my opinions. You’re also sitting there with your thoughts and your opinions, possibly a coffee from a barista or a burger of your own, or maybe nothing at all except candy wrappers.
What’s so delicious about not speaking Korean in Korea is never knowing if people are talking about me. Never knowing if I’m being judged, because Koreans don’t give you the stink eye or sneer at you. At least, this doesn’t happen to me and hasn’t for so long that I’m verrrrrrry used to it. I’m also quite happy with it. I believe Korean culture has less of this going around. I could be wrong.
It’s caused me to realize how little my opinions actually matter. Of course they matter to me, but I’m one of 7,000,000,000+ I mean yeah, I could tell you at length about my issues with pro sports, and how it’s a colossal waste of money a) making taxpayers foot the bill for stadiums, b) having sports players paid so damn much, and c) other inconsequential reasons.
But they don’t matter. I’m not going to convince you of something (except, by the end of this post, hopefully to keep your opinions to yourself) and I’m definitely not going to do so on the internet.
Internet comments are like masturbating too much: it may feel good and it may even hurt a lot at the same time. You may feel ashamed of yourself (probably should if you’re doing it more than is healthy) and most importantly, nobody wants to see that in public. Nobody cares about my feelings on Bernie Sanders, nobody cares about my feelings on the old school Avalanche/Red Wings blood feud, and nobody cares about my feelings on helicopter parenting.
If they do care, they’re probably my friends or family.
The same goes for you, as well. Hold on, this may sting. Here goes: Nobody values or wants your opinion except your family, friends, and the rare individuals who specifically ask for it.
Let me reiterate: no one cares what you think except you and a handful of people on the planet (fewer people than you imagine, most likely). It’s not even a bad thing. It’s okay! It was like that for centuries and nobody thought it was weird… suddenly we have the internet and plenty of people turn the mic volume up to 11.
And I’m not saying that to hurt. You probably don’t realize it. You probably think ‘haHA! I’m going to teach this libtard a real lesson! He’ll be a right winger by morning.’ Except he/she won’t, and you know that, deep down.
Keeping the Look off your face, and the comment in your head, I suggest, will enrich your life. If you go on a strict diet of not butting into people’s lives uninvited, not judging them as they yell at their kids or wear a bathing suit while not a supermodel, eventually you’ll begin to see the world in a different light. You may actually begin to see people and their motives in a new way. You will probably begin to see that you have no earthly clue what most people are up to in the 99% of their lives you don’t witness.
That lady shouting at the manager of Target, you don’t know. You don’t know if she’s just having a really nasty day, you don’t know what got her that way, you don’t know if she has a legitimate complaint about the product or the service, you don’t know about her marital status, her Facebook status, you don’t know about her possible hidden health conditions, her son that failed to commit suicide the past week, the ticket she just got speeding. You don’t know how much, if any, of that exists or doesn’t.
So, when that lady is shouting, or her kid is throwing a tantrum, my suggestion is to happily STFU and either kindly offer to help diffuse the situation (not recommended) or walk away (recommended).
Most recommended: print out the link to this blog post, brentmeske.com/happilystfu, and hand it to people who do this.
Here is a gorgeous video that makes the case in a much more elegant way, from an unfortunately deceased author.