The Beavis and Butt-Head Self-Help Program for the Socially Awkward
“Ernie, have you met the new girl, Melissa?”
“No, Miss Finn.”
“Would you like to meet her?”
“Well, you should want to know everyone in our group. Ernie, this is Melissa. Melissa, this is Ernie.”
“Oh, I know her! She’s the one who farted in church last week.”
“What? She did fart, Miss Finn. Didn’t you…Melissa? Tell her how you farted right in the middle of Father John’s Homily. It was a loud one, Miss Finn! It was the funniest thing! You should have been there!”
Melissa started to cry and ran out of the room.
“Ernie! Now see what you’ve done.”
“What? I was just being honest.”
“Honesty is not always the best policy, Ernie. Sometimes it’s best to shade the truth, or keep things to yourself, to not hurt someone’s feelings.”
Miss Finn was big on the topic. In the world of the easily malleable mind, some might say she was unduly obsessed with the subject. The children regularly heard the refrain, "Words can be hurtful", and every morning, right after the Pledge of Allegiance, with the class still standing, she had the children recite a little ditty she had composed while attending a seminar on Child Development in upstate New York.
Are like turds,
That come around,
At the sound,
Of anything that hurts.”
“That was a very bad thing to say, Earnest! You hurt Melissa’s feelings. Bad boy!”
The image of Mellisa fleeing the room in embarrassment haunted young Ernie. The echo of Miss Finn’s harsh words tormented him. Recurring nightmares disrupted his sleep- Melissa running from monsters, the scariest he could concoct at the age of four. Little girls screeching in horror as Ernie approached to say hello. Miss Finn hovering over him shaking an accusatory finger. Troubling waking moments plagued him as he suffered through Mass, waited his turn at the playground slide, or sat alone in the bathtub, as they all provided downtime for little Ernie to ponder the horror he had wrought with his words.
The seeds of conflict had been planted, traumatized at a tender age. Future human interactions for poor Ernie would be challenging as he would try to sort out the relative merits of honesty, concealment, and deception.
Some conversations came with ease.
“Did you see Tommy’s new backpack, Ernie?”
“Ernie, are you going over to Joey’s to watch the game tonight?”
“Yep, it should be a great game, Bert.”
“Do you have the time, Ernie?”
“Yes, it’s three o’clock.”
Other forays into the land of the spoken word presented a challenge. By his nature, Ernie was inclined to be open and honest, even if his comments might be deemed offensive. In fact, truth be told, the “bad boy” label affixed by Miss Finn had some basis in reality. Ernie would have enjoyed tossing out an occasional clever and creative insult, but that crushing preschool scolding from Miss Finn kept throwing up red flags warning of prohibited behavior. The struggle between what he wanted to say and what he should say created some socially awkward moments for poor Ernie.
“Hello, Ernie, what did you think of my Homily today?”
Ernie would have preferred an old-fashioned Biblical stoning to even two more minutes of it.
“Well, Father…it was like, you know… like Jesus said… in that Gospel, the part about loving your neighbor and all…walking on water…that sure was something… and we…oops, my Dad’s calling me.”
“I didn’t hear anything.”
“Ernie, did you like the Lebanese Stuffed Eggplant I made for dinner tonight?”
Ernie would rather dine on sawdust soaked in drain oil than ever see that Middle East treat again. He could feel himself tense up, a squirming of the soul, as the struggle between honesty and the scourge of the lessons of hurtful words commenced.
“Uh…well, Mom, it was…I think…well, it was different for sure…A recipe from Lebanon, right? We had pizza for lunch at school today. Can I go now?”
“Ernie, do you think I have a good chance to make the basketball team?”
Ben was the worst basketball player in the history of the sport.
“Well, Ben…you sure…the coach should, you know…so many guys try out…your tennis shoes rock… I’d take Lebron over Michael any day, and…oops, there’s the bell.”
“I didn’t hear a bell.”
And there were those moments of acting in the best interest of self-preservation.
“Ernie! You son-of-a-bitch! Did you get to second base with my sister last night?!”
“Your sister?… Huh, let’s see… What’s her name? Molly?... I can’t…Was that Tuesday? Oops, there’s the bell.”
“I didn’t hear a bell.”
At the slightest thought of uttering a potentially harmful word, Ernie froze up. All communications took the easiest, most inoffensive path- stumbling around, stalling for time, and ultimately escaping. If he ever considered giving an honest answer, he immediately felt the piercing gaze of Miss Finn bearing down on him. Scarred for life.
