When you have to tell someone to STFU…
Yesterday, Bill had to take me to Clay Kaserne so I could turn in a passport renewal application. Because we live in Germany under special circumstances, we have to renew our passports through the Army instead of the usual way. I will get my tourist passport updated, and then it will get a new “SOFA” stamp, which is basically like a residential permit for people affiliated with the U.S. government.
As we were coming back from turning in my passport application, we were on the Autobahn, and Bill was trying to negotiate as a trucker cut him off in traffic. A woman driving behind Bill obviously thought she knew how he should be driving. She wanted him to get into another lane or move faster, and indicated her preferences rather colorfully in her car. She didn’t see that there was a vehicle in front of Bill preventing him from doing her bidding, but he could see her shaking her head at him and giving him a disapproving look (many Germans are world class at the art of the disapproving look).
As Bill expressed frustration at the meddlesome driver who couldn’t see what he did, I quipped, “Why doesn’t she drive her own car, and let you drive yours?” I’m reminded of that as I write today’s post. Sometimes, we need to remind people to “drive their own cars” instead of driving yours. In other words, you live your life, and I’ll live mine.
My relatives seem to experience different versions of our family, all based on which branch of the family they’re in. I have a bunch of cousins in Georgia and Texas– descendants of one of my dad’s sisters and one of his brothers– who are all pretty close. Or so it seems. My immediate family is not now, nor has it ever been, close-knit. My three sisters and I are scattered and we don’t typically spend a lot of time together. I suspect that when my mom dies, we may even lose touch entirely with each other. I grew up mostly fending for myself, even as people were telling me what to do. I realize that doesn’t make sense. It does make sense if you observe my family. We’re not particularly close, but some people within it have no trouble giving you unsolicited opinions or orders about what you should or should not be doing.
Three years ago today, I had an online altercation with my aunt’s brother. This aunt, who was once one of my favorite people in the world, was married to my dad’s brother, who died of a stroke last year. My dad’s brother and I were pretty close… or as close as one can get in my version of the family.
As I was looking at my social media memories, I ran across the altercation I had with my aunt’s brother. I once had a lot of respect for him. He’s a retired Virginia state trooper, a retired soldier, and has worked with Bill and a bunch of his former Army colleagues. In fact, this guy met Bill in person before I did, and made sure to tell me that Bill isn’t a psychopath. He may be a major reason why Bill and I met and got married. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes he doesn’t deserve to be told to “stifle it”.
My aunt’s brother– I’ll call him Roscoe– used to be a social media contact. He had a bad habit of chastising me for swearing on my Facebook page. He’d leave comments like “quit it” when I’d use the f-bomb or a similarly taboo word. He’d remind me that swearing isn’t “ladylike”. I usually ignored him or left him a gentle rebuke. But three years ago, I finally had enough. When he, yet again, gave me a hard time for using the word “fuck” on my page, I wrote this response:
If it bothers you, you can always hit the fucking unfriend button. Spare yourself and me a lot of fucking grief. I am 45 years old and I will cuss if I fucking want to. Got it?
A lot of people thought that was a funny comment. I suppose it was pretty funny. But I was being deadly serious when I wrote it. At some point, it’s got to be okay to be who you are. I spent most of my youth feeling like who I was wasn’t okay. It was a message I got from supposed “loved ones” and “friends” who weren’t really friends. I spent a lot of time in therapy and on antidepressants, and I experienced an awakening in my late 20s, realizing that despite using the occasional curse word, I’m really not a bad person. That was a freeing realization, even though a lot of people have missed the memo.
In 2017, I wrote about this incident on my original blog. My original post was pretty good, and explains some of the context of how it happened that I finally needed to explicitly tell my aunt’s brother to STFU.
What happened was, the day prior, Bill and I had a minor argument. It was triggered by an insult I had received on Facebook from a man. I teased Bill for not fighting for my honor. I truly was teasing him. Bill is a bit of a white knight, and I thought it was funny that he wasn’t sticking up for me. It was a joke– because as we both know, in most situations, I don’t need anyone to fight my battles for me. Certainly not on Facebook.
But that gently ribbing comment triggered Bill, whose ex wife used to torment him by telling him about how he didn’t measure up and never “fought” for her. She even went to the point of ruining songs and children’s books by using them as object lessons as to how Bill should behave. It was very insulting to him, especially since he was not the one who was abusive in their relationship.
He got really upset with me. I could see it on his face. For an instant, he looked angry enough to lash out physically, although he didn’t. We had a serious discussion, then made up. Then, the next day, we went to a nude spa and hung out with a bunch of Germans who were also naked. I was relaxed and happy and posted about how being nude with Germans put me in a good frame of mind.
