Suck-up

The confessions of a recovering brown-noser

In my days of high school, I could soften even the most stone-hearted teachers with my way of words.

I didn’t care much for high school, nor did I really care what kind of mark I left in the classroom.

Nine times out of 10 I blew off most of the work until two weeks remained in the marking period. Upon the realization (or my father beating me over the head) that my grades were poor, I would suck up like you wouldn’t believe.

It worked every single time. I would get extensions on my homework and scrape by, much to the chagrin of my peers and parents.

I’m certainly not proud of it. I had teachers tell me to my face I wouldn’t amount to anything that way.

This worked for me all the way until the final semester of my senior year.

I was in my journalism class, and I saw a copy of “The Divine Comedy” laying on a shelf collecting dust. Being the curious reader I am, I picked it up and began to leaf through the book.

For those who have never read “The Divine Comedy,” better known as “Dante’s Inferno,” it is an epic poem about the 14th century Italian poet Dante, who chronicles his journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise with the guidance of Virgil.

As Dante journeys deeper into hell, more and more egregious life offenders appear. Near the end of “Inferno,” or Hell, Dante reaches a lowly group of souls groveling in excrement. These are the sycophants, or suck-ups: those who used flattery, or as you may know them, the “BS-ers.”

I read the chapter over and over and completely flipped my perspective on sucking up. According to this genius poet there is a place in Hell for people who act as I did.

When I got to college, I decided this phase was over. I can still talk the talk, but now I back it up with some effort.

Brown-nosing is no way to go through life. It may get you connections and help you in the short term, but when you get out into the harsh, cold world and realize you’ve used flattery rather than hard work to get to the top, you’re out of luck.

It’s nice to tell people what they want to hear, but once in awhile, tell them what they need to hear.

It’s never easy to tell a person what they need to hear, especially when the truth hurts, but the truth is the truth. Honesty will get you much farther in the long run than “Oh hey, I love your tie,” or “Did you get a haircut? It looks fantastic!”

Trust this recovering suck-up; your college professor will be far less susceptible to flattery when your GPA is lower than the BAC you blew last weekend.

  • I want to join!

    This sounds like you could start a 10-step program for recovering suck-ups!

  • Beatrice Portinari

    I think “Sycophant” was the word you were looking for. Great column. I applaud you for reading Dante, and admonish the fact that many cannot appreciate the exuberance and now diligence you project. I’d give you an A+, but I’m hoping you’ll work it with your shirt. After all, most bribing is done with sexual favors or money, and I’m guessing as a college student you have little of the latter.