condescending twatbags

Overbearing people are hard to bear…

Yesterday, I was on RfM and noticed that someone had bumped up an old post of mine from 2011. It was a rant I posted about “overly helpful” people. In those days, I had frequent dealings with a woman I only knew online who rubbed me the wrong way on a regular basis. I knew her from a message board that is now defunct, but the drama followed me to Facebook. Finally, in 2014, I blocked her. That decision wasn’t without drama, either. I remember when I finally made the decision to banish her from my online world, I said to Bill, “You just wait. Sometime today, I’ll get an email from her.”

Sure enough, later that day I did get an email demanding to know why I had blocked her. I don’t know about you, but to me, when someone uses the block button on Facebook, it means they don’t want to talk to you or hear from you. As I recall, I ignored her message. In earlier times, I had patiently responded to her, even though she bugged the shit out of me. I had finally had enough of her passive aggressive digs and obnoxiously overbearing comments, and realized that responding to her would only prolong the pain.

I was kind of amused to read that thread, especially since I remembered how I was feeling that day in 2011. She had pushed me to my wit’s end. At that time, the message board we were on was still active and I hadn’t wanted to abandon it, because I liked most of the women there. We were also both admins on the board, so we kind of had to “work” together. A few sympathetic people commented. I noticed that the person who bumped that thread to 2020 had similar issues as mine, which was why the thread was reactivated. These were the behaviors I had observed from her that were making me nuts:

* Chiming in with a “more informed” opinion whenever I’d try to express an opinion.

* Usually having some kind of unsolicited “helpful advice” or “fake concern” for me.

* Playing “devil’s advocate” or presenting a contrary opinion to any given subject I raise.

* Was rarely just supportive, but instead seemed to feel the need to “one up” everybody else and be the “voice of reason”.

* Doesn’t seem to understand or care how condescending and annoying she is to others.

In 2012, that message board where I had regular dealings with that overbearing woman mercifully went kerfluey, and most everyone moved to Facebook. It wasn’t long before I needed to unfriend the woman who had irritated me so much. I just couldn’t take her shit anymore, especially since I tried very hard not to engage her. Fortunately, that wasn’t a big deal. She didn’t seem to notice that I’d unfriended her, probably because we had so many mutual friends. She did her thing. I did mine. It wasn’t until November 2014, when she went too far with her disrespect that I finally pushed the block button. She’s been blocked ever since, and I don’t miss her at all.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about people like that woman. Overbearing people… especially overbearing women… really and consistently grind my gears. I’m not sure why I react to them the way I do. It could be because some of my family members are overbearing, domineering, and disrespectful to me and treat me like I’m stupid when I know I’m not. It’s gotten to the point at which I can barely stand to be around them. So now, when someone is like that to me, I tend to react negatively. If the behavior doesn’t change very quickly, the negative reaction turns into outright contempt. I may be obnoxious and opinionated, but I try not to dictate to people what they should or should not be doing in their own lives, especially when whatever they’re doing doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t like overbearing behavior in men, either, but they seem to annoy me somewhat less than women do. I find controlling women very offensive.

This morning I was thinking of all of the women who have been in significant conflict with me over my lifetime and I’ve noticed that the vast majority of them were very controlling and dictatorial, and quite a few employ manipulative, passive aggressive methods to get others to do their bidding. When those ploys don’t work, they become openly hostile, aggressive, and rude. And… I tend to respond in kind, because I resent being told what to do by people who aren’t necessarily any more qualified than I am in knowing what to do.

Maybe I’m just as bad as they are, though. It’s no secret that I’m loud and opinionated, and my father used to criticize me a lot for being “arrogant” and “bitchy”. Personally, I don’t think I was that arrogant as much as I was strong-willed and independent. My dad was a control freak, and he passed that trait on to a couple of my sisters. As a child, I put up with it because I had to in order to survive. As an adult, to some extent, I don’t really have to put up with it anymore. But I have found that I now have an unusual sensitivity to it… and if a woman is particularly bossy or intrusive to me, it’s a fair bet we’ll eventually have a conflict. Most of the time, it’s not worth trying to work things out with this type of person, because they think they’re right and refuse to compromise.

