Sunday, October 21, 2012

Things I Don’t Get Part One- Competition

                I don’t get competition. Seriously. The struggle to become number one never seemed worth the confrontation on the road to get there. I hated color war as a kid. They dragged me out of my bed half-blind with sleep in the middle of the night to “WRITE POEMS! PAINT BANNERS!” If that’s not a war crime, what is?  I avoid confrontation at absolutely all costs. My   daughter’s babysitter was literally handing me the wrong child at the end of the day (I counted myself lucky if the kid was female. Score!) and I still haven’t told her I’m using someone else now.  She still calls every now and then. It has been a month.
Babysitter: “Oh hello! Premonition- I ah-miss you! I ah-miss Shmooshy- oh Shmooshy is so cute. She’s so cute. Are you bringing her again soon?
Me:  ::noncommittal grunt::
Babysitter: So you leave me? But I  ahLOVE you, I ahLOVE Shmooshy! Oh I ahLOVE you both! (did she love us so much when she accidentally fed my child someone else’s food for a week then absconded to the dentist an hour before pickup without telling me? I think these things but remain silent. Confront her? Be  honest? HECK NO!)
Me: (seeing an opening for flattery) Oh we love you too Mrs. Babysitter!!!  (as long as all Shmooshy ate was formula and she didn’t move. At all. Things were cool)
Me: (sensing another opening) YES! She acts like a baby ALL the time!! I mean, what a complete PAIN right? Babies! Pshhh!!
Babysitter: Okay- so she still very very hard baby. Very hard.  Always crying when I leave her all alone in an unfamiliar place- like my basement? ::clicking tongue noises:: Very hard baby!! Okay- so when she good baby again. Call me yes? I hear from you soon? When she good baby again?
Me: somewhat louder noncommittal grunt.
Well…I’m off the hook for another week right? I’m so afraid of confrontation I simply DO NOT get people who relish it. Who seek it out.  On a daily basis. This is extra  ironic, since I’m from a family of competitive maniacs and my hubbie is so  competitive he doesn’t even REALIZE he’s being competitive. OF COURSE it’s normal to see who can brush their teeth faster. Why?
  I got a full does of this exciting family trait spending some time with my then 3 year old (freakishly genius, precocious in a cute and sometimes scary way) niece.
Me: Let’s color!
Chani: Okay!
Me: (seeing an opportunity to teach a prodigy about the joy and freedom of art) See- art is about feelings- we can use the crayons to show what’s inside our heart. Since it’s what’s inside our heart- there’s no right or wrong way to make art- just like nobody can tell you how to feel- nobody can tell you how to make your art! That’s what makes art so gosh darn….
Chani: ::holding up paper with crayon scribbled on both sides:: I WIN!
Me: !?!?!? WHAT??? You can’t WIN at coloring!
Chani ::holding up a second page efficiently coated in scribbles”: I WIN AGAIN!!! YOU’RE  TOO SLOW!
Apparently- most of Chani’s feelings involved crushing the inferior aunt (ant?) creature in front of her. Art is free expression right? Chani freely expressed her competitive nature!  Needless to say I forfeited. Competitive people can even win at ART! Nothing says free spirited, unhindered human expression like “I WIN!”. The funniest part is that the very need to compete, to win- to prove wit, strength, capability- is so easily overcome by the less-than-winning attitude of “meh”. If one is a noncompetitive ketzela among a pride of competitive big cats- the “meh” is key to survival (not to winning of course- just to surviving- thanks goodness!)  Nothing gets a competitive person going like “Yup. You win. I lose. All done!” The shock on their faces is priceless. But- what? Wait! Huh? It’s fun to see the bewilderment cross their faces. Of course competitiveness- and  the ability to confront- have their place. People who are competitive are also assertive. This is ESSENTIAL for LONG TERM SURVIVAL (and, sure for winning too) They can always say what needs to be said and not get kicked in the face. Eg: Tell that lousy babysitter/guy who cut you in line/boss who wont give you benefits/ nosy neighbor/ mean frenemy- exactly what’s on your mind. In cool, logical terms- assertive people say  “I left you a month ago- you are not fit to care for children/ I was here first. Please go back to the end of the line/ I bring in x number of clients. You can’t bill for them without me. I’m a desirable employee. Give me benefits or I’m out/ No, sorry where I went ISNT your business/ I’m sorry- I don’t really like you and don’t want  to have anything to do with you anymore frenemy. Thanks.”  So , I guess competitiveness has its place. But I still don’t get it.


  1. I'm not competitive either so I never got it. Like when I wasn't even playing Machanayim in third grade and yet a ball came whizzing out to slam me in the belly. Or when I fumbled the ball once in gym and cost my classmates the "win" they would completely forget about in five minutes yet made me feel terrible for days.

    Nor am I confrontational! Never, ever, ever! If someone messes up something, I just won't ever go to them again. But I will say nothing. Zip.

  2. I so did the same Machanayim thing. Balls? Shudder.
    Premonition - I love the description of your husband's competitiveness ("my hubbie is so competitive he doesn’t even REALIZE he’s being competitive.")
    I've been accused of the toothbrush style competetion - I used to time myself saying Tehillim and still have a Tehillim with my times penciled in to the last second.
    Still, I prefer living at a slower pace. Nowadays, anyway.

  3. I'm pretty competitive but I realize that it's not so fun being on the receiving end of someone who's even more competitive than you are.

    Also, I hear what you're saying about competitive people being assertive and that helping them for long-term survival, but don't forget competitive people are also more proud, so they often will not speak up even if it might mean gaining something (because there's also a risk of rejection, and that makes them feel vulnerable). So that's really a weakness. I can see an advantage for the more easy-going over there. There's place for all of us in this world :)

    @Nechama: Wow, about your tehillim timing, totally relate! I mentally clock my davening sometimes (usually because I'm in a rush though, not just to be breakneck), ugh it needs to stop. And lately I've also slowed down life's pace a little...

  4. wow! that timing davening bit is amazing! I don't time anything! (maybe my non-competitive nature is responsible for my lateness as well!)