Wondering how to deal with the people you despise? Our resident self-help guru would love to help you. No, really.
Last week, while out blouse shopping with a patient, I ran into a former colleague whom I hate. She and I had shared an office at a wellness center a few years ago, and she was a major reason for my departure (aside from the fire). She's a horrible person – fake, boring and incredibly attractive. And while "incredibly attractive" may sound positive, I submit to you that there is nothing worse than a good-looking person who is also fake and boring. It's like putting a herding dog in solitary or wiping your ass with a Monet; an offensive waste of potential.
Her name is Margaret.
Of course, when I ran into Margaret, I gave her a great big hug and asked her how things are going. The theme from Buck Rogers played in my head as she rambled on about her life and I nodded with interest. When it looked like she was done, I laughed and told her it was great to run into her.
But I was lying. It had not been great.
After Margaret was gone, I left my client in the store to find her own damn blouse and jumped on the bus, flipping 75 cents to the man behind the wheel and asking him to "just drive." I was upset, and only partly because Margaret is such a C-U-Next-Tuesday (if you can pardon my French). I was far more disappointed in myself and the way I had acted. I had been inauthentic and pandering. I had embraced a woman I can't stand, wrapping my arms around her buttery, bitchy shoulders as if we were best friends.
But what's the alternative? Telling her to fuck off? That hardly seems necessary. She's never really done anything bad to me; she was just annoying to work with – horribly annoying – but not violent or evil on purpose. Making her feel awful wouldn't help her personality. Besides, why act like a total jerk on her behalf? As Charles Dickens said in Great Expectations, "…our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise." She's the bitch – why turn into one myself?
Yet there really wasn't any reason for me to hug her, to shower her with my attention, either. Wouldn't a polite handshake have been sufficient? One might be tempted to think I acted how I did because I'd still like to sleep with Margaret despite my hatred, but that's just not true. I'll be the first to admit that I'm an admirer of the female form, but I've never had the energy to spend my non-work hours with somebody just so I can ejaculate in or around them.
Perhaps I was overcompensating because I knew deep down that I hated a person, and I perceive this to be an undesirable character trait. "Love thy neighbor. Love thy enemy." Aren't those the ideals we're all supposed to aspire to? Feelings of malice feel bad in the bones, and sometimes we act out the opposite to erase them. Showering love on a jackass is perhaps a way to keep one's own jackassiness at bay.
Or, along those same lines, maybe I was acting out to demonstrate what a wonderful and magnanimous person that I am – to contrast myself with her, a person even non-snooty types would consider to be of low character. Maybe it was a way of punishing her, of demonstrating how a real human being should act, not some fake in a hot blouse. Of course, she was perfectly nice to me as well, so... Actually, now that I think of it, she was a lot nicer than she used to be. But that was probably because we haven't seen each other for so long.
The truth of the matter is – you're going to really hate some people in life. Not because they're bad people, but because your differences in upbringing, in smells, in taste – they clash. And it's one of those things in life that forces you to be dishonest. Treating a person you don't like with disdain is worthless, even though it may make you feel better in your imagination. In reality, brutalizing a person only makes you feel brutal, and that's a shit way to live. So you've got to be nice. But loving them too much is its own slithery form of spite, and no doubt you'll be sick about that, too. I know I am. Either way, you're unhappy.
But I suppose that hate should always bring with it unhappiness. So I don't have a checklist of "doables" for your next encounter with a nemesis. I can't figure it out myself. I know that when animals encounter rivals, they pace, make a face, and move on. Whatever the face is that we make, I guess the key is to move on. If you scowled, you scowled. If you smiled, you smiled. It really doesn't change anything.
Margaret's still a bitch.
More of Chad Fifer's incredibly insightful self-help advice can be found here .
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