I remember back in 2011, when I was having regular dealings with the woman who had prompted that thread on RfM, she was pushing me close to the end of my patience. After she’d left me a shaming, demeaning comment on some topic we were discussing, I wrote something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but whether or not you realize it, some of your responses to me are very offensive and condescending. It’s upsetting to me, and I feel like you’ve provoked me to respond in kind.”

The thing is, I had really thought about this response before I posted it. I tried hard to be assertive rather than aggressive. I wanted to enforce my boundaries without making things worse. I hoped she could see my side. But she was offended anyway, and didn’t see where she’d done anything wrong. Sure enough, I got a nasty private message in which she spat, “What was the point of apologizing if you were just going to insult me?!”

I remember taking a deep breath and trying, once again, to respond in a way that would not offend her, yet make her realize that I didn’t appreciate her condescending tone toward me. It didn’t work, and the bullshit continued apace for a few more years, with her continuing to feel free to send me private messages and unsolicited emails. The funny thing is, I don’t remember ever inviting her to correspond with me in such a way. She simply felt emboldened to do so.

Finally, about three years later, we reached the straw that broke the camel’s back. She’d left a nasty little passive aggressive dig in a Facebook comment to me. A mutual friend had posted about legalizing marijuana and asked her friends what we thought of it. The conversation was going well until I mentioned that Bill had lived with “pot head roommates” in college and hadn’t liked the way marijuana had affected them. He doesn’t like smoke, and as someone who works with the government, he’s not allowed to use recreational drugs, anyway.

So the passive aggressive bitch writes, “He’s never lived with alcoholics? 😉 😉 “

It’s possible that her comment was completely innocuous, but usually winking smilies imply a hidden meaning… and I had a feeling she was, once again, subtly insulting me, while trying to appear friendly and innocent. And truthfully, by that point, I had become very sensitive to her communications. Like… it was at the point that almost anything she posted irritated me, no matter how inconsequential. But I got the impression that my “frenemy” was trying to imply that Bill is currently married to an alcoholic, and that’s worse than dealing with potheads.

You see, it’s not a secret that I come from a long line of drunks. I drink, too. Maybe I’m even an alcoholic by some people’s standards. However, I have never met this woman in person and we have certainly never hung out over alcoholic drinks. Maybe my personality is because I drink. Maybe it’s simply the way I am. I don’t see how she’d know, since we never met offline. She seemed to be making an assumption or even a declaration that I have a drinking problem, even though we’ve not met and she’s not a mental health professional.

This wasn’t the first time she’d commented on my drinking habits– alcoholic or not. For some reason, she was unusually concerned about what I drink, even when the beverages weren’t boozy. This same woman often used to lecture me because I used to drink a lot of Diet Pepsi. She said that wasn’t healthy, and would frequently offer me an unsolicited laundry list of why it wasn’t something I should be doing. She’s right that diet sodas are bad for one’s health. I have since given up diet sodas, though not because of her “advice”… and I actually rarely drink non-diet sodas now. I mostly stick to bubbly water, if anyone’s curious. But yes, I do enjoy alcohol, and I admit it. Seems like that’s my business and Bill’s, unless I do something that affects other people negatively.

In any case, I’m certain that she knew her comment was shitty, demeaning, and insulting. It might have been one thing if we were friends and she was legitimately concerned. We weren’t really friends, and she was being rude, yet cowardly, as she was trying not to appear like she was insulting me. I didn’t appreciate it, and decided it was finally time for me to drop kick her off my social media once and for all. Even if she hadn’t meant it as a dig, that’s still the way it came across, and I was so tired of fielding those kinds of comments from her. And then predictably sending me an email demanding to know why I’d blocked her– as if that was some kind of serious affront because, according to her, she never does anything wrong— pretty much made me decide that we don’t need to speak again. I might have reacted differently if her approach had been more respectful, but demanding to know why she’s not allowed to harass me in my space is not cool. Taken alone, that comment was easy to ignore. Taken with all of her other little barbs and subtle insults over the years, it was just too much.

