I went to the movies the other day, and as I was leaving I couldn’t help but overhear two guys talking about what a fine film it was. Film? Movie, picture, or flick maybe, but film? They then proceeded to talk about the multi-textured messages that the director had subtly inserted into the action and dialogue. Excuse me. It was a Bruce Willis movie for crying out loud. Other than killing a lot of menacing looking dudes—maybe one of the messages was that bad guys often get smoked by good guys with rocket launchers—I was at a loss to see the “depth” of anything that my two fellow viewers had identified. As our paths parted ways in the parking lot, I couldn’t help but marvel at how pretentious these two faux “film” aficionados were and wonder if they realized it. I think the fact that they were able to elicit hidden meaning from Reds 2 probably points to an alarming lack of self awareness, so the answer is probably no. Then it occurred to me that folks like these may need some sort of guidelines, or a checklist, to help them realize that in their efforts to appear sophisticated they appear to others as self important, clueless boors—in other words, pretentious twits. So to save them, and those around them, from their obnoxious behavior, I have put together this brief list of behaviors to let you determine whether you might be a pretentious menace to yourself and others. Please check how many of these behaviors apply to you:
1) You use words and phrases like “bouquet”, “fun little” and “hint of” to describe the wine you’re drinking. Sure you’ve graduated from buying it by the box, but unless your job involves wearing a gold cup on a chain around your neck you probably couldn’t tell “Mad Dog” from a Chateau Margaux in a blind taste test so you might want to tone it down a bit.
2) You wear Birkenstocks in public. There is never any excuse for ugly footwear. So unless you are a card carrying member of the Sierra Club, let the following rule be your guide: “If your dad didn’t wear them, you probably shouldn’t either”.
3) Your Starbuck’s order includes more than five ingredients. Yeah, you may really love your non-fat, caramel, double shot mochachino but does that make you look like an urbane, man of the world? No, it makes you look like a paintywaist. Somewhere your high school football coach is hanging his head in shame.
4) You put fruit in your beer—when you deign to drink it. I’ll admit this is a tricky one since a lime in a Corona is almost de rigeur, but any other citrus fruit, no way. In truth, beer should be consumed by the glass in more upscale locations and, preferably, by the bottle everywhere else. Here’s a hint for all you single guys out there. If you meet a girl who shares this
philosophy… propose immediately.
5) You brag about all of junior’s academic achievements. Just remember the phrase, “karma is a bitch”. So unless you are equally willing to explain to your friends that junior is attending community college to “get his basics out of the way” after he flunks out of Enormous U. you probably want to tread lightly here.
6) You have “vehicles”. The army has everything from armored personnel carriers to tanks. Those are vehicles. You have cars. Unless you have an M1 Abrams sitting in your garage, call your Honda a Honda.
7) You send your kids to public/private school but vigorously argue about the need for the other. Choice is a good thing, and in terms of the education of your progeny wherever you decide to send them is perfectly acceptable. However, don’t advocate one and send your children to the other. Some would call you a hypocrite. “Jerk” would be the more apt descriptor.
8) You use your first name as an initial. There are a lot of people out there who are saddled with a bad first name and choose to use their middle name instead. Everyone can relate to this. However, if you elect to refer to yourself using the “first initial, middle name, Smith” format you better be wearing an ascot and your prep school blazer.
9) You treat service people like second class citizens. No matter what the job, there is dignity in work. Stiffing your waitress or not offering the guys painting your house something cold to drink on a hot day may make you feel superior, but behaving like a medieval feudal lord is never acceptable.
10) You refer to those with opposite political views as Nazi’s or Hitler. Reasonable people can disagree, but to compare anyone or group to the most evil regime in modern times is as hyperbolic as it is stupid. No one is talking about exterminating 6 million people, and to use this analogy demonstrates a stunning lack of historical perspective and a general level of intellectual vacuity.
If you checked one to two of these behaviors: You’re normal. All of us like to feel “hip” from time to time and a little puffery provides the ego boost everyone craves once in a while.
If you checked three to four of these behaviors: Proceed with caution. No one might be saying anything but when others start rushing for the door when someone asks you, “what do you think?” you’ve got some soul searching to do.
If you checked five or more of these behaviors. You’re either one of the guys who sat in front of me at that movie or you are, in fact, a pretentious twit. While you may be your own best friend, you’re not exactly in demand on the cocktail circuit. Someone once told me that there are two ways that someone can be an a**–either you’re the smartest guy in the room or you’re just an a**—and only one can pull it off. Since odds are you aren’t the smartest person in the room, behavior modification should be part of your future plans.
I hope that this guide proves to be useful in the eradication of pretentiousness. For most of us, I’m sure that this brief exercise in self-assessment can put us on the path to more acceptable societal behavior. For everyone else, the new Bruce Willis movie comes out in the fall.