I’ve decided it’s time to advertise an idea that has been very helpful to me in dealing with those people who decide, for whatever reason, to equate, dismiss or downplay another persons negative view of their own circumstances. Let me give an example:
You’re standing around one of those people who try to not only live within a rose colored glass bubble, but also try to force all those around them into it as well. Perhaps, you mention that you’ve been out of hot water for the last 2 days and instead of a sympathetic and understanding noise, you hear “It could be worse” followed by something to do with (random poverty ridden 3rd world country).
What is one to do in such a situation when physical abuse is passé?
Well, since you’ve asked I’ll tell you. You invoke The level of suck. The “level of suck” is a simple idea that works like this: There is a level, under which all things that fall under it suck. No matter the level, more suck/less suck, they all suck. A hang nail and the entire loss of a finger nail both suck. But simply because worse things can happen does not make a hangnail suck less than it does, nor does it stop it from sucking entirely.
To wit, shitty events are not a zero sum game between competing human beings.
However, this very simple idea doesn’t seem to naturally register in everyday life. How many times have you been in a conversation where someone tries to tell you that your car tires being stolen is nothing, because they know someone who was just stripped naked, covered in honey, and tied to a red ant hill. No one in their right mind (a topic I’ll address later) would choose the ant hill over their tires being stolen. But that simple fact doesn’t make your tires being stolen not suck.
Simple right? Then why do I encounter this same damn idea nearly everyday? Well for two main reasons. 1) Many people want everyone to act positive, or perhaps in a more generous interpretation, want everyone to genuinely be happy (10 points if you can spot the distinction). 2) Lots of people want to have the better story. The eternal “one-uppers”. “I haven’t slept much today”, I might say, apologizing for my lack of energy or concentration, and I’m answered with, “That’s nothing to bitch about, I haven’t slept in 3 days straight” no matter how true this statement may actually be.
The “level of suck” undercuts the assumptions made by both our optimist and our narcissist. The optimist seems to assume that unless you are a starving orphan child, you are never allowed to wish your circumstances were better. Reminding them that there is a continuum of shitty circumstances might perhaps force them to see that things can even suck for white people in a first world country. If nothing else it will shut them up and let them stew in their white guilt by themselves. The narcissist seems to assume that only if you can beat their level of suck, can you claim to actually be experiencing something that sucks. Reminding this person that “suck” is a continuum will hopefully remind them that being able to state “my life sucks more than yours” is not really something to strive for or make a competition of.
This leads me to those people who actually make the claim that your position doesn’t actually suck, regardless of their own. This is the only logically coherent position for a nay-sayer to take. And this response leaves two possibilities; 1) You, gentle reader, really are being a bitch, or 2) this person in insane.
In the first case you are being a cry baby and/or you have lost all sense of priority. You are either bitching about rain or traffic (get over it) or you have a genuine complaint (hangnail for example) that you have allowed to totally overwhelm your priorities. In the second case, you have a genuine compliant (say, tires have been stolen) that another person believes is not only a “not-sucky” proposition, but may even be ok. If you’re wondering why these people are insane, you may be one of them, and I shouldn’t need to explain why this is the case, further, no amount of explanation will help you.
So there you have it. A hopefully clear explanation of The level of suck and how it works. I hope you all can benefit from this in your own lives. I know it has helped me enormously.