I was reading a book the other day, I can’t remember what, which spoke about people’s behaviours, and how much simpler it is with kids. There was something in the book about dealing with mean people, and it said that when a child does something mean, another child, either the victim or an observer, will simply say ‘That was mean! Quit it!’ It’s so simple and straight forward and really resonated with me.
Marilyn Monroe once said that being famous was ‘living life as an object’. And sadly, I have found that to be true. People will do or say things to a famous person, (and assume things), that they would never say to another human being. But as a famous person, you’re fair game. Famous people aren’t real and have no feelings, right? My feelings get hurt like everyone else’s. And people love to say mean things about famous people, not just famous people, all people. It’s the nature of our tabloid world. Who’s got the dirt? Why does there have to be dirt? What if there was something nice to say instead? Maybe that wouldn’t sell papers.
But take the famous piece out of that equation (okay, I’ll stop whining), we all know people who say mean things to us. We all do. There is someone in our life, or several of them, who always find the bitchy thing to say. They slip it under the door in conversation, like hate mail under our door. And we’re often so startled by it that we have no response—-until 14 hours later when you’re lying in bed and think of the 600 things you should have said. We also see people like that do or say something mean to others, and we are so embarrassed to be part of the interaction that we don’t react, and later wish we had. It’s hard to get those moments back, although sometimes we can address the issue later, but often we can’t.
I had an extremely critical mother, often unfairly. I spent my whole childhood defending myself to no avail, trying to convince her of my innocence of whatever I was accused of. And then I spent my entire adulthood letting those moments pass. It was easier not fighting it, but letting those things pass costs you. The arrows hit your soul.
I am often annoyed at myself about the things people say to me, that really hurt, or things they do, knowingly or not, that really hurt my feelings and I don’t say a word. I just smile and act like I’m not upset. It’s so much easier and less embarrassing. And it seems ‘easier’ to be polite, and just smile and nod, or ignore it.
I’m ashamed to say that sometimes when people are mean to others, I let it pass. I don’t want to get into a fight. Maybe I think it’s their problem, not mine. And we are so often told not to get involved. Why not? I am willing to fight for the underdog in causes, to speak up for the homeless, to defend my children—-so why don’t I stop someone dead in their tracks when I hear them being mean to a friend? Maybe I’m scared. But the right answer to that is what I read the other day, to do what any brave kid in the playground would do and say, ‘Hey! That was mean, quit it!’ So often, I want to say to someone who is mean to me, unfairly, ‘why did you say that? It’s not true’. I am horrified to realize how often people say untrue mean things to me and I don’t say a word. I can’t defend myself in the tabloids, but what’s to stop me from looking someone in the eye and saying ‘that was mean, quit it’? I think the bullies who do it would be stunned. They are counting on my silence and most of the time they guess right.
I’d like to make a commitment to myself, now and for the future, that from now on, when someone says something nasty to me, subtly or overtly, or to someone else in front of me—from now on, I want to say ‘That was mean, quit it!’. I hope I have the guts to do it, because the kids have it right. Bullies, watch out!