Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What entitled behavior of adults teaches the kids


First, I will use the terms "entitlement" and "rudeness" interchangeably in the following post because they are the same thing. 

Second, none of this applies to the beleaguered parents of uncontrollable children we see in airports, supermarkets, or other places where they have to be, and are already miserable enough without the pursed-lip scrutiny of strangers. In those situations, if you're a nice person, the thing to do is tell those parents that someday they'll miss these times and should enjoy them while they can, so that at least you can make them  laugh.  

Please continue.

In my travels around the internet last week, I came across the story of Grant Achatz, a chef in Chicago who is considering a ban on small children in his restaurant, Alinea. The story goes that, short a babysitter, a couple brought their infant with them to the pricey Alinea where dinner runs about $265 a plate. The baby cried throughout the evening (of course) and diners who'd secured their non-refundable plates months in advance, were outraged.

I'd like to be appalled by the entitled behavior of this couple but entitled adults are everywhere and you can only be so appalled by the same thing for so long.  However, I caught a glimpse of entitlement in the making, just last week.  

Which was appalling.  

We were meeting friends for dinner in a restaurant, which, on the scale of eateries in our little Concord, NH is more "up" than "down". It is known for quiet ambiance and is popular among couples in their forties and fifties rather than twenties and thirties. The menu is comprised of old family recipes, the prices are on the higher side.

It was around 6:00 and not that busy yet, so we took a seat at the bar to have a glass of wine and wait. 

A party of six entered the restaurant, two couples, each with a child of about three or four. 

So far so good; cute kids, nice adults.

Within ten minutes, the kids were standing up in the booth and tossing things across the table, while the couples looked past them to chat with each other. The noise level increased and a server appeared to get things rolling. A moment later, there were sounds of a disagreement and the manager headed over.

I began to eavesdrop, first, because that's my job, and, second, because I was sitting right there.

"Why can't you?" one of the men asked the manager.
"Sir, the entrees are served as they are described."
"My kids don't eat like that."
"We can't create and price new entrees to order."
"You can't just throw a little pasta and butter together?"
"It disrupts the kitchen to part from the menu."
"You have, what, like ten people here? I don't see why you can't accommodate us."

This went on for a while. 

"I can't do that." 
"You just don't want to do that."
"I could check with the chef, but I know what the answer will be."
"I've been here many times, tell the chef that."

The manager started for the kitchen, turned, came back.

"On second thought, I'd like you to leave," he said. "I don't appreciate your attitude. It isn't what you're asking for, it's your attitude. "

The man was  incredulous. "You got to be kidding me."

"I mean it," the manager said. "Find another place to eat."

"Just stop," one of the women pleaded,  "Just stop it."

Nothing happened for a few seconds while the manager stood his ground and the man gaped. 

"Go ahead," said the manager, "find somewhere else."

The couples and their children slid from the booth and started for the door, the two men making loud, over the shoulder comments about rude, unaccommodating restaurants to which they would not return, to which they would make sure their friends never returned, or anyone else to whom they would be sure to report what happened, etc.

At the bar, the manager was noticeably upset. 

"Nice job," I said. "I was wondering how far away from them you could put us."

"I never do that," said the manager. "It was his attitude."

And this is the thing about entitled people. They make you feel intolerant when you refuse to put  up with them, and passive when you do.

A year ago, I saw the same kind of thing in another upscale bar (we have three) where my husband and I met for dinner after a week apart. A couple entered, their small, tired, complaining kids in tow, and proceeded to order drinks, appetizers and entrees while their restless children hopped on and off the stools, saying, "Mama, I'm bored." Over a row of planters was an enormous dining room, nearly empty, where Mama might have made her bored children more comfortable, but where, evidently, she did not prefer to sit.  They not only couldn't have appeared less concerned about how their kids were behaving, they couldn't have appeared less concerned about how everyone else was affected.

And this is the other thing about entitled people. They address obnoxious behavior by normalizing it, using lazy rationale like, "Kids will be kids".

I'm fascinated by entitlement; what people expect just for waking up in the morning.  But as satisfying as it is to watch adults who behave this way get their comeuppance, it is discouraging to see them model this behavior in front of their kids who will first be kids, and then be adults.

Entitlement begins at home, where children learn that only some people deserve respect, while others don't, where one's own needs are more important than anyone else's and where demanding and sulking bring faster results than negotiating or compromising. They grow up to treat servers badly, refuse to wait in line, abuse customer service people on the phone and bring their crying babies to very expensive restaurants where they feel they have as much right to stay put as anyone else who paid.

Chef Achatz tweeted the question: "should babies be banned from expensive restaurants?"

They should be. Cell phones are banned in nice dining rooms and like cell phones, babies can go off anytime. But more than that, a restaurant owes me a nice dining experience in exchange for my non-refundable cash, more than they owe entitled, rude people their good manners.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

More than thirteen things I learned in 2013

"What a year."
--Writer cat Gus Bonifant
This is my favorite time to post for two reasons. I don't  have to apologize for being preachy because you can't write  a "what I learned" post without being preachy.  And, after a year of paying attention to people - the things they say and don't say, the ways they are treated and how they treat others, what they expect, what they ask for, what they turn from - it's finally time for my book report.

