Ask Ceil – I Have an Opinion

Batman Desktop

Dear Ceil,

Why do I have so many opinions, and why do I talk about them? I had no idea I cared.

Soapboxing in Susquehanna

Dear Soapboxing,

There are several reasons why we might voice our opinions. Only a couple make any sense.

1. We need to hear ourselves talk.

You’re at home on a cold, rainy day with a two-year-old and the single Disney movie that you have watched 15 times in the last week. You are barely holding it together.

But you go out with friends that night (finally, Thank God) and the conversation turns to another friend Jill’s hair and wardrobe overhaul. Suddenly, you have all kinds of opinions on fashion and hairstyles. And really, she should be wearing a pencil skirt more often; she has nice legs.

Except it doesn’t matter. Jill could wear an English Sheepdog as a hat for all you care. You’re happy to be talking to anyone about anything, as long as it’s not about princesses or mermaids.

No one blames you. Opine away.

2. We want to sound smarter than other people.

You’ve been cooped up in the office doing graphs about the usage of paperclips for 12 hours now. Your boss is still not happy about the “red-yellow-green” visual aids, even though you have explained that it correlates with a traffic light. No, there’s no actual traffic so sure, it’s a weird metaphor. OK, fine, we’ll just put it in a pie chart.

Then you go out to the bar at 5pm sharp and someone mentions last night’s hockey game. You don’t watch hockey that much, but apparently you think the home team does too much dump-and-chase, and not enough defense between the blue lines.

You only vaguely know what all that means, but none of these people know what it means, and you’d just like to be right one damn time today.

We get it, we really do. But stop, ok?

3. Everyone else seems to have an opinion.

You’re all sitting in front of the fire pit, discussing the latest Batman movie. “Can you believe who they got to play Batman?” is the current topic. Opinions range from enthusiasm to genuine anger. The conversation suddenly lands on you. You invent an opinion that is vague but satisfying. “I liked him in his other movies,” you say, “I think he’ll be okay as Batman.”

Except (a) you’ve never seen any movie in the Batman franchise; and (b) you’ve never actually seen a movie this guy’s done.

If you are doing this to avoid the conversation turning to either, “Really? You’ve never seen him in anything?” Or, “Dear Lord In Heaven, why haven’t you seen the Batman movies?” (after which, of course, comes good-natured ridicule), then I support this usage of opinions. Try not to make up anything you’ll get called on. Better yet, just excuse yourself to the bathroom for 10 minutes.

4. We have a well-researched view of a topic and other people have opinions that are reasons 1–3, above.

Oh, the insane ideas that are in the world, being floated by the least-learned among us, and propagated by the loudest ignoramuses. Misinformation agents from hell are here to argue. We are very often related to them, and yes, we love them. But man, they’re difficult to listen to.

“I will make them stop,” you think. “I shall teach them.”

So, you gather all your sources of information, and support your opinions point-by-point, ending in a crescendo of logic and reason that even a Vulcan would love (if they could love).

Friends. It doesn’t matter. Chances are, even if you reach a corner of a person’s mind for a moment, that corner will be redecorated with nonsense the minute you leave.

In this, as in all examples, sometimes it’s best to just put your arm around your friends and say, “You know, let’s not discuss clothing / hockey / Batman / politics / religion / Justin Bieber right now. Let’s just enjoy the day.”

Or argue to the death. That works, too.

Ceil Kessler is a person who writes things, and does other assorted activities.She occasionally writes in her blog, renovates investment properties, and inspires people to write short fiction. You can find all her other writings and such in her writing repository.

Photo by Nick Royer, via Flickr


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