“So, are you keeping up with your studies?...Ernie?...Are you there, Ernie?”
Ernie hadn’t seen the inside of a classroom or the library in over a week.
“Yeah… I’m still here… Dad. My phone’s been acting up… darn thing.”
“Well, I asked you if you were keeping up with your studies.”
“Oh, studies…sure…a guy has to keep up with the studies... You sure are right about that, Dad.”
“How did you do on that midterm Philosophy exam?”
“Yeah… that was..yeah, I just had that exam….I really like the class.”
“But how did you do on the exam?”
“The exam? Yeah, it’s mid-term week… the weeks sure flew by…and then I have a report to do. Did I tell you I saw deer last night? … Oh, gees, Dad, my battery’s going dead. I’ll have to call…”
“Tonight’s my big date with Marcie, Ernie. How do I look?”
Charlie was color blind, had no sense of fashion, and God must have been taking a break when looks were handed out. Ernie thought he could have been en route to an audition for a remake of Revenge of the Nerds.
“You look…well…I’m sure you’ll have a great night, Charlie…I wouldn’t worry about a thing. I don’t think it will rain... unless it does.”
“Ernie, the party is inside.”
“Oh, that’s good. Then for sure, it won’t rain on you… I gotta go.”
“Ernie, I want to spend the night with you too, but I just want to know you love me first. You know I love you. Do you love me, Ernie?”
Grownup Ernie was a cad when it came to this element of the human experience.
“Uh…of course people should, you know…love each before… you know, they have sex…. and, you know, that kind of stuff. I agree with that…completely. Yeah…we’re on the same page with that one, Susan. Like Romeo and Juliet…but not dead. I’ll get my toothbrush.”
Clumsy. Inept. When confronted with the need for a tactful way to extricate himself from an uncomfortable situation, whether it be in the interest of self-preservation or to avoid inflicting a “hurtful word” upon another human being, Ernie’s brain went into a blender, and his mouth turned into mush. The first hint of a stressful moment transformed Ernie into pre-pebbles Demosthenes.
Ernie recognized the problem. He knew his heart rate kicked up a notch, and he struggled to find the right words whenever he found himself under stress. He needed help, and the college offered counseling services through the prestigious offices of renowned psychologists Henry Beavis and Ralphie Butt-Head, co-authors of the Best Seller “Why Be All You Should Have Been When You Can Be Who You Are?”
Beavis: “And what troubles you, my son?”
Ernie: “Well, I get all nervous and tense up, whenever I’m in a stressful situation. I can feel my blood pressure going up. Sometimes I even sweat. And I freeze up…like I can’t find the words. Sometimes I just run away.”
Butt-Head: “Wow, that’s some real nutso stuff, Beavis. This guy has issues.”
Beavis: “For sure, Butt-Head. Earnie, what kind of situations cause this stress?”
Ernie: “Well, it’s whenever I think, if I tell the truth, I might hurt someone’s feelings… or fry my own butt.”
Butt-Head: “Hey, watch the butt-talk.”
Ernie: “It’s like I want to tell the truth, but I can’t. I think it’s like, you know, one of those inner conflicts. I get so nervous that I can hardly talk. I feel like Billy Budd.”
Butt-Head: “Billy Butt? Who’s Billy Butt?”
Beavis: “Do you have a relative named Billy Butt, Butt-Head?”
Ernie: “No, not Billy Butt… Billy BuDD…Budd…with a ‘da’…not butt…with a ‘ta’. The young sailor…”
Beavis: “Butt-Budd, who cares? Let’s get back to your issues. Now, Ernie, when did you first notice this problem?”
Ernie: “Well, I’m pretty sure it started back in preschool.”
Butt-Head: “Preschool, hmm, very interesting.”
Beavis: “What’s so interesting about that, Butt-Head?”
Butt-Head: “I don’t know. I just like saying that.”
Ernie: “So, I said something that Miss Finn said was offensive. I guess I hurt a little girl’s feelings.”
Beavis: “Who’s Miss Finn?”
Ernie: “Our teacher.”
Butt-Head: “Hmm. Was she hot?”
Beavis: “Knock it off, Butt-Head. And what did you say that she found offensive, Ernie?”
Ernie: “I said I remembered a girl because… well, she was the one who farted in church.”
Butt-Head: “Farted in church! Heh, heh, heh. I’d remember that too. That’s hilarious! Was it a big one or more like a toot?”
Beavis: “Jesus Christ, Butt-Head, what difference would that make?”
