Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Crossing the Opinionated Line

Lines, and where they're drawn, is something that has fascinated me for quite a while. In this case, I'm not talking about lines on paper that, when joined up at their ends, form a drawing of a yak, although that's fascinating in its own right.

These are philosophical lines I'm talking about. The arbitrary division of continuously variable reality into one category or another. When does a kitten become a cat? At what age does it become socially acceptable (or at least socially tolerable) to become a horrible old man? What age, indeed, does one become "old"?

In most cases, especially the kitten one, the lines are extremely fuzzy.

The FooDaddy's Question of the Day today is "at what point does someone's expression of their opinion go from admirable to annoying?"

Everybody is opinionated, differing in passion from person to person, about something, and again on a continuously sliding spectrum, everybody is willing to share them under certain circumstances.

I'm sure you all know that one "opinionated person" in your circle of friends. They may not be the most educated one in the group. In fact it's quite likely that they are not, which makes this little philosophical journey even more fun.

Opinionated people are great, aren't they? It doesn't matter what you're talking about, they've always got something to say about it. It may be amusing, and it may be insightful, but it probably won't contain any actual information about the subject at hand. That takes talent.

"Yeah, I heard you mention reciprocating piston engines. I think those are stupid. Did you know that my aunt believes that one of them gave her diabetes? Ain't that a crying shame! Someone ought to do something about those things. Pass a law or something. Hey, look! Gum! Gum's the best. Especially blue gum because it tastes like ice crystals should. Where's everybody going? Can I have your gum?"

As fun as they are, there's a limit. Given enough exposure, you will probably go from thinking that this person is a wonderfully open individual, admirable for their willingness to "speak their mind," to really wishing that a movie theater usher would magically appear and escort them from the room.

Let's go a step further, and try to think of two opinionated people you know. Pick the pair most likely to disagree with each other. If you put them at opposite ends of a line, it is unlikely that you will fall exactly in the middle. You will naturally tend to agree with one more than the other.

Now set up your stopwatch again and see how long it takes you to get sick of hearing their opinions. Bet you last longer with one than with the other, don't you? Weird, huh?

All of this assumes that the opinionated people we're dealing with are ones who readily share said opinion. The scale is totally different for more timid (or, depending on your opinion, tactful) opinionateds. Again, the line gets fuzzier.

What about people who don't seem to have any opinion whatsoever? Ask them about anything, and they respond with a shrug and go back to standing there with their mouths open. Those folks worry me. I always assume that they're waaaaay smarter and dastardly than they appear. Trust me--they have world domination plans stashed away somewhere.

How long can you converse with someone like that before you want to check their pulse?

Congratulations! You've managed to get to the end of this post without wishing that a theater usher would magically appear and click your browser to some other page.

This means that I have not yet crossed the line.


  1. One of your best posts, FooD. Insightful AND amusing. AND full of shit--much like the person who may have partially inspired it. (That last part was my clever impersonation of said subject. I don't really think the post is full of shit. Maybe a little here and there, but...)

    No, actually I think you're right. It's extremely complicated. I don't really have a problem with opinionated people except when they try to force me to accept those same opinions and become angry when I don't.

    Or those people who express opinions even though (and sometimes because) they know it's a sore point for the person they're talking to. I personally think that crosses the line. You can have an opinion, but you don't have to be an ass.

  2. Very insightful... I happen to BE pretty darned opinionated, but I am also seasoned (read: middle aged). When I was younger I honestly believed that if I could just get people to understand my PoV, then SURELY they would agree with me.

    Over the years i've learned people bring differing meta-theories to their opinions... they hold different beliefs on how the world works, what people are like, and how darned fuzzy a kitten is compared to a cat.

    I share my opinions from time to time, typically when I am trying to sway PUBLIC opinion because a vote or policy is approaching, but I am much more tolerant of people who differ, provided they do it with relatively little venom and respect me holding my own views in return.

    I am disinclined though, to foster NEW friendships with people who are to eager to share views I hold as ignorant... I really am only willing to hear much of it if a friendship on other grounds has been established first.

  3. I was actually wary of posting this because I, like Tart, have become over time FAR less likely to broadcast my opinion.

    I'm glad you folks liked it! As I was writing it, I started disliking it more and more. But ain't that often the way with one's own writing? You are, after all, one of the worst judges of your own stuff.

    But that's just MY opinion.

  4. Yes it was funny and amusing.
    And yes I plan on rewarding you with some Mom baked goods.


Why not tell me what you thought of this post? Especially if you liked it. And especially if you plan on rewarding me with baked goods.