It seemed a lot of people were disappointed in new The Muppets show that aired last week mostly due to its adult humor. I thought it was hilarious.
We did have some foresight into the new show. A celebrity breakup between Ms. Piggy and Kermit was announced well in advance, buy maybe that wasn’t enough to set the tone for the revamp.
For those who didn’t watch, the show is a mocumentary style behind-the-scenes of Ms. Piggy’s late night show with Kermit as the show’s producer. (How sad is it that she is almost a solitary representative of females in late night television?) Their relationship was one of the story lines and that produced gems like the line below from Kermit.
Reactions to the show had to do with expectations. I had none, except to be entertained, and was therefore quite pleased. Others with a specific expectation in mind were not so amused. It got me thinking how disappointment can also lead to other pesky surface emotions, like irritation, frustration, and anger, usually closer to home.
My wife often asks how I can be so calm when my kids do something unexpected, like not passing a test or putting the milk carton back empty. The answer is simple – they’re human. (Humans with underdeveloped brains at that.) It would be kind of crazy to expect them to do the expected one hundred percent of the time.
We also often assume people will act the same as we would in a given situation. And that’s not fair. We cannot possibly know what the next person is feeling, what their understanding of the situation may be, their perspective, history, knowledge, mindset or whether their underwear is riding up and pinching them.
There was a person today who stood so close to me in line that I could feel the hot air of her breath on my neck. I couldn’t get to the register because she had pushed her cart ahead even though she was behind me in line. The look on her face was beyond annoyed although the line was moving fairly quickly.
She wasn’t meeting my expectations of how to behave in an orderly grocery line. But, those were my expectations, and maybe a few others; obviously not hers. Maybe that’s how people where she comes from behave in lines due to overcrowding. Maybe she had a crying baby or a sick mother to get home to. Maybe she was just being a dick.
Whatever the reason, allowing myself to drum up some silly emotion because she wasn’t following the basic rules of an orderly grocery line would’ve been absurd. It probably wouldn’t have bothered her one bit, but I would have been all worked up over… over what? Hot neck breath? Impatience? A grocery cart in the wrong place? (I was about to let her go ahead of me, but she moved to a new line that opened up.)
I think the best we can do to avoid disappointment and any subsequent emotional response is:
1) Make sure the other party(ies) are aware of our expectations. People can’t meet your expectations if they don’t know what they are.
2) Not be so surprised when our expectations are not met, even when they were clear.
The more common the broken expectation, the more likely we are to be perturbed. We all know that you don’t shop naked for power tools or try to unscrew light bulbs from a restaurant ceiling because you need some at home. These things would shock or amuse, but not typically drum up an emotion like anger. (Probably. I don’t live in the South.)
I think we get more upset when more common rules are broken because we know that we could’ve easily done the breaking and chose not to. We anticipate people will not to cut us off in traffic, so that we are all safe on the roads, yet we’ve done it when it suits us (by accident, of course, sure.) Same goes for being an impatient shopper, speaking when someone else is talking, saying an unkind word when we didn’t mean it. We cut ourselves slack yet reserve the right to find disappointment in others when they don’t meet expectations. Those (other) bastards!
You could say I’m condoning lowering expectations or making excuses for behavior. I hope what I’m saying is that we all need to realize that everyone is trying to get through the day as best they can with as few mistakes as possible.
Or maybe tomorrow I’ll unleash a fire storm on someone who takes a parking space I was waiting for. I’m only human.