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Business Casual: Let’s Pop Some Bubbles

I haven’t run across any of those treacherous old-fashioned hatpins since the days my grandmother used them to secure her black pillbox to her head for Sunday morning church-going purposes, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them make a comeback – with an entirely different use.

I would issue a supply to all public officials, most celebrities – especially those named Kardashian – a few overcompensated CEOs and several other individuals whose self-importance outdistances their actual value to the world. And, come to think of it, to anyone who ever asks the question, “Do you know who I am?”

Then I would strongly recommend that all of those folks use the hatpins regularly to puncture the bubbles that encase them and insulate them from reality. A few good loud pops, self-administered, could make the planet a much better place.

For sure, some of the bubbles are near-impenetrable and might require more than one stab. But it would be worth the extra effort if it allowed even a few of those who are so well-protected to breathe the same air the rest of us do and occasionally hear and heed voices that come from people who are not being paid to make them, the bubbled ones, feel comfortable and righteous.

Some candidates for takedown by bubble pop? Glad you asked.

For starters, I’m thinking of a comic who displays a crude and indefensible image of a beheaded president and then whines that he is trying to ruin her life (that’d be you, Kathy Griffin); a local county official who had the gall to use the term “racist pig” against a man who put his life on the line during the Civil Rights Movement and has had a distinguished career as a public servant (Gwinnett Commissioner Tommy Hunter vilifying Congressman John Lewis); an over-privileged presidential son calling out a critic of his father for profanity, when said father has been known to use some crude language himself (Eric Trump defending Donald Trump); a clueless White House press spokesperson spouting preposterous explanations and clarifications (oh, Sean Spicer, are there days you look into your mirror and see Melissa McCarthy?); and the self-styled social critic/television host who apparently believes his so-called liberal credentials give him the right to use the n-word with impunity. (Yeah, Bill Maher, you apologized, but couldn’t you have just kept your mouth shut in the first place?)

There are plenty more, on a scale from annoying to dangerous, but you get my drift. No doubt you have lists of your own.

I’m curious about those self-protective bubbles. How do they develop? Is it just isolation or insulation that allows them to form, or does it require a staff of soothers, protectors, hoverers and cheerleaders? Is it simply a matter of surrounding yourself with people who tell you that you are smart, wonderful, thin, generous, wise, whatever it is you want to hear? Or do you have to learn to disregard anything that sounds like criticism and persuade yourself that the critic is unworthy?

Truthfully, there are times I envy people who seem completely cut off from the real world and have little or no sense of how that world sees or hears them. It must be nice – sort of.

Yet I can’t help wondering if bubble people have no children. A practiced eye-roll or an “Uh, Mom, those shoes …?” from your 15 year old is hardly calling your worldview into question, but it does plant the idea that you are not infallible and that there are other perspectives besides your own.

Same with spouses or partners: A gentle “Honey, I don’t think so” has saved most of us from falling flat on our faces. As have colleagues willing and able to step in at the right moment: “Let’s think about that.” And friends who know when to say, “Maybe there’s another way to look at it.” Or, if the matter is more serious, “Are you out of your mind?”

In that regard, I’m fortunate to have family and friends who are kind but candid when the situation requires it and to be in a line of work that makes it hard to hide from your mistakes, even if you’d like to.

For those who don’t have such a system in place, I highly recommend the hatpin maneuver. Make sure the points are good and sharp.

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