Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I have anger issues. Big news.

Very few people in my life have seen me truly angry. My life has been an exercise in control, from my childhood on. I’ve swallowed a lot of my anger, and I have smiled and kept my cool in situations that would have set many others off like a moon-rocket. It’s a side effect of growing up in a violent, abusive household. We all learned to avoid conflict in the most creative ways, even if it meant stuffing your own feelings into a hole somewhere until you could find a suitable outlet for your anger (if at all). Those feelings fester and turn into little creatures that nibble and gnaw at you. They want to matter. They want out.

When I do get mad, I have a ridiculously horrid temper. My filter is turned off. When I’m angry, truly angry, the gates that keep the unkind thoughts that I’ve been fostering for years to burst open, and everything I think of you might be poured out in the most hideous way. I’ve destroyed a number of good friendships and relationships losing control of my barely-contained ire. Most of the time, when I am angry, I’ll retreat and retrench until the fire in my belly cools enough to avoid having a meltdown on some hapless fool who’s poked me with a sharp stick. But that doesn’t mean the battle is over. It’s still boiling. It will continue to boil.

But there are ‘innocent’ triggers too; the things that make those repressed monsters inside me start growling and roaring; things that cause me to have to do my retreat thing and to pace my breathing and to close my eyes and bite it all down. And all those are signs of an impending Thermo Nuclear explosion. If I go quiet on you, it’s not a good thing. If I’m yelling at you and it’s not devastatingly cruel and you’re not humiliated or crying, you’re probably okay—you haven’t been affected by my true temper and will probably be forgiven. There’s no mistaking my true anger. It’s hellacious.

Three things that will light the fuse of hellfire inside me:

1. DO NOT call me hon. This will likely turn me into an instant bitch. I will snap at you and treat you horribly for doing it. This isn’t the worst of the offenses, but it definitely will piss me off.

There are two kinds of ‘hon’ frequently used by strangers (often younger people) towards you (mostly older people). The one where the speaker is haplessly thinking they’re being personable and cute and the kind where the ‘hon’ or ‘honey’ or ‘sweetie’ that is meant to knock you down a notch; where it is a thinly veiled insult; a passive-aggressive patronization. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference. The hapless ‘hon’ is dispatched with impunity in the customer service industry. Servers and retail workers will use terms like ‘hon, sweetie and sweetheart’ unknowingly, and have no idea they’re irritating the shit out of their customers instead of ingratiating themselves to them.

“What can I get for you hon?” ::chewing gum like a bovine and gazing at you vapidly, pen poised over her pad::

“Are you finding everything you need sweetie?” ::tucking a trendril of her helmet-like hair away from her foundation-slathered forehead before thumbing through more sales racks::

“Thanks, hon” ::said in a flat, uncaring monotone while shoving your purchases into a bag and then subsequently into your face::

The Passive Aggressive term of endearment is delivered with more acidity:

“Hon, you have no idea what you’re talking about.”::said with an arched brow and a smug smirk::

“That’s not sage, it’s green, hon.” ::said with an arched brow and a bit of a disgusted smirk::

“Sweetie, you should be happy I’m telling you this now, because if I waited until later...” ::said with a barely controlled voice and a forced smile::

As a forty year old, I find it especially annoying when the speaker using the term of endearment is many years my junior. You are not my sweetie, hon or darling. It’s disrespectful and presumptuous. You certainly are not qualified (qualifications are: You are a member of my direct family or you are a dear friend) to use a term of endearment with me. You certainly are not qualified to use those terms with people who are older than you, and you sure as hell should not use those terms of endearment with strangers. It’s obnoxious.

If you want to avoid some crazy woman snapping at you, don’t call me hon.

2. Do not give me commands or make demands of me.

I hate it when people tell me what to do. A command will send a patch of instant razor-sharp hackles to bristle from my back and shoulders the moment it’s dispatched. If you cannot ask politely, then don’t open your mouth because then I will deliberately *not* do something just to prove you can’t tell me what to do. It’s irrational, but it’s the way my brain works, and once that switch is flipped, it’s hard to get control of it. DO NOT try to engage me immediately after you’ve set me off, or there will be a knock-down-screaming fight (this is not to be mistaken with a pissy argument, these are distinctly two different things). Remember, I’m half Puerto-Rican and I grew up in an abusive household. I have no lack of passion and temper, and I can reach some pretty high volumes and be pretty mean. And 99.9% of the time (family is generally exempt from the following part) I will no longer have anything to do with you after I spill my ire on you. I won’t even want to see your face. You will be shunned from my life and I will make it my business that everyone knows how much I despise you. Spiteful? Yes. Evil? Yes. Do I care? No. At that point, you have been scrubbed from my list of viable human beings worth interacting with and that’s that. So do not push me into a fight if you want anything even remotely to do with me or things that involve me. Approach me with caution if you want me to do something for you, or let me offer. But you sure as hell better not demand it of me or you’re pretty much guaranteed not to have it done and to lose any remaining respect I might hold for you while you’re at it. Learning to use the word please will save you a lot of misery. That *should* be a general rule for everyone, but not everyone has even basic manners or common consideration these days.

3. Do not make passive-aggressive or plain aggressive statements to me in settings where my sensibilities prevent me from making a spectacle of myself in front of others in response to it.

If you’ve made a snotty statement directed at me in mixed company and I haven’t responded, please know that you haven’t won your little snotty battle. You’ve ended your battle in all truth. You’ve guaranteed your demise in the most humiliating of fashions, but you don’t even realize it. All you’ve done is merely add reactive fuel to the possible, subtle implosion that is going to occur sometime in the future. What you’ve guaranteed is that you’ve made yourself useless to me at that point. I do not respond well to cattiness. At all. Once you’ve made yourself disposable, it’s only a matter of time before you are winnowed out of my life. When I go quiet, and I do not react, know that a little mental note just went into your file; and my memory is long, and I have stopped caring about you. After the first passive-aggressive attack, I will be focused on it whenever I interact with you. I’ll be looking for reasons. I will be watching for more fuel. Time? Not an issue. Sometimes it takes years. Sometimes, I will even bait you for more fuel; bait you to make an ass of yourself, finding or making reasons to justify why you should be ejected from my life forever and for others to see it for themselves without uttering a word to influence them. I’m evil and unforgiving in a mean, insidious and smiling way in this situation. So if you’re a douchebag who can’t keep their mouth shut, I offer a sound beware. When the inevitable happens, it’s open season. But what I’m especially good at in those situations is letting the offender dig their own grave—and because I’ve remained tight-lipped and kept smiling, I end up the classy one while the offender has only revealed the depth of their snottiness and lack of couth. It’s my best ‘death’ strategy and it has worked very well for me over the years. People ultimately reveal themselves for what they are. Just keep cool and give them time. No Thermo Nuclear explosions required, yet you still get that same satisfying, devastating fallout.

That’s a little insight into the less than peachy side of me. It’s there, I’m sure you are all well aware. But it’s the direct result of my upbringing. I may be grumpy a lot, but that’s not even remotely close to what I’m like when I lose my temper and write people off. I have the capacity of shutting people out who are very close to me, and pretending they don’t exist. It’s horrifying, imagining what that would be like from the other side, but it’s part of who I have become over the years. After living with unkind and cruel people, you learn to filter that sort of thing out of your life in effective ways as a personal defense mechanism. Either with fire and bluster, or with a cloak and dagger, I will achieve my ends. These are three guaranteed ways of making it happen.

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