coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Just Plain Mean

When I was a little girl I liked to hide just out of sight on the breezeway steps so I could hear my mother and Bernie (the next door neighbor who also happened to be my adored and adoring godmother) gossip at the kitchen table.  They had a coffee klatch every morning while the men were at work, and I loved to hear those women talk.  I learned a lot that way. Most of what I learned while surreptitiously listening to The Women was about human nature, about people and what motivated their actions.  It was fascinating and my interest in analyzing people's motives and desires has never waned. 

I am fairly certain
Mom never realized I was there, listening.  She probably never knew what a treasure trove of illicit information she was for me. 
Talk about a liberal education in the humanities!  Those two women were pretty insightful.  Not only did they do a close reading of most people, they deconstructed them to the bare bone.  I think that is one of the reasons I did not want to go to kindergarten.  Good stuff was happening at home in the kitchen.  That and I did not want to miss watching Captain Kangaroo.  I loved Bunny Rabbit. Not as much as Mighty Mouse, but almost.

One thing I suspected back then, and have since learned to be true, is that some people are just plain mean.

If you do not believe me, move someplace new or start a different job where you do not know anyone and they do not know you.  The Big Meanies will step up to bat and reveal themselves to be players, quick as shit.

I am beginning to understand meanness.  I think it is a strategy insecure people use to maintain the status quo and to ensure that others will not be mean to them.  Big Meanies are cruel to newcomers as a means to establish their authority and mark their territory.  We really are just base human animals when we do not take the time to think or feel. 

Newcomers suffer accordingly; eventually the Big Meanies throw them a bone of kindness to test the waters and see if they will bite.  By then the newcomers are so traumatized by isolation and loneliness they will do anything to make the BM like them, including agreeing with everything the aggressive BM says or does for the rest of their natural born lives. Ick. It is all so disturbingly stupid.  I am determined to forgive people when they hurt me, because I know they often cannot help themselves.  However, I would have to be an idiot to then want to be around someone like that, or to forget what they are capable of.  Cruelty is a social game I prefer not to play.

Try not to take it personal if it happens to you.  It is almost always about them (the BM), and rarely about you.  You could be anyone and the mean person would respond in the same exact way.  They do not realize their insecurities are showing.  BMs mistake meanness of spirit for strength.  And they want to feel strong.  We all want to feel strong, and it is much easier to be mean than to be kind.  It just is.

I hate to say it... but exposing yourself to a Big Meanie from time to time might just be good for what my Father used to refer to as "your immortal soul."  Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is brave.  Only when you are vulnerable will you notice the scarcity of good intentions that exist in this old world.  This is information you need to know and can definitely use!  Understanding meanness just might tip the scales as to whether you become a Big Meanie yourself or not.  We all have that meanness in us.  I try to control mine each and every day.  Mean is one of those things you have to actually try hard not to be.  Making that noble effort is part of our humanity.  When we think and feel and empathize, we become more fully human.

You really notice meanness when you become a stranger.  Middle class culture did not invent the Welcome Wagon to make newcomers feel welcome, they invented it as a marketing tool to get newbies to spend their money at local businesses and to introduce them to local norms.  If your neighbor brings you a cake as a "welcome to the neighborhood present" for no other reason than s/he wants to make you feel welcome, then by all means glom on to her/him.  S/he is a kind person - a rare find.

What I really hate are cliques.  I hated them a million years ago when I was in high school and I hate them now.  Is there anything more distasteful than adults  circling the wagons for no better reason than to exclude others so as to maintain the status quo? 

I guess I understand how cliques happen and why they exist.  Belonging to one is the easy way out.  We work hard to build relationships with people who are like us, who share our values.  I am not saying values are good or bad, I am just saying all too often what is most important in cliques is that the values are shared.

I know, I know, it feels good when everyone is just like you. But a personality can molder if life is too straight and narrow. All too often "easy" just turns out to mean dumb, and "safe" turns out to mean lazy.  Most of us will not put in the effort required to think about an issue unless we are challenged.

So why am I bringing this up?  Someone was mean to me, and it got me thinking.  See what I mean?


  1. Whoa! That was a great post. I love the way you've been able to put your early "education" about the humanities to work in your life. As I read it I kept going, yes, yes, yes...we really think alike. But, I'm sad to say this, thinkers like us are few and far between. So it often becomes a challenge to find a niche where you can feel truly simpatico with others. But we do find them, especially here on the web. I'm so happy to have found you :)

    I'm sorry that someone was mean to you, but you've figured it out so well that now you can lay that back in their lap. But still... it is a tiring weight when something like that happens and it doesn't easily fall from one's shoulders. But helpful to know that someone understands - I do.

    I too, loved Captain Kangaroo and his never ending pocket full of carrots for that little sweet Bunny Rabbit - though not so much for Mighty Mouse....

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. No big deal with the meanness. It gave me something to think about. Really.

  2. I have a theory that has stuck with me forever: once a mean girl, always a mean girl. They just evolve into mean girls in suits.

    1. I replied to your post, but not as a reply because I am still struggling with this software. My reply is a separate comment below yours. Sorry about that. To see it you will have to go to the actual post at

  3. Ha! Are you proposing a mean gene? Because I think you might be onto something there. Or maybe it is as yet to be named mental illness? Perhaps it is just nurture, people who are responding to the meanness of spirit they experienced when they were little formative creatures totally dependent on the kindness of others and, turns out, their "others" were mean to them. Regardless of the source, mean "girls" have certainly become an archetype of sorts in popular culture. Think "Heathers." Did you know that story became a musical (Heathers the Musical) with a terrific show tune/sound track? My daughter and granddaughter listen to it all the time in the car and bond over it. Cracks me up.


So, whadayathink?