Butt-Head: “I don’t know. I’m just trying to be thorough.”
Ernie: “So, Miss Finn said I did a terrible thing by embarrassing the little girl. Ever since then, I tense up whenever I fear telling the truth if it could offend someone.”
Butt-Head: “And what was this little girl’s name?”
Beavis: “Who cares, Butt-Head?! Now, Ernie, did you feel bad about hurting the little girl’s feelings.”
Ernie: “I guess. Well, Miss Finn said I should feel bad. And the look she gave me scared me to death. I can still picture it.”
Beavis: “Ah-ah! So, maybe it’s Miss Finn that’s causing the problem. What do you think, Butt-Head?”
Butt-Head: “Yeah…if we could just get rid of Miss Finn.”
Beavis: “We can’t get rid of Miss Finn, bone-head.”
Ernie: ‘I don’t even know where she is.”
Butt-Head: “Maybe she’s dead. Problem solved!”
Beavis: “Dammit, Butt-Head, that is not helping. So, Ernie, is this about hurting someone’s feelings, or is this more about the guilt you feel?”
Butt-Head: “Hmm, you may be on to something, Beavis.”
Beavis: “Thank you, Butt-Head. That’s why I get the big bucks.”
Ernie: “I don’t know. I never thought about that.”
Beavis: “Think about it. Were you upset when you saw the little girl crying?”
Ernie: “I… I guess not. I think I might have even laughed…or at least gave it a little chuckle.”
Butt-Head: “I don’t blame you. Sounds like a hoot to me. I used to try to fart in church. My buddies loved it. Heh, heh, heh.”
Beavis: “It seems to me that you may be more concerned about getting the blame, or the guilt you feel, than the harm you cause another person.”
Ernie: “Could be. But either way, can you help me cope with it, you know, so I don’t get so nervous that I act like a fool?”
Beavis: “We don’t ‘cope’ here Ernie. We solve.”
Ernie: “Solve? How?”
Beavis: “Tell him Butt-Head.”
Butt-Head: “It’s like this, Ernie, I was always kind of a jerk. I didn’t care what I said to anybody, so I always just said what was on my mind. So everyone was mad at me all the time. That’s when I came to see Dr. Beavis.”
Beavis: “Yes, I can vouch for that. He was a real jerk alright. He offended nearly everyone he came in contact with.”
Ernie: “So, how did you get him to stop being a jerk and offending people?”
Beavis: “I didn’t. I didn’t even try.”
Ernie: “So, what did you do?”
Beavis: “I told him that it was okay to be a jerk.”
Beavis: “Listen, Ernie, some people are tall, some people are short. Some people are nice, some people are jerks. People just need to be comfortable in their own skin. Maybe you’re just a jerk, like my associate Butt-Head here.”
Butt-Head nodded approvingly.
Butt-Head: “I used to worry about saying the wrong thing, and then Dr. Beavis made me understand it was okay to say whatever I felt like saying. If I offend someone, who cares? I sure don't.”
Beavis: “Do you understand what he’s saying, Ernie?”
Ernie had an uncertain look about him.
Ernie: “Well, I’m not sure I want to be a jerk.”
Beavis: “It’s not a matter of what you want to be, Ernie. It’s about what you are. What kind of person would laugh at a crying little girl?”
Butt-Head: “Sounds like a jerk to me, heh, heh, heh.”
Ernie: “Wow, I never thought of it that way. So, if I’m a jerk, just be a jerk?”
Butt-Head: “Nailed it!”
Beavis: “Just be yourself, and I think your social anxieties will disappear. No more socially awkward moments. Say what’s on your mind, shoot from the hip, tell it like it is.”
Ernie: “I feel better already. Thank you so much, Dr. Beavis and Mr. Butt-Head.”
Beavis: “You’re welcome, young man. Butt-Head, get Ernie one of our 'I’m OK- You’re OK' T-shirts.”
Butt-Head: “Should I throw in a CD of the song you wrote? Playing ‘I’ve Got To Be Me’ every so often would be a good tool to help him remember what he needs to do.”
Beavis: “Sure, why not? Good luck, Ernie.”
“Ernie, I’ve got a big date tonight. How do I look?”
“You look like shit, Bob.”
“Ernie, how was my Homily today?”
“Great, if your goal was to put everyone to sleep, Father.”
“Ernie, do you love me?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. I'm just in this for the sex. ”
Another Dr. Beavis and Mr. Butt-Head success story.