The funny thing is, that happened about five years ago, and I have found that I have even less patience and tolerance for overbearing women. I just feel like I don’t have to take orders from people to whom I am not somehow beholden. In other words, if you’re not paying me to work, someone I live with or love, or someone who has the power to arrest me or do something else life altering, I don’t have to do what you tell me to do. I don’t have to accept abusive criticism, insults, or covert hostility. And if you feel entitled enough to issue orders, act holier-than-thou, be hostile, or otherwise act like a passive aggressive creep, you can just fuck right off. Life is too short to deal with people who can’t be straightforward and civilized.

Anyway… I rarely think about her anymore, which is a good thing. I just thought it was funny that thread from 2011 was revived and so many people seemed to relate to it in 2020. I’m surprised it didn’t get more attention when it was a current concern. Clearly, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

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Ex

Enjoying the silence…

It’s not a punishment to be shunned by an asshole…

We’re coming up on a year in Wiesbaden. A year ago, we found the house we’re in, and it was about this time in 2018 that we were starting to plan our move. Even though the house we’re in is much better than our old one was, and our current landlords are much more mature and respectful, I remember being very anxious about the move for many reasons.

I knew that our former landlords would be screwing us out of our deposit. I knew that our ex landlady would be passive aggressive and angry. In fact, she’d been passive aggressive all year, probably because she was offended when Bill asked her to give us notice before she came over to the house. We were certainly entitled to notice. It was clearly stated in our lease. But when Bill politely asked her to let us know before she came over, she became belligerent. In an email to Bill, she made it plain that she would NOT be telling us when she was coming to do her yard work… which by then had become sporadic, even though we were paying her to do it. She claimed she was “too busy” to send us a four word text or email.

The message was that Bill and I are not busy… or, more specifically, I’m not “busy”. She has a life and I don’t; therefore, she had every right to disturb me whenever she pleased, even if I was doing something important or private, not dressed appropriately, sick, in the shower, having sex, etc. Because I don’t have children and wasn’t working outside of the home, I couldn’t possibly doing anything that shouldn’t be interrupted by her uninvited presence. I don’t have the right to feel disrespected and discounted. After all, I’m just Bill’s childless, seemingly unemployed wife. Who cares if my privacy or peace is violated? By the way… just because someone doesn’t work outside of the house, that doesn’t mean they aren’t working. For all ex landlady knew, I could have been working remotely. A lot of people do that. It wouldn’t have been any of her business, either, as long as she was being paid.

There we were, paying these people to let us live in their house. We were also paying them to do yard work, on their insistence. I will never again rent from people who insist on doing the yard work. It’s a sign that they will be intrusive and controlling.

Even though we were paying them, they were acting as if we were employed by them. They had the right to intrude whenever they pleased. They had the right to yell at me in my own home, accuse me of things I didn’t do, demand that I do chores, insult me, violate the lease, and become extremely defensive and nasty whenever something went wrong. I never heard them take any responsibility or give us the benefit of the doubt. I never heard ex landlady apologize when she falsely accused me of being negligent– such as when the electric Rolladen wouldn’t come down and she claimed it was because I didn’t use it enough. The real issue was that it wasn’t installed properly, and she later admitted to that fact. But she never apologized for blaming me for that issue. She wasn’t even concerned that I could have been seriously hurt when the awning that her husband didn’t fix properly suddenly collapsed. In fact, she blamed me, since I wasn’t sitting under it when it went down. I guess she wanted me to break bones or suffer a concussion on her property.

Then, when she predictably ripped us off, we asserted our rights. And she became even more vindictive, threatening to countersue for things she claims we damaged, but can’t prove we did… because she neglected to do basic landlord tasks like conduct a proper check in. We were expected to be perfect, but she was not. Why? Because she probably already thinks she’s perfect. Her behavior is very narcissistic and controlling. She gave us the silent treatment because we weren’t falling in line and giving her the deference she thinks she’s owed. I guess the silent treatment must have worked in the past. People who care about her must have acquiesced when she’s used that tactic on them. The difference in our case is, I don’t have that kind of relationship with the ex landlady. When she accused me of being irresponsible, negligent, filthy, lazy, a homewrecker, etc., I stopped wanting to appease her. I stopped wanting to even be in the same room with her, let alone talk to her. So I enjoyed the silent treatment and responded in kind. That’s not the best way to settle differences, but when one person refuses to cooperate, it’s probably a sanity saver. I don’t make time for verbally abusive people who refuse to behave in an adult manner.

