Posts Tagged ‘behaviour’

“You are so cold”

I was thus informed, at the end of a heated discussion.   The topic wasn’t worth remembering, which is why I can’t tell you what it was. 

What she meant though was “you’re not taking my side; you’re not offering me comfort.”

Also: “you’re not willing to spend your time listening to me complain without offering suggestions.  I don’t want your suggestions, I want you to listen.  And I’m quite okay with staying miserable – I’ve been this way for months.  Why can’t you understand that?”

For all of our wealth, it seems our society is filled with pockets of the pity-people: folk who are miserable, and have no intention of doing anything about it.

Part of the problem, for some, comes from their mental illness: there is absolutely zero to be gained by telling a clinically depressed person to cheer up.  It’s like asking a banana to peel itself. 

Or like telling a diver, in mid-dive “please don’t get wet”.

Shit’s gon’ get wet, yo.

I think everyone handles such unfortunate people differently.  My preference – and this is not a perfected process yet – is to mention some ideas they should consider so that they won’t be miserable anymore, and then vacate the area.

I’m not talking about the person who just lost his job, or the woman whose husband just left her.  Offering helpful “next steps” to either – especially immediately after the moment of crisis – borders on insane, not to mention cruel.  I truly think that you need to feel the pain and the hurt before you can carry on.  Before you should carry on, in most cases.

And to be fair, the “I just want you to listen” complaint mentioned above is often fair.   It seems to be a male-female thing.  A lot of women seem to want us guys to listen without offering suggestions.  Many of us guys just see a problem that needs fixing.  This issue isn’t about that.

The bedraggled person I’m talking about has been miserable for months, and seems unable or unwilling to extricate himself from his pain.  My experience – based upon years of trying to help various people – is:  he or she needs professional help.

I’m not equipped.  I haven’t had the training.  Even if I did, I would imagine that being close to such a person (related or friend) would preclude my ability to provide any kind of effective help. 


If one is a warm, inviting person, one becomes a target for the marginalized and hurting person.  This is acceptable.  What’s not okay is the person who wants to bend one’s ear, for days and weeks on end, about the same topic, and with the same result.  Which is: nothing.  Stasis.

It’s a hard thing, saying “no” to such a person.  I’ve employed a technique similar to the ones used on me, when being rejected as a date companion. 

“I like you, just not in the way you like me.”
“We can certainly meet.  I’ll get back to you when I can figure out a date that’ll work.”
“Sorry.  I’m at work right now. Can we talk later?”
“Listen, it’s been great chatting, but I’m late for an appointment/work/washing my hair.”
“Can I get back to you on that?”

(Just kidding about the first one)

Coming right out and saying “I agree that what happened to you was unfair and wrong, but you need to get help”, might be the right answer, but I’ve never known it to work. The minute you say something like that, you get:

“So…you think I’m crazy!”
“No, I don’t think you’re crazy.  I—”
“Only crazy people need counselling!”
“Um, I’ve gone for counselling.  Am I crazy?  Also – did I say you were crazy?”

I’m frankly amazed that there’s still such a stigma about mental illness.  Some people are honestly in need of help, and would benefit so greatly from it – whether that helps comes in the form of chemical balancing (drugs) or cognitive therapy. 

Have you noticed – there are still some adults walking around who have no idea who they are.  Some are quite okay and are functioning well in their ignorance.  Some may go their graves that way, and that’s fine. 

Others will experience just one thing going wonky in their carefully constructed utopia, and their world will crash.  They have no idea what happened, or what to do, or why they became such a target for pain.  They just know something isn’t right, and that someone else should pay.  And, not seeing that person/company receive justice, they become embittered and enraged and inconsolable.

And they want to talk about it.  At high volume.

They have no idea they’re broadcasting at such a high volume, and so when you decide you’ve heard enough, and you want to help them, what they see is you coming along, offering a Pollyanna answer, sure that what you’ve told them will bring sunlight and butterflies to their miserable existence.  How dare you. 

In effect, offering such a response means you’ve become their mortal enemy.  Just like the company/person whose offended them, you are against them.

They’ll continue to vent to you (if you let them) but they will watch you with a now jaundiced eye, expecting you to continue offering advice – because it’ll prove to them that you’re still against them.  This time they’re ready, and they will lash out.

You’ve now got a toxic friend.

The only thing left – at least when I face such a person – is to cut him off.  Regretfully.

It’s necessary to do so, I think, if you want to maintain your own sanity. 

I wish I had hope for such people, but I frankly don’t.  I get the sense that many of these folk will go their graves, still toxic.  Their gravestones will read “I died alone, you bastards.”

I still see a lot of people dealing with toxic folk by continuing to be their sounding board, day after day, year after year.  You can see the lines of stress on their face, as they’re sure they’re not doing enough for their friend.  How could they be, since their friend is still miserable?

