I remember back in the early aughts, while job hunting, I got hooked on Mad TV. There was a hilarious sketch featuring a paranoid middle management guy named Sean Gidcomb who was obsessed with the office supply closet. He would accuse his co-workers of being “sneaky snakes”, stealing the pencils, staplers, toilet paper, and computer paper. He was rigid about their work habits and absenteeism. And he held the prospect of being fired over their heads to keep them in line.
The character of Sean Gidcomb is, of course, an exaggerated stereotype of a certain type of person we all know. If we didn’t know someone who acted like Sean in some way, this routine wouldn’t be funny because people couldn’t relate to it. However, I’m willing to bet that most Americans– and probably a lot of Europeans (especially Germans)– can relate to this type of busybody.
I don’t work with other people very much anymore, so it’s been a long time since I had to deal with someone like Sean in the workplace. However, I do often run into this type in my online endeavors. These are the hyper-anal types of people who appoint themselves the law and order keepers. I usually refer to them as “overly helpful people”, but they aren’t always coming from an apparent place of help. Sometimes, that behavior comes from a deep need to look superior to other people, or to subtly tear people down… in a “sneaky snake” kind of way. I think that kind of behavior is meant to make someone who feels insecure or “small” feel better about themselves by being subtly negative or corrective. They don’t want to be obvious about their negativity, because that would not be socially acceptable. So, instead of being outwardly rude or upfront, they’ll be sneakily passive aggressive and covertly controlling.
I happen to be very sensitive to this type of behavior. Much like people who snipe at others in underhanded ways because of childhood trauma, I am sensitive to that manipulative behavior due to my own baggage from childhood. I grew up around controlling, manipulative people who were always issuing corrections and criticisms. So, when someone acts that way toward me as an adult, I tend to notice immediately and issue a response.
Many times, my responses tend to be more obvious call outs, which put the other person on the spot. I don’t mind criticism or correction when it’s really warranted, but I truly don’t appreciate passive aggressive digs. And I almost always notice them, too. Then, when I respond, the other person tries to gaslight, saying that what I read or heard wasn’t really what I read or heard.
Here’s an example from 2014 or so… (just to keep this post somewhat safe from a shitshow).
There was a woman in my online life that I used to know from a messageboard I hung out on in the days before Facebook. I found her incredibly insufferable. It was like she went out of her way to be rude and condescending to me. Back in the days when we posted on the messageboard, this woman would seemingly make it a point to contradict or criticize. I tried to ignore her, but she just continued her behavior, either not realizing or not caring how obnoxious and overbearing she was. (for more on this, click here)
I tried to be assertive, but she got offended and sent me angry private messages, accusing me of “insulting” her. I wasn’t insulting– I was pointing out that I found her comments rude, belittling, and offensive. She insulted me first, which is why I responded in the direct way I did. But no, I never called her names, told her to “fuck off and die”, or anything like that. What I wrote was, “Whether or not you mean to come across that way, your comments to me are belittling and offensive.”
Finally, once the messageboard fell apart, we all moved to Facebook, and I unfriended her.
Unfriending the offender worked fine for a long time. But unfortunately, we had mutual friends, and I would still run into her on occasion. One day, I left a comment on a mutual friend’s post, and the overly helpful person decided to leave a little passive aggressive dig that I found very offensive.
Here’s an excerpt from my original post about this on the Blogspot version of OH:
I was fine with letting her be her and letting me be me… until a couple of nights ago, when a friend posted about marijuana. She wanted to know if we thought it should be legalized. I said it should; that way, I could smoke it next week while hanging around my family.
Ms. OH pipes up with a quip about how some laws were meant to be broken, insinuating that smoking pot is no big deal. And maybe it’s not if you don’t have a job where drug testing is done. I wrote that I don’t have a problem with recreational pot use, but Bill doesn’t like marijuana because he used to live with a couple of potheads in college. He didn’t like that the pot seemed to make them less than ambitious. He also doesn’t like smoke.
