The Great Debate

debate team, arguing, friendship, humor, Modern PhilosopherIt might surprise you to learn, Modern Philosophers, that I wasn’t a member of the Debate Team.

Sure, I always had opinions I wanted to share, but I learned early on that doing so could get me into trouble.

I was a precocious kid.  A super nerd, who always thought he was right, and didn’t have nearly enough social skills to realize people didn’t like a know it all.

Apparently, sharing my Deep Thoughts rubbed people the wrong way.  Especially those older than me, who didn’t appreciate being shown up by some geeky little kid.

I finally got it through my thick skull that I wasn’t making any friends by showing off how smart I was.

debate team, arguing, friendship, humor, Modern PhilosopherI was kind of like Young Sheldon, only without the bow tie and the sweet time slot following The Big Bang Theory.

My stepmother was also fond of the quote:

Children should be seen and not heard.

I eventually got the message, and retreated into my shell.  That was probably the first major step to my becoming an introvert.  So rather than sharing my bright ideas with a world that just didn’t understand me, I put them into my stories.

Writing became my escape, not only from the tedium of the outside world, but also from the eye rolls and confused looks of those somehow trapped in a conversation with me.

And I was cool with it.

I wasn’t fond of being the super smart outcast that no one wanted to take the time to get to know, so it was easier to just hide in my room and let my characters banter.

As I got older, it became harder to hide out and fill five subject notebooks with stories that I would never show another soul.

Eventually, I wanted to mingle with other people.  The opposite sex caught my attention, and I quickly deduced that no one was going to date the silent recluse.

debate team, arguing, friendship, humor, Modern PhilosopherSo I had to come out of my shell.

As awkward as that was.

I just had to learn to curb my enthusiasm for showing off how much I knew about certain subjects, and try to focus on being charming rather than a treasure trove of useless trivia that no teenage girl cared about.

So maybe now you understand why I never had a girlfriend until college.

When I finally got into a serious relationship, I couldn’t help but put my untapped Debate Team skills on display.

J and I would argue a lot.

We were both very intelligent, very opinionated, and very stubborn.

As a writer, I felt it was my responsibility to my chosen profession to show off my command of words every time J and I got into an argument.

In other words, I thought I had had to win every fight.

I always had to get in the last word.

debate team, arguing, friendship, humor, Modern PhilosopherI couldn’t let her best me in the word game.  That just wouldn’t be right.

How stupid can someone so bright be?

Well, I was an idiot.  My marriage fell apart for many reasons, but my refusal to back away from an argument was near the top.

I’ve made an effort to shove my Inner Debater into a locker in the darkest corner of the abandoned gymnasium in my mind.

He does get out every now and then.  The Sweet Irish Girl certainlyknew how to lure him out of hiding.  I think it was her brogue that did it.

Nevertheless, that relationship didn’t work out in the end, either.

Now, when I express my opinions, I do so mainly on my blog.  That way, it’s all one sided and I’m not pissing off someone face to face.  And technically, I always get the last word.

But debating isn’t always wrong, Modern Philosophers.

This morning, in fact, I texted one of my closest friends and told her how much I’ve been enjoying debating her about a certain topic.

It’s all done in fun, of course, and I enjoy the witty verbal sparring.  She’s going through a hard time at the moment, so I’m hoping that our little debate is distracting her and making her smile.  And giving her something to think about when she feels lost or alone.

debate team, arguing, friendship, humor, Modern PhilosopherI have no intention of letting it turn ugly with her.  I know now when to step back, how not to be an overbearing word bully, and why it’s important not to hurt the feelings of someone I care about.

Debating can be fun with the right partner.  One doesn’t need to be a Disney Princess to know when it’s time to let it go…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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20 Responses to The Great Debate

  1. ksbeth says:

    we never stop learning

  2. markbialczak says:

    Yeah, sometimes silence and a nod after the other person makes a point is a good thing, Austin. And tone means so much in the relationship debate, too, I’ve been told. 🤓

  3. AAristizabal says:

    Maieutics is my usual way of learning (which makes me a questioner, something not very well seen in corporations), and I am a lover of debate (my family is deeply into it, and we use to have one or two around our weekly lunch table every now and then); so I am confortable with a little, well-managed conflict.

    I believe, however, that people don’t know how to debate, and they:
    A): take it personally when openly debating: we are debating facts, not people.
    B): believe every question is actually a questioning; and not an opportunity to learn and understand how and why things happen. That is normal in this city and something which, paradoxically enough, happened to me with one of my teachers at the University.
    C): forget about rules of civility when debating, and things get rude.
    D): forget who they are debating with. I may debate with my aunts, my friends, my cousins or my brother, but I never forget who they are; that I love them; that they are as entitled to their opinions as I am; and that, for me, they are way more important that the debate itself.

    So, I carefully pick my debates; and my counterparts. Not every debate is worth having.

  4. Tia Shurina says:

    wow austin…what a nice read to start the wknd. good for you to have learned such a lovely lesson about feelings, & friendship…im sure ur helping ur friend!! and p.s. congrats on the nomination!!! wonderful! fingers crossed for u!

  5. jefftcann says:

    Your description of missing social skills as a kid reminds me of myself. I had a quick, biting wit mostly directed at others that I enjoyed using to impress people around me. It wasn’t until I was a college freshman when I got beat up by John Galuzzi that it occurred to me that I didn’t have to say everything that popped into my head. Like you, now I just hold onto it and use it in a story.

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