Peggy Keener: Attitude smatitude

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Tell me I’m wrong, but didn’t the word “attitude” used to have a different meaning? I remember my parents and teachers using it in a positive way …. like, for example, commenting upon what a nice attitude someone had.

It seems that anymore the meaning of “attitude” is all bent out of shape. Arrogantly, it now even has a new spelling and pronunciation: “tude.” Gone, gone, gone are the days when one could conjure up an image of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, a sweet young thing so radiantly good natured that her head was encircled in a halo, its glints luminous enough to blind an unforewarned onlooker.

Okay, so that example may have gone too far, but honestly, the current version of “tude” brings to mind the image of a raffish, huffing person with hands defiantly on hips, head angled smugly up and to one side with a jutting chin held unnaturally high. Upon looking at such a person, one no longer sees their nose. Instead they now look into their nostrils.

His/her feet are splayed apart, cemented in place in a stance that announces those feet (and the mindset that goes with them) are not about to be budged—and don’t you even try!

Furthermore, their eyebrows are raised to the maximum height somewhere near the hairline while the eye balls under them roll upward and off to the far corners of the upper eyelids as if engaging with lesser human beings is so utterly beneath them, it is contemptible. To complete the look, the pull on these facial muscles stretches the top lip into a sneering, jagged, one-sided scowl.

Accompanying such vainglorious posturing are unintelligible snorts and shouts of words unintelligible to folks like me. I wonder if somewhere in all this “tude-ing” if the person knows he’s/she’s acting against his/her better judgment, but is unable to stop? Or do they simply suffer from akrasia and lack the will or self control to alter their behavior?

To be sure, “attitude” is no longer a compliment. It’s an intentional, ridiculous, stubborn, boisterous, in-your-face rant which interrupts classrooms, gets people in deep trouble with the law, keeps couples from understanding each other, gets people fired from their jobs and squashes any meaningful communication with others. Brain function halts, then stops.

Quite possibly the biggest puzzle is that these edgy people actually see themselves as extra special. Extra exceptionally cool! They are bad boys/bad girls who must stubbornly dominate all situations when it doesn’t even make sense. And in doing so, they paralyze any worthwhile interaction with others. We feel powerless at softening their defiance or even getting a word in edgewise. Like a heavy door whomping shut, we are not only blocked, but also scorned.

I don’t recall Rebecca scuffling her patent leather Mary Jane’s on the sidewalk, talking loudly, or rudely snubbing people. Heck, all the kids I grew up with—no matter how cocky they were—knew to be respectful of their parents and teachers, even though they did this through gritted teeth. Acting out and sassing came with serious consequences.

Recently I received a card from my friend, Jeanette. Enclosed was a paper with the word “Attitude” written across the top. To my dismay, I immediately prepared myself for something sarcastically unpleasant. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

ATTITUDE

There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.

“Well,” she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she did and she enjoyed a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.

“Hmmm,” she said. “I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.” So she did and her day was grand.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head.

“Well,” she said, “today I’m going to wear my hair in a pony tail.” So she did and her day was full of joy.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed there wasn’t a single hair on her head.

“Yippee,” she exclaimed. “I don’t have to fix my hair today.” So she didn’t. And she went on to have a simply splendid day.

And now you understand that attitude is a matter of choice. It can go in two opposing directions. It’s up to us to choose.