The same guy who had insulted me the day prior and triggered the fight between Bill and me, came back and insulted me again. That time, I posted this:
“What the hell is wrong with you? Why are you picking on me? Kindly fuck the hell off, if you can’t be nice.”
The insulter then deleted his comment, but not before the language cop, my aunt’s brother, saw it. He decided to give me some shit for swearing.
Bad words are a dead end. No place on FB.
There I was… in a pretty good mood and posting about it. For that, I first get insulted by a “friend”; then when I confront said friend, I get chastised by a “loved one” for cussing. And I’m in my mid 40s (circa 2017– I’m even OLDER now)! At what point is it okay for me to decide for myself how I will communicate? At what point do people recognize that I can make these kinds of choices and deal with the consequences for myself? I mean, I haven’t lived with my family of origin in decades, but some of them act as if I still need parental guidance.
That’s why I decided to tell “Roscoe” to pound sand. However, I still felt a bit guilty about it. I was raised not to swear, so I feel funny about doing it, even though I do it all the time. I guess it’s a form of rebellion for me. This was his unedited follow up comment:
Why cuss words? A valid issue or concern can do without. Get mad, threatek NJ mm w u atbis by th r poin5 Il)
“Roscoe” responded in a disappointing way. He was very patronizing and non-sensical. So I left another response:
I don’t know what the hell you’re trying to say here, but I would appreciate it if you would let me be me. I’m not a bad person, nor am I stupid or in need of special guidance from my elders. I promise you that when I need to be articulate, I can be articulate. I don’t even have to use what you refer to as “bad words”. But I choose to swear sometimes and that is my right as a grown ass American. If it offends you, there are steps you can take to spare yourself the injury. I, for one, will fucking cuss as much and whenever I want to… especially on Facebook. Good night.
It wasn’t long after that incident that I kicked “Roscoe” off of my page for the same kind of behavior. On more than one occasion, he lectured me about everything from the language I used to my political leanings. “Roscoe” is a devoted Trump supporter and I, of course, am not. And he wasn’t even really my relative– except by marriage. After that, I started kicking other supposed loved ones off of my page. Although it’s sad to me that I don’t have many relatives who are “friends”, I have found that I am a lot happier when I communicate with people who realize that I’m an adult who doesn’t need anyone lecturing or shaming me about the language I use or most anything else.
Not everyone likes me, but one thing I have heard from more than one person is that I am not “fake”. What you see is mainly what you get. For most of my life, I’ve gotten the message from people close to me that who I am is not okay. Now that I’m older, I realize that’s simply not true. And anyone who tries to shame me, when I know for a fact that their shaming isn’t valid, can just fuck off. If the worst you can say about me is that I use “bad words”, I figure I’m doing alright.
One complaint some people have had about me is that sometimes I vent in my blog. Sometimes people read what I write in my blog and feel that I’m “unfair”. Sometimes, people read rants I’ve written about them or someone they know and then try to shame me into shutting up. It’s really simple, though. If you don’t want that kind of feedback from me, you can simply treat me with basic respect or just leave me alone. I’ll do the same, and you won’t be on the receiving end of a rant. With the exception of certain politicians or celebrities, I don’t write these things unless I am provoked.
Don’t treat middle aged people like children. Don’t tell them they don’t have the right to their thoughts, feelings, experiences, or freedom of expression. Don’t be disrespectful to people if you don’t want them to be disrespectful to you. Don’t read things you don’t want to read. Don’t blame other people for things that are your responsibility. As I wrote in 2017,
I have learned that I am who I am, and it’s a lot easier to be that person than to try to be someone I’m not. I will never be the genteel, sweet, refined Southern lady my dad apparently hoped I would be. I will never be tiny, demure, super feminine or ladylike. There was a time when I really suffered because I wanted to be those things… I was pressured to be those things by my father and, to a lesser extent, my mother. To her credit, my mom has mellowed out a lot. I think it helps that she’s seen that Bill and I are happy and being who I am hasn’t hurt me. In fact, a lot of people seem to enjoy who I am. The ones who don’t probably aren’t worth the effort anyway.
Trying to be someone I’m not eventually led to depression and anxiety, along with years of flirtation with eating disorders. It took years for me to move beyond those crippling and very damaging feelings of low self-worth. I don’t want to go back to those days. In fact, I refuse to do it.
I’m 45 (now 48) years old and and I am who I am. Who I am is not a bad person. Take it or leave it. And if you don’t like my use of the occasional four letter word, kindly fuck off and leave me alone.
I’m sorry for yet another rerun, but I think this is a message that bears repeating. Some people out there in Internetland need to read it, either because people are discounting and disapproving of them, or they are doing the discounting and disapproving.
It’s just so easy. Above all, you live your life. I’ll live mine. You drive your car. I’ll drive mine. Simple… and if I want to curse, Goddammit, I’m going to curse.