Thursday, September 07, 2006

Oh, pretty boy, can't you show me nothing but surrender?

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.


eclectech said...

Have you tried just ignoring her when she says these things? I don't mean "don't let it get to you" but say "I can't talk to you when you're like this, I find it too hurtful" and pick up a book and read it, or talk to someone else.

Sometimes people don't realise what they're doing, so responding like that will make her think about it. If it's deliberate then not rising to it makes it a pointless activity on her part. It's a very behaviourist approach to making kids behave, but that kind of winding up sounds quite childish to me.

Just a thought anyhow....

On the related note I read blogs because they're written by people and people fascinate me. Narrow that down to people who also entertain and / or inform and they're a wonderful thing. I think one of the problems is finding the ones of interest; with so many out there you can sometimes need to be persistent to find the ones that work for you. Some people give up too soon or don't know where to start.

Your 'another nappy ending' the other day was one of my favourite posts in an age btw, I just don't comment anywhere very often and usually read things a bit late and just lurk.

Marcelle Proust said...

If we weren't on different continents I might think Ermintrude was one of my relations.

I have 3 strategies: 1) ignore all nasty comments. Just go back to the last thing they said. 2) Say something like "Hey, that sounds hostile" and see what happens next. 3) Stare, one brow raised, for a minute or so, and say "Oh, really."

Well, and 4) lose it completely, but that isn't exactly a strategy.

Loved the interview with Alex.

Anonymous said...

I agree with ecletech. Responding to this behaviour on her own terms is exactly what ermintrude wants you to do: she has successfully spoiled some pleasure for you, and diverted your attention to herself, and you are defending yourself and upset, giving the excuse for further unpleasant remarks.

I suggest, next time, if you feel up to it, you just smile at the first sign of thisand say, "no, ermintrude, there's no point in talking to you when you are just being deliberately unkind" and leave the room, if possible. And stick to that position if she brings it up later. Don't argue. Don't defend yourself to her. Just refuse to engage.

And if you can get your partner to back you up in this, all the better. That is, if he is willing to say politely, if appealed to, "I'm afraid I agree with Goldfish, ermintrude," and follow you. Sounds to me as if he is not fully aware of how hurtful you are finding this; you should talk it over.

Anonymous said...

Next time Ermintrude appears on the scene. Whisper, just whisper. And when she comes closer, into target.....stick the nut on her.

Works a treat.

Just me lurking about Goldfish and enjoying the blogs. Not reading them of course, just smellin' them;-)

Anonymous said...

People read, and enjoy, and the fact that she has some need to get a kink in her gut about that is truly puzzling.

belledame222 said...

Yeah, you know what, this sort of thing honestly sets off my warning bells. admittedly i am a bit hyperalert to this sort of thing, but: that's not in fact being argumentative. that is, as you and others note, undercutting you. trying, i channel, to take away some pleasure/power you have because it threatens her in some obscure way that you have it.

there is a term for this in the self-helpy world: "toxic friends."

and you know, she might well be perfectly decent otherwise.

but the fact that you ask her in pretty much so many words to stop and she keeps doing it to me: don't like it.

or maybe, you know, it might be worth it to say in so many words, not arguing, just, you know, i really don't care for it when you talk in such ways; blogging is important to me. You don't have to understand it, but i ask that you respect it in front of me at least.

see how she responds. if she just laughs it off and keeps doing it, maybe even with an extra little dig about how SENSITIVE you are (BIG warning flag for me) then, you know, i personally, if it were me, i would, well, i might still be polite, but the guard would be up from then on. no more baring my heart or throat to this person; we can talk about the weather or her own personal shit or whatnot; but i'm not gonna give her stuff if she's just gonna turn it into a weapon against me.

at the end of the day though, it's you who knows her and your decision; make of that what you will.

marmiteboy said...

In that case I am a 'pinko shirtlifter' and PROUD of it.

Blog On!!

The Goldfish said...

Thanks folks, you've given me some ideas to think about.

I am afraid I find it very difficult to walk away from a conversation, ever, but I do think this is probably the best solution - giving an explanation of course.

And Belledame, remarks about sensitivity also bother me a great deal; it is the greatest excuse of any verbal abuser.

Anyway, thanks again everybody. :-) It has also helped to get it all off my chest.

Sage said...

This will sound very psychobabbly, but I find using "I statements" with people like this very useful (similar to the first comment). e.g. "Gosh, E., I feel so hurt by your opinions on this. I feel like you are discounting me as a person."

That, or carry a water gun when she's near. Blast her at every offense. That'll train her not to be so thoughtless.

Whatever works.

Mary said...

Water gun. Definitely. It's the way forwards.

Anonymous said...

But we know better don't we! People DO read blogs - and it isn't just the reading, the writing of them can be pretty cathartic too!

Crack on!