The douchebag pass

One lesson my mom insists I never forget is that nobody, no matter how brilliant, gets a douchebag pass (though not in so many words).

As the co-owner of a Montessori school, she’s worked for years with all sorts of kids, many of whom have special needs that compromise their learning ability. The most common needs that qualify as special are those that bestow upon their owners ADHD, autism, and dyslexia, but recently the school accepted a student who’s special in a different way: With math skills, logical reasoning, and verbal and reading ability well beyond his 9 years, he’s gifted.

Unfortunately, in addition to being extremely intelligent, he’s also unbelievably unlikeable. This kid, whose age isn’t even in the double-digits, is already  impatient, condescending, and disrespectful in ways that parents ought only to experience when their kids hit adolescence and their moodiness and the desire to punch them in the face are unwelcome but expected visitors.

So, why is he like this? Is it because he doesn’t see the point in the step-by-step learning process that he has to sit through, just like everybody else? Is is because his thought-process is at the finish line before anyone else’s has warmed up? Probably. But (as my mom asked me when I pointed this out) so what? Why does having above-average ability give him an excuse to be obnoxious? He is the way he is because his parents and everyone else around him gave him a pass and allowed him this feeling of entitlement.

Going to college, widening my horizons, and meeting all sorts of talented people has shown me that this gifted-ergo-douchebag phenomenon doesn’t only apply to academic achievement. It applies to artistic talent, to film literacy, even to taste in music and books. It would be a laughable lie if I said I’ve never been guilty of condescension, but lately I’ve become particularly conscious of how tiring it is be around people who are so good at what they do that it eats away at their ability to be kind.

Does knowing about good, underground music give you a monopoly on good taste? No, it means you have an ear for sound and the good luck to get at it before the radio does. Does graduating with honors means you can scoff haughtily at everyone who doesn’t as you post your QPI on Twitter? No, it means you got high grades that no one else really cares about. If you have talent, does flaunting it as though the world is doubting you have it (when nobody really is) increase that talent? No, because being blessed with talent and skill gives you just that: Talent and skill. To think that those things are packaged together with the right to display superiority is the equivalent of a 7 year old basing his eminence on how much later his bedtime is.

In short, nobody deserves a douchebag pass just because they’re armed with gifts that set them apart. In my eyes, the appeal of talent takes a beating if it’s outweighed by a superiority complex.

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