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The Importance of Being Arrogant

It’s What You’ve Got When Confidence Falters


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Last week I had the unfortunate experience of taking my senior yearbook photo. As someone who has a deathly fear of cameras, it was traumatic enough. But the disaster to come was slightly more entertaining than I would have thought.

Before my appointment began, I sat in the waiting room reading UCSB Arts and Lectures. Or more like began reading it, until I couldn’t help but eavesdrop in on the loud conversation of the mother-son duo around the corner from me.

Maren Schiffer

The mother agonized over whether, for the next photo shoot, her son should sport the white shirt or risk it with the red satin. (I voted red satin all the way, obviously.) She clarified, in depth, whether he had in fact written down an appointment time, and she double-checked that his English teacher approved the novel he chose for a book report. He denied having any homework-never true for a high school senior. She nagged and he, aware that they had an audience, rolled his mother’s inquiries away with his smooth bro-talk.

Yet the high, or low, point was when he strolled past me and winked. Winked. At first convinced that it had to be a joke, I sat there gaping. Then I realized that he did it in all seriousness. I looked around me for witnesses. No one there for sympathy.

Unfortunately I was taken by surprise, and said nothing witty to scare him with. If only his mother had known.

Then a funny thing about high schoolers hit me: We’re all like him. We all have to put ourselves out there using a false arrogance. Sometimes it turns out badly, but it’s also necessary. Necessary for auditions, class presentations, meeting new people, getting through rough days. Necessary for even pulling off an image or illusion of yourself, something most of us seem to need and have. It takes arrogance to convince your peers that you know what you’re doing, that you are a person worthy of respect. And it’s something to resort to when everything is failing.

Of course, being 17 takes so much more than arrogance, but its importance is often overlooked. It’s not confidence I’m talking about. It’s that thing you draw up from within yourself because confidence isn’t doing the job. You give yourself an authority, an advantage, supported by really nothing except air.

However, the next time I am confronted by such a winking situation, I won’t sympathize with the culprit, but maybe cat-call in response, if I have it in me.

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