I’m very polite. I open doors for people a lot. And hold them. And stand there while twenty additional people come through. I’m running late, but I stop to have a conversation with my neighbor in front of the CVS, because he wants to talk about the elevator in our building.
I used to have a lot of trouble at holidays, when I had to open gifts, because I wanted to act the same amount of excited about all of them. I remember unwrapping a little plastic Disney character toy, maybe a keychain, actually, that a relative had picked up last minute. I was grinning and exclaiming, “I love it! This is SO great!” And my face hurt.
(This would’ve been worse. source)
Because of this, I don’t like receiving gifts. Unless people send them to me by mail. Or let me open them later. Those boyfriends who bought me jewelry and clothes were the worst. After breaking up, I gave away heaps of necklaces (I don’t wear necklaces) and bright little dresses.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
My parents taught me very young to answer the phone carefully. “Hello, this is Kate!” and then, “I’d love to get my mother for you! Just one second!” Or something. I remember leaving a friend’s house when I was six or seven, and Dad was saying, “Did you thank them for having you over? It’s really important to be polite.” I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten to thank them.
The problem isn’t really that I’m polite. It’s that I genuinely care what people think. I tend to believe what people say. I hope they like me. I hope they aren’t offended by something. I kind of hope their day has gone well and their marriage is a success and they don’t step in any puddles.
Once I said “I love you, too,” to a guy who had just confessed his love, even though I wasn’t even the slightest bit interested. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. You can imagine how well that ended, a week or two later.
As a result of all this, some of the proudest moments of my life have involved me being rude. Probably not even very rude. But doing something that might really bother someone else.
In college, a boy said something sexual about me to a group of people. Something he wanted to do to me. My then-boyfriend was in that group of people. Reportedly, he laughed and shrugged it off. I learned what the boy had said, and I was furious. A few weeks later, I saw him on a bus. I was with a friend. He was across the aisle from me. I politely excused myself from the conversation with my friend, and then I asked him if he had said this thing about me.
He stared at me mutely for what felt like a long time. He turned bright red. And then he nodded.
“That was a really stupid thing to say,” I said. “And you said it behind my back. That was cowardly.”
He nodded slowly, again.
“Don’t ever do it again.”
He looked like he might cry. He muttered, “I’m sorry.”
I turned back to my friend and we kept talking. That was back in college. And early in college, too. So maybe it’s a little sad that it’s the first example that pops up. But I still vividly remember how good it felt to make him uncomfortable, even though it made me incredibly uncomfortable to do it. It went against everything I’m used to. It went against everything I almost always do. But I felt heroic in the moment. Like my own hero.
I felt like that when someone casually used the word “fag” in conversation with me and I asked them not to. I told them I was offended.
The truth is, I’m embarrassed by how much I care about other people. I think I’m too sensitive. I try to understand how my brothers didn’t end up with this trait. They go through life loudly saying things when they feel like saying them, and their friends trail after them in adoring herds. I text my friends twenty minutes later to make sure I didn’t hurt their feelings when I said that thing about the ridiculous looking dog, even though I’m now remembering that their mom had a dog a few years back that was a little like that.
So I’m trying to work on being a little meaner. Or a little less constantly polite. Bear worries aloud that I’ll find myself in a situation with some dangerous guy, and I’ll make small talk instead of running for my life.
The other night Bear hooked up a subwoofer to his computer’s sound system. He turned on some music. It was maybe 10:30. I was cringing. The downstairs neighbors are going to hate us. They’ll think we don’t care about them at all. I tried to enjoy the amazing sound quality and the awesome bass line. But it was impossible. Bear was trying to figure out how to turn it down, which turned out to be much more difficult than adjusting the volume. I kept thinking, “I hope they don’t mind.”
I have never even SEEN these people.
After a while I started to think, “If they hear some bass for a little while, it’s probably not a big deal. I mean, I don’t really care when I hear them making noise. In fact, I never hear them making noise. Maybe no one lives in that apartment. Even if they live in the apartment, it’s not a big deal. Even if they’re annoyed, who cares? So they’ll be annoyed for ten minutes. They’ll get over it.”
Which they will. I’m sure they are over it by now.
Bear fixed the subwoofer, and we listened to quiet music that should have had a pounding bass. And the next day, I turned it up really loud and danced. I mean, sometimes you just have to dance. Even if it might bother the neighbors. Maybe one day I’ll do it at night. For ten fabulous minutes.
(who could resist? source)
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Un-roast: Today I love the way my hair looks with big, dangly earrings. I found some for $5! Cheap earrings make me happy.
P.S. I’m sorry to everyone who saw the ad on this blog for some sort of weight loss something or other. I signed up with an ad hub that allows companies to send me ads to approve or reject. I didn’t realize that if I didn’t immediately reject them it counts as an approval.