Thursday, July 31, 2014

Judge not, lest ye be . . .

There are times when I wish I could control what comes out of my head, so I don't act like a total "JB".

(If you and yours don't use the phrase "JB", here's where my husband picked it up before he passed it along to me: a television segment called the "Judgmental Bastard".  As you might expect from the title, this clip doesn't conform to Miser Mom's usual level of decorum, civility, and respect for others, so viewer discretion is advised).

I don't want to be a JB.  I don't want to pre-judge people (after all, that's what "prejudice"means).  But there are situations where it's more reflex than reason that has me scoffing at people and thinking ill of them.
  • The very overweight person sitting in a large car in a parking space, with the engine idling, talking on a cell phone and/or eating something from a fast food place.  I am even worse about this if I see this person while I myself am out running or biking. This situation comes up more often than I would expect, and my head is not nice to these people.
  • The adult (presumably, parent) of an incessantly whiny child in a public space.  I'm even more insufferably haughty if the parent is somehow trying to reason with the toddler.
  • The supposedly well-educated person who misuses grammar.  A "lie" vs. "lay" mistake will automatically dump someone into the category of "those kind of people" in my head.  
  • [True story: the day before she died, my mother -- who was suffering from the advanced stages of alzheimer's and was recovering from surgery on a broken hip -- got out of her hospital bed and started wandering.  A nurse came by and said, "Carol, don't you want to lay down?"  My mom, blind without her glasses, brain riddled by alzheimer's, and doped up on pain meds, turned to the nurse and said, "I think you mean lie down".  I come by my grammar obsession genetically, it seems.]
These things, I'm not proud of.  Well, I mean, I am proud, but I wish I weren't, if that makes sense.

Here's the email I got recently that provoked this whole post.  For professors, these emails are kind of like credit card offers, because they come unsolicited and are really more clutter than anything else -- it's an "exclusive offer" sent only to everyone who happens to be in that particular database.
We are now expanding our editorial board membership and would like to invite you to join us as our editorial board member under the category of Regional Editor.
I am sure, your ideas, research, experiments, publications and determination would be really helpful to improve quality and citation of the journal.
I look forward to your reply.

Editorial Coordinator
Editorial Office
Science Publications
I'm sure that the person who sent this is a good-hearted person.  A person who wants to advance knowledge and to help scientists communicate their ideas.  A person who truly does want to "improve quality and citation of the journal".  Misplaced commas and missing articles are not actually a window into a person's moral fiber, I know.  I have no problem politely turning this offer down; I just wish that my first instinct weren't to sneer. 


  1. Uh oh, I never did master lay vs. lie (I mean, I mastered it for grammar tests and then promptly forgot. And I do lie on beds, and I know what a good lay is... but the other uses are fuzzy.) And we reason with our toddler. And although I judge anyone who eats poor quality food, someone else's obesity is none of my business.

    I suspect that that invitation is a scam. So, no, I don't think that person is a good-hearted person or someone who wants to advance knowledge. But instead someone who wants good names on the "board" in order to collect submission/acceptance fees.

    1. See? this is exactly why I shouldn't be the JB that I am. I wish I could reprogram myself.

      Interesting take on those invitations. I'm on a couple of other editorial boards (for journals that I actually do care about), and so I know how important good editors are to attracting good papers. But somehow, I don't think my name alone does it! -MM

    2. You can reprogram yourself. Growth mindset!

      Maybe spend some time reading the dances with fat website?

    3. I'll check that out. But then there are the other 183 categories that I'll have to tackle . . . .

  2. Well, sometimes we can't help judging people--like you said, it's sometimes reflex. The important thing is that after doing so, we back up and remind ourselves that we don't want to act on this feeling. A fun way to do this is to make up good reasons why people are doing the seemingly stupid or crazy things they are doing or about how they used to be even worse but have improved dramatically.

    You're reminding me of how sometimes I walk down the street eating something--I pick up something for lunch or dessert and then have to get back to the office. And while I'm doing this, I can't help thinking that whatever people are thinking about me when they see me, it would be even worse if I were overweight.

    1. Yes. Reflex. I try very hard (and I think I mostly succeed) at "backing up" in the way you describe. I try to be conscious about "this is a silly, irrational response", and then to respond with my second, more conscious brain.

      What I do NOT want to do is to pretend that the feeling is somehow correct, and then let my brain tell me a story about why it's okay to be dismissive or rude or such just because of my instinctual (?) reaction.

      I like your example of putting yourself in other people's shoes. I sometimes imagine what it would be like to walk through my city as a teenage boy of color, instead of a grown white woman. You've given me a new mental image to rehearse.

    2. Ugh, yes, acting on the JB impulses. That would be the bad part.