Normally, I love Octobers.
The fall cliches are in full swing, and the sunlight seems to be tinted a golden orange, which means the world looks as if it has been dipped in champagne.
But I feel like it’s been an off month.
Why? Because I’ve had a lot of conversations with jerks.
In the past three weeks, I have had way too many conversations where I leave absolutely fuming. You know the conversations I’m talking about–the ones where you leave feeling belittled and attacked and more worthless than a pile of talcum power.
have never pretended to be anything but emotional and hyper-sensitive. (Once, I called a hairdresser to express my hurt feelings over her lack of eyebrow-shaping skills.) But to me, words have a greater power than physical pain or psychological trauma. So when a jerk says something that belittles me, I can’t just brush it off. However, there is an upside to conversing with jerks.
Here is a chronology of what happens:
1) Someone you love or respect says something in one of two ways: flippant, like a Frisbee flying out of their mouth, or incredibly serious, as if they have just informed you of a secret universal truth. In this moment, they become a jerk.
2) You feel two emotions in rapid succession. First, you have been stabbed in the stomach by a blunt yard implement. Second, you are so incensed, you want to vomit.
3) Your face reddens with embarrassment and anger. Most people will ask you if you are warm.
4) You smile and laugh in an effort to stop the tears that are forming behind your eyes.
5) You don’t say anything, letting the other person blather.
6) Later, when in the car or taking a shower, you will cry and want to break something. Then, you will calm down and have an imaginary conversation with the jerk. You feel so full of emotion you have to siphon it onto a diary page.
This is where the magic happens.
At this point, I always start affirming myself.
I am a good writer. I am a good person. My feelings matter. I’m allowed to have opinions, even if they are different than yours. My job is worthwhile and necessary. And you, jerk, don’t really understand me. And trust me, that is your loss, because I’m awesome and interesting and I will always notice when you get a haircut.
This is a change I have noticed in myself. The old version of myself would have shriveled up like a dead worm drying on a sidewalk. Is this adulthood? I’m still not good at confrontation, and I still cry/blush/want to scream, but I believe in myself and my opinions, even if I don’t know what they are yet. I don’t beat myself up, because I trust my intuition. I’m done apologizing for my behavior. I’m done trying to impress other people. I’m just trying to be a decent person, same as anyone.
“Don’t you get that?” I inevitably ask the imaginary person. “Don’t you understand that I’m the same as you?”
Sometimes it feels like my life is a series of lectures from other people trying to tell me what to do. And I’m tired of it. I don’t care if this makes me seem like a Disney princess or a naïve child; it is my reality.
I’m tired of being belittled and patronized. Yes, you have 20 years and multiple degrees on me; yes, you are smart and I have previously valued your contributions and observations; and yes, I will smile and nod, not letting know how utterly pissed I am.
But I don’t want to listen to your sermon. Please let me make my own way through life. Please don’t lecture me. Please don’t be a jerk. And don’t ruin my October.
After one of these incidents, I always feel strong and powerful, like there are no limits on what I can achieve. I am confident. I am motivated. I am going to prove you wrong. I am going to be great.
And that is the upside of conversing with jerks.