confronting a threshold

I’ve been told I’m confrontational. But I’m a novice compared to this woman:

The N-word on the 4th of July.” In the essay by Brittney Cooper, appearing today in Salon.com, the author shares a very brave account of confrontation. In a nutshell (though please do click on the title of the essay in order to read it first hand), Ms. Cooper, a heavy-set black woman, is seated next to a white woman on a plane. She catches sight of a text sent by the white woman, which reads, “on the plane, sitting thigh to thigh with a big fat n[——]. Lucky me.”

And the author, remarkably, posts what she reads on Facebook, and then catches the attention of her seat-mate, and shows her the post, holding her accountable.

I can’t express adequately how much that impresses me.

Ms. Cooper concludes with the hope that the woman’s children don’t follow their mother’s ignorant example. I hope so, too. But what impresses me is not the fact that Ms. Cooper’s confrontation might change an outcome in that family, but the fact that it will likely change nothing. And it was done anyway.

Why did Ms. Cooper bother? Why confront, or “face up to and deal with (a problem or difficult situation)” when the problem or difficult situation may not be resolved?

“I had to say something,” she writes.

Perhaps for her, the pain of doing nothing was greater than the pain that comes with confrontation.

We all have different pain thresholds. I wish the pain threshold for doing nothing were lower, for so many.

Worst. Therapist. Ever?

We just watched my vice, a Bravo television show called “LA Shrinks.”

This little vignette offers a taste of, as my husband put it, “every man’s worst nightmare” about couples counseling: two women–effectively two wives–ganging up on a guy, a husband.

Here’s what happened: A wife’s “presenting problem” to the couples therapist was that her husband wasn’t paying enough attention to her, she didn’t feel seen or heard. But, over the course of several episodes, the wife appears to seek such attention rather aggressively, resulting in the husband shutting down. The issue comes to a head: the therapist asks the couple to spend a week together, wherein the wife would back off, and not demand attention, let it come to her. In the subsequent therapy session, the husband tells his wife that over the course of that week, he felt he tried to connect with her but was brushed off.

The wife’s reaction? “When? No, no, what? When? Write that down, when did it happen?”

The therapist appears to let that request stand. The husband feels defensive. Naturally. He was being cross-examined.

It devolves from there, with the therapist (not shown in the above clip) later imploring (scolding?) the husband to “go to your wife!” after the wife storms out in tears.

The therapist later tells us that communication issues are the number one problem with couples, and that the impending split needed to happen.

What. The. F.

Let’s imagine me as the therapist:

“In the subsequent therapy session, the husband tells his wife that over the course of that week, he felt he tried to connect with her but was brushed off.

The wife’s reaction? ‘When? No, no, what? When? Write that down, when did it happen?'”

[Me] “Wait, don’t deny his reality, don’t deny his perception. He feels you brushed him off. What’s up with that? He feels you brushed him off. That is all that matters. Apologize. Even if you don’t remember brushing him off, it’s what he perceived. It’s his reality, so now it’s yours.”

Instead–Dr. Eris (per the editing) appeared to show the husband as some closed off, never-listens kind of guy, who doesn’t want to “do the work.” She seemed to throw up her hands as the marriage crumbled in front of her eyes.

We were appalled. And I hope that the editing of the show is making us draw that conclusion. I really hope so. That couple has young children. They drove away in a freaking minivan.

It’s too easy to be a couples counselor. Then again, why see a couples counselor who wants to be on television? Why undergo counseling on television?

Maybe I need to relax. Maybe it was all staged.

Hoping.

Faith and Grace

We spent the evening at a monthly outdoor street fair in our little hometown. It’s fun — a band  plays at a gazebo on Main Street, artists and food vendors sell their wares, you run into people you only ever see at the kids’ gymnastics class, or you run into your best friend. Community. It’s nice.

Just as we got there this evening, a man walked by with three lovely greyhounds. One greyhound stopped, in the middle of the street, and let loose, soiling about a square foot of asphalt. The poor man had to figure out how to clean up a pretty awful and untidy mess, but he did it, with a sheepish grin. It was his responsibility. And we were all watching.

People do the right thing, more often than not, of their own accord. Of this I am fairly sure. But sometimes, accountability helps. Would you agree?

I’m struggling with this issue. There’s a little pile of dog mess–metaphoric dog mess, mind you–in our little circle, and I can’t not see it. I can’t not smell it. I know whose dog left it. And I want them to clean it up. They need to be told to clean it up. I want to scream at them to clean it the eff up.

Okay, enough with the metaphor. Literally: a man I know, named “Jerk,” married to a woman I know, named “Faith,” hit on my married friend, “Lovely.” In Lovely’s house. Within 20 feet of Lovely’s husband, “Decent.” Jerk did it a bit obliquely, in person, and then, more obviously, electronically. This was a week ago. After receiving no response, he followed it up with another electronic message, wishing Lovely a happy Valentine’s Day. Decent, who knew about this within minutes of it all happening last week, suggested that Lovely just respond with a single word: “Stop.”

I don’t know Faith very well, but she is a dear friend of a woman I do know very well, “Hope.” Hope knows a bit about this situation, but doesn’t want to get involved; she wants to let Faith and Jerk work through their issues.

A fair, kind and compassionate response. I’d expect nothing less from Hope.

You know what my name is in this goat rodeo of a scenario? “Calamity.” I just want to track Jerk down and demand that he apologize to Lovely and Decent and confess to Faith and pray that she forgives him. I want him to freaking clean up his dog mess.

My husband, named in this scenario, “Reason,” does not want to get involved. He said, “People are jerks. They don’t have to affect you. You can ignore it.”

I asked him, “But if some jerk did the same thing to me, would you ignore it?”

He asked, “What, would you want me to punch him out or something?”

“No,” I answered slowly. “But I’d want… I don’t know. I just would want the jerk to know that he was rude, and that we knew he was rude, and that we won’t tolerate it.”

My Reason said, “Well, okay, if you’d want me to say something to the guy, I would.”

That pleased me to no end.

Things are happening around me, you see. There’s so much flippin’ dog mess all over the place and I’m highly annoyed that I have to watch my step, when I am so obsessively responsible and tidy.

I’m so very, very tired of people just leaving their messes behind, as if they had nothing to do with them, assuming that I’ll just side step them and not see them, smell them, be disgusted by them.

So freaking tired of it.

My husband, my friend Hope, my friend Lovely, my friend Decent… they try not to judge. They seem to have the energy to move past the messes for the greater good: for peace, I guess. They don’t like drama.

I don’t like drama, either.

But sometimes, drama can open your eyes and keep you from stepping in dog mess. Better yet, it can get the dog mess cleaned up by the responsible party.

Do I tell my acquaintance Faith? That I saw her husband, Jerk, attempt to make a play for my married friend Lovely?

I am tempted. If I were Faith, I would want to know. I would hate finding out later, after all my friends.

And then I think: maybe Faith knows. Maybe Jerk has done this before. Maybe Faith is doing her best to get through it, to sidestep it. Maybe her eyes are always at her feet, knowing that if she doesn’t watch out, her shoes will be covered in dog mess.

Maybe her priorities are different than mine, and reflect a longer-term goal. Of marriage. Of family. Of forgiveness.

Maybe her name is really Grace.

I wish my name weren’t Calamity. It makes me need to stay indoors.