In conversation with a friend recently I heard the most delightful phrase. He was describing people who perpetually give off a sense that everything is just great, everything is wonderful, life couldn’t be better. They are forever regaling you with tales (and Facebook updates) of how nifty their weekend was, what a fantastic day they are currently having, or how much they are looking forward to next weekend and trying out the sure-to-be delicious hors d’oeuvres at that new place downtown. They nod, smile broadly, and disarm everything you say (positive or negative) with a quip or witticism.
Try to share a moment of fragility, doubt, or misgiving with such a person, and it simply bounces off them with nary a hint that you ever dared to be so weak.
These are the “Teflon People”.
We all know these people: the ones who make your face ache with all the smiling you do around them; the folks whose Instagram feeds are a torrent of one social event after another; anyone who uses the hashtag #sorrynotsorry.
It’s as if these people have never experienced a day of vulnerability, never accepted that having weaknesses might not be a mark against them. Life’s too grand to bother with negative emotions. And you, with your grumpy complaints and petty thoughts are just not believing in yourself enough, just not seizing the day as spectacularly as you should, nay, as you are entitled to do. If only you would shut up and join the party everything would be just great.
Teflon, incidentally, is a brand name for polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), a substance to which nothing will stick.
If nothing sticks, nothing accumulates, and therefore nothing changes.
I don’t know about you, but my life is sticky. I get annoyed with my wife (and she with me). I misread work-related emails and respond inappropriately. I do my best to avoid emotional traps, then fall into them anyway. No amount of Teflon behavior is ever going to make me forget just how flawed or downright stupid (did I mention the work-related email?) I can be.
I ask you, Teflon Person, is your life secretly sticky too?
When you arrive home after a long day, close the door and kick off your shoes, does your face do that wonderful collapse, muscles relinquishing their daily hold on quotidian pleasantry? Does your jaw slacken, eyes droop, lungs fill with the first honest breath of the day?
What would happen, Teflon Person, if you let down your guard?
The alternative to Teflon isn’t, as you might worry, being an angry miserable bastard. As if when not being Teflon one is in fact deeply sad and despondent, utterly dejected and full of rage. That is not the case. Ones emotional world is not governed by extremes, where you are either “Great” or “Terrible”. In fact, most of our daily lives are somewhere in the middle, a wash of ordinariness that is neither “Great” or “Terrible”, but simply “Meh”. Such is routine and it is a lovely thing.
If rage is what is underneath all your Teflon, though, then perhaps removing some of it would allow you to release some of that pent up frustration and find you way to a more balanced “Meh”.
I know, “Meh” doesn’t make for a self-congratulatory tweet or Selfie moment. But “Meh” is at least honest. And that honesty should be celebrated openly, not jealously guarded and shielded from the world.
Is there hope, Teflon Person, that you might heed my invitation to join the rest of us living here in reality?
What is that you say? No, I didn’t see your Evite to the craft beer tasting event at the artist loft. Sure, I’d love to go, except I got laid off, my tooth needs a crown, my car started smelling like rotten fish, and I think the rash on my backside might just be boils. Ok, cool. I’ll see you there.