Ms. OH comes back with “He’s never lived with alcoholics? 😉 ;)”
Looks like a simple comment, right? But because we used to hang out on a messageboard, I think she knew full well that alcoholism is a sore subject to me. Why would you add winkie smilies if you aren’t implying that you “know” Bill has had “experience” with drunks? If it were an honest and serious question, there wouldn’t be any winking going on, right?
I think if she’d left off the winkie smilies, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so aggravated. Alcoholism is a very sore subject for me and I don’t think it’s funny. Alcoholism has personally caused me a lot of pain. People I love have also been hurt due to alcoholism. I grew up with an alcoholic who abused me. Moreover, some might even call me an alcoholic because I really do like my booze– though Bill says he doesn’t think I’m abusive or mean when I drink.
But even if alcoholism weren’t a sore subject, I don’t like her and I don’t enjoy interacting with her. This week has been stressful enough for me, dealing with people who are crazy makers. I feel pretty certain I don’t want to interface with Ms. OH again. So I decided to block her.
I told Bill that I thought I’d soon get an email from her. Sure enough, I did. She wrote that she didn’t understand and demanded to know what she’d said to offend me. Seems to me that if someone blocks you on Facebook, it means they don’t want to talk to you. But she can’t accept that and has to know why… and she seems to think I owe her an explanation, as if we were actual friends.
Years later, as I think about this, I realize that there are a lot of people out there who struggle with their own feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and low self-esteem. They’re always looking for someone to pick on in some way. When they spot someone who seems like an easy target, they can’t seem to help themselves.
I know I have served as an “easy target” to a lot of people. Maybe it’s because I am the youngest of four by more than several years, and my family regularly discounted and belittled me when I was a child. So I still have that unsure side to me that comes out, attracting “overly helpful” people like blood to a shark. However, just as our dog, Noyzi, loves people naturally, but is automatically affected by prior abuses that make him skittish and scared, I am affected by that unfinished old business.
Naturally– I am not as unsure as I seem. Naturally, I am someone who is pretty assertive. But I was taught not to be that way by controlling, manipulative, critical people when I was not in a position to defend myself as well. It’s hard to lose that old way of surviving, even when it no longer works. So I still have people in my life who are comfortable being shitty to me.
Below is more from my 2014 post:
It is possible that [the sneaky snake overly helpful offender’s] comment about alcoholics was innocent, but I am guessing it wasn’t. I’ve been around her enough to know that she’s one to be snarky. She has a way of looking down on people. I don’t think she was intending to be funny or even friendly. Besides, I honestly think she’s an asshole; so this decision was years in the making. To be clear, I didn’t block her because of one stupid comment; I blocked her because she has a very long history of irritating me and most interactions I have with her raise my blood pressure. And when I have told her why she gets under my skin, she gets pissy.
She just rubs me the wrong way and either can’t or won’t modify her behavior. And I would be wrong to ask her to modify it. She obviously has friends and loved ones who love her just the way she is. I’m obviously the one with a problem, so I just decided to quietly walk away so I don’t have to read her shit anymore.
But she apparently doesn’t want us to part company… or she wants to engage me in some dialogue as to why I don’t like her. I just want to say to her, “Don’t go away mad. Just go away.”
Not everyone is going to like you. Lots of people don’t like me for whatever reason. Not even a mild mannered, even tempered guy like Bill is universally liked by everyone. You’re not a bad person, Ms. OH. You just get on my fucking nerves. So please just leave me alone. There are a lot of people out there who will happily be buddies with you. I am not one of them.
Years later, I unblocked Ms. OH because, at the time, I was a lot more conservative about people I blocked on social media. Nowadays, when I block someone, they tend to stay that way. In any case, when I popped up on her radar again, Ms. OH sent me a private message apologizing for whatever it was she did to upset me. I appreciated that and accepted her apology, and life has gone on without her particular brand of passive aggressive microaggressions. However, more of her ilk have popped up– giving me a chance to practice being assertive.
