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The Column

Leggo My Ego
3/16/03

I'll admit it: I have an ego. I have a rather large ego. I have an ego the size of a small Aero bus, which makes it extremely difficult for my head to fit through doorways, but quite convenient when it rains and I don't want to get my clothes wet.

I am not the only one with an ego - I'm just willing to admit it. Everyone with whom I've ever had a lengthy conversation has an ego. The people who don't have egos don't speak much, so it's hard to tell who they are.

When was the last time you engaged in a battle of "I can top that?" Probably this morning. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, it most likely sounded like this:

"You have got to hear what happened to me yesterday. Because I don't care what happened to you."

"Wow, that is fascinating. It reminds me of one time that something similar happened to me, only with a slightly less interesting ending."

"I'm sure glad you're finished talking, because that reminds me of another similar story, with an ending that is less interesting still."

"Well, I have a cousin that had something genuinely interesting happen to him, and since I know him, it makes me vicariously more interesting, right?"

Wrong.

Since it's impossible to get rid of an ego, I found a way to get paid for it. You can't be a an author, a columnist, or a comedian without thinking that it is your god given right to be, well, right.

But while being a writer has allowed me to use my ego to pay rent, it has the unfortunate side effect of bringing out the ego in everyone I meet that much quicker.

"You're an author? So am I! What have I written? Well, nothing. But I've got this book I'm working on about how enthralling my life as an unemployed twenty-something has been. I've already got at least ten pages thought out."

"You're a columnist? You know what you should write a column on? Cheese. What about cheese? I don't know - but I'm telling you man, cheese."

"You're a comedian? Have I got a joke for you! Two rabbis, a priest, and an awkward silence after there's no intelligible punch line to this joke walk into a bar. Hey, if you use that on stage, you don't even have to pay me."

Not everyone's ego makes them think they're the best at everything. Sometimes ego comes out when people think they're the worst at everything. In order for the world to be out to destroy you, it must be revolving around you.

Last week, I was relaying a story of how my friends and I saw someone installing a glass pane in a fifth floor window with no scaffolding below them. It was exciting to watch because we didn't know if the workers would drop the glass and have it shatter on the busy street below. It was also exciting to relay the story, since people thought I was exciting for watching something exciting. My story was interrupted, however, when one of the girls listening said, "That would be just my luck. If I was walking below it, the workers would have totally dropped that glass on me."

Why? Did she get hit with falling shards of glass often? Or ever? No. But the same stuff that happens to all of us-- being splashed by the occasional car and puddle, airport delays, staining a favorite piece of clothing--she chalks up to her own private ego-driven pattern of bad luck. There are people in the world who have been struck by lightning. Twice. You do not have worse luck just because there was that one winter when you caught a cold in December AND January.

Next time you hear someone say, "just my luck!" smack them in the back of the head. They can't possibly get mad at you. After all, everything bad always happens to them, right? If their logic holds, that backhand was just part of god's plan.

And whether it is a positive or negative ego, it is perfectly acceptable to have one as long as it does not interfere with interpersonal relationships. The trick to having a successful ego is to channel it in the right situations. For example, you can use your ego as a way of exuding confidence while dating, while on job interviews, and while writing newspaper columns.

But if you can't figure out a way to use your ego for personal gain, use someone else's. When I meet someone for the first time, I spend a long time just asking them questions. Because everyone enjoys a conversation more when it is about themselves.

Oh, that reminds me of a story. See, this one time...

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