Herald Journal Columns
Oct. 3, 2005, Herald Journal

Using interpersonal dexterity

By LIZ HELLMANN

Why does it seem everything is so much better, until it’s yours?

When I was younger and saw people on TV writing their columns, sounding smart and sophisticated, I thought it would be so cool to be like that.

Little did I know, looks can be deceiving.

It probably all started with Doogie Houser. Every night, he would sit down at his computer and write the most prophetic account of what happened that day. Granted, his entries were only about a line or two long, but they were still insightful.

Anyone from my generation must have some idea of what I am talking about. He made it look so interesting.

Maybe I should have known that a show which has a 16-year-old routinely performing brain surgery and curing cancer isn’t exactly in line with reality.

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. Doogie Houser and his out-of-date computer is not the reason I wanted to become a writer.

In fact, I never said I wanted to be a writer, but the people at this fine paper apparently heard otherwise.

I guess, since you are reading this, that means I have a readership, and it stands to reason that I can’t have a readership unless I write.

So, there you have it. I am a writer. It just goes to show you that it doesn’t take much.

I maintain that I am innocent and was tricked into this.

But, back to Doogie. He is not the only one that makes things seem more attractive than they are.

There is a TV show or movie for almost every career under the sun. I don’t watch a lot of TV, so I won’t name specific shows, but I can name careers I know are depicted.

They include interior decorating, law enforcement, morticians, crime investigators, actors, journalists, pastors, mail carriers, waitresses, bar owners, and the list goes on and on.

The Emmys recently took place, and though I know not, or care not, who won, judging all those shows must be hard work.

It amazes me that a producer can come up with ways to portray as glamorous the work of a mortician, lab scientist, and even waitresses. (For those of you who have read my previous columns on waitresses, that might be the toughest one of all to portray as glamorous.)

But notice how there are dozens of shows about cops, but far fewer about journalists.

I’m convinced that it is because it is far less disturbing for the public to routinely witness the mayhem that ensues after a robbery than the utter chaos that takes place on the newsroom floor on press day.

But, there could be other reasons.

I have a theory that the great minds of Hollywood simply decided it was too taxing to try to come up with ways to glamorize the writing world. That is why there are far fewer shows about journalists, and more about police.

On the other hand, some careers aren’t portrayed at all. The people who actually work in those fields might take it to mean that their job is harder to glamorize than journalism.

Consider yourselves lucky, my friends.

Producers have tried to portray journalists, and have strayed away from it more often that not. This means that they have tried and seen that it is difficult to accomplish.

But if a particular occupation hasn’t even been tried yet, then there is still a shred of hope left. The very job you are working could be the basis for a new show that will sweep the Emmys next year.

Back to the issue, the exaggerated portrayal of writing through Doogie Houser and his counterparts.

They all make it look so easy.

I like writing, and some days it is easier than others. I’m sure most police officers like their jobs.

But the real workers in the industry know that there is a lot more to it than the TV shows let on.

I suppose no one would want to watch what really goes on at those jobs. No one wants to sit through the grunt work, complaints, or unhappy assignments.

And who would want to watch an hour of poorly edited footage of real people spouting whatever pops into their head, with little artistic direction. (Judging by the latest reality TV craze, I guess a lot of people.)

Anyway, my complaint still stands. Why does everything have to seem better than it is, until it’s yours?

It’s not just careers. Everyone who either wants something or is selling something tends to manipulate the resources at their disposal to paint a quite a picture. Some people call it marketing.

A resumé, for example, might read something like this: proficient with central processing unit software, excellent interpersonal dexterity, and dictation and administrative familiarity.

In other words: can use computer, talk to people, and tell people what to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my job. Sometimes, a little finesse is necessary, like on resumés, and TV shows would be boring without the added glamour and suspense.

However, it is always refreshing when people can be forthwith vis-à-vis the matter under discussion (i.e. tell it like it is).