Yesterday, I was watching cop videos on YouTube, and there was a cop who incorrectly used the non-word “irregardless”. A lot of the cops I watch on YouTube annoy me anyway, because quite a few of them are high on power trips. I know they have difficult jobs that are very stressful. Some of them have other issues that exacerbate, like bad marriages or substance abuse issues (lots of drunk cop videos on YouTube, too). I probably shouldn’t watch those videos, since they seem to trigger my authority issues.
Those who know me, know that I tend to be a stickler when it comes to words. “Irregardless” is not a word that well educated people should use, because it’s a double negative. The word “regardless” means without regard. When you add the unnecessary prefix “ir” to it, you get “without without regard.”
I posted that the word “irregardless” is not a word. And it’s not. I even double checked before I made that claim. Some might say I was being critical when I posted my comment, and in fairness, I was. But the actual offenders weren’t going to read it. It would be different if I posted that to a friend. It was posted to no one in particular, as the person who said it is some cop on YouTube in Wisconsin.
Just as some people abuse reflexive pronouns, and overuse fifty cent words like “utilize”, when they could just as easily use “use”, in an attempt to sound smarter, others think they should say or write “irregardless” instead of “regardless”. It’s a pet peeve of mine, but easy enough to ignore when I complain about it, especially when I put the complaints on my own page.
You’d think my comment wouldn’t attract controversy. And yet it did. Someone asked me what my “criteria” was for a real word.
That struck me as a pot stirring dig, because I don’t think the person who asked it was being serious. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be a dig, but that’s how the question came across to me. I’ve known this person for years and I’m pretty sure she knows that “irregardless” isn’t a real word. She just wanted to call me out, like a sneaky snake… maybe knock me down a peg. Maybe that’s an appropriate thing to do sometimes, but I didn’t think that particular post warranted a challenge. So, instead of answering the question, I asked one myself.
“Why do you ask?”
The response was telling, as the person wrote that they were “just curious” and “had no agenda”. The “no agenda” part kind of confirmed my initial suspicions that the question about my “criteria” was a dig. I was reminded of when our toilet clogged in our last rental house and the landlady immediately said, “We’ve never had this problem before!”, when I had never accused her of anything. When people add extra unsolicited information when something goes awry, it’s usually because they do have an agenda of sorts… and are maybe trying to establish an alibi or cast blame.
Former tenant did the same thing when she volunteered that she and her husband were moving mid tour because they needed to be closer to their babysitter. We never asked them why they were moving, and simply telling us they needed to be closer to the sitter sounded disingenuous. If they’d just said they needed to be closer to work, that would have been a lot more believable. The bit about the sitter rendered their excuse to bullshit, kind of like a person telling me they have “no agenda” is likely bullshit, too.
I know some people might think that my reaction to this is ridiculous and over-the-top. And to those people, I’d basically say that people discounting my reactions is one reason why they are so extreme. Because I have a right to feel any way I do, and I have a right to express myself. You might think it’s crazy and an overreaction, but I have these reactions for a reason… just like people issue those little passive aggressive digs for a reason.
I’m sure the people who do this kind of shit don’t actually mean to be irritating. I know I irritate people. I generally don’t mean to do so. A lot has to do with old baggage I need to unload. I think most people who issue passive aggressive digs are looking for control, or a way to even the playing field somehow. And my over-the-top responses to them have a lot to do with my own authority issues… which come from having a lot of controlling and criticizing people in my life when I was growing up. I don’t respond to control freaks very well anymore. I tend to rebel, sometimes, by getting pissed and writing blog posts. Maybe that’s passive aggressive, too… but I don’t want to get in a fight. I just want to be heard.
People can always choose whether or not to read the blog, right?
Anyway… that’s today’s deep thought. Now, time to get dressed. We need to go to the hardware store and get a new sun umbrella. Our old one (of two years) broke yesterday. So, sayonara, until tomorrow (probably).