In Washington, They Eat Their Young

I don’t know if this is true in any other part of the country, but I speak with great authority on the Mid-Atlantic cultural exchange that is the DC cocktail party circuit. Such events are the lifeblood of this town—business gets done, relationships are brokered, and information traded—nearly all of it under the guise of social banter and the entertaining tale. As one of my high school friends said when describing her mother, “She never lets the truth get in the way of a good story.”

 

I was born into a family of party animals—they lived and breathed the cocktail social circuit; it confounded some of them how it was possible that I was their progeny, dragging my feet, unwilling to wholeheartedly participate in this ritual. Don’t get me wrong: I learned how to do it. I learned from masters, and am highly adept at striking up and maintaining a conversation with anyone. It’s a powerful skill to have and I’m glad it’s in my toolbox, but what appalls me is the gleeful willingness of people in Washington to offer up the struggles of others as cocktail currency (aka cannon fodder). I’m not exaggerating when I say this.

 

Take any vulnerable moment of your life and imagine how you’d feel if someone in whom you confided and went to for support thought nothing of sharing your story. Anticipating chortles, chuckles, and entertained derision from their audience, they see this merely as another topic meant to while away the minutes between the next round of canapés. I can’t recall a single gossipmonger character that Shakespeare portrayed in a sympathetic light, can you?

 

So, what does this carnivorous, odious behavior have to do with re-booting? Well, as Re-booters, we need to take strength from and remind ourselves that the thoughtless cruelty of others will not kill us (and it certainly does not reflect well upon them). Alas, whether or not you grew up on a cocktail circuit, we all have been subject to and heard (let alone disseminated) unkind chitchat. There’s not a whole lot more to add on this topic—it’s sufficiently challenging to keep these maxims in mind when you feel humiliated, betrayed, or just hugely disappointed by someone you thought you could trust. There’s nearly nothing we can do to combat such behavior, lest we stoop to their level—and a re-booter knows this doesn’t help.

 

There’s so much I wish I could have said to my younger self when watching this go on. I understand that, sometimes, thoughtless cruelty is just that—thoughtless, not intended to inflict the sort of hurt that follows; we all are guilty of this at some point or other in our lives. But what does confound me is the lack of forethought or genuine concern for the consequences of such actions. Whether it’s a dad screaming at his son on the ball field–witnessed and subsequently shared by other parents in the stands, or it’s a narcissistic boss who takes personal confidences and spreads a distorted version of them amongst work colleagues, or any scenario in between, the cannibalizing of one’s private hopes and struggles is a terrible thing to experience. But it won’t kill us. A re-booter remembers this truth.

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