I wonder at these long-suffering and patient friends.  On occasion I’ve asked them “what’s the point?”

They shrug, resignedly.  There is no point.  Not really.  They’re building after-life credits, I suppose.  They prefer to see themselves as helpful and kind, and are worried that others will see them as cruel if they’re not there for their friend.

What they are not doing, from where I stand, is living.

I could be wrong though.

People here are fascinating.  And not in a “gee, what wonderfully intellectual stimulation” sense.   I mean behaviours are just so far outside of what I consider “the norm” that time chases its own tail trying to keep up.

Toronto is defined from the mix of its people who make their way here from all parts of the world.  Hindus, Moslems and Jews from various continents, Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, lots of Filipinos, Ukrainians, Russians and Italians all set up little communities here.  So when unusual behaviour is observed, there’s a strong possibility it can be attributed to the norms of another country.  Maybe.

Back in the small town in which I was raised, when people waited for buses, we were always careful to line up – just like they do at elementary school.  That behaviour was bred into us, and by God anyone who misbehaved received the harshest Canadian punishment possible.  They got the glare of their life.

Here in Toronto,  some of us line up at the bus stops.  And usually people – anxious to follow the crowd – will continue to line up, right up until the bus arrives.  But as soon as the bus doors open, the line breaks out into a mass of chaotic elbows and feet, all desperately dancing around each other in pursuit of a spot on the bus where they can sit down.  Some of the shorter people will barge right in front of you, with your two arms of groceries, and pretend not to see you.  Canadian glares are useless.  Their shortness is the Canadian kryptonite.

Lots of people in Toronto hold conversations with themselves.  Out loud.  I saw one large woman yelling at herself.  It was at a bus stop, late at night.

“Get over here!”

“No you get over here!”

I looked around to see who she was talking to, but there was no one there.  No one I could see anyway.

This wasn’t a cogent argument about politics.  It was one of those types of arguments that we all enjoy, I’m sure.  She was nitpicking.  At herself.

The other day I sat in a richly dark Starbucks, held in place by the arms of a big leather chair.  Total bliss.  I had my iPad and my large bottle of water, and the music was just right.

And then he came in.  He was tall, thin and had blond hair.  The guy was in his late 20’s I think.

Anyway, he plunked himself in the seat next to me, right next to the beautiful young blond girl, who was also reading.  He sat and stared at her.  Her back got rigid and it became apparent that she was re-reading the same passage over and over.   I started watching him, over the top of my iPad.

Five minutes passed.  He stared.  She didn’t turn the next page.   Then I heard him talking, a sing-song string of syllables.  They made no sense.  She didn’t look at him.  He continued talking for a while, conversationally.    The minutes passed, slowly.

Finally he got up and moved past me to get to the door.  The stench hit me, and I felt my eyes starting to water.

The girl looked over at me and smiled, shaking her head.  I nodded and turned back to my iPad.

Sort of.  I could still hear him talking, as he paced back and forth outside the café door.

Dear old dad wouldn’t have known what to make of all this.  He probably would have called the guy’s sexuality into question.

The love of money wasn’t the root of all evil, as far as he was concerned.  It was homosexuality.  And he was there to set everyone straight on that.

So to speak.

Life in Toronto is often like this.  Different scenes, different odd behaviours, every day.

Kind of like an old commercial for “Bits and Bites”:  a different handful in every bite.


Posted: April 21, 2010 in Life
Tags: , , ,

“Can I talk with you a minute?   Privately?”

The stout old church lady took my elbow and man-handled me into a corner.

“I’m just telling you this with the love of the Lord” she began.  She took her glasses off and pinched her nose.

My curiosity raised its snout, trying to sniff out what was going on.  “What?”

She blinked at me.  I noticed a multitude of pins in her gray hair, and I couldn’t help noticing how her print dress hung from her, right down to the ground, just above her sensible shoes.

Sensible shoes.  I shouldn’t be noticing those.  That’s too gay.

“You really need to be careful about what you wear, young man.”

I looked down at my clothing and took inventory.  Sports jacket, t-shirt, jeans, black shoes.   Puzzled, I looked back at her.

“I mean…”  and she sighed. “Oh this is so difficult.”

“Please don’t feel awkward, sister.  Just tell me.”

She couldn’t look me in the eye.  “It’s your jeans, young man.”

“My jeans?”

“They’re too tight.”

I looked down again.  Damn.  They were tight.  Just the way I like them.

“What do you mean?”

Her face started to turn red.  “I mean.  Young women can get carried astray by the tightness of your jeans.”

I started to laugh.  “What?”

“Well, they can see your, ah….”

I grinned in disbelief.  “They can see my junk?  Is that what you’re trying to say?”

She got all flustered.  “You don’t need to be so vulgar.”

