Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Quiet angry voices behind me. Some shuffling. And then, "You. Disgust. Me," she told him, as he stood behind her in line at the check-out of a popular children's toy store in Phoenix. She was going to make the purchase. He, apparently, was annoying her. I was in front of them, checking out, trying not to overhear some obvious angst going on behind me.
But her words made me wince, and I wasn't even the object of her disaffection.
"You disgust me"? Those are mighty harsh words to offer a husband. Mind you, I'm only assuming the relationship, because I didn't know these people. They were mere strangers behind me in a public setting, revealing something about themselves they didn't even realize.
It wasn't just the spoken words that were so revealing, I told my BF after we left the store, it was the way she said those three words. "I think he's lucky she didn't have a knife in her hands, because I think she might have stabbed him with it." Maybe that's why he stepped away from her, I wondered out loud.
He laughed, but I was serious.
We were there to buy a present for my BF's niece who'd just delivered her first child--a baby boy--in Hawaii. So I wasn't expecting to run into something so unpleasant. We were having fun looking at all the tiny clothes, the toys that weren't on the shelves when our children were little, the colorful board books, the new baby gadgets for parents, the cool strollers for runners and twins, and everything else on wheels.
But this woman's angry words interrupted my happy thoughts.
After I told my BF what I'd overheard, he recounted what his mother used to tell his father when she'd get annoyed with him.
"You're making me tired."
"That's it?" I asked in disbelief.
"Oh, but she'd say it in a stern voice, 'You're making me tired,' and he'd slink away. He knew he'd overstepped."
With his mother also, it wasn't just the words she used to let him know she meant business. It was the way she said them. But she would have never said something like, "You disgust me." That would have been her overstepping, my BF explained. For the woman who raised his son to open my car door every time we go anywhere, I knew it wouldn't have been proper, either.
When I shared this story with my daughter, she laughed but didn't seem fazed. "I might have said worse than that," she told me, "I'd probably say, 'Fuck off, asshole.'"
Uh, okay. Can you tell? Times have changed.
Have we become angrier people? Do we really have so little control over our emotions that we'll say the harshest things without any consideration for the person those words are directed toward?
I must admit, I've said things I've later regretted. And I haven't always apologized for them, either. I felt justified in my anger. But what's so great about that? Convicted! I'm really glad I overheard this conversation. It's not so much that it matters to me how this couple relates to one another. I don't even know them. What struck me is that this stranger's words made me wince, which tells me I connected with a part of me that I don't like.
It means I might want to check myself the next time I feel anger toward another person. I must remember to use my Inner strength, the part of me that knows better and can take charge of what I might say or do in a moment of madness.
Moments of madness. You know what I'm talking about here, right? I'm talking about those moments in time when someone says or does something that really ticks you off. You want to lash out. You want to strike back. You want to get even. You might even want to say, "You disgust me." But when you are in control of yourself, you might behave in a way that allows you to do what my BF's mother said and simply respond, "You're making me tired," and walk away.
I like the sentiment behind her behavior. She was angry, and she let the target of her anger know it. But not in a way that could be damaging to him or their relationship. She simply responded in a way that showed she meant business, that he should cease doing whatever it was he was doing that angered her. Her words were in no way a stab or a jab. She rightfully took charge of her feelings, expressed them, and walked away. No damage done.
I think her line would be a great one for the Post-it Note--another reminder that there is a nice way, a loving way, to express anger.
What do you think?