What People Brag About (And What They're Actually Saying)
So you find yourself in the midst of a conversation at a [insert social location here] and debating on whether or not you sort of, kind of, maybe like this person. I have chosen not to disclose a particular location because, at the heart, a conversation is a conversation. The only difference among talking to someone at a bar, club, coffee shop, feminist rally, sci-fi convention, or Halo pre-match lobby is the volume with which you speak. No matter if you have to scream or whisper, your task is to somehow convince this stranger that you are, indeed, worth knowing.
Now, let's assume for a brief moment that we are that person quietly judging the other person and whether or not they are worth our attention (feels good, doesn't it? doesn't it?). Jumping to the other end of this social phenomenon, we can easily fling aside any kind of BS this person throws at us, right? right? As social creatures, we are destined to meet a lot of people. Therefore, when we meet someone new -- especially a possible romantic interest -- we see it as a duty to ascend the pile of people our conversational partner has already met until we are the proverbial king of the pile.
While this may seem hyperbolic, what follows is a list of the most common phrases people (maybe even you) will use to make them seem way more awesome than they actually are, cuz let's face it, none of us are really as awesome to others as we are in our own minds.
I present this little remark first because it is, by far, the easiest to call BS on with a quick eye-over. I feel safe in my assumption when I say that a majority of human beings have played a sport at some point in their lives. Meanwhile, not everyone is an athlete, and not everyone is athletic. What many people do, instead, is retrospectively examine whatever kind of athletic career they had and completely inflate it. Someone who hasn't engaged in a physical activity since when he was the backup tackle for his Pop Warner football team has no right to call attention to his athleticism.
This one is also subject to the eye test. Being "athletic" shouldn't even need to be verbally expressed. More often than not, you should be able to walk up to a person and pretty much assume he/she is athletic simply based on their build. As soon as someone throws the phrase, "I'm athletic" at you, remember, what they are truly saying is this: "Despite what you see in front of you right now, I promise I am athletic and in no way just sit on the couch all day and watch reruns of Sportscenter reminiscing on my glory days of being the punter on my high school football team."
"I'm in a band"
If you don't immediately recognize this person as a vital member of a band you are already aware of (local or otherwise), run, my friend, run like the wind. The "I'm in a band" braggart isn't exactly lying; he/she is, instead, inferring a warning. Put it this way, your next question will go like this: "Oh really? Like, awesome! That is so totally cool, brah. What kind of music do you guys play?" To which, your sleeve-tatted friend-to-be will reply, "I can't even describe it, dude. You'll just have to come listen to us sometime." Before you know it, you have agreed to set aside a night to listen to this person's music, a night which otherwise could have been spent doing something much better, something such as not listening to some lame-ass Kings of Leon cover band.
It's easy for any musician to fall into some sense of overblown self-worth after having a couple jam sessions with a group of people. Meanwhile, this, by no means, gives them any right to call themselves "a band." The only conversation that should involve your band should come at a time when you either A) are about to go on stage, or B) have already played. Let your audience hear it on their own time instead of planting some kind of seed in their brain that will ultimately lead to a disappointment tree. As stated before, music always sounds best to those who are actually playing it. So what are these rock stars really saying? You should probably hear this instead: "I play rhythm guitar for this band that's going to perform at the local watering hole next Tuesday. Based upon my performance, you can decide whether I'm a suitable mate."
"I read a lot"
Who in their right minds brags about their reading ability? But as most of you know, this little brag is fairly commonplace nowadays. "You mean you actually read? Like, books and stuff? Wow, you must be smart." Now, those of you who know me will know that I would never hate on people actually reading (I wrote a damn article on the importance of it when obtaining a bed mate, how quickly you forget). What I am shunning is the practice of using a skill developed in 2nd grade as a conversation catalyst. If you're of drinking age, you damn well better be able to read, that is, unless you were forced to quit elementary school to harvest grains for your starving family. In which case, why are you reading this?! Get back to work, you're break is over.
The frequency of your reading should not be a topic of conversation. Analogy time: we read every day; we bathe every day. What exactly would you think of someone who approached you stating, "I bathe quite often; pretty much, like, all the time." The only thing we can gather about such braggadocio is, "That guy must not bathe that much if he thinks it's such a big freaking deal." The same goes for reading. Be wary of these pseudo-scholars, for what they're actually telling you is this: "I hope you like Maxim Magazine and the Twilight series because I read those during every one of my bathroom visits."
"I'm such a big drinker"
First thing first, "big drinkers" already have a designation and a destination. The designation is "alcoholic," and the destination is "Alcoholics Anonymous." These people don't brag about their condition; they are actually forced to admit it. That being said, if you're going to brag about how big of a drinker you are, just know that we have our limitations. For these so-called "big drinkers," the limitation occurs when we wake up in some stranger's bathtub with an organ missing. Those without such limitations are taking pulls from their flasks at 8 in the morning to prevent "the shakes" at work (this is a bad thing, by the way).
So, if your conversational partner's go-to skill is his/her drinking prowess and alcoholism is out of the question, you can count on one thing: your conversational window is closing. Once you brag about how much you can drink, people are going to need to see proof. Thirty minutes later, this person claiming to have the liver of the Hulk smashes a pool stick over his own head because he drunkenly believes that he is, in fact, the Hulk. Therefore, what this statement translates to is, "In about two hours, my cognitive functions will regress to that of my infancy. Go now, lest you be in charge of taking care of my drunk ass."
"I have a sweet car"
To those of you who automatically think I'm going to say that a person having an awesome ride points to "certain insecurities," I offer this: shame on you. Come on, I'm more creative than that. Having a giant truck doesn't qualify a man as packing something with the consistency of a melted Popsicle (only a few unsatisfied women know that). A woman driving a sporty convertible doesn't qualify her as high-maintenance (only a few broke ex-husbands, boyfriends, or fathers can attest to that). Instead, I'm going to lump these people into a big pile of people who obtain self-worth through some type of external means: "Hey I might not be much myself, but check out what I got."
For some reasons, we should look out for these people the most. Is there really nothing about you that you feel noteworthy about? You, instead, would like to use your car or whatever as a demonstration of your true badass nature. While this is no contemporary phenomenon. Egyptian pharaohs erected (*cough*) pyramids to display just how balls-shriveling awesome they were (they definitely were compensating for something, amirite). I'm fine with you wanting to show off your toys, just make sure it's worth it. Put it this way, an average brand-new car will depreciate to under half of its original worth within four years. So, you better make damn good use of your smoking new ride before it crumbles to oblivion like our Egyptian friends. What are they actually telling you?
"Look, I may not be attractive, smart, a decent human being, or even have any money, but, hey, check out my kick-ass ride, which costs about 30% less than it did when I got it last year."
I could go all day...
Granted, this list could very easily stretch to an insane length, but really just how many of you could read my babble for that long without spattering your grey matter all over the couch you happen to be sitting on? Therefore, I offer you guys an opportunity. Ladies, what kind of lame superpowers do dudes claim to have to gain your approval? Fellas, what stuff do girls claim to be "experts" at to get entrance into your little circle? Let me know in the comments section.