Walking the (Fine) Lines

Know your limits. Push a positive quality too far and it can too easily flip into its negative aspect.

Ever experience being a comedian on stage, telling a funny story to a highly appreciative audience ... and then barreling on way past the punchline until the joke totally falls flat, and you bomb?

Me neither. Well, actually I did experience it in a dream once, a very long time ago. It might have meant that I didn't have enough confidence in my performing talent. Or it may have been my subconscious clubbing me over the head with the obvious realization that I'm just not funny. Dreams have a way of revealing the truth.

They say that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Well, religious and philosophical doctrine aside, good intentions CAN carry us off the deep end. Going too far in whatever we're doing and totally blowing past that something "good" and over into its flip side.

There IS a tipping point at which a positive quality becomes negative. Such as when care about a neat, clean appearance turns into vanity. When wanting to spend time with someone slowly becomes an obsession. Or when concern for your health transforms into hypochondria. It's a fine line that separates the two.

Moderation vs. Excess.
Too much of a good thing often perverts it.


"I'm 51% sweetheart, 49% b*tch. Don't push it."

That fine line never fails to crack me up. In fact, I use it on the landing page for my on camera work, because it's ideal for describing the polar opposites that many actresses like to play.

Me included. Especially when a role can mix the two and deliver the unexpected. Like the sweet neighbor lady who turns out to be a serial killer. Or the tough, uncompromising district attorney who goes to bat for the unjustly accused. Or like Dolly Parton, playing the brothel madame with a heart of gold in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

Fun stuff.

This type of fine line demonstrates what happens when we push someone too far. That line is crossed. That last straw finally broke the poor camel's back. That sweet little old library lady phantom in "Ghostbusters" turns vicious. And usually, one way or another, you get slimed in the aftermath. Messy.

Stubborn, colorful characters who like to assert themselves

The other type of fine line is when we push a positive quality or behavior in ourselves too far. What comes out is usually the opposite than our intended result. And it's usually not received well. We end up sliming ourselves. Again, messy.

It's moderation taken to excess. And sometimes we don't know we've even crossed it, because where that line sits is situational, depending on geography, culture, and the mood of the people around you.

Assertive vs. Aggressive

I learned firsthand about this fine line when this straight-talking Midwestern gal moved to the South. As a woman, my Northern assertiveness was perceived as a bit too aggressive down here.

What works in one area of the country can be interpreted quite differently in another.

Fortunately, I learned how to soften my approach by watching successful Southern women. Whether it was a business deal, a social interaction, or whatever, they got away with saying the darnedest things, especially when they smiled while they said it.

Let's not even get into the whole "bless your heart" thing. For those unfamiliar, it's a phrase added like an after-thought to the tail end of a very caustic comment that transforms it into an apparent compliment. Or at least confuses the heck out of the listener. It's a verbal weapon dipped in honey, best wielded while wearing the warmest smile this side of Southern sweet tea. No one's every going to mistake me for a true Southerner, so I can't pull it off, but it's a marvel to behold.

Determined vs. Stubborn

Determined is "good." You've made a decision and you're resolved not to change it. The word "determined" conjures up images of leadership, thoughtful analysis, and the Dudley Do Right of conviction.

Stubborn is a stick-in-the-mud. How much it bothers you depends on how badly you want to get the stick out of the way. You see, there's stubborn and then there's STUBBORN. Stubborn is when the other person doesn't agree with your position. And you can't get them to change their mind. STUBBORN, on the other hand, means that the individual has gone off the deep end and refuses to see reason or consider other possibilities, even when all the evidence suggests that they're mistaken.

Yeah, this fine line can be a hard one to parse, especially when it's applied to YOU. Not so hard when it's applied to others. Fortunately, you can usually expect your significant other to let you know when you've tipped the scales.