In terms of pet peeves, my top three are as follows:
As a poor kid, I was teased a lot (and subsequently, I ate my feelings and became the poor chubby kid and was teased for that). Before I transferred to public school, I always earned straight A’s, won blue ribbons in art fairs, was chosen for solos in piano recitals and school musicals, represented my class at spelling and math bees, had published poetry, etc.* After the bullying, I hid in the back of the room, terrified to draw attention to myself. It was the most damaging thing I’ve ever experienced, and it took about 15 years to completely heal from that year. These days, I finally feel like I’ve become that person I was supposed to be all along. In terms of friendship, rejection has become a completely foreign concept to me and I’m genuinely shocked if someone doesn’t like me. I wish I had always felt that way. I wish everyone could feel that way. When I see bullying, open mocking, or someone hurting another person intentionally, I always speak up. It’s nothing short of evil.
2. No Sense of Humor
By this, I don’t mean being funny so much as I mean appreciating something funny. This is why I stopped going to church (though with churches today, I’d leave for the homophobia) and, on the opposite spectrum, this is what I hated the most about my ultra-liberal arts school. There’s a difference between a stinkeye and a wisecrack. Between hating people who are different than you and immediately appreciating why the differences are awesome. Between your own religious or political code and things that are universally hysterical. Between surviving a shitty day and defeating a shitty day. Between spilled milk and the pratfall that it can lead to. Between people who “get” and “don’t get” Twitter.** I laugh about braille on drive-up ATMS even though my dad has actually used the braille on drive up ATMs, because I get it. The topic of actual cocaine stirs up personal rage and yet, I think jokes about cocaine, like pretending to snort something or throwing flour on your nose, are beyond hilarious. To quote George Saintsbury, “Nothing is more curious than the almost savage hostility that humor excites in those who lack it.”
3. “Minnesota Nice”
This reaction (coined by Kevin Murphy and shared by Dave Holmes ) is the most unproductive, miserable behavior that I can think of – if someone is bothering you, speak up! Ask them to move, quiet down, stop whatever they’re doing, etc. Don’t point out their discretions after the fact, when it’s too late to stop the offending behavior. 99% of the time, people are not bothering you intentionally. And 99% of the time, people will empathize with your complaint and are glad to make an adjustment to make you happy. I had a roommate who did this to me and I was like a battered housewife, because I knew I was offending him/her somehow but he/she would wait a few weeks to yell at me about it, when the apology was “too late”… yet all I could do. I don’t see the logic in this at all. If you bring up beef with me that is more than a year old for no reason (and it’s the first I’ve ever heard about it), then I’m not going to feel bad about it.
When I see people who exhibit any of the above behaviors, I have to immediately distance myself from them. They make me anxious, miserable and angry, and while I’m not in control of the behavior that leads to those feelings, I’m in control of the environment and the people I choose to surround myself with. Positivity and negativity are contagious – just like sneezes, smiles and herpes – and I am determined to only catch the best.
I realized yesterday that it’s been exactly a year since I cut the worst offender – my former best friend of 22 years – out of my life. It wasn’t necessarily for the reasons above, but she made me miserable and did nothing but cut me down, and I recognized that the only solution was to distance myself. It was the hardest decision that I ever made, but I immediately replaced her with Erin, so it was also obviously the smartest. (Erin is probably the best example of how you can avoid the three behaviors above without being a saccharine, annoyingly-chirpy tool).
*I still sucked at sports.
**If you like laughing approximately 200 times a day, you should follow the people I follow. (Though it should be noted that the Dalai Lama, Sesame Street and Dame Elizabeth Taylor are followed for their wisdom.)