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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Friday, May 05, 2006

Stop the Muggings, Please!

Thought I meant physical muggings, right? Well, I did, but not the kind that involve you getting jacked of your: car, purse, wallet, cash, etc.

I'm talking mean muggings - tough looks.

If you don't know: "mean muggin'" is that frowny, snarly look you give someone to demonstrate you're not happy with them, or, in some cases, to show that you could be a menace. At least that's what mean mugs used to be for. Now you know.

We've all mean mugged someone. Maybe we furrowed the brow at the woman who just cursed out her kid in a grocery store parking lot. Maybe we glared at the person we caught staring ogling our significant other. Maybe, we were just young and stupid and mean muggin' everyone who crossed our paths just to let them know we were unhappy with life itself.

Traditionally though, "wearing" a mean mug as a popular item - like wearing the latest Nike kicks, or the best jeans, or a baseball hat with the sales tag still on it - has been the domain of youngsters, mostly hip-hop heads. Just check out Riley Freeman in The Boondocks comic strip, as an example.

So why lately am I seeing EVERYBODY mean muggin'? Seriously, young people, old people, black people, white people, brown people, gritty hip-hop heads, penny loafer and blue blazer-wearing private school kids, hemp-wearing (and probably puffing) hippies, Dave Matthews-esque alt-rocker types, moms, singles, grandmothers.

What gives? I know doggone well people can't be that angry. Maybe they are, though. Gas prices are high. Hurricane season is coming. Osama's still on a mountain vacation.

My wife didn't believe me when I first brought this up a few days ago. She thought my wig was on too tight or something, when I told her during a stroll through downtown Hollywood that an old guy had just mean mugged me.

But then, when we stopped for coffee and sat to do some people watching I pointed out another old guy - this time not looking at me. Instead he was glaring at another man, who, as best as I could tell, was just walking by and minding his own business.

Over the next 30 minutes or so the same scene repeated itself three or four times with an elderly woman, a middle-aged woman, a 30-something woman, and a 20-something guy.

A buddy used to always say that mean-mugging was the human equivalent of a dog baring his teeth: a defensive measure meant to say "I am not a punk, and I'll fight you if I have to."

So assuming my guy was right - and I'm not saying he was 100%, though I think he was close - what does that mean? Are people just walking around perpetually scared of strangers these days, so scared that mean muggin' has become automatic, like breathing and walking?

3 Comments:

  • The answer? Welcome to South New York, circa 1987. The screw face photo session is on and everyone must show that they are harder than thou.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 5:18 PM  

  • I see a lot of that. It's a lot like small dog mentality to me. Why would a chihuahua be barking it's head off at me if I could kick it across my parking lot. The pre-emptive strike look is rediculous, as if their paranoid about everyone walking by doing something to them. Let it go, you're not that special.

    By Anonymous ChrisA, at 10:15 PM  

  • You know, you have a point here. It's gettng that bad over this side of the 'pond' too, particularly in big cities. Maybe it's something to do with so many people being crowded together. Partly they feel threatened by the crowdedness, partly they think they can get away with looking mean cos no-one else knows them.

    & maybe it's also partly because they're so absorbed in their own personal worlds that they're forgetting everyone else is a person too?

    Maybe the scared & feeling threatened bit explains so much American foreign policy!
    *Ducks & runs before the mean mugging either starts her way or turns into more*

    Appreciated yr comment on my LJ BTW. Lo, another polite American. Nice to know there are more over there.

    By Anonymous Bronchitikat, at 7:27 AM  

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