My feelings aren’t easily hurt by other people. I am sensitive to bad manners and disrespect, but that stuff merely disappoints me. There is only one person who persistently hurts my feelings. We’ll call them Ermintrude, for no particular reason.
The example I shall use is by no means the most powerful, but given my relationship with Ermintrude, I need to be very careful. Also, I had this in mind since whilst writing about blogging yesterday.
The other week, another member of the party we were with had congratulated me on my blog and we were discussing the relatively unique, powerful and pleasurable nature of blogging. Ermintrude interrupts with her disgust that she heard someone on the Today Programme being interviewed for no other reason than they were a blogger.*
“Can you remember a name?” I ask.
“Of course not!” she declares, “they were a complete non-entity.”
“Well, you might not have heard of them, but they must have been there for some reason.”
“Probably because some pinko shirt-lifter at the BBC is their friend and said, ‘Ooh darling, he’s such a gorgeous blogger, you simply must have him on!’.”
“Oh,” I say. "Well, a lot of other people read blogs."
“Nobody actually reads blogs. People might scan over them, but it’s not exactly reading material.”
Naturally I object, tell her that I read blogs properly and give some reasons why I enjoy doing so. Half way through this speech, Ermitrude resumes the activity that she had left to interrupt us.
Now, Ermitrude knows me very well, so by saying this she is telling me that what I spend a portion of my limited energy on several days a week is a complete waste of time; that nobody reads what I write because I (and other bloggers) couldn’t possibly write anything of interest. This and very similar exchanges cannot be considered some sort of pathological insensitivity.
She is intent on injury. It is also my belief, because I don’t like to think the worst of people, that phrases such as pinko shirt-lifter (and far worse) are used exclusively in my presence in an attempt to provoke me.
And this is a mild one. Other exchanges have cut significantly deeper.
Thing is, that if this sort of thing was representative of entire my relationship with Ermintrude, then I would simply have to arrange my life such that I had as little contact with her as possible. However, most of the time Ermintrude is perfectly pleasant, sometimes positively fun to be with. I love her and am entirely confident of her love for me. Only I can’t work out why she does this.
[...] says she does it because she likes having arguments with people. It is true that I respond by addressing her assertions, e.g people do read blogs. But these arguments can’t be won or lost since she does not play by the rules; she gives up and asserts that I do not live in The Real World, that I would see things differently if I had a job, a mortgage and so on. This or I am an oversensitive or hysterical – a theory confirmed if I show any signs of hurt or anger.
Again, I honestly don’t think any of it is meant. At least, I very much hope it isn’t.
But I cannot deny that I let it bother me. It bothers me that Ermintrude uses certain language and expresses certain sentiments which make my stomach turn – not just a disregard of "political correctness" but a deep-seated contempt for other people. And it bothers me that Ermintrude appears to wish me harm.
More than that; what she says has some limited success in knocking my confidence because deep down I long for her respect. Because she is all right. Really she is.
And I am grown up. And I don’t really know how to stop this - either to stop her doing it or to stop myself feeling the effects. Hmm. I have been thinking to write this for a while, I hope I don't regret it.
* I very much apologise to any blogger who was on The Today Programme in the last month or so who happens to be reading this. You are an entity.