It may be true that I am a 27-year-old curmudgeon. And it may be that what I am about to say is nasty, but I’ve just pinned down something that bugs the shit out of me and I figured there was no better place to share it than here. What I’m going to attempt to describe is something I have come to think of as “cheerleader voice,” and it’s something that has raised my hackles in the last week and caused me to wonder if I’m a hateful, bitter person or if all the people around me are just stupid.
Anyway, my most recent experience with Cheerleader Voice is down to a new girl in one of the American offices of my company. This new girl is supposedly “great to work with!” and my experiences with her have indeed been pleasant, except for one nagging thing. She has what I believe is an affectation, a tendency to speak in a breathless “golly-gosh!” voice at all times and a capacity for relentless positivity. This has been demonstrated in a few ways.
For instance, while I am not her direct manager, she reports to / liaises with me on a couple of different projects, one of which is straight-up administrative shit-work that I initially process globally; I then then pass on the North American aspects to her to again disseminate to underlings. Trust me when I say that this particular job is dull, time-consuming, brainless, and a pain in the ass, but someone has to do it, and it’s exactly the kind of glorified secretarial tedium that hard-working chicks get nominated for, because few guys in my company could maintain the necessary attention to detail to execute it. Also, they would not put up with it.
So, it sucks, but we do it, and it’s not that big a deal in the grand scheme, but you could at least acknowledge that it’s scut work, right? No. When I first phoned her to explain it, her response was along these lines: “Thanks, Tailfeather! I’m really excited to be working with you on this! I know it’s important work for the reputation of the company and I really look forward to going forward! Your instructions were super! I’ll call if I have any questions! Thanks so much!!!”
Okay. Having recently assisted a co-worker on a major global revamp of our marketing processes, I can truly appreciate our colleagues who were receptive and enthusiastic about the changes (as opposed to the more typical “if you think I’m going along with this, you are in for a fucking surprise” reactions encountered). Ms. Helpful’s response to the drudge work I was laying on her, however, was all out of whack. Am I grateful for her help? Definitely. Did she have a choice about it? Not really. Do I expect her to be grateful? Not at all. I expect her to be cooperative and competent, but I don’t expect her to pretend we’re curing cancer or that I’ve just called to announce she’s won a time-share in the Bahamas. Give me a fucking break.
I am immediately suspicious of Cheerleader Voice, and the first thing I think is that perhaps the perpetrator is mentally deficient. However, this girl is not dumb, as far as I can tell. While our respective jobs don’t entail rocket surgery, you can only go so far in our work without a modicum of brains or savvy, and she seems quite capable. So, if she’s not a moron, the next conclusion I spring to is: She’s a FAKE.
I admit that I occasionally succumb to pseudo-superior assholery (when this happens, however, something usually comes along to knock me right back into my middling-intellectual place). But I don’t hate people I perceive as less intelligent than me, and I absolutely respect them if they’re kind and good people. But this kind of shit is so put-on that I don’t trust it one bit. It immediately makes me think of the last Cheerleader Voice I worked with, who has become an archetype in my mind.
CV1 was a true Southern sorority girl, with all that typically entails: handbag by Coach or Dooney & Bourke, pearls and diamond earrings, pastel polo shirts, fake tan, immaculate nails, artful highlights, casual capris and flip-flops. She often pronounced that things were “so fuuuun!” and affected wide-eyed expressions of shock while gossiping about other people. The other thing about her – she was overweight. Does this matter? I can honestly say that in the circles of friends I’ve had since high school, it matters not a whit. But coming from the background she came from, in the social groups she ran with, it probably mattered a lot. This is obviously all generalizations and hypothesis, but I came to think that the Cheerleader Voice was something of a defense mechanism, her ticket to staying with the cool crowd, by being the “nice” one.
The only problem is she was not actually nice. She was as self-serving, back-stabbing, and cruel as the skinny blondes exaggerated in movies. Even though I was suspicious of CV1’s mannerisms from the start, which seemed silly and played-up to me, I fell in with popular opinion that she must be nice because she acted nice. Other people seemed to like her, and I felt I was the only skeptical one; convinced it was my damage, I tried to be friends with her. I found that I was wrong when she quit my company and tried to have me fired by telling my boss I was sleeping with a co-worker.
My experience with Cv1 has made me doubly-suspicious of this new CV2. Convinced she deserves the benefit of the doubt, I have tried to put aside my own negativity and assume she’s as “great to work with!” as I’ve been told. I even looked her up on our company intranet to learn more about her background – and was terrified to find that she is a physical replica of Cv1. Like, it is fucking eerie.
So I am wary of CV2, and irritated that this Pollyanna-ness serves her so well. My boss has specifically told me that he wants me to be a positive influence in the office, and I feel like they want this same shit from me. While I am aware that we have a small space, and I try never to bring any bad moods into work with me because a bad mood spreads like germs, I can’t get on board with with this false “everything is super all the time!” persona. I feel like one should always make an effort to be pleasant and upbeat, but you can do that and still be real.
And that is my fundamental problem with the Cheerleader Voice. We work for a living. It’s not all fuuuun and great. I would rather genuinely commiserate with a colleague over a frustration or celebrate a success than pretend that we’re all hyper-enthusiastic about every bit of gruel that crosses our plates. Speak to me like a peer instead of like I’m in nursery-school and then maybe we’ll have something to talk about.
(By the way, this characterization is not intended to slag off cheerleaders in general; it’s simply a descriptor of that “rah-rah!” manner of speaking and if you have a better phrase, let me know.)