A deadly sin, indeed

Editor’s note: With Anthony recharging his creative batteries, we’ve selected this column from July 2006 as his post-Thanksgiving offering.

“Nice shirt,” she said.

I replied, “It is, isn’t it?”

She said, “I’ve heard you say that before. Most people, when I give them a compliment, say ‘Thank you'; you just agree with me. What’s up with that? You’re polite. You know how to act in public. How come you don’t say thank you?”

I explained.

I don’t say “Thank you!” in response to most compliments. It’s not that I’m not glad that somebody wants to say something good about me. I like that part. It’s that most people seem to pay me compliments about things that don’t have much to do with me, and, for me at least, “Thank you!” doesn’t make sense.

The other day at the office when a coworker said, “Nice shirt,” and I replied, “It is, isn’t it?” I wasn’t rubbing her nose in the niceness of my shirt. I was agreeing with her sensibilities and aesthetic judgment. I think it a nice shirt, too. That’s why I bought it and wear it as often as I do.

But that’s all I did—buy it and wear it. I didn’t design it, I didn’t make the cloth, I didn’t construct it, and since I didn’t have anything to do with its creation, saying “Thank you!” seems like taking credit under false pretenses.

All I did was buy it. Any moron can buy something. Why would I thank her? I suppose I could say “Thank you!” on behalf of the people who were involved in the creation of my shirt, but I’ve already thanked them mutely many times for the excellence of their efforts; that seems like enough.

On more or less the same hand, I think pride should be earned, not only out of some sense of Newtonian action and reaction, but because that’s when it feels best to me.

I see people who are proud and arrogant about where they were born, as though being born in that particular place could be achieved only through grueling effort, great intellectual prowess and steely resolve, when actually they had nothing to do with it, and it was probably years before anybody even told them where they were.

Some people are proud of the way they look, as though chiseled features or sensuous lips or a fine ass or whatever it is they’ve got going for them was just part of the set they wisely assembled from all of the possibilities.

It seems to me that a lot of misery could be avoided if people just quit being proud of their homeland and their culture and their religion and all those other things that are largely thrust upon us, and that are far easier to accept or to cheer than to examine, let alone resist.