I’m Not Twelve

I’m fifty years past my tweens, those years of perpetually-perplexed living. I am an adult. I seldom squabble or complain, behaving hyper-responsibly to problem-solve my own good end. I may have retired from working, but I didn’t retire from thinking.

I’ve encountered a trio of wtf/duh, stupendously stupid replies when I shared a concern conversationally in the past few weeks. Let them alternately amuse, enrage, or amaze you, as they did me:

  1. After a casual lament about my hair that lapses into ‘hair don’t’ in wet, humid weather, a person said, “Have you tried hair spray?” (Uhm, really. I’m an Aqua Net survivor and Shaper user now.)
  2. When I recounted the disastrous four months when medical specialists led me through an increasingly deadly series of diagnoses – from plaque buildup in arteries to parathyroid tumor to multiple myeloma (none of which were true) – after a minuscule rise in calcium revealed in routine blood tests, a person said, “Why didn’t you just stop taking calcium supplements?” (what part of listening empathically did she not get – hum, all of it)
  3. When I indicated that I needed to move our conversation in the tree’s shade, so that I wasn’t standing long in the sun, the person said, “Have you heard about sunscreen?” (no, I adore sunburning and damaging my skin, along with the probability of getting cancer)

To which I should have replied, like my friend Gail suggested: “Are you trying to insult me or are you just stupid?” Apparently it’s a famous line in a movie, but my formative years were instructed by another famous movie line: “If you can say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” So I uttered none of the verbiage in italics.

I did not even think of Gail’s suggested remark. Nor did I bite my tongue’s retort in these undeniably insulting situations. I laughed and laughed and laughed right in the stupid person’s face.

In instances #1 and #3, that is. In instance #2, I swallowed my heart more than my tongue. I thought that I had been sharing with a caring friend…

images-2 images-3Which badge should I choose to give to these semi-insulters, as in my version of the comedian Bill Engdehl’s famous “Here’s your sign” bit?

Or, how do you handle people who give advice as if you were a little kid, undermining your character and intelligence, whether intended or not?



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One comment on “I’m Not Twelve
  1. Gail Suda says:

    Well, dear friend, as someone once said, “You can’t fix stupid”. Insensitive people are all around us and many times are hurtful, whether they mean to be or not. Sometimes jokes go wrong and sometimes people say things they don’t really mean to say. I’ve been guilty of these! I would hope my friends give me the benefit of doubt that I do care about them and I didn’t mean to insult. Sometimes my own overwhelming personal issues mask my ability to be helpful. One just never knows the other’s issues.

    If someone gives me advice after I’ve asked for it, I have to weigh my reply. I asked for it and I can’t make that person give me the answer for which I’m looking. I just thank them for their recommendations and then choose to or not follow. If someone give me unsolicited advice, that is a different story. In both cases, I have to ask myself, “Is this person a caring person who is just misinformed? Have they really heard me? Are they wanting to help or are they just enjoying hearing themselves talk?” If they are truly a caring, loving, friend, I would give them the benefit of doubt. If it’s someone I really am not that close with, I would just let it go in one ear and out the other.

    As for #2, empathy is a skill that people either are born with or acquire through self-awareness study. Sadly,most people are not very good at it. It is extremely hurtful when those we think are capable of hearing and appropriately responding to our story brush us off so abruptly,and seemingly uncaring. I have very few friends who I really feel safe in sharing extremely personal matters. And few is good for me.

    You asked what could you have said back to them? For #1 and #3, something like, “Of course I use hairspray/sunscreen! That’s not the issue.” That gives them a second chance to come up with some helpful advice. And, I truly believe we all need second chances!

    PS I love the button on the right! 🙂

    The good news here, PJ, is that you don’t have to live, work, or party with any of the these people! The bad news is nothing you do will make them be like you…..:(

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