First, I'll say this.  2013 was not an easy year, but it could have been harder.

I experienced more grief than I saw coming when my brother died, and joy that made my head spin when our daughter married. I became closer to all of the people I love, found the ones I need to know better, and learned who I will never really know at all. Working with teenagers at the Boys and Girls Club gave me a chance to give back, and taught me things about  spirit and resilience that improved my own life. 

And now, here are some observations about marriage, kids, friends, achievement and other stuff that occurred to me in 2013 which I find worth mentioning. If anything makes your life a little better, a little easier or a little anything-er, it will have made those scribbled post-it notes that are all over the house and in my car worth it.

Help yourself.

  • Any marital issue can be resolved more easily if you know going in that you're going to stay together.  If that's your assumption, issues make you stronger.  If that isn't your assumption, issues  become grounds.  
  • There is an art to disagreeing in a marriage.  It starts with your intention: I want to agree with you, versus I want my way. One makes each future disagreement healthier. The other just shortens the list of things you can talk about. 
  • It's amazing what great depth and deep connection can exist in a marriage and never be discovered, until you need it most.  It hides. You might not find it until you trip over it and nearly kill yourself in the fall. But then, you won't want to live without it.  
  • Sooner or later in your travels, you might realize you're  not who you thought you would be. You might also be someone you never imagined you could be. Cut the engine and look around.  You've arrived.  Life doesn't always look like it did in the magazine. 
  • Therapy isn't what crybabies do. What crybabies do is complain without doing anything about it.  If you're unhappy, and you're not looking for someone to talk things over with because it's easier to just complain, that's one choice. But that is what crybabies do. 
  • Mind, body, relationships. Do something each day that will improve all of these things and don't keep track. In a month, look back at how much better your life is. Even in areas that didn't need improvement, there will be improvement. 
  • Never be without something you're looking forward to on the calendar.
  • Once, a person I knew who was living a terrible life with small children, no husband, no money, no confidence, no job, and no friends wrote a poem about how grateful she was. She showed it to me. I recognized it from somewhere else. I told her she was brilliant. It was the best lie I've ever told
  • Once in a while, give money to a person on the street corner who is holding a sign that says "Homeless, anything will help." Give them a bottle of water with it. Instead of thinking you're  contributing to their delinquency,  just for a few seconds, make their life easier.
  • The things that repeatedly throw you off track might be the track, so pay attention. 
  • If you're on the fence about doing something because it seems too big or tiring, make yourself do it. If you're making yourself do something you dread because of  some notion that it is expected of you, find a way to make it worthwhile or cancel. Life is short. 
  • Once,  I described a  problem to a friend and she said, "What will you do about that?"  I was surprised to realize I had an answer.  Say this to  anyone who comes to you for a solution to something.  Statements tell others who we are. Questions teach others about themselves. 
  • When you feel conflicted, unsure and afraid it isn't because you don't know what to do that makes your tummy ache.  It's just the opposite - it's because you do know exactly what you have to do. Act.
  • If you want to give your children the best advice, first, pretend you're not related. 
  • Connect with a teenager while there are still questions in their eyes. It won't be long before you'll see answers instead, and not always the ones you would have helped put there.
  • If you know a child who is moody, snarky, and generally hard to be with, deal with it but be grateful. It's worse when they only feel free to be wretched in private. 
  • If you are saying goodbye to a teenager with whom you have been clashing, you may be sad about the lost chances to have a better relationship. Don't do this. You've only lost the chance to have a worse one.
  • Relationships with grown children get better, richer, happier and joyful with every conversation that takes place after a separation. 
  • If you find good, mindful and responsible parenting hard and confusing and exhausting and rewarding and baffling and gorgeous, you're doing it right.
  • The things we could say to clear the air with another can be as hard to part with as a coat in the cold.  They expose us.  But if a relationship is worth having, expressions of disappointment,  like expressions of love,  must be shared. Left unsaid, they  will erode the soul. 
  • When you're lying, people usually know it, whether they do anything about it or not. 
  • Don't be a person who claims to "hate drama" and then discusses a conflict with someone behind their back.  If you do, you not only don't hate drama, you create it. If they're worth knowing, face the people with whom you've clashed and keep it between yourselves.
  • Sometimes people don't love us as we wish they would, no matter how often we ask them to.  And it may require great sadness to understand your invitation has been declined. Stop asking.  Be the one to let go. There will be plenty of people left who would do anything for you. 
  • Be proud of things you've done that required hard work, tenacity and faith. But be proudest of things you've accomplished that required you to overcome something else  first. Like fear. 
  • Confidence isn't something you get. Nobody can improve it for you or tell you where it is.  Confidence comes from doing something you're not good at until you can't remember what it was like to be bad at it.   
  • No amount of anti-aging products, make up or new clothes can compete with the first good night's sleep after you've done something very hard. 
My thanks to you for stopping by. As I said last year, if you like it here, come back soon and bring your friends. 

And, it is worth mentioning, that I love you for reading.