For quarterbacks, it’s “game manager.” For politicians, it’s “having no backbone.” For the umpire in “Bull Durham” who Crash Davis upbraids, it’s um, um, “rooster lollypop,” or something similar. Come on, that’s a Monday crossword puzzle clue. Figure it out.
The aforementioned terms are derogatory specific to the occupations of the individuals. For us other red-blooded, eat-dinner-in-front-of-the-television folk, one term to describe us conveys nothingness. No feeling, no excitement, no energy. Nothing.
In my sociological endeavors that have primarily stretched from the Chicagoland Area to Milwaukee, the death-knell to one’s personality comes when they are introduced as a new member into an established group. Most often this is as someone’s new slam hog, or if we keep score for eloquence, boyfriend or girlfriend. In the initial meeting stages even the most morally upright of groups vet the individual and shortly after share their impressions with the group. If your group doesn’t do this then it’s a wonder you get Wi-Fi way up in the mountains surrounded by all the Tibetan Monks in your monastery.
The evaluations are perfunctory and there is relative ease in changing the group’s opinion. The first impressions don’t always lead to iron-clad opinions, or ones etched into one of the three stone tablets Mel Brooks carried up to the top of Mt. Sinai in “History of the World, Part 1.” People cascade down the power rankings if they gush over original CBS Programming. The same ones can chart their ascent if they coin an off-kilter catchphrase and repeat it incessantly.
Most of the diagnoses are clean bills of health. Groups, aside from organized crime families and SEC Sororities, welcome people with relative ease. However, some newcomers are alienated by their boredom and irrelevancy with one particular label:
He means well.
That tells me nothing. It’s a made-for-TV-version of, “Well, he doesn’t have much in terms of personality, that diastema of his is quite large, but I’m willing to bet my Starting Lineup collection that he won’t murder Sheila and fashion her knee-caps into earmuffs.”
Try to blame the group for lack of ingenuity, but what does it say about a person who fails to do something, anything effusive enough to elicit any type of reaction? Good handshake? How about some nice shoes? Got anything? Please…something?
If given the choice between meaning well and not meaning well, I’d rather have it known that I didn’t mean well. Label me a diabolical, self-serving jerk with enough ulterior motives to fill another season of “Breaking Bad.” The creep who talked with his hands too much and clawed the back of his own neck when other people spoke as a way to alleviate the boredom they promoted in conversation. At least they have an opinion of you, it might be an unfavorable one where they consider you some cross between Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and a collection of the terrorists Bruce Willis exterminated in the Die Hard Trilogy, but it’s an opinion. You elicited some emotion out of them. No indifference here.
(Side note: As we don’t acknowledge any Eddie Murphy movies after “Coming to America,” the rest of the Die Hard series seems to have slipped my mind.)
Be anything. Be bawdy, rowdy, raunchy. Be high-brow, low-brow, sport a unibrow. Hell, leave a mark, even if all it does is draw some comparisons between you, a New Orleans Pelican and a sexually apathetic puppet.
That’s not to absolve groups of total blame. “He means well” is the ultimate cop-out. The phrase says its source didn’t have the gumption to say, “He’s blah. Doesn’t offer a thing to anyone. We had to call a second cab because he took up an extra spot.”
So please, don’t mean well, not in the sense that it’s all you can offer. If that’s the case, mean anything but well. Mean something so bizarre it takes people a while to figure you out. Meaning well is even worse than being one of those rooster lollipops Crash Davis dislikes so much.