Ironically, the last year in that house was probably our happiest overall, even though she was pissed at us and giving us the silent treatment. What she doesn’t realize is that it’s not a punishment to be shunned by someone who is immature, and engages in childish power plays in a passive aggressive attempt to get other people to change their behavior. I enjoyed the silence. It was a relief. Honestly, why would I want to talk to someone who acts like that? It’s not a punishment to be shunned by someone who behaves like an asshole.

And if there was ever anyone wondering why I penned frustrated, angry posts about her when this was going on, it seems to me that the reason is obvious. I could have yelled back at her. The thought crossed my mind. But I knew that if I started yelling, I might not be able to stop before I said something truly vicious. Besides, that would just be lowering myself to her immature level. So instead, I let my face do the talking and vented about it in writing. Apparently, I didn’t have the right to do that, either, since she’s clearly 100% right and I’m clearly 100% wrong. I got messages from her flying monkey about how wrong I was to be angry and vent on my space about the way I was being treated. She said this even though she’s got one side of the story… or, she doesn’t believe my side. It’s none of her business, anyway, is it?

It’s been a year, and I’m feeling somewhat better. I wish I were the type of person who could just flip my hair and be done with it. It takes me awhile to get over stuff. I own that. This is going to be resolved and things will be back to normal soon. We just have to go to court.

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psychology

German style toxic passive aggression…

Part of the reason I moved my almost nine year old blog to a new site is an indirect consequence of passive aggression. It’s been on my mind lately, as Bill and I reflect on the four years we spent living near Stuttgart, dealing with the frankly toxic effects of people who refuse to clear the air in a direct way. It’s hard to live in a situation in which a person is obviously angry, but refuses to confront that anger constructively.

What is “passive aggression”.

Most people are passive aggressive sometimes. There are times when it doesn’t feel “safe” to be directly confrontational, so angry feelings are pushed beneath the surface. Sometimes, being passive aggressive is a matter of self-preservation. For instance, when I was growing up, I was often very angry with my father. However, I learned very early not to confront him directly, since it would often lead to painful physical and emotional consequences. So I would often seethe when he was around… anger festered, and I must admit, it’s still an issue today, almost five years after his death. In fact, I would even venture to guess that some of my problems stem from unresolved issues with my father, who often treated me with contempt and disdain. I was rarely allowed to address my issues with him and I almost never got validation when I did address them. The end result is that I have a lot of baggage and very little tolerance for people who show me disrespect.

I think “German” style passive aggression, is kind of different than “garden variety” passive aggression. I think it comes from German culture, which gives it a particularly nasty quality. I’ve noticed it a lot during this stint in Germany. This week, I read about two true crime cases that illustrate it quite well. The first case took place in Fischbach, a hamlet near Kaiserslautern. A lot of Americans live near there, since there is an Army installation close by. An American woman, now living in the United States, had rented out her house to other Americans. Prior to renting out her home, she hired gardener Bernhard Graumann to design a garden for her.

Evidently, the homeowner didn’t like Graumann’s work. They had a dispute. Graumann was angry enough that he booby trapped the woman’s carport with a log that had a bomb within it. The landlady moved back to the States before the trap harmed her. Fortunately, the trap was found before anyone else was hurt; presumably, that would have been the innocent American tenants who were living there. Police determined that if the log had detonated, it would have destroyed a wood stove. They detonated the explosive in a safe way, so no one was harmed. However, other people who had dealings with Graumann were not so lucky.

In Otterberg, a woman and her small child were injured by a similar device left to be discovered by an unlucky person. A 64 year old physician in Enkenbach-Alsenborn died last Friday when he touched a booby trap. Police believe that these incidents were also perpetrated by Graumann, who is now himself dead as of last Sunday. The cause of his death is currently unknown. Police are saying that Graumann purposely made these booby traps to deliberately hurt or kill people with whom he had issues. He’d leave them in places where they might or might not be discovered, completely taking his victims by surprise and injuring or even killing innocent people in the interim.

