Monthly Archives: February 2013

White People Are Passive-Aggressive

And That's How To Be A Lady

Before I catch any flack for this, allow me to acknowledge that this post’s title is potentially offensive and overly-generalized. And let me follow that up by informing you that that was entirely my point.

You see, for some time now, I’ve had this theory floating around my head. It started a couple months ago when I had a communication issue with one of my best friends. We were having an argument because I had been hurt by an action he had taken, despite having given him what I felt were sufficient implications that I wanted him to do something different.

His very correct point was that it was not fair for me to imply something and then hold him to reading those implications accurately. Very simply- if I want to ensure that someone understands what I want and need, I need to explain those things as clearly as possible.

Upon hearing this, I took a moment to figure out why I felt the need to imply my feelings instead of clearly state them in the first place. I realized that when there are other people involved, it feels very rude for me to just bluntly state what I feel without considering anyone else. Maybe I’ll seem selfish. Maybe they won’t like what I have to say. Maybe it will hurt their feelings. Maybe I’ll seem too confrontational. If I don’t appear open to their feelings, maybe they’ll feel obligated to comply to my wishes! I certainly don’t want any of this to happen.

So instead of sounding forceful, I try to hint at what I’m feeling. This way they get an idea, while hopefully: A) giving them the feeling that they have the freedom to choose for themselves, making sure that they feel no pressure to do what I want, or B) I didn’t hurt their feelings too much or make them angry by telling them something they don’t like.

The wheels started spinning in my head. While this felt like the most considerate, un-selfish form of communicating, it was also extremely ineffective and created problems like my friend and I were now having. So maybe it’s not the best way to deal with things after all. Yet, why had I come to utilize this act of passive-aggressive, insufficient means of communication in the first place? I didn’t know.

I began to think about people in our culture who did not have this problem. I thought about my friends, my family, people on television and in day-to-day life that I’ve come into contact with. Strange as it may sound, I resolved through my own perception that your average “Middle-Class White American” is a more prevalent culprit of this communication issue than anyone else I could think of.

It seemed so odd to me that the simple act of being direct felt selfish, or rude, or mean. Is it not more rude- is it not much meaner- to confuse the $h!t out of everyone? I realized that because so many of those around me felt inhibited by these same ideas, we all have learned to read implications, hint at things, and dance around each other’s wants and needs while still trying to satisfy ourselves and our friends. Wouldn’t it be simpler if we could all just speak up?

Think about the people you know who do this easily: not only do they get what they want more often, but they save the rest of us all the trouble and effort of trying to figure out what they want! They don’t need to be rude or unkind- they just confront us with what they’re thinking.

The other day I picked up an old favorite book of mine, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, and there was the answer, staring at me:

Laurie opened his mouth to ask another question; but remembering just in time that it wasn’t manners to make too many inquiries into people’s affairs, he shut it again…

While there are so many reasons a person could choose to be passive-aggressive (vulnerability issues, “trying to be nice”), could it also be that the last few centuries’ stress on being prim and proper in Eastern Europe has affected the way we communicate here in America today?

In this short passage, the character Laurie wanted to ask his friend Jo about her life. I imagine that youth in 19th century New England (when and where the book takes place) had been in positions similar to the one mentioned here, and either settled upon not speaking their true minds, or invented ways to work around this “rudeness”- similar to what I do, myself- in order get their points across somehow.

The judgments that come from being impolite include what I listed above- like appearing uncivilized or selfish. It’s possible, to me, that fear of these judgments have stifled our ability to confront situations that do not need to be as complicated as we make them out to be.

Many cultures and societies throughout history have come up with their own definitions of etiquette. In some cultures it may be considered rude or too forward to greet a person with a kiss on the lips upon first meeting them, while in others not doing so may be seen as cold and unwelcoming. These traditions fall into place over long periods of time for an array of reasons. We see these differences in other cultures around the world, and we also notice them here in our “melting pot” homeland.

Some forms of etiquette that have been passed down in our culture, like “please” and “thank-you”, are good ways to show respect and appreciation for others, and I personally condone the use of them.

This other form of etiquette- this “trying-to-politely-speak-your-true-mind-by-being-indirect”, needs to be abolished. I understand that this is a tradition which has somehow survived to this point, but I have learned in my own life that clear communication is worth a lot more than worrying about how it could be received.

Discovering this concept, I made a decision. Henceforth, if what I say when I speak my mind crosses boundaries or is very offensive, I welcome that feedback so I may clarify or apologize. Without feedback, I will be satisfied with having said what I felt, no longer stressing too much about its possible interpretations. I do not care to keep the people around me guessing or wondering, and I do not care to be caught up guessing or wondering about their feelings or ideas without confronting them either.

This, in my opinion, is what true consideration for others- and true etiquette- actually looks like.

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A Glimpse Into Life With An Eating Disorder

An acquaintance in a recovery forum I am part of recently asked the members to send her a poem, short story, or paragraph discussing eating disorders and/or their experience so she could incorporate it in an article she was hoping to write for ED Awareness.

A little spoken about fact about me is that I have suffered from an eating disorder for over a decade. At one point I had actually gone to an inpatient program, and spent most of my time since then in outpatient therapy.

Considering this blog is about my personal vulnerability, I had not only agreed to write something for my friend’s article, but had hoped to incorporate it in a post on here.

For a month I wrote up at least 8 or 9 different stories, in multiple ways and perspectives. I didn’t like any of them, and kept starting over. Finally, I wrote a story that felt extremely personal, and even embarrassing. One that I didn’t want anyone to read, and full of information that I had always hoped no one would know about me.

