In her book In the Woods, Tana French's main character, Detective Rob Ryan, comes upon an archeologist in the course of his investigation. The archeologist's name is Mark and he's young, well-educated and sure of himself. Rob admits that Mark makes him feel anxious and unwilling to cooperate. Why? Because, "men like him -- men who are obviously interested purely in what they think of other people, not in what other people think if them -- have always made me violently insecure."
It made me wonder, is all the world divided into people like Mark, who are "interested purely in what they think of other people," and their opposite, people more like Rob who are interested in what other people think of them?
It seems pretty clear that the author doesn't think too highly of the Marks of the world. If you're a Mark are you self-centered? Self-involved? Narcissistic?
Well, I'm afraid, I'm a Mark. Not that I'm young, or so sure of myself, but I am more interested in what I think of other people, rather than what they think of me.
Don't ask me why. I guess I was brought up that way. "You don't have to do what everyone else is doing," my dad used to drill into me. "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge too?"
The message, to me, was always to think for yourself. Don't follow the crowd. Don't worry so much about what everyone else thinks. Be your own man.
So I developed a perspective (or it was developed for me) that I think it is, in fact, self-indulgent to worry about what other people think of you. What makes you so sure that everyone else is thinking about you at all? Do you consider yourself so important that everyone else is critiquing your every move? And even if they are, does that matter so much in life? No! You should know your own mind and chart your own course, regardless of what anyone else believes.
Of course, this attitude was tempered during my adolescent years, when I was trying to be cool. And a least one way to be cool is to mimick other people who are cool. Follow the trend. Get with the in-crowd, and stick closely to their mores and morals. Dress like everyone else. And above all, worry about what other people think of you, and your clothes, and your car and your house and your taste in music.
Well, I'm not even sure if that's how you get to be cool. As I've posted before, I tried to be cool, but never quite made it, until I finally figured out in my maturity that trying to be cool is a really dumb thing to try to do. My attitude adjustment was aided by having two children, who never missed an opportunity to remind me that I am not, never was, and never will be cool. (Although last weekend I went to the Smorgasburg in Brooklyn -- how cool is that!).
Anyway, I wonder who will admit to being a Mark, and if they're proud of it or ashamed of it. And who will say they're a Rob?
In the end maybe it doesn't matter. After all, I'm interested purely about what I think of other people. And I ended up with B -- who I think is great! And she's the opposite: she worries much more about what other people think of her. And I think she's great!
So we get along just fine.