Checking virulent pomposity

Dear President Trump,

Just because we’re both human, you and I have some basic things in common, like we both put our pants on one leg at a time, that sort of thing. Well, unless you have someone dress you and to keep you focused they make a game out of it and have you fly both your legs up at once – I guess I do have to consider that possibility. Ok, so maybe we don’t do our pants the same way, but I think we are both bad when it comes to poker face, meaning that I don’t think either of us are good at hiding how we feel about things. You telegraph how you feel constantly, almost as though you have a ticker tape clicking out across your forehead giving everyone, near and far, a read on the weather in Trumplandia.

Well, I do have a tiny bit more self-control than that, which is a good thing for someone who does psychotherapy with folks. But generally, when I feel strong emotions about something, the people around me know it – it’s like my face gets away from me sometimes, and it happened again today. I was in a meeting with about 14 other people, several of whom were joining by Zoom. I know a few of these people and have seen some of the others a couple of times at similar meetings, but there were several I’d never met before.

At one point one of the people on Zoom who I’d never met was giving his take on something he’d been asked to review and all that was fine. Then, because the other person who had also taken a look at the same thing couldn’t be at the meeting, he gave a summary from her report, which was where my poker face fail came in – he basically, blithely trashed her, saying, among other things that her report was derivative and added nothing to the conversation. It was stunning. I’ve witnessed people disagree strongly with one another in such meetings before and get pretty passionate about their position, sometimes shading into disrespectful tones, but I’ve never heard anyone out and out dis’ somebody, let alone somebody who wasn’t present to defend herself.

I didn’t realize that I was in poker-face-fail-mode until I looked up and the two women across from me both caught my eye and nodded, one with an arched eyebrow that looked for all the world like a ‘WTF?’ eyebrow while the other was flushed and looked stricken. The tension in the room was thick but Dr. Zoom seemed absolutely oblivious – his bored expression never changed and his flat voice never modulated.

About fifteen minutes later when we’d mercifully moved on from that topic, we were discussing another thing that this same absent committee member had weighed in on and something pretty wonderful happened. The man running the meeting made a point of establishing the absent member’s expertise, noting her related innovative work and her thoughtful comments about the more esoteric aspects of the project she’d given her opinions on. He did it quietly and with a light touch, but he clearly took up for her and offered a correction.

Even though it was clear that Dr. Zoom had stepped over a line in the sand and several women in the room were obviously acutely aware of it while it was happening, I wasn’t sure whether any of the men had picked up on it until the committee chair did his thing. That he did it at all was wonderful, but that he did it for a female colleague in the face of a male colleague’s poor behavior took it to a whole other level of wonderfulness. It was a beautiful thing to behold.

May we be safe from virulent pomposity.
May we be willing to step up and support one another.
May we be awake to each other’s efforts to right wrongs.
May we accept that there are jerks who need to be schooled.

Tracy Simpson

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