mr-onion's Diaryland Diary

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nobody ever remembers Bruce Banner, they only remember the Hulk

Iíve been whittling out my New Yearís Resolutions and every year the list of vices seems to get longer, to include more and more annoying habits. This year Iíve been thinking about the goal of assertiveness.

This came out of another one of those lectures that I am constantly receiving from friends/colleagues who reckon Iíd have a richer life if I was more like them. I canít even begin to count how many "self confidence" lectures Iíve received in my lifetime and I could see this one coming like pigeon shit aiming for a brand new coat. Karen at work has recently gotten hooked up with a boyfriend and chose this opportunity to tell me over lunch that "what your problem is" is lack of self confidence. I love it when this happens Ė a formerly bland Admin. Assistant at work gets a boyfriend and suddenly decides sheís my personal Tony Robbins Ė feeling the need to fill me in on all of her wisdom gained.

Sigh. Just because I am quiet doesnít mean I lack confidence. People with self-esteem are not always big old gasbags. People who are truly intelligent don't feel the need to advertise it. I have a sneaking suspicion that all those shouty people that sell household cleaners on infomercials are not quite as brazen as they come off. Maybe they just want to be loved for something more than their grease cutting power and need to scream that much louder.

Karen goes on "I just want you to be able to get a boyfriend too".

What the hell is this Ė The Handmaidís Tale Ė have we been reduced to enforced breeding now?

However, as I learned from listening to Mr. Rage when he told me in excruciating detail about his anger management classes, the anger often stems from a lack of assertiveness. Quiet, inoffensive people getting smacked by life one too many times and then blowing up one day to gun down dozens of people in retribution. Part of his anger management course was a chapter on assertiveness; letting people know where you draw the line often keeps them from stepping over it.

I can see how this logically makes sense, but I am not one of those self help book buying, Dr. Phil watching, Oprah following, pop psychology people that says to a stranger: "what you said hurt my feelings and that is not acceptable. You are not validating me with that comment." That sort of hoo-ha makes me queasy.

There is evidence for both sides of the argument. I have lots of reasons for being quiet. Quiet people learn more because they are listening more often than talking. Quiet people donít cut other people off in conversation because they just canít wait to speak. Quiet people donít come off as arrogant and self-involved nearly as often as windbags do.

It all boils down to the impression Iím trying to send to people. My goal in communication is to make people feel at ease. It comes from a lifetime of getting told that Iím eccentric and make people uncomfortable with my unnatural love for Neil Diamond songs.

So on one end of the chart thereís:

Old Yeller at work. She fancies herself some sort of sage giver of wisdom and is always spewing unsolicited advice:

"you should cut your hair to shoulder length",
"you should leave your husband",
"you should go to Las Vegas on holiday",
"you should use my macaroni and cheese recipe, itís better than anything Iíve ever tasted".

Blah blah blah. She comes off as the most self-assured person in Canada, but I know sheís just scared underneath and wants people to respect her.

And thereís always that one obnoxious friend that everybody has. They want their mates to believe they have life all figured out: I have the hottest boyfriend, I have the newest car, I have more and better sex than all my friends, I have the coolest job, I have the most perfect assÖ..that sort of friend. And boy do we have one of those Ė sheís the man stealer that we all wonder about, as in "who the hellís she trying to impress?" The kind of person who will find out you have a crush on someone and then do everything in her power to drag him home with her. Where does she fit on the self esteem chart?

But the rotten fruit on top of the self-esteem tree seems to be Barney the drunk. He thinks heís the hottest, most happening gift that God ever gave to women. Mere refusals and slaps across the face do not faze him. Even when heís out with a woman, he never stops slapping ass and trying to get some more ak-shun.

Do I want to be like them?

And at the other extreme:

My friend, Kurt is about the shyest, most reticent person in the world. People often forget that heís in the room. He hides a lot of his intelligence. For the past few years, I have repeatedly watched him being picked on, pushed, punched and insulted at BBQís, parties, bars...because he doesnít feel comfortable speaking to strangers. He recently helped a complete stranger, a crack addict, get off the streets by taking him into his home. He took a lot of stick for this, but he got this guy into rehab, gave him some hot meals and found him a job and in the end he made a difference in the world, which is more than loads of us can say for ourselves. I am incredibly proud of him.

Mr. Rage, an ex-boyfriend. He is a very mild mannered person and rarely sticks up for himself. He is a target for "faggot" jokes and does get picked on a lot at work. I always have to defend him and I get paraded out for company events all the time, to prove heís straight. Of course all these taunts did send him over the edge, and into anger management.

I feel uncomfortable identifying with either end of the equation. I guess I would rather be seen as shy than overbearing Ė thereís little enough respect in this world as it stands today. Everybody deserves respect and everyone deserves to be listened to, by virtue of being alive and sentient. Thatís why I had to be the one to listen to Mike talking about his relative dying 2 weeks ago Ė nobody else wanted to listen. Maybe they were piping up with advice about what to do and how to feel, but thereís nothing quite like just being there, silent.

P.S. ....case in point: American Idol contestants. They just can't believe it when they don't make it into the semi-finals. "I'm a star, a STAR I tell you!!"

9:23 p.m. - 2004-12-07

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