One of the greatest "life lessons" I ever got happened nearly 20 years ago when I lived in Los Angeles. I was going on a first date with this guy, and had sort of primed-him-up in advance of all my fabulous qualities. Like for instance how I aspired to be a jazz singer.
You already know this isn't going to be pretty, don't you?
So there we were at Canter's Deli on Fairfax Avenue. As I was enjoying my hot matzo ball soup [and soaking in all of his hot, silver-haired handsomeness from across the table], he asked me what I thought about Harry Connick Jr.. From my 20 year old mouth sprung a very matter-of-fact diatribe about how Harry Connick Jr. was really nothing more than a "Frank Sinatra wannabe", who would never really last in the music business because he "simply wasn't that great of a singer". Open mouth, swallow entire self. Die now. Please die.
In turn, my Silver Fox informed me that Harry Connick Jr. had been a child protege. Was a virtuoso of piano that he had been playing with the most respected musicians in jazz and blues since he was 13. I grew smaller by the moment, until I'm sure he could have squashed me with his thumb. After all, who was I? Just some punk kid with a big mouth and some really uneducated opinions about someone who was LIVING the dream I didn't have the courage to pursue. Needless to say the date was a complete disaster, and I never saw the Silver Fox again. I did however, learn a few really important lessons that night. For starters, you learn more when you stop talking and start listening. Second, I realized that the lecture my Mother had given me about keeping my my trap shut if I didn't have something nice to say had serious merit!
Most importantly, I learned something about JUDGMENT. You know the old saying about how opinions are like "...holes", right? It seems that in this day and age ones personal opinion has become omni-important. We tend to pass judgement around so freely. On everyone, about everything. Reality television isn't helping things either with it's endless cast of mean, bitchy, self-important "everyday people". Is this how we're supposed to be treating people? As far as I can tell, its just a blatant display of a society behaving badly. What do we really gain when we tear someone else down anyway? A bloated sense of superiority, and an open invitation to be put under the same microscope by someone else. Personally, I'm not into that kind of pressure.
I recently attended the Pride Festival in Chicago. In the crowd I overheard two people not just making fun of, but truly ridiculing the drag queens that were performing on stage. Their wigs, their clothes, and pretty much their vocation in general. It really irked me. I'm sure it didn't occur to them that those performers felt beautiful up there [define beauty, I DARE YOU]. That they probably got an immeasurable amount of pleasure from performing, bringing broad smiles to the hundreds of people down on the street in front of them. I wanted to turn around and say "When was the last time YOU made hundreds of people smile? Do you love the way YOU look? Do you love what YOU do for a living?" But I didn't. I would have just been another person, holding 2 other persons in JUDGEMENT. Besides, they were friends of mine....
I suppose I'd like to think that not holding other people in judgement is one of my better qualities. But I still do. I trip all over my opinions and fall right on my face. For instance. Only 2 paragraphs ago I wanted to use the term vacuous in my list of describers for reality TV personalities. But I didn't. See how evolved I am? Seriously though, I can't help but believe we'd have a brighter and more harmonious world to live in if everyone one could just learn to be less judgemental...myself included. Sound a little too simple a notion to be true? The truth usually is.
To my Silver Fox [whatever your name was], I'd like to say thanks for the frying pan. And Harry Connick Jr., if you should ever stumble across my blog, you have my sincerest of apologies. You're a very gifted musician, singer, and actor. A dedicated humanitarian. And your 24th disc was sublime.