Saturday, 21 March 2015

Wrestling with pigs. 21.03.15

I have the bestest friends.


Today I found myself over-reacting to what someone had said. I get quite easily wound up by what I class as 'rudeness' or 'discourtesy', which is rather odd for someone who can approach a 50:50 ratio of swears to words and still manage to form coherent sentences. I seem to have a peculiar sense of what is appropriate and what is rude, and rudeness annoys me.

Bad words aimed at the ether don't bother me at all. Bad words aimed at people DO. But even stuff like someone going 'whatever' makes my Discourtesy Antenna pop up. Today's gem was "Yer just avoiding answering the question in pretense that it's sophisticated thought and introspection," which hardly seemed cause for bloodshed but, in the context it was in, caused me to get all twitchy.  (And no, I did answer the question, you just didn't like my answer, thankyouverymuch.)

In my head this sort of stuff gets immediately labelled - uncivil, fighting words, rude, etc.. It gets my monkey all riled up. In fact, it gets more of a reaction than an equivalent statement thrown out in swears. "You're a fucking retard" and "You are clearly affected by severely limited cognitive abilities" are kinda same-o same-o in my world. The only difference is that the first statement would immediately cause me to ignore the person saying it, filing them under "asshole", while the second one gets me all wound up.


I posed this puzzle to my FB friends, whose responses were:
  • They ARE the same. One is more pretentious than the other, is all.
  • The second one is self-righteousness on top of being a royal prick. It's adding insult to injury. (Well, really, insult on top of insult, but hey.)
  • The second statement is disingenuous. The person who says, "You appear to be suffering from a severe lack of cognitive function" is hoping it will pass as "not rude".
  • Such an effort insinuates that you're too stupid to pick up on the insult buried within the politeness...in essence, that they're getting away with something at your expense. 
  • Worse, by the standards of polite society they ARE getting away with it, and you seeing their motives matters not. It's a case of "I see what you did there, but a lot of people won't, therefore I'm not allowed to call you on it without getting in trouble." 
And of course, they are totally right. The reason I feel insulted is because I'm being insulted. The reason I feel frustrated is that I find myself unable to respond to the insult as I would like. The reason I feel mad is that the whole thing is maddening. And the reason I bought into this kind of nonsense is that this is how I was brought up. My family members pulled this on each other all the time, and calling them on it was considered unreasonable and rude. My emotional reactions weren't out of kilter; my appraisal of the situation was.

This brought to mind a conversation I've been having with another friend about people's views of what's 'normal', 'appropriate' and 'rude'. We both know people who classify things very differently from us - you're only rude if you swear, you're not being verbally aggressive if you don't raise your voice, you're not being a bully or a perv if you're 'only joking', etc.. You can end up in seriously bizarre situations: "I get a pass on whatever truly venomous, twisted, hateful shit I say as long as it's at low volume. Because it's not loud, see." "I only said those nasty things because I was angry, so you must pretend they weren't said."

When these tactics are used willfully, in order to be vile without risking repercussion, they are not far removed from gaslighting (a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted/spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception and sanity). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting. That's not something anyone should try to live with. It is a vile practice that doesn't deserve tolerance - but, of course, the person throwing it at you will accuse you of 'over-reacting'...

Even when unconventional standards are unintentional, it can be hard to find a way to get along. For instance, mid-divorce, my ex husband came at me with the glorious "I was so happy when we started arguing, because that's how real married people talk to each other." And yes, he absolutely, totally meant  it. He grew up with a mother and father constantly at each other's throats, so he genuinely thought that marital bliss required regular screaming fights. Alas, I didn't share his views. I see that kind of argument as a failure in communication, not as a bonding moment. Unfortunately he didn't accept that my views on the matter needed to be taken into consideration until he was presented with consequences.

It's interesting what we don't notice, or force ourselves to accept, because it's 'normal' i.e. usual.

This still leaves me with the small issue of having to learn to deal with that sort of crap. I would expect that will require a great deal of trial and error, and may ruffle a few feathers. However, at least now I know that I have a right to try. That changes the game entirely.


2 comments:

Jeffrey Deutsch said...

An occasional passive-aggressive tactic is sealioning -- basically, crossing someone's boundaries, always phrased ever so politely. It sounds like butter wouldn't melt in one's mouth, but it's really putting whipped cream on a turd.

The idea, sometimes, is to make one's aggression deniable. "See, I was just being polite and he jumped all over me!"

And yes, I'm especially annoyed with various "sugar-coating" tactics. In part because, as an Aspie (person on the autism spectrum), I grew up frequently putting my foot in it in the face of those confusing ploys. To this day, I respect blunt people even when I disagree with or even dislike them.

That said, some people consider bluntness to be the insult to their intelligence. They feel it implies they can't decipher subtleties.

God's Bastard said...

Some people just can't be pleased, hey.