A manual for misanthropes

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People who know me in person (and with whom I’ve already talked about TV series) know my belief that House M.D., which aired from 2004 to 2012, is not only the best medical series ever, but also the best series ever. I quite enjoy the main character, Gregory House — portrayed and, IMHO immortalized by English actor Hugh Laurie — for every trait he carries: his cynicism, his narcissism, his curmudgeonry. Even for his being a misanthrope.

House, while stating his misanthropic condition

Misanthrope, by the way, is a word I’ve only come to know because I watched House M.D. a lot. A misanthrope is someone who has made it their general practice, or general state of being, to hate other people. That is a person who has feelings of general dislike and distrust of humankind.

Skip to last Sunday, when I found out a small gem of a book (well, not exactly a book, because its author, Henderson Bariani, called it a opúsculo, Portuguese word that means “a very short book” or “a small work”), called “Como fazer inimigos e irritar pessoas” (something like “How to make enemies and irritate people”, freely translated to English by me), which was free for the day at Amazon, and that revealed itself to be, again as stated by the author, a manual for misanthrope people who believe they have too many friends and are interested in losing some of them, so they can better dedicate to the art of isolation and being on their own.

Now, despite all my admiration for Gregory House (and other famous, fictitious misanthrope characters, like Sherlock Holmes), I’m not a misanthrope myself. One, though, might think I have misanthropic characteristics, because after reading Henderson’s book — all the 29 pages which do make it a opúsculo —, I noticed, of course it is above all and everything a work of humorous relief, but also that some of his suggestions are things that I usually do, or, at least, would like to put in practice.

For instance, the author teaches how to annoy people with WhatsApp. In Brazil, WhatsApp has become so ubiquitous that I sometimes believe some people have totally forgotten it’s possible, for example, to call a person using the phone line. Everyone here, from dentists and butchery houses to doctors and locksmiths, has a WhatsApp contact. It’s so present that it’s difficult to ask people to move to Signal ou Telegram, because gosh, they have never heard about them most of the time. According to the author, to annoy people and turn out having less friends, a simple trick is to say you don’t have WhatsApp, and add “Sorry, I only use Telegram”, or then, “can you give me a call?”.

Why even laughing at the suggestion and identifying myself with it I’m not a misanthrope: I have a strong desire to use Telegram, Signal and other messaging apps. But the problem lies exactly in this ubiquity WhatsApp has in Brazil. Virtually no one I know wants to change apps, and they usually turn their noses at my suggestion. So, I keep hoping one day Telegram or Signal becomes more popular than WhatsApp. As to using the author’s suggestion to have less friend, nah. I’m a very social person and I like the (few, admittedly) friends I’ve got.

Another point mentioned by the author for those who want to become more misanthrope, is the usage of complicated and/ or not-well known words. According to him, people are intimidated when they see someone speaking in a more complicated way, but are usually ashamed of admitting it. So, instead, they develop a certain anger towards people who speak like that, what could potentially contribute with the goal one could have of diminishing their number of friends.

Why even laughing at the suggestion and identifying myself with it I’m not a misanthrope: I not only read a lot (a habit, by the way, the author also mentions as something that could irritate people, the average Brazilians specially, because our country is not one of many readers — thus, making me an outlier in my own country), but also have the habit of solving many crossword puzzles out of something I’ve early in my life learned with my mother. This makes me know a lot of different, uncommon words. On the one hand, this admittedly makes me write better, and I love it, because I love writing (there’s even a name for this need to write a lot ASAP, it is ). On the other hand, it doesn’t mean I do it publicly, or as a means to look down on someone. I like to teach some of these words, in the same sense people also teach me other words, but that’s it. No intention to irritate anyone with my vocabulary, even because no one knows every word out there, and learning new words, for me as a lifelong learner, is a bliss.

Last, but not least, the author included in his book a chapter specially dedicated to irritating young people. I have two teen sons, and reading such chapter automatically triggered, let’s say, personal memories. The book mentions the usage of old, unused slang as a means to irritate young people. Slang of the old people, more simply put. I could tell you not to sell me a dog for example, and maybe that would irritate you. There are, in Brazil, lots of expressions from my parents’ time, such as “ora bolas” (something like “why!” or “for Christ’s sake!“, expressing surprise, in English) or “supimpa” (something like “razzle-dazzle” or “cool” in English) that my children don’t even know, or that feels odd to their ears. It doesn’t actually irritate them, but when I use these, they call me old (LOL). While I’m writing this it’s almost possible to hear them, “Dad, you’re soooooo old“.

Why even laughing at the suggestion and identifying myself with it I’m not a misanthrope: Using old slang and other things I do with my children is part of our relationship, and by playing with them this way I feel our relationship grows and remains close. It’s just one of the ingredients, but that’s an important one. My children will call me grumpy sometimes, but that’s who I am (who isn’t grumpy sometimes, after all?), and it’s not something that makes me a misanthrope.

Having read “Como fazer inimigos e irritar pessoas” triggered this idea of writing about misanthropic behavior in me. Keep in mind I was moved by this humorous tone the book, written by a Brazilian author, has. It’s a very interesting read, even if you, like me, are not a misanthrope.

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