When I was a kid, growing up in Central California, there was a series of PSA-type skits that were shown on TV. They were usually a minute long, and the two puppets who starred in these spots, Charley and Humphrey, related life lessons by example. Humphrey, a confident bulldog in a natty cap, would do something selfish or short-sighted, sure it would all turn out fine in the end, and his friend Charley, a horse wearing a captain’s hat (for no reason that was ever explained), would explain how it could go wrong.
And then, because learning, kids, what Charley foretold would come to pass, and Humphrey would be stuck trying to correct his mistake, while Charley rolled his eyes and broke the 4th wall to give the viewer his best, “You know better than that, right?” look and tell us the moral of the story.
Charley’s high horse was ever so high.
They stuck with me, and years later, I still remember this one verbatim:
What I mainly learned is that passive aggressive relationships are taught as the norm in so many more ways than we realize. The lesson of this episode isn’t just not to take things without asking — it’s that if you screw up, you’ll not only be in trouble for what you did wrong, you’ll also be soundly mocked by the people you thought cared about you.
I wonder about why Charley had to be right about everything, morally superior, certain he knew the rules and ha ha, Humphrey, told you so. I wonder if it was Charley who taught Humphrey that he had to take for himself because no one, not even his best buddy, would be there for him if he needed something (like a light to read by)… or if Humphrey grew up learning that lesson, and hung out with Charley because it wasn’t happy, but it was familiar.
I wonder if either Charley or Humphrey ever found someone else who loved them enough to teach them how to be caring, and kind, and thoughtful, without bullying them into it. Humphrey, at least, seemed genuinely upset when he did the wrong thing.
Charley — too wrapped up in the expectation that everyone else will see his inherent rightness and follow along with whatever he says — probably wouldn’t have changed. Humphrey wants to be loved, wants to do right, but Charley expects to be loved and seen as right, so he’s never really interested in Humphrey’s thoughts or feelings, only the appearance of being superior.
Poor Humphrey. I really do hope he found a better friend after all.