Same Folks, Different Genre
If you follow the news, or more specifically politics, you start to notice trends. You notice that the guys (and it's almost always men) who talk the loudest about an issue tend to get caught doing the very opposite of what they say they stand for. For example, the guy who speaks the loudest about morality usually gets caught doing something completely immoral. The guy who leads the committee on ethics is discovered doing something entirely unethical. The puritan demanding transparency eventually has the most to hide. It's ironic, yet it happens all the time, which often forces me to ponder about how ironic it actually is. At this point, haven't we figured out the pattern? It's just over-compensation, isn't it? An evolutionary trait—like how small dogs often have the loudest bark to make up for their lack of size.
There's a tendency for insecure humans—those who know they're doing something particularly wrong or indecent—to compensate for the guilt or shame they feel by attacking the same character flaws in others. It's like a form of denial or redirection, and I see it happen so often today that sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode (although I do live in the world capital of smug, so that's probably a big part of it). In the food and wine industry, we have our own versions of over-compensation anger, when a person who's feeling particularly uptight about their own anxieties lashes out at someone else. Examples? There are plenty....
- People who grew up in America eating McDonalds, microwave dinners, and bologna sandwiches and are for some reason embarrassed by that history tend to have food over-compensation, so they go around proclaiming their love of French delicacies and various organ meats as a defense. If you order a vegetarian option in front of them, they'll probably call you out or ask what's wrong with you. "What's the matter? You don't like fois gras?" (queue a hearty condescending chuckle).
- People who grew up in America drinking Bud Light, wine coolers, and various other flavored spirits, yet want to pretend like none of that ever happened, tend to have alcohol over-compensation. They've read a list of what's considered cultured and appropriate, and—believe me—they've memorized that list to a T. If you dare drink something sweet and fruity, prepare for a lecture on dry wines and an unsolicited list of opinions about them.
- People who grew up in America without foreign language training and feel insecure about that lack of cultural preparation can often over-compensate with an in-your-face display of foreign awareness. That's a Bay Area specialty for anyone who's never visited. I've been invited to numerous French contests in my life, where people try to prove how French they are and how much French they know. In theory, I would have avoided these situations had I known I was heading into one, it's just that no one told me in advance. They simply said, "Hey, why don't you come over for dinner?"
For the majority of us out there who drink because we like to get drunk and have fun, it can come as a shock when over-compensation takes over a party or an entire restaurant, but believe me it happens. All you can do is smile politely and back away slowly.