…That’s how I knew I had the right one.

My goal in writing this was to show the darkness that comes with this struggle. I worried that this story could be “triggering” for fellow sufferers, but decided that the awareness that comes with this portrayal could potentially be more powerful for readers by not editing out its raw truth. A sufferer of an ED’s world and mind is full of darkness and internal suffering, and I was hoping that my story would show a glimpse into that mental and emotional conflict which comes with the disorder.

If you know nothing of eating disorders, this may be a very shocking story for you. Good- that’s what I hope it is for you! If you are going through one, I hope that you will find comfort in that you are not alone. Look forward to my future blog posts when I share more reason to know that THERE IS HOPE! You CAN be free, and you WILL be happy.

And so, without further ado, a blip of my personal eating disorder experience.

I am seventeen years old, a junior in high school. “Dinner tonight was a mistake,” I told myself. We had spaghetti. Meatballs. Garlic bread. I thought I could handle only having a little of it, but I was just so hungry. As soon as I took my second portion I promised myself that I could only have it if I threw it up. And half an hour later, once dinner was over and the table had been cleared, I did just that. But then I got hungry, and I ate 2 bowls of cereal. I got mad that I did; angry that I had no self-restraint. “Why does something so stupid like hunger control me like this?” I reprimanded. I had gone to the bathroom and thrown the cereal up too. Out of desperation, I made myself a pot of decaf coffee- something to put in my stomach to stop the crazy cravings that were sure to come in a moment. It wasn’t satisfying; it wasn’t helping. I was so hungry, and so angry that I was. I snapped at my sister about something silly when she walked in the room. “I could be so much happier, so much nicer to everyone if I would just stop eating. If I had just not eaten so much tonight,” I reasoned. I went to my room and looked at my stomach in the mirror. Bloated from the binging and purging. I felt fat. I went to my desk drawer and swallowed four laxatives. Maybe that will help with whatever bits of food I wasn’t able to throw up, or had digested before I purged it all. “Wait, didn’t I have four yesterday? I better have six, just so my system doesn’t get used to these and to ensure that they’ll work.” I popped two more out of the pill pack and swallowed them, too. Finally, bedtime has come to save me from the refrigerator that my feet keep taking me to, and away from. While I want to sleep today’s events away, I feel so preoccupied by how fat I am feeling that I just can’t relax. I keep feeling my thighs, sure that they are bigger than they were yesterday. I pull at my stomach, knowing how bloated and large it feels. I need to do something about it. In the light of the moon through my window, I find my Ipod and put my headphones in. For an hour I do as many exercises as I can think of in my room. But I’m not tired enough; my muscles don’t feel fatigued enough. “One more hour should do.”

I am eighteen years old, a senior in high school. Today was a great day. My breakfast of coffee this morning got me through until lunch, when I took the V8 from my locker and drank it in the bathroom. “Those diet pills this morning must have really worked,” I told myself, noticing that my hands were shaky as I tried to finish up my Algebra homework in the library for the remainder of the lunch period. Cross Country practice had gone well, not because I ran particularly well, but because I definitely burned plenty of calories. I felt so fatigued today in the heat. “I was probably just dehydrated. Coffee is a diuretic, afterall. Yes, I’m sure that must be why,” I decided. After practice I got home and Mom gave me five dollars for supper. I had to leave for work in a few minutes. I tried to decide whether I’d keep it or spend it. “Today went so well, I deserve a treat,” I resolved, as I approached the Caribou Coffee a block from my work. “Thanks for funding it, Mom.” I wondered if maybe I should feel guilty, but reasoned that I could justify it by the calories that were in the large White Chocolate Mocha that I was now sipping on. “I mean, surely she would rather me get some calories out of this money than buy myself something like a magazine (as I had gotten myself two nights ago with the money she had given me for the same reason), right? …Right.”

I am eighteen years old, newly graduated. “I hate my life. No one understands me,” I cried into the pillow on my bed. Dad has been making me see this psychologist before I head off to college next month. Today he had gotten angry and asked me why he was wasting his money on me when I’m not even getting better. I’ve been seeing this woman once a week for a month now. How “better” should I be? It’s true that I haven’t been trying very hard. I’m supposed to write down everything I eat every day during the week, and bring that to her when I return. Usually I forget or procrastinate, so I leave an hour early before the appointment to sit in a coffee shop, chugging water and coffee while I write up fake lists last minute of all the meals I didn’t eat. The water and the coffee are so that the scale shows I weigh more than the prior week. I dread having to sit there talking to her for a whole hour while I have to pee so badly it feels like my bladder is going to burst. It’s worth it though. I even resorted to taping a jar’s worth of coins all over my body under my dress. I had considered purchasing some ankle weights and wearing them under jeans, but thought that perhaps it might be too suspicious. Aside from having worn wearing sun dresses every week so far, the hot July sun might make me sweat and I’d lose water weight that I can’t afford to lose. “Maybe Dad is right. Why IS he wasting money on my stupid, selfish, lying ass? Maybe I don’t deserve to be better. To be happy. Maybe this is just who I am. I was going to keep this sandwich down today, but you know what, I’m so upset now that maybe I better get rid of it”. I walk to the bathroom and shut the door. I get down on my knees and stare at the porcelain bowl, filling up with my stomach contents. I flush it, and as I wash my hands I look at the bloodshot eyes staring back at me, now filling up with tears.

Maybe Dad is right.