Famed fashion icon Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, Coco to most of us, is reputed to have said, “I’m so sick of immaturity, of name-calling, of labels, of gossip, of high school. It doesn’t make sense anymore, and I find myself being nice to people that I want to strangle.” Chanel long attributed her rise from extraordinarily humble beginnings to become a symbol of wealth, access and good taste as the result of her immunity to the critiques of others. She is believed to have said that it was her very differences from the rest, at the time, that granted her advantage. Attributed with changing the perception of suntans from being the bastion of the working-class laborer to representing the idle leisure of permanent vacation, Chanel soaked-up criticism as she did the sun. Coco owned her cuckoo.
While name-calling appears to be something hardwired in nearly every human, it has a remarkable impact on most of us. Even the youngest child intuitively attacks her perceived transgressors with a pointed verbal assault. She demands, “Give me back my toy, you monkey head!” And the so-called “monkey-headed” nursery mate retorts, “No chance, stinky face.” Now the fight is on! Words, then shoving, then tears — all from a denunciation that makes no sense.
Adults are little better. We wither as the insults are hurled at us. We resent those who’ve sent them. We plot our vengeance because of the offence. Mostly, the abuses are inconsequential. Often, we could care less about the person labeling us. Yet, why does it get under our skin? Why do we care so much about something so insignificant asserted by someone so inconsequential? Likewise, how often are we responsible for wrongly castigating others? Would we care less about the invectives launched at us if we weren’t so keen to shoot them at others?