What does it mean, really,
to like someone? For surely it isn't the same thing as liking a car, or a house, or a handbag, or a cocktail, or even a flowering vine.
A car meets my needs, it gets me where I need to go in comfort (or not), and makes the experience of doing a dozen X-Cs a year tolerable, pleasant even. And a good handbag is a must-have, organizing my life into a confined space every day. It carries my stuff. Therefore it carries me, sort of, and therefore I like it.
A house or apartment, or even a couch, is slightly more complicated to suss out, because they are expensive and contain us all the time. They appeal to an aesthetic, a utilitarian need and a financial scheme. They provide us safe harbor, a place to be ourselves and entertain our friends. I like my small NY space very much. And I don't have to worry about it liking me back.
And a cocktail? Well, this is a rather immediate sensory reaction, as to cologne or something else filling up one of the five senses, its slightly sweet or sour or stinging essence slithering down past the tongue into the throat to quench, what? Thirst? Probably not. Exhaustion, nerves, excitement? Maybe. But still a cocktail is something easy to like, for we don't usually drink those that don't immediately taste good, or do we?
As for the flowering vine, I can think of none, at the moment, that I don't like. There is something about nature that begs me to let it instantly off the Liking Hook (kin to the Sorting Hat). Nature and its flowers just make life better,
no matter whether they be buds or full-blown blooms or aged ones adroop over the side of the vase, I love...oops...I like
them all. How could I not? If they are good enough for bees and hummingbirds, they are good enough for me.
But about human likability, it's confounding and, I think, useless and meaningless, if not downright stupid, to apply any sort of Likability Meter to people. If I don't like someone does that mean they aren't likable? Of course not. Because the person on the other side of the sofa might find them entirely likable.
Should we hire people that we like?
Should we only work for people we think are likable?
Should we define our friends as likable?
Do they need to be?
And, again, what does it mean
to be likable?
Supposedly, if we like a person, it implies that we approve of them, that we find them to be satisfactory in some way, agreeable, a good sort, easy to get along with...they could be our friend,
(but what in Heaven's name does that
mean? Yes. I digress...). They laugh at our jokes, make us feel good about ourselves, buffer up our belief systems and keep us good company. Are those good reasons to like someone?
Or does our sense of who is likable (or not) close us off to expanding our experience of other human beings? Human beings, unlike things, have emotions and beating hearts and souls and intellects and talent and moods and quirks and tics and habits and illnesses and character flaws and confusions and ups and downs and highs and lows like Eliza Doolittle, who, when Henry Higgins made her more 'likable' (translation: socialized her and turned her into a woman he could approve of, could be seen in public with, would be proud to have as arm candy) turned into a fine mess of a woman trying to figure out who she really
was - flower girl or fake royalty.
Henry perceived of Eliza as his creation: he made
her likable. For without him, she was nothing. Don't know about you all, but I preferred the unsocialized Liza. And I think George Bernard Shaw did, too. Which is rather the point, the woman inside
the diamond tiara and sparkly ballgown had the same heart and soul as the poor bedraggled woman who sold flowers on the street. It's just that to Henry and Colonel Pickering, the cleaned up Eliza was, well, more presentable and likable. But to whom? To men? To society? To the in crowd? Made a good play, then a great movie. And the sound track was fabulous. Yes, I liked
it. But Pygmalion
was a play, and My Fair Lady
was a movie. Eliza Doolittle was drawn as a woman...a human being.
But I digress.
Still I ask, what does it mean to be likable? Frankly, and personally,I don't care. And I don't care if that makes me seem
to be unlikeable. It's just that it's subjective, and prone to our own fickle and shoddy way of allowing certain people into our lives and shutting out others so that we, ourselves, can feel better about ourselves. All that stuff about belonging to the right clubs, the right fraternity, the right sorority, donating to the right charities, even liking the right music and "hanging out" with the right people.
Do we like Lady Gaga? Or not? Or Miley or the Kardashians? Or Alabama Shakes?
When I write that I like Bob Dylan, I mean I like his music, because I don't know the man. And when I say I like James Taylor, I like his sound, because I don't know the man. For all I know Bob and James could be extremely difficult people (and, again, what does that
mean?), and personally likable or not, but they make great music any way. I mean I like
A tutor I had when I was a student at St. John's College was demanding, scary, critical and seemingly impossible to please. He was also insightful and discerning and probing and, ultimately, Yes, kind. To be honest, I didn't like him, because I was too young and ignorant to get that there was something far more important going on in his life than to be concerned with whether or not people liked him.
When I ask my stepson to make his bed, he doesn't like it one bit, but does that mean I shouldn't ask him to make his bed? Does it mean that because he doesn't like to make his bed, he shouldn't make every effort to make it as well as he can?
And after a year of rehabilitating a badly fractured leg, I confess I didn't like the work I had to do, was asked to do by my physical therapists, one bit. It hurt. It was agonizing. I rather hated every minute of the process. But my leg is straighter than it would have been had I only done the exercises that I liked. And I am happy that I am a stubborn enough woman driven by goals that I have that I could get beyond my own dislike of pain to see a healed leg and do the exercises no matter how much they hurt.
We are stuffed to the brim at the moment with articles that are being written every single day about whether Hillary or Mark or Jeb or Rand and the whole lot of candidates make the Likability Meter tilt into the negative or the positive. I think everyone should put paper bags over their heads. Or wear those horrid blue cotton snap up exercise uniforms we had to wear in grade school. Boys and girls dressed the same, fresh out of the shower, no primping, coiffing, make-up artists, hair stylists and personal shoppers in sight.
I do not fault our political candidates for failing us, for failing to keep their promises, for compromising, for whatever our perceptions are of their seemingly myriad failures.
I fault us
for our addiction to needing to be liked and approved of as though we are handbags or cocktails.
I fault us
for needing to like people as though their main job is to make us personally happy, like a car, or a song, or a new suit.
I fault us
for not being more onto our own "stuff." We criticize politicians for everything, but every day we let ourselves off the hook and walk around pretending that if we were doing the job politicians were doing we could do those jobs oh so much better.
And everyone would like us. Because we,
are truly, truly likable. In that Sally Field sense: You really, really LIKE ME!
A few things to read. And you might not like what some of it says. But does it matter?
I think not.Women Leaders: Does likeability really matter?http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2015/women-leaders-does-likeability-really-matterThis Woman's Job is to Recast Hillary Clinton's Image:http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/style/this-woman-is-in-charge-of-shaping-hillary-clintons-image.html7 Simple Social Skills That Will Make You More Likable:http://www.businessinsider.com/social-skills-that-make-you-likable-2015-6Guess Who Doesn't Fit in at Work:http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/opinion/sunday/guess-who-doesnt-fit-in-at-work.html?_r=0What if no candidate is "Likable Enough:http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/04/28/what-if-no-candidate-is-likable-enough.html#POTUS #Hillary #ToBeLikedOrNotToBeLiked #GenderEquality