Police set up a hotline to find out if other people had problems with Graumann in personal or professional relationships. Sure enough, over 100 references have been recorded, some of which is information about Graumann’s life and some which regard personal conflicts people had with Graumann, a man many described as “withdrawn”. Graumann, who was 59 years old when he died and was a member of a medieval club where he worked with “black powder”, was married and had two grown children, one of whom is now a police officer. The son who is a cop is not working on this particular case.

The second case I read about is even more sinister. In the northern German city of Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock, a 23 year old man fell into a persistent vegetative state after ingesting high levels of mercury. Investigators were at a loss as they tried to determine how the man had fallen ill.

Another man, who had worked with the 23 year old on the same shift, also got sick and visited a doctor at least five times, complaining of mysterious symptoms. He was later found to have severe kidney damage. A third man, Klaus Radke, went to the police after several instances of noticing a brownish substance in his sandwich he’d brought from home. Hidden cameras were finally installed in the break room where these three men had worked. That’s when they discovered their colleague, Klaus O., was poisoning them.

Why was Klaus O. poisoning his co-workers’ food? Well, it wasn’t because he was necessarily angry with them personally. A psychiatrist who interviewed him explained that Klaus O. was “interested in watching the effects of poisons on his victims’ health”. Klaus O. had his own home lab, which included lead, cadmium and mercury. Klaus Radke, whose sharp eyes had noticed the “brownish substance” on his sandwiches, had brought one to the police for sampling. Lab tests discovered over 71,000 micrograms of lead within it. The police later discovered that Klaus O. had ordered more poisons online just before he was arrested. Investigators also found extremely high levels of mercury on the man’s property.

What caused Klaus O. to so callously harm his co-workers, with whom he’d apparently had no real or obvious conflicts? It’s hard to say definitively, although the court did hear testimony from Klaus O.’s estranged siblings and other family members. They described his upbringing, which was evidently traumatic and marred by poverty. Was this the reason why Klaus O. felt the need to strike out at innocent people by surreptitiously poisoning their food? Maybe… or maybe he’s just a sociopath who would have turned out this way regardless.

Many people are uncomfortable with openly expressing hostility. It’s as if being angry and expressing that emotion is some kind of sin. But anger is a very natural and normal emotion. Sometimes it’s even a motivating and constructive feeling. Bottling it up is unhealthy. On the other hand, expressing it can also be hurtful. I moved my blog, in part, because I was openly expressing anger that was making other people uncomfortable and they were confronting me in a way that was making the situation worse.

Germany is different than the United States is. Things are done by the book. I now live in a country where a person can be sued for verbally insulting another person and flipping someone the bird in traffic can lead to a very expensive fine. I am not German, so I don’t know what they learn when they are growing up in this society where it’s illegal to be insulting. However, knowing how challenging and frustrating life can be, particularly when you must deal with people with whom you don’t mesh, I can see how the habit of being passive aggressive could develop in a place where venting openly can lead to the courtroom. On the other hand, in the United States, expressing anger and engaging in conflict sometimes leads to violence. Here, people insist on civility… at least on the surface. In the United States, civility is less important and, I think, that sometimes leads to real tragedies.

I notice a lot of jokes about German passive aggression. In fact, just Googling it led me to this humorous blog post written by a fellow expat who has observed it. I have also noticed that Germans are also openly aggressive in some situations. If you do something that isn’t “right”, you can expect to be yelled at by someone. It’s happened to me more than once. This is a very “rules oriented” society, and people are very open about telling you when you’ve messed up. But if they stay angry with you, you might start noticing little subtle things that eventually become less subtle.

A good example of German passive aggression spotted in a public toilet. The sign requests that users not throw things on the floor and to use the toilet brush. The handwritten part beneath it requests that the people cleaning the toilets do something about the stench.

Don’t get me wrong. I do love living in Germany and I have developed a real affection for most German people. I’ve made friends here and there’s a lot to love about the German lifestyle. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the German style of passive aggression. I find it maddening.

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