Girl from the West used to call me Eeyore, because I tend to have lowered expectations and accept bad outcomes as if they were my destiny.
Then, Saturday Night Live gave us Debbie Downer. Now, Girl from the West gives me a figurative kick in the shins — followed by a loud “wah waaah” (the sad trombone) — when I turn down certain conversational roads. So when someone remarks on how the sunlight feels so good on their skin and I get all: better put on SPF 250; those ultra-violet rays will turn you into a walking melanoma, she gives me “the look” and a quick sad trombone. Hint.
Debbie Downers. Buzz kills. No one likes them. No one wants to be one. Yet, it happens. Do we know it when we are being one?
Sometimes I slip into the role, generally when my mom pants are notched too tight, when I think I’m being helpful, or wise, or worrying every little thing to shreds.
Recently I was on the receiving end of a Double-D Debbie Downer. It was a sad experience and a good reminder to check myself.
Someone I’ve known for many years invited me to lunch for my birthday. She encouraged me to pick the place. So I chose a fabulous breakfast/lunch diner in town that I thought she might like. The first sign of trouble came as she began snapping the one-page menu back and forth with such force it created a stiff breeze. It was as if all her anger over my choice of restaurant was compressed in that laminated slip of paper. It was as if the chef personally designed a menu to alienate her digestive tract.
I could feel a perfect storm brewing. I made a few menu suggestions. All were rejected. I said maybe she could ask the waitress for some ideas. Instead, when the waitress asked for our orders, I placed mine and she quickly ordered the same thing, handing back both menus before I could protest.
(You know how this is going to end, don’t you?)
The complaints started coming two bites into the Tex-Mex breakfast burrito. It was too spicy. It had onions, too many onions. And too much cheese; do you know how bad cheese is for you? Why didn’t I tell her the burrito had this stuff in it?
All the joy I felt being in my favorite diner eating my favorite meal, drinking my favorite coffee drained out of me, quickly replaced with guilt: for picking this restaurant, for not helping her find something on the menu she’d like, for not knowing all her dietary restrictions and issues, for having the audacity to be hungry, for not conveniently dying during the year so we wouldn’t have to celebrate my birthday.
In one final act of rejection, she set down the fork, pushed away the plate and grabbed her napkin.
She’d just have coffee, she said, dabbing her brow, but that ended up being too caffeinated, too hot and in too big of a mug. Also, the restaurant was loud. And the plates were too round. As I continued eating in silence, she got up from the table and went to the restroom. For a long time.
We’d have to leave soon, she said when she came back.
She paid and we parted ways. I went home; she, I suppose, began a three-day cleanse. I made a mental note to keep tabs on my negativity and the need to have things my way. I also promised myself I would spend less time around people who pick apart everything to the point of being a destructive, negative influence.
Buzz kills. Debbie Downers.
I started out my day on a happy note. But one Tex-Mex burrito and coffee later I was depressed.