“I’m vulgar?”  This was turning more ridiculous the more I thought about it. “Your observation is vulgar, lady.  If you don’t like what I’m wearing, I suggest you turn away and stop staring at my crotch.”  I waggled my hips at her.

“Oh I’m going to talk with Pastor Norman about this!”  She turned quickly, which dislodged one of her hair pins such that it was dangling by a hair down at her back. “Just you wait and see!”

I laughed and started to make my way to a pew in the church.   This time an elder grabbed my arm.  What is it with old people wanting to grab your arm all the time?  Why can’t they just jump up and down in front of you while waving their arms to get your attention?   Why do they have to put such a death grip on your elbow?  It hurts, damn it, and I just want to punch them in the face when they do it.

I can’t, of course, being Canadian, and Christian and Righteous and all.

Plus, I fight like a girl.

Anyway, as he pulled me close with his raptor’s claw, he hissed in my ear.  I think he thought he was being quiet and circumspect, but that hissing could be heard throughout the church.  I could tell, because people whipped their heads around to stare at us.

His stinky breath invaded the sanctity of my irreverent ambiance, totally messing up my Chi.   “Son, you need to pay attention to me.”

I tried to pull my arm away.  In vain as it turns out.   Last night’s hangover hadn’t worn off yet.  God.  That stinky breath was going to undo me.  I could tell.  My stomach started rumbling in protest and I had to swallow a few times just to make sure those late night nachos stayed down there, where they belonged.

“What?” I whispered back, hoping he would just say what he had to and leave me alone.

“Some of the saints are complaining that you’re too friendly with the women folk.”   By “saints” I guessed he meant the men.  I have no idea what that made women.  “Hussies” I suppose, if they’re that easily led astray.

I was going to just nod and agree with him.  My nose and my stomach demanded that much from me.   But my stupid conscience wouldn’t hear of it.  Of course not.  It wanted a knock-down drag-out fight.  So I burped instead.   “What do you mean?’

“We see the way you smile at them, saying ‘hello’ to them with that smarmy look on your face.”

“What.  You mean *this* face?”  And with that I smiled at him.  All teeth.  And as smarmily as I could.

He hissed louder.  “YES.  You need to stop that.”


He tightened his grip on my elbow and I swear to God, my left fist tightened as well.  I tried to relax it.

“Because you’re leading them astray.  We see how they crowd around you at the end of the service.  It’s unseemly.  And the Bible says…..”

“Oh here we go” I thought to myself.

“…the Bible says we have to avoid the very appearance of evil.”   With that, he shook my elbow and smiled knowingly.

I finally wrenched my elbow away.  “You know where the evil is, old man?  It’s in your mind.  You need to stop thinking that I want to fuck your wives” I said, “because I don’t.”

“In fact, I kind of want to fuck you, actually.”  And I gave him my gayest grin.   He actually stepped back a few feet.

“And I’ll tell you something else:   I will damned well talk to whoever I want and I’ll smile at whoever I want, too.   And if you ever grab my arm again I’ll drop you where you stand.”

I started to walk out of the church in disgust.  Then I turned around and looked at him again.  “Oh and I say that with all the love of the Lord.    Asshole.”


This never happened of course.  It would never happen.  And I don’t know why.

But put the shoe on the other foot, with men talking to women about what they wear, and how they socialize with men and you can *easily* see that it happens all the time.  Men – Christian, church going men – telling women about how they need to conduct themselves around men, and what they should and should not be wearing.

As a member of the male species I have to tell you: it’s embarrassing.

The women I know who’ve been subject to this bullshit (and let’s be clear:  I know many of them who’ve been through this) tend to suffer in silence, rather than call bullshit on it.  My own mother was subject to this crap actually.   It seems women generally (not always) want to keep the peace and not make a scene.  Plus, they’re given this advice by people they respect:  their pastor, their priest, or someone else in authority.  So it gets a bit confusing, because supposedly the priest or pastor should have “the mind of God” – at least that’s the case in evangelical church settings.  Some of the women in turn drink the same kool-aid and subject other women to the same fucked up nonsense.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this outside of church settings though.  I *have* seen it on a much worse scale, in Muslim settings and on Muslim chat boards.

I’m still scratching my head over the whole thing.  I guess ultimately it boils down to this:

Mankind will always look for excuses for their own behaviour.  They will always point the finger at someone else when they find themselves doing shitty things.

“I was brought up wrong.”

“I came from an abusive family.”

“I came from a poor household.”

“I came from a single parent household.”

“I got in with the wrong crowd (read: it’s the crowd’s fault, not mine)”

“He made me feel bad about myself, that’s why I stole/ate too much/got drunk.”

“She made me so angry.  That’s why I hit her.”

“She was wearing provocative clothing.”

“My little kid wouldn’t shut up.  So I made him shut up.”

The list is endless.

We need to own our own shit.  Bottom line.