Being a Karen
It started nice and easy, like opening a bag of chips and saying you will only have two. Then you have five, next a small handful, then you push away the remaining few chips hoping someone else will eat them before you smash them and pour them on your ice cream.
We’ve all been there, at least a time or two, where we were lulled into thinking it was all fun and games, and shazam, all of a sudden it’s too much to handle. That’s what the Karen memes have been like for me.
Back in the beginning, I had heard about them, was sent one or two. I laughed. They were very funny actually, and then I made a Facebook post featuring some of my favorites, more laughter, more “it will all be OK”, just like that third handful of chips, when you swear you will take a nice long walk to make up for the damage you are doing. It’s all good.
And, then, just like that third helping of chips, it’s not good, not good at all.
It seemed like all of a sudden “Karens” were everywhere. Memes. Videos. Jokes. Like potato chip crumbs, they were the debris of good intentions gone bad. Now, you can’t get away from them.
Just in case you’ve missed the memes, let me give you the lowdown. “Karens” demand to see the manager, behave with bourgeois attitudes, and exact their fair share of everything, giving little in return. Before long, the silly Karen meme became a verb — people “Karening” at protests or in nasty online comments. Others were called out for poor behavior with the sentence, “Don’t be such a Karen.”
I witnessed that firsthand when we were in the grocery store recently, only our second live visit during the pandemic. My husband, Paul, and I ran into a friend. While enjoying a quick, masked-up visit, a woman started screaming at us, saying that there was a pandemic going on and we could not behave like that in public. She, in a classic “Karen” move, started demanding that the manager on duty do something about our behavior. It was all very surreal and became truly unsettling when my husband, who is very much against the Karen memes, since they do not (and this is very sweet) represent his wife, turned to the woman and barked, “Stop being such a Karen.”
Wait, screech, back it up a bit, pal. What did you just say?
So, the poor guy, who just wanted a bit of ice cream, got Karened by not one, but two Karens, right there in aisle six. One “Karen” berated him for speaking with a friend, and his wife, Karen, who did not appreciate the use of her name for this bad behavior. Our friend slunk away, pulling his mask a little tighter around his nose, as if the whole situation stunk.
So, that’s what it’s been like living with the name Karen. It was a simple little potato chip of joy that became a tidal wave of attitude. OK, that might be a little dramatic, but so is the fact that I often feel I have to say “I’m not that kind of Karen” when people learn my name, and I see a look pass over their face.
I have never, (OK, maybe once, or twice, but it’s really not a habit), demanded to see the manager. I have never taken the last cookie, pushed my child to the front of the line, or belittled someone based on their job or situation. What I have tried to do is point out the best, help with the worst, and make sure, at the end of the day, that I did more good than harm to our society, which, if you look around, seems to be what most of us want to do.
If that’s true, that you and I want to fight for what is right, help fix what’s wrong, and live our best lives, that’s exactly what we should do. So, here are three of my best tips for not being a “Karen” but still getting things handled.
- Stop Screaming. Yelling. Bantering. Belittling. Throwing Rocks. Just stop. That does not work. What works is quietly and calmly listening to both sides and truly, with an open heart, working to meet in the middle. Even though I am a Karen, and we are, apparently, loud and proud, I know I don’t know everything. I am never the smartest person in the room, but when I have assembled a group of people for strategic planning, or problem solving, I know the GROUP will become smarter than all of us. That, collectively, we can rise to any challenge, or battle any evil by actually listening to each other, and pulling apart the good and the bad of every idea. Calmly.
- Assume the Best. That driver did not cut YOU off in traffic, they just realized they were about to miss their destination and turned a little too quickly. The waiter did not mean to forget your side of special sauce. He is worried about his ailing mom, and has five tables, all with at least three special requests, and forgot to add that sauce cup to his tray. A gentle reminder, a bit of grace, will go a long way in life. Assume, in every situation, that a person is doing the very best she can, and the tension in your life will ease just a bit, as you remember to give them grace.
- Mind your own business. I know. That’s harsh. And, you really are just trying to help, but if you let others live their lives, if you let them make their own decisions, trip over the rocks they drop, and solve their own problems, the world really will be a better place. There is no need to point out every error, or to fix every problem. That is what the worst of Karening” is all about — being the know-it-all, bossy, let me tell you how it is going to be, biggest voice in the room. Instead, ask if advice is needed, offer to help, but most of all, just support others on their own bumbling, tumbling journey. That way, if a moment arises that you have to be the biggest, baddest “Karen,” it will have true power, the kind that makes people listen. I’ve only had to do that three times and the moments live in infamy. Changes were made.
You and I, no matter what we are named, are just trying to do our best, to be our best, and to have a bit of fun. I know this because I am a first-born child, a Leo, and a Karen, with a Dukes Mixture for heritage. Nothing about me was made to be timid, but I am bumbling and tumbling along, thankful for the grace and wishing you the same, especially when you reach for that next handful of potato chips.