“The Great Equalizer”

No, I’m not talking about this or this or that thing on the stereo that people always warn you not to touch. I’m talking about the description an ex-boyfriend made about his experience at the gym.
“That’s what I love about the gym,” he once said, back when I still allowed him to speak to me (but long after his other privileges were denied). “When I’m shooting hoops, everyone is equal. The gym is The Great Equalizer.”
When pressed for a fuller explanation, he was all too eager to provide one, to show me just how gracious he could be.
“Well, it’s like this,” he said, all puffed up and proud. “On the court, it doesn’t matter if you’re a janitor or a truck driver, or a doctor or lawyer. You can’t tell, from what we wear, what we do for a living.” (For the so-called record, he was/is a successful suit-and-tie “professional”.)
“So?” I said, no doubt raising my eyebrow.
“So I think it’s really cool. I mean, sometimes I have no idea what the guy on my team is. And on the court it doesn’t even matter. We’re all just a bunch of guys playing the same game.”
Such a charitable guy he was! So sensitive! And so democratic!
And such a fucking jackass!
Because he knew I wasn’t impressed by the usual “trappings” that many of his colleagues used as bait to lure women, and because he knew I didn’t give a damn about so-called status symbols, he wanted to impress me by making me think he was just a regular Joe, even though I know he considered himself quite a few cuts above the rest. Even though the spoon that he was born with in his mouth was closer to plastic than silver, and even though his hometown was regarded as being one of the least desirable in its county and his own mother refused to acknowledge that she was born in an even less savory town … yes, even though he was just a basic middle-class schlub with a hairy back, he somehow felt he was above it all.
Sometimes, he said, he had no idea who the other guys on the team were. How about this, Jackass? How about: They’re other guys playing basketball.
On the court, he said, none of that makes a difference. How about this, Jackass? How about: Off the court, it doesn’t make a difference.
At the gym, he said, everyone is playing the same game. Well, how about this, you self-righteous, bombastic son-of-a-social-climbing-bitch? How about: Outside the gym, everyone is just playing the so-called “game” of “life” (and not the Milton Bradley version).
I’ve never given a damn what someone does for a living. I don’t care if you’re a lawyer, a trash collector, a teacher, a doctor, an actor, or a plumber. I don’t care what you do to make your money. What I care about is not only how you treat other people on the surface, when others are watching, but how you regard them in your heart and, yes, in your soul.
I don’t care if you make $40,000 or $400,000. What I care about is how much you value what you have, and how much you are willing to share what you have with other people in your life.
I know way too many so-called “rich” people who are stingy penny-pinchers. I’ve gone out with guys who’ve driven Porsches and made six-figure salaries who groaned when the dinner check was presented and joked (or so they pretended) that I should split it with them. I’ve known well-to-do people whose immense generosity extended as far as $10 gift certificates for their secretaries’ birthdays. Of course, I’ve known quite a few men and women of “means” who were truly generous and giving. But for the most part, no.
On the other hand, I know many people who make way less money who are much more generous with what they have. I went out with someone a while ago who literally gave me the shirt off his back when I got cold and apologized because he couldn’t afford to buy me something to keep me warm. A friend once shipped me a huge box of chocolate chip cookies (homemade, by him) via Federal Express because he wanted to make me happy, even though he barely had enough money to keep himself going. One of my best friends bought me a great little vase for my birthday last year, even though she didn’t have the money to keep food in her tiny kitchen.
Of course, there are many more examples on each side of the coin. But each illustrates the same basic point. What you do for a living is not what or who you are. Rather, what you do as a person is what or who you are. Your so-called social standing does not define you. What you have does not determine your worth.
So when the jackass stated (with wonderment in his voice, even) that the gym was The Great Equalizer, intending to impress me with his democratic willingness to elevate the janitors/truck-drivers to his lofty level of status/success, he failed ever so miserably. He failed because he thought I would deem him a good guy because he was willing to place himself on the same level as guys I know he considered beneath him. He failed because he was guided by the notion that success is defined in terms of dollars and cents and not honor and sense.
And of course he failed because he didn’t know me at all.