Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Green-Eyed Monster

My hairdresser says to me, "My thick hair is so hard to dry." She knows I have thin, unmanageable hair and she thinks she is consoling me by saying I wouldn't want to have hair like her very thick, luscious hair because it is hard to dry. Try me. Naturally, I am jealous but I try to be grownup and generous and pretend I'm not jealous. So I tell her it is a problem I would love to have. Maybe she is consoling me, or maybe she is gloating because she has what she knows I don't have.

We all do it and we all know we do it. Sometimes it is hard to resist but we know it will be received with mixed emotions depending on who hears/reads it. The art of the "humble brag" is raging across communication networks because we all like to brag, while seeming to put down ourselves. It is practiced far and wide across the globe as we compete for the greatest bragging rights whether it is the latest technology in our possession, the most accomplishments, or the most publicity. It's human nature to want to feel as good as, or even better than others and make them jealous.

I am fascinated with the phrase itself: "humble brag". I have always been aware of the concept without that particular phrasing when I perceive that someone is trying to tell me that they know someone famous, or that they went to Harvard, or any number of things about which they think I might be jealous. I am conscious of trying to be grownup enough not to "brag" about stuff because it seems so juvenile. Why should I brag about anything? I'm too old for that kind of competition. I would like to think I am not that shallow. I won't claim I've never indulged in the "humble brag" but I would like to think I am too mature to do that.
Note that in my first sentence, I first said "hairdresser" when I could have just said "friend." It actually was my hairdresser, and I wasn't trying to be uppety by saying that I had a hairdresser, thereby creating a "humble brag" when I claim my thin hair. Much of this stuff is unconscious and unintentional. When is it a "humble brag"?

Even though I have observed the practice, we just always called it bragging where I grew up, no matter how cleverly stated. Back in those days, we would preface the statement with a disclaimer, "not bragging nor complaining, but..." Then we would proceed to do both bragging and complaining. 

I encountered the quest to properly identify what is or is not a "humble brag" on a favorite TV show, NCIS L.A. That is one of my favorite shows--TV is good for something. Although I am on the Internet constantly, I felt like I was living in a cave and illiterate as one who had not encountered the label "humble brag" before. Off to the Urban Dictionary to see how people feel about the terminology. Off to Google to enjoy reading about how we play with our language. It seems that Twitter has a very active role in this practice where people can brag like mockingbirds and show off their latest and greatest whatever while seeming to be very modest.

I keep coming back to my feeling that the brag is perceived by someone prone to jealousy in the first place. If we weren't so competitive, it wouldn't matter if someone said, "My SAT scores were barely high enough to get into Harvard, but my I.Q. was enough." It would make me wonder about the person's emotional quotient. Maybe we should just indulge each other and celebrate with others because they obviously think we are important enough to try to impress. 


  1. haha! What a cute post! Actually, I never heard of the term HUMBLE BRAG until I saw it here. You are right: we all do it, but shouldn't.

  2. I also never heard it before, and I don't think I've missed an episode of NCIS LA. There's nothing especially bragging about having a hairdresser, don't we all have one? Those of us who don't cut our own hair, anyway. (I cut my husband's, but that's different.)

  3. Part of me wants to harumph the braggers, but another part of me knows that some of us sneak in something we feel positive about in a life of doo doo. It ends up sounding like bragging. Ha.

  4. Count me in as one who has never heard the term 'Humble brag'. I am also guilty of having done my share of humble bragging but as I mature I try to just be content, satisified with who I am, where I am and with what I have. And I also suffer from thinning, unmanageable hair...grrr !

  5. That's new terminology to me, too. Of course, I don't think I'm very up to date on lingo or any of that other jazz. Part of me assumes that if I've heard of it then it's probably on the downslide of cool. I'm okay with that. I think you're right in that we've all been guilty of bragging at times. In my family and group of close friends we don't bother trying to be humble. We just call one another and say, "Hey, let's celebrate me for a minute!," and proceed to talk about our momentary awesomeness. Maybe it's still bragging, but we do it honestly.

  6. Saying "hairdresser" isn't bragging. You pay a hairdresser, but paying off friends is even more expensive, and enticing a decent number of blog followers is prohibitive. Oh. Unless you're a nice person...there's always that...

  7. when i read this i thought you were talking about me and hoping i didn't do that! ha ha anyway i wanted to tell you that your comment today to me make me cry with gratitude. i was feeling SO down and you really uplifted me honey. thank you SO much!!!

    big hugs, bee

  8. Hmmmm... you're reminding me of a commercial I saw a long time ago and loved about a group of older Chinese ladies who were "humble bragging" about their kids. One lady was silent so they assumed she had nothing to brag about.

    Then suddenly a car pulls up and a man comes out while his wife and children watch from the car. The old lady says, "This is my son. He keep insisting I go with them every week to a new place even though I'm so tired."

    It was something like that. I wish I could find it. It's perfect humble bragging. :-) I loved your post R.J.