I admit I’m a little rough around the edges. Sometimes my mouth doesn’t have a filter. If you’re actually ever around me in person, you might even witness a mind-->out verbal excoriation of sorts.
Once upon a time, I was with a group of girls in gym class. It was the end of the period, and a girl I (secretly) didn’t like announced, “I think I’ll go change now,” to which I immediately and thoughtlessly responded: “INTO A BETTER PERSON?”
I’ve also been known to rip new assholes into employees and strangers.
Exhibit B: Back when I was a business tycoon/captainess of industry, I managed about 150 peons. I was quite demanding at first, before I mentally checked out and stopped giving a shit. I used to hold weekly collections meetings with my account managers in which I would ask for status reports of when we could expect customers to make progress payments against their contracts. I would routinely run down the list of accounts and the minions would update me. The expectation, obviously, was that they would be prepared with answers.
Well, one time, an account manager had the audacity to come into my office ill-prepared.
Matt was one of the nicest guys in the company, which says a lot because I was otherwise surrounded by a bunch of misogynists. It was the construction industry after all, and my employees were about 95% male. Never mind that Matt’s co-workers complained that he farted at his desk, or that one time I caught him napping in his cubicle. For the most part, he was always amiable and had a strong work ethic.
He came into my office with a bunch of “I-don’t-knows” and “I’ll-get-back-to-you-on-that” type of responses. After hearing about five of these in succession, tendrils of smoke issued forth from my crimson ears and I exploded. I yelled at the poor kid, something along the lines of: “How dare you come in here and waste my time with these useless answers? What the hell have you been doing this whole time? This is completely unacceptable! Don’t come back in here unless you have something useful to report. But you better do it by this afternoon. Now get the hell out of my office!”
After being subjected to a few minutes of verbal abuse, Matt walked out of my office with his tail between his legs. Am I proud of this? No. (Maybe.) Did Matt’s behavior warrant a tongue-lashing? Not necessarily. Reprimand, yes, but not in the way I delivered it.
Then there was this other time just this past summer. I was at a coffee shop with two friends when a stranger came up to us to bum a cigarette. Anthony offered the guy -- let’s call him Douchebag -- an American Spirit. Douchebag declined it and asked for one of my Camel Crush menthols. How dare he. But I gave him one, thinking it was because he preferred the minty taste. And that’s fine because I can relate to it.
But then Douchebag said, “Yeah, I like these better because these are real cigarettes.” Something then clicked in my brain, unleashing a monster.
This sub-human creature inside of me then pointed at Anthony’s pack, glared at Douchebag, and exclaimed, “Oh, so you’re saying those aren’t REAL cigarettes? Those are as real as you can get! They’re organic!”
Douchebag was a bit flummoxed and said something about how the Camel Crush cigarette was fun to smoke. So then I thought, “Okay, he likes to squeeze the filter and hear it pop, just like me. Forgivable.”
But then he didn’t even pinch the cigarette. Instead, he proceeded to rip. it. OPEN, essentially rendering it unsmokeable, to which I asked, appalled, “What the hell are you doing? Don’t you know how to smoke a fucking cigarette?”
Apparently not. Douchebag responded, “I thought these were those cool cigarettes you can take apart and smoke. But I guess not. Man, these cigarettes suck!”
That was it. The floodgates opened, and a rushing torrent of verbal whitewater came out of my mouth to drown the dumbass. “First you come here asking for a cigarette. Not just a beggar, but a chooser. Then you insult my friend’s American Spirits, and then you fuck up one of mine because you don’t even know how to smoke one. Then you say my cigarettes suck. WHAT KIND OF AN ASSHOLE ARE YOU?”
I had at least three opportunities to bite my tongue and let the issue slide. And most people probably would’ve just let it go to avoid confrontation. But for some inexplicable reason, I decided that the best thing to do was to cause a scene. In a coffee shop. In broad daylight. With a complete stranger. Yeah.
Well maybe it’s not so inexplicable. Just the other night, I was with a group of colleagues (yeah, that’s how we obnoxiously refer to each other now that we’re in grad school). Anyway, we were at a coffee shop and it was past midnight. Half the group was getting ready to call it a night. I guess no one else has a near-inverted sleeping pattern and is a vampire like me.
I jokingly called one of them “a big fucking baby” for wanting to go home so soon. Then one of my other new friends, also lightheartedly, said I was “so mean.” I smiled and admitted that I was, and she replied, “Yeah, it’s because of all your self-loathing.”
This made me think of a few things. First of all, we’ve only known each other for a couple of months, yet she was able to make this psychobabble assessment of me that kind of hit like a dagger to the heart in its precision. Is she that perceptive, or am I that transparent? I mean, it’s taken some of my other close friends at least a year or so to figure that one out. Quite impressive, really, if you think about it.
More importantly, just how true is that statement?
Well, I do engage in acts of self-loathing. I revel in agonizing episodes of unrequited love, and along the same vein, stay in terrible relationships longer than I should. Then there’s the addiction and general lack of moderation - cigarettes, awful food, alcohol and other substances. And again, I can be a bit of a reclusive nocturnal creature. At times, I envision myself as a decadent bohemian in fin-de-siècle France, wallowing in my self-pity and ennui. I brood to Fiona Apple on repeat. It’s a sad and pathetic existence sometimes, but I love it in its own twisted way. It makes me feel alive.
But I’ve just been talking about acts of self-loathing. To take it to a more literal definition - do I actually really hate myself? I don’t think so. On the contrary, I feel like sometimes the exact opposite is true. I know I have minor freak-outs about my insecurities, but I actually love myself to the point of megalomania sometimes. I won’t elaborate on that here because it will probably just alienate me further from friends. Just take my word for it for the moment. So why do I subject myself to acts of self-loathing when I am, in fact, a narcissist?
Now that I’ve identified the dialectical tension between self-loathing and sheer narcissism in my personality, what next? Nothing really. I’m not up for trying to figure out the root of that right now, nor do I believe my personality will or should change. I just am.
Oh right. You’re probably wondering what this has to do with this week’s theme of buildings and food. Well, I started thinking of all this when I was at a coffee shop (a building) with people who were eating sandwiches and pizza (food). Also, my friend who pointed out my self-loathing, an act that served as the impetus to this entire inquiry, is a huge Talking Heads fan, and she probably loves their album More Songs About Buildings and Food. Truth.
Coco Higgins is an aspiring art historian, post-hipster, obnoxious Twitterer, proud owner of delusions of grandeur, has a knack for remembering useless trivia of all kinds, all in all an extraordinary machine.