The World of Karen and Ken

Watching that video was like watching a train wreck.  I knew it was going to be ugly, but I just couldn’t look away.  

In it, a self-entitled and obnoxious woman entering a restaurant yelled at a young, minimum-wage-earning high school kid who had simply asked her to put on a face mask.  Things deteriorated quickly to the “I want to talk to the manager” stage before, in tears, the young employee told her boss that she could not put up with such nonsense any longer, and that she was quitting. 

As the young worker fled out the door, the nasty but now somewhat-subdued woman said: “OK, I will put on a mask.”  Other customers, though, having seen and heard enough, began to “boo” her.  Deciding to leave, her departure was accompanied by a chorus of: “Goodbye, Karen!” 

But wait … Karen?  How did everyone in that place know her name was Karen?

In fact, it is unlikely “Karen” is her real name.  Instead, the nickname “Karen” has come to identify that group of “adult” women unable to control their emotions when even mildly inconvenienced by store clerks, other motorists or even random passersby.  And the male of the species has a moniker as well … “Ken.”  People of this ilk are easily identified in the wild by their propensity for screaming and gesticulating … loud and long … at random individuals who, they believe, have done them some wrong.

Sadly, YouTube is replete with videos of the crazed behaviors of “Karens” and “Kens” engaging in these sorts of unrestrained public outbursts of rage over things most rational people would consider minor inconveniences … soup too hot … french fries not hot enough … checkout line too slow.  After watching some of these antics, one is left to wonder: do these people go home, look in the mirror, and feel proud of their actions?  Do they experience any shame?   And, since many of these individuals are accompanied by children, do they ever consider the sort of examples they might be setting?

In the world of public education, it should come as no surprise that record numbers of school district superintendents are throwing in the towel and moving on.  Anyone interested in knowing why this might be so should attend the next school board meeting and listen to the bitter and abusive language rained upon those charged with educating our children.  One speaker recently concluded her vituperative remarks declaring: “I will be at school on Monday with guns fully loaded.”

The airline industry, of course, has experienced unprecedented numbers of violent and otherwise uncooperative passengers refusing to comply with health and safety guidelines.  In one recent case, an international flight from Miami to London had to return to Florida because a passenger in first class refused to wear a mask.  The flight was then cancelled and everyone had to rebook on another flight … all because a self-entitled woman decided that the rules do not apply to her.  In short, this is her world, and the rest of us just happen to be walking through it.

If you have had the misfortune to witness a “Karen” or “Ken” in a full-throated rage over their belief that some service worker has failed to genuflect before them, you know how bizarre and uncomfortable something like that can be.  But as long as there is no threat of physical violence involved, it is likely a waste of time trying to calm or reason with one of those unhinged individuals.  In fact, getting attention is their goal, and it doesn’t matter whether it is good or bad attention … just so long as someone is noticing.  Frankly, when a bystander cares enough to enter their convoluted world on their terms, it is something they enjoy.

Perhaps George Bernard Shaw said it best:

I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. 

You get dirty and, besides, the pig likes it.

One thought on “The World of Karen and Ken

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