…if only one could find some sort of cruelty that didn’t really hurt."
So says B. Shaw and that’s about right. I’d like to think the meanest thing I ever did was hatch a scheme to stuff (I didn’t do the stuffing; I had a friend who was heavily into "acting out" and happy to do it ) a 30# raccoon roadkill down the chimney of a guy who jilted me for his secretary. The roadkill lodged about a quarter way down and the ensuing stench proceeded to first mystify and then drive the blissful new couple from the premises for a week while the whole place was fumigated and I heard a rumor that his dog howled at the fireplace every morning at 2 AM for months. I could write this up with details for Blogging For Books and it might be sort of funny, except that I was, in theory, plenty old enough to know better so it was more pathetic than humorous. I still think it was just revenge but also pretty mean.
Anything else has either been in a momentary fit of anger when my gray matter editor stepped out, a quick shot below the belt that I instantly regretted or something I’m still not consciously aware of. I’m sure there was childhood stuff, but as the middle child I was more often the target of these transgressions: my brother sold his buddies nickel opportunities to climb the stepladder and watch me bathe when I was 8 and they were 10.
Friend Roberta writes this morning:
The meanest thing blog topic has me thinking really hard about man’s inhumanity….
Nothing you will come up with for your blog will equal or excel the poignant stories encased in those postcard secrets . "I love one of my children" or "He was never that into me and I let him fake it for over a year" "I was gang raped in college and turned into a slut almost immediately afterwards" "I haven’t spoken to my dad in 10 years and it kills me every day".
Do the people who gave these folks their secrets have the same secret? Do the other children think ‘My mother didn’t love me’ Does the guy regret ‘I was faking loving her’ Do the rapists recall ‘I took part in a gang rape that ruined a girl’s life’ Does the father sigh ‘My child hasn’t talked to me in 10 years and it kills me every single day’
In my experience folks aren’t as dumb as we hope. And if that is true, then the more interesting question is why do we stay friends (as your high school buddy did) with people who are mean to us.
Anyway, no more intriguing questions, please. I have work to do.
Patti sent an e-mail trying, I think, to re-focus my energies by referring me to NPR’s This I Believe essay writing contest. Patti is often my ‘good mother’ friend who not only believes in me (and others) but also pushes me to extend myself. A This I Believe essay, at this particular moment in my life, would have to do with caring for one’s parents even if they did a somewhat marginal job of caring for you- based on the notion that most parents probably do the best they can given circumstance, genetics and experience. And what color hat they wore. If I write that essay it will be first person and personal.
Finally, Roberta thoughtfully notes: Lets put cruel aside for a moment and think "How smart is it for a therapist to win an essay contest about being cruel?" She’s correct, of course and then there’s this: I’m actually a very nice person, within the range of normal but on the further end from cruel. Sometimes snarky, self-indulgent, given to hyperbole and a slut for yarn and sparkle-y glass things- but basically not cruel.