It occurs to me that perhaps in recent times I’ve slightly depersonalised this blog, and on a number of days it’s been little more than a place for me to post links to interesting things (not that I’m knocking interesting things, you understand) or to pontificate about subjects (the vast majority of which, we all know, I have a limited knowledge about, but that’s rarely stopped me in real life either). So I thought it was about time I posted something a bit more personal.
I have, for much of my life, confused being a decent chap with being a bit of a doormat. Particularly when it comes to women (historically, that is), I’ve been inclined to equate a willingness to let other people get what they want with being ‘a good guy’. Obviously, I want to be one of the good guys – and hope that in the main part I am – but it does mean that on many occasions I’ve allowed my own desires to be secondary, or permitted people to be rude to me and not said anything back, in order to keep the peace.
This is partly a result of my upbringing (too much reading of superhero comics and wanting to be the hero, I fear), and also of my previous work in Customer Service (where you have to pretend that The Customer Is Always Right – you don’t have to actually believe it, just act accordingly), and almost certainly of the strange political air when I was at college in the late 1980s (a subject I keep starting blog entries on, but which I can’t quite get the right words for… yet. I will), and no doubt other experiences and relationships.
It’s certainly had a knock-on effect in my life, meaning that I haven’t pursued things which I’ve wanted, or spoken out in my favour when I could have done, lest I should offend or in some way prevent someone else getting what they want. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that it’s actually a self-reinforcing behavioural pattern, in that if people think I’m likely to let them have what they want, they’ll be more likely to push their luck, and so on.
But as Seymour Krelbourne in ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’ sings (in ‘The Meek Shall Inherit’), “No! No! There’s only so far you can bend”, and for me that happened on a fairly major level in January of this year.
I won’t go into the details, but suffice to say someone did something which pissed months of my time away and hurt my feelings, and when I pointed out what they’d done, they refused to take responsibility or show any remorse, and generally wheedled and lied about it – to me and people close to me. And whilst people close to me have said they understand my position, I think they’ve been faintly surprised that I’ve maintained my position on this – that is, that a wrong has been done and that I will never again speak to the person responsible – in the face of quite a lot of pressure, both explicit and implied.
This hasn’t necessarily been an easy thing for me to learn to do – though it’s abundantly clear to me that I needed to learn how to do it – and it’s been by turns upsetting and frustrating, and it’s frequently shown how I’m tacitly expected to drop the issue and effectively let the wrongdoer off the hook (and please, don’t think that this was the first time this person has behaved like this towards me or those close to me, because it really wasn’t). I’ve been fortunate in that my soon-to-be-wife Jules has had more experience of standing firm in such situations, because at the slightest sign of wavering on my part, she’s been there to remind me of the wrong done, and what I need to do.
And I have to say that I feel better for having stood my ground. I think I’ve written before of how moving from the South of England to the North led to me feeling like a bit of an outsider, or a weirdo, and whilst I have no problem at all with that status (see Colin Wilson’s excellent book ‘The Outsider’ for numerous examples of why this is an important position socially and creatively), it’s perhaps telling that I have, more times than not, let other people have what they want for fear of appearing unreasonable or causing offence. Hardly, I realise, the behaviour of a wide-eyed loner who doesn’t care if he travels the road to oblivion alone.
This post is, as I say, in the spirit of candour, and as it isn’t an essay or argument, I don’t have any direct conclusion to share or point to make, other than to suggest that, if you find yourself faltering when you know you’re in the right (and in the situation I’m alluding to above, I can provide solid factual evidence that the other person was lying), I heartily recommend that you take a moment to consider whether that faltering comes from a wish to gain approval – and if so, whether approval from the person in question is actually worth having, if they’re willing to ignore your side of things. And if course, there are the people who could suffer similar treatment if you let it pass – rewarding or permitting bad behaviour in a so-called adult is just as misplaced as with a child, as they too will carry on behaving that way.
Final thought: I used to work with a chap who would come into work two or three days a week, and frequently announce that he was working from home on Friday at about 4.45 on Thursday afternoon, often inconveniencing other people, and yet there was something about the way he did it which made it seem perfectly normal and reasonable. I commented on it to a friend, saying that his manner made it sound as if he was doing the logical thing, and that any suggestion to the contrary was sheer madness, and I noted that it was as if his words were rewriting reality as we perceived it to bring us into line with his thinking. My friend agreed, though like most people who aren’t me, she found a much more succinct way to describe it: “Piss-taking with panache”.
So, I say, let’s not let people take the piss, be it with panache or not. And if they try, let them know you know what they’re doing, and that you won’t accept it. You can be pretty sure they won’t try it again.