I have no idea what Sam L Jackson is like in real life, but I sure admire the way many of his characters navigate the world. Not really feeling the excessive violence or the Pacino like shouting, but I do enjoy the indignation and the decisiveness in his responses to mellow harshers. There’s a whole lot of chow chow in our culture about politeness and decorum. Lots of noise about “not making a scene” or “stepping on toes” and all kinds of colorful ways in which folks get told to “suck it up”.
Excluding situations where not sucking it up could result in physical violence (I strongly encourage folks to suck it up until they are safely out of the situation) I can’t think of any legitimate reason one should – you know – suck it up.
People close to me often call me a “bad ass”, which while flattering is not entirely accurate. I don’t stalk the streets, narrowing my eyes and asking strangers if they’re feeling lucky and watching a movie like Silkwood just makes me tired. What they are probably observing is my directness and emotional discipline – neither of which are exactly the domain of the bad ass.
Pop psych frames verbal self defense as though we’re all outgoing, flashy extroverts, possessing heaping amounts of privilege and devoid of fear or ties to our community. Oh yeah, you can get away with their version bad assery once if you’re lucky. Ever notice how many bad asses (as framed in our society) end up chased out of town or dead?
Well, we’re not looking to become subjects of a bio-pic, portrayed by actors who complain about having to gain weight to play us. We’re looking to keep emotional bullies, Grabby Hands Christian Andersons, Concern Trolls and unrepentant close talkers from harshing our mellows.
Look, I do not cut an imposing figure. I have to get up real early in the morning if I want to spend much of it above 5’0.75 (yes that quarter inch matters). I don’t have a big booming voice or command of a lasso. And while I’m hardly shy, I am not an extrovert, flashy or outgoing. But I do a good job harnessing my inner Sam Jackson and here’s how I do it.
I don’t how many hours your day comes with, but mine only has 24. So at some point you really have to decide what exactly are your “Rosa Parks” moments and let the rest go. You can’t eat all the eggs or fight all the windmills.
okay, so you figured out where are your lines in the sand are. Great. Now own it. Don’t diminish yourself by thinking your lines are petty, picky or foolish. That might well be the case, but who cares. Hey, I blast off into outer space when people don’t use coasters. Even if the table isn’t wood! That’s just me. I own it.
While you’re not going in search of mellow harshing situations, you still need to come up with a response plan. Or as Nathan Muir (Redford) said in SpyGame “When did Noah build the ark? BEFORE THE FLOOD”. Grab your list of Oh no they didn’t-s and for each one write exactly how you want to behave if faced with the situation. Again, NO JUDGMENTS! Yes, walking away IS is a viable option. Write your response plan in detail, including any theatrical hand gestures or props you might need.
My hair. Lots of bandwidth has been used ranting about folks playing Indiana Jones in some black woman’s head. So let’s all pretend that we’ve read them and agree with the premise it’s WRONG. It doesn’t seem to matter if I’m raging home grown or store bought, people like going all ST: The Undiscovered Country on my head! I’ve done the ragey/stabby/verbal body slam thing and I’ve done the suck it up and just be all passive aggressively pissy thing. Neither worked for me.
Now if I get the question I ignore it. I ignore all its overbearing out of town relatives, well intentioned neighbors and pushy supervisors. If I feel a hand about to storm my head like Normandy, I physically MOVE the hand and give the look. It’s a cross between the look my mom used to give us when we were cutting up in church and the look DMV clerks have perfected. But it took practice. A lot of practice. At first I was still alternating between ragey/passy, but I just kept repeating steps 2 and 3 and now it’s just something I do. I don’t even think about it. And, see, it didn’t involve any shift in my personality or lots of processing with people with summer homes and dreamcatchers dangling from their office windows.
Stick to the response plan. Even if you feel silly and regardless of what they do/say (with the physical violence caveat still in place). Don’t waver. See it through. Particularly with a repeat offender. You have to keep doing it every time they do that thing that you isolated on your list. The reason you practice is so it feels natural even if you don’t feel natural doing it. You know your script, you know all the blocking and you’re just giving a performance. And seriously, most of these ass clowns don’t deserve your improvised efforts! Even if the situations themselves don’t get better, most likely, you’ll feel better and that’s all we’re aiming for. Assclowns don’t stop being assclowns merely because you’ve mastered the force.
This doesn’t come with a guarantee and it won’t be applicable in a lot of situations, but hey it sure beats coffee table rings.
Okay, that was such a clown horn ending.