Monday, November 22, 2010

"Base slave, thy words are blunt, and so art thou."

Once again I have injured a friend with the file-edge of my tongue.

I know I'm not a particularly kindly or gentle person. Much of my amiability is pure sloth; I seldom despise anyone violently enough to work up the energy to harry and insult them. I don't admire this in myself, and when I remember I try and force myself to assemble enough humanity to pass for sympathetic, but it has a way of seeping out when I don't watch for it. My sensibility - in the Austinite meaning of the term - is very poorly developed. So I can be quite the rude jerk when I'm not paying attention.

And it doesn't help that I spent a great deal of my early middle adulthood in company of soldiers, where physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and sartorial abuse is considered by many a combined art form, entertainment, and source of profound hilarity. We're talking the sort of give-and-take that placed little if anything off limits, from the morality, intelligence, honor, and personal hygiene of the principals to the chastity of their mothers, wives, and girlfriends...if it could be questioned, it was.

I also have very little personal reticence. I don't consider my own habits, hygiene, manners, mores, or ideas particularly sacred, or even particularly delicate. I will discuss the most appalling things without hesitation. I consider the observation "That's about the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard" a valid criticism if the statement in question has a chance of being in fact the stupidest fucking thing the listener has ever heard, and expect to be informed as such if I'm ever stupid enough to say something of the sort.

This is neither an admirable nor a civil trait.

I try and do my best to dress nicely and use a fork, to measure my words and speak judiciously, but the Yahoo in all of this comes out at the most inopportune moments and, often, leaves wounded feelings behind.

Some time ago, for example, I said something to a woman I will call Millicent. She and her husband adopted a little Chinese girl not much older than Missy and returned from China about the same time we did. They are of a similar background, taste, and general inclination as Mojo. Millicent even blogged for a bit, and their little family would turn up here from time to time, when we would socialize with them. They're good people, and I like and respect them.

But I had a knack, a positive gift for offending her. I said some things that fell under the heading of "affectionate abuse" for me but were genuine insults to her at one time and had apologized for them. But at some point last year I said something that she considered unforgivable - mortally insulting - and has since broken off all contact with my entire family because of what I said.

So my little girl misses out on another little girl who might be a wonderful playmate and friend, and my wife loses touch with a woman who was a friend of her own, and all because of something I did or said.

And the truly shaming thing is...I have absolutely no fucking idea what it was I said.

It is a bad thing when I say something so vilely insulting to someone that they irrupt any contact with my entire family rather than risk encountering me, even at a remove.

But it is an even worse thing when I don't even remember the incident or the insult or even that is WAS an insult.

Plainly, I need to work on my social skills.

And in the meantime I have, again, thoughtlessly hurt someone I like and whose company I enjoy. I cannot unsay those hard words; I wish I could. All I can do is beg pardon.

And try and sharpen the blunt edge of my wit against making the same mistakes again and again.

God, I can be a fucking idiot when I try."Convey him hence and on our longboat's side
Strike off his head."


Lisa said...

"Plainly, I need to work on my social skills"

Actually, methinks the lady could have done better to illumine you. Knowing you, your directness suggests directness in kind. I am reminded of a statement I read today which Saul bellow made to Lionel Trilling:

“Really, things are now what they always were, and to be disappointed in them is extremely shallow. We may not be strong enough to live in the present. But to be disappointed in it!”

So, you are who you are, and that you are direct is to your credit. You (and I) cannot deal with the need to tiptoe around someone's too-fragile ego. I have never been able to deal (literally and figuratively) with those who simply disappear. It seems so ... cowardly and punitive, at once.

sheerahkahn said...

Well, Chief, welcome to the asshole club, and not only am I a member, I'm a past president.
So take a seat, kick your feet up, and smile knowing that somewhere, someone is so hating on you right now that it borders on S&M.

Seriously just have to give the warning message that I give...

"I'm going to piss you off. I know you are going to say, "nah, I know you, so it won't bother me" but I will.
I will find the one thing in you that will push your button, and not only will I push that button...I will push it repeatedly right up to, and past the point where you go from being hurt to wishing all sorts of hateful shit on me.
And I want you to know...I know, I understand, and I'm sorry for hurting you.
But that being all said, I'm going to end up doing it anyway. So if you never talk to me again, I'll understand, and I won't bother you again out of respect for your feelings."

People can take me in small doses, but overexposure can really try the patience...just don't worry to much about it Chief...your wife understands you and loves you, if she didn't, she wouldn't have stuck around. Good woman, a lot of patience, she's a rare one to put up with men being men.

Lisa said...


I presume this behavior is somewhat exaggerated by you, and all in rough-and-tumble fun (?) Women should learn to roll with the punches. I am not speaking of putting up with sadistic b.s., but simply understanding that some men like to get as good as they give.

I personally love men who can be so up front about their foibles. Frankly, even if they don't recognize them -- as long as a man's heart is in the right place -- a real woman will forgive him his occasional ... indelicacies. It is men's forthrightness and lack of posturing that makes them appealing to me.

Women would do well to take themselves a little less seriously, and develop a sense of humor and forthrightness. It would go a long way to bridging the gender gap, IMHO.

Ael said...

Reminds me of the Dilbert cartoon of November 6, 2007.

rangeragainstwar said...

I'll be happy to share my secret of successful interpersonal skills.
In fact, i'm thinking of putting out a shingle.

Lisa said...


Ref. Ael's Dilbert.

Per your shingle: I wouldn't waste the money on an engraving tool if I were you :)