May 21, 2007
on technique
It’s interesting how we fight. It’s not necessarily the overt act of arguing, per se, but how we battle with one another on a psychological level. Thankfully, I haven’t had too much of this going on as of late. But I’ve witnessed a good bit, as a woman happily perched on the perimeter, loving her place in the sun while the others fight it out in the darkened trenches.

It isn’t just the women in my life, so the men shouldn’t sigh with complete relief. The women I know tend to wear the world on their sleeves, a tacky holiday vest of wrongdoings and slights. Yes, they – we? – often see ourselves as victims. The ones undermined by coworkers. Ignored by whomever. Forgotten by those who didn’t matter just the day before. But should archaeologists dig our brains up 2,000 years from now, and somehow find a way to gauge just how it is that we approached human conflict, I am sure that, just as with the spine and the jawbone and the femur, they would find little variation between us. Subtle ones, not necessarily by gender, to be sure, but I picture these descendents able to lay our bones and someday our white matter into distinct and sterile groupings. Tagged in bold Sharpie, simply by approach.

There are the reactive of us for whom every disagreement is the end. The end of the dinner, the end of an otherwise rewarding vacation, the end of the relationship. An action or an ill-phrased comment turns into ample cause to terminate what has taken months or years to create. Explosive emotion invariably trumps history. The stakes in every interaction are sky high. The simplest of snubs becomes cause to recruit the others, to enlist the aid of those uninvolved, to hear of the atrocities and the unfairness perpetrated. Years of investment crumble in an instant.

Some of us horde the negative like a lone soldier preparing for battle, a veritable arsenal of misunderstandings and perceived abuse, never before addressed. Why should they be? The sum of the transgressions is clearly more substantial and useful than each alone. Everything seems fine; day to day the world turns just as you think it always will. But in the background he picks up each offense, adding it to the bucket of wrongdoing. And you don’t even know it exists until filled to the rim, when things become too much for him to bear. Suddenly you’re dodging bullets seven years in the making that have grown in weight over time. Mountains aren’t just molehills. These are the volcanic eruptions of our relationships.

There are those of us who take every opportunity to push buttons. To act initially as a shoulder to cry on, a confidante with whom one may share every confession. He didn’t want me. They found out I wasn’t the person they thought I was. And in flashes of conflict with those who know your every vulnerability, when you are most susceptible, they hurl them back at you. And the onslaught is infinitely more powerful and more hurtful than were the moments of confession. Sadly, there seems to be sick pleasure taken in their ability to wield your every acknowledgement as a weapon. And no matter what, no matter how genuinely the comforting shoulder is offered again, things can not even be made the same.

And there are those of us who ignore. For whom nothing is wrong and all is fine. Avoided at all costs, confrontation is the STD of the interpersonal interaction. You poke and you prod and you try to engage them in a healthy discussion, but they remain mute and go about the days, Seinfeld on reruns and conflict on the backburner. It’s pervasive. They do it with you, with their bosses, their mothers, the neighbor who daily makes off with their Washington Post. It’s fine that they got fries instead of greens, that a friend chose a better option despite established plans. Implosion seems inevitable, although it never comes. You’re quite sure it would for you.

I wonder if we even recognize that one or more of these are part of us.



Blogger Paige Jennifer said...

Girly, it's posts like this that remind me why I have a blog-crush on you. In other words - brilliant!

BTW - I'm perfect (cough). None of that applies to me (cough cough).

Blogger whiskeymarie said...

I tend to be bits of all of them, but I am really more of the person who just throws it all out there in hopes of diffusing the situation. I'm no saint/genius, but I like to solve problems fairly and rationally whenever I can using facts and reason. I'll readily accept blame and will apologize when it's my fault.

That being said...
You'd be surprised how little this approach works.
People, in my experience, don't react well to reason, logic and facts. This generally tends to anger them more.
Go figure.
I give up.
Scratch each other's eyeballs out, for all I care.

Blogger Alison said...

Ooh, you hit some nails on the head there! I'm kind of sitting here in a daze (not because of you) and I can't think of anything coherent to say. But yeah, great blog post.

Blogger Natty said...

What a truly prophetic post. I see myself in each of these, especially right now. I'm truly speechless at your ability to capture it...Thank you.

Blogger Jürgen Nation said...

Beautifully written, pea. Seriously? This is why you're my BFF. Real friends understand that the world acts this way, real friends are the one who can proclaim, "I'm not gonna keep the cycle going." And that's why I adore you.

Blogger Maurey Pierce said...

I think the advent of email has made all of this worse. We're such chickens.

Great, as usual!

Very deep and thought- provoking.

Blogger Jorge said...


An excellent post!

Has this one been stewing for a while?

Each of those parts are shown by most of us. I'm sure there are some people who are more victim than aggressor, and perhaps "enjoy" being that way.

I know that I have shown each of those traits at one point or another.

I'm not proud of it.

I can be a dirty fighter.

I learned from the best.

Blogger Itinerant Agonist said...

I guess I horde more than the others catagories. On the otherside of the coin, I have apologized without knowing or understanding what I did wrong as well. Great stuff as always!

Blogger Itinerant Agonist said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Maya said...

I had a whole point/counterpoint to this...and it was unraveling at the seams, so I will just say: Yes. and No. and Thank You.

Blogger brookelina said...

I don't have a clever or witty response to this. But I do thank you for this. Very nicely done.

Blogger fashiongirl said...

I think we all see a bit of ourselves in each of these types. Thank God for pinot noir!

Blogger Mia said...
Blogger Katie said...

I've been quietly reading your words for a while now, but this one really resonated. My frustration at present is that no matter how 'adult' either of us may believe we are behaving, we're still butting our heads on either side of a wall. It's hard to see eye to eye through all that brick and plaster.

Blogger Skyzi said...

I typically like my anger aged, like a fine wine....trying to change, working on getting rid of it immediately, confrontation is my new best friend, yeah.

Blogger mitzh said...

Beautifully written. A thought provoking post, I must say.

I am really in awe while reading this...

Blogger Chaotic said...

That was truly awe inspiring. Thanks for holding up the mirror many of us don't want to look into.

Blogger Esma said...

Not without my children

In the middle of civilized Europe, first decade of 21st century, mother and children being forcibly seperated. Children on a run, their only mistake to become baptized, Christians. German Government closing blind eyes. Who we are? Where are we going to? Is EU the same place that we been fighting for through ages?

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