Cultivate Your Inner Samuel L. Jackson

Can the owner of this many Kangol hats really be that mean?

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.

1. Decide

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.

2. Commit

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.

3. Plan

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.

4. Practice

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.

5. Consistency

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.

132 thoughts on “Cultivate Your Inner Samuel L. Jackson

  1. Literally walking away when someone’s talking to you or expecting an anwer to their question(s), can actually send a pretty strong message and takes some guts…

  2. I was feeling very defeated today, and then I read this post. I feel much better about being me. Thanks, Snarky. ^_^

  3. Okay, I’m finally coming out of lurkerdom to say simply: Snarky’s, you are most definitely a bad-ass in every possible way and I think you’re the coolest thing EVAR.

    And I think I need to work on my personal five-point plan to Samuel Jacksonosity.

  4. Assclowns don’t stop being assclowns merely because you’ve mastered the force.

    This line needs to be on a bumper sticker. Great post.

  5. Thanks, Snarky’s, for an amazing post. You are, in fact, one badass lady, just by virtue of blogging here. I have to wear my long leather coat to invoke a combination of the Ninth Doctor and Spike and get badassery by association, whereas even your online posts exude it. What a great plan-I must start following it! *takes notes* You get double badass points for invoking the best bad Star Trek movie EVAH and making a Star Wars reference in one post. Geek love! May I be your fangirl? I have lotsa practice, I’m a really excellent one-just ask anyone who’s heard me natter on about Buffy or Babylon 5! Pleeeeeaaaasseee? *does puppydog eyes*

  6. Oh, yes. This is great advice.

    My mom and dad coached me through responses to all kinds of things people can do to harsh one’s mellow. And now, I still know if I follow their model of directness and emotional discipline, as you so excellently put it, I will be in good standing.

    I’ve even been talking over problems with friends and called my mom to put her on the phone with them, since whatever I was going to say was going to be a pale echo of her incisive and clear advice.

    The practice, practice, practice part is so true and so familiar.

    This is a really great post.

  7. I hate doing the “I really needed to read this today!” thing but I skipped fencing practice tonight because of rule 1 and was busy beating up on myself about it because of not following rule 2. This is awesome and perfectly timed.

    Though… that implies that on any given day I wouldn’t be busy either not deciding or not committing, which… okay so I really needed to read this every day.

  8. Wow, this is so perfectly applicable to my life that I’m blown away. I kind of wish I’d read it a week ago, but if I’d read it any earlier I don’t think it would have done me any good.

  9. Literally walking away when someone’s talking to you or expecting an anwer to their question(s), can actually send a pretty strong message and takes some guts…

    Agreed. I totally resist the idea that one needs to confront someone engaging in assclownery. For one thing, they aren’t really engaging with you, so why are you expected to generate new and refreshing ways to end up upset, silenced or defeated?

    I also don’t care why X situation makes me feel like Y. Which is another reason I don’t really have much use for pop psych. The why never made me feel better or enabled me to craft effective coping strategies. It mostly kept me stuck. And don’t get me started on “I” statements. Even if I love someone, if they are engaging in something that makes me stabby, I possess enough self awareness to realize at that moment I’m not at all interested in negotiating their needs, wants or feelings. And THAT’S OKAY.

    I guess that was my point. Whatever you decide to do or how you decide to navigate this stuff it’s all to the good. That’s all Sam expects of you.

    And thanks to all of the Shapelings for the kudos and kind words! It totally melts Snarky’s old glacial heart.

  10. Wow, I wish I could be like that! For us social-anxiety folks, is there anything we can do not to be so afraid of the social repercussions of not sucking it up? I’m not that scared that ‘people will hate me’ or anything like that…I fear that there will be real life negative consequences of people hating me, like they will make my life actually harder the way bullies at school can. I was always told just to ignore people who were being bullies but it’s pretty damn difficult if they are locking you in a bathroom or pelting things at your head. Does that make any sense? How can I get over the fear of, not just making someone mad at me, but getting pelted in the head as a result?

  11. What an amazing post. As an occasional ass-clown I can vouch for the effectiveness of these methods.

    And @GirlNamedCarl, “Samuel Jacksonosity” is my new favorite adjective.

  12. This was a fine fine reminder-thanks! I’ve been working on eliminating the self-censorship habit because it’s caused me no end of (sometimes literal) grief. It’s frightening but when I get it right there’s way less self-chowchow later. I’m more of a Toshiro-Mifune-as-Yojimbo fan: I straighten my back and stride with my toes pointed outward, sometimes stroking my nonexistent chin stubble while glaring.

  13. I don’t know if all this makes you badass as it is popularly understood, but it sure makes you fucking awesome in my book.

    I have to admit I am a big ol wimp and do a lot to avoid “making a scene” over a lot of shit. I console myself with the fact that I am both shy and way introverted, and just dealing politely with strangers takes an awful lot of my spoons. Getting angry at strangers involves too much of my self for me to handle doing it often. I do, however, engage the people I’m close to and feel comfortable with on a social level. So I guess that’s my line – if you’re going to be a regular feature of my personal life, I am not going to put up with shit from you. If you’re not, I’ve already got a life that takes up an awful lot of my emotional energy, I need to conserve it for more important things.

    I am at least getting better at straight-up walking away (literally in the moment, and in more extended ways) from people.

    Agreed. I totally resist the idea that one needs to confront someone engaging in assclownery. For one thing, they aren’t really engaging with you, so why are you expected to generate new and refreshing ways to end up upset, silenced or defeated?

    This, yeah, something I need to re-read pretty often. Especially since I’m currently in an environment where I don’t feel safe identifying myself openly as anything that might get me labeled as part of the PC Police (a lot of Typical Liberal D00ds around here), I have a habit of feeling guilty for not being more of a fighter. You know, like how I started off by calling myself a “wimp” and “admitting” that I don’t confront people.

    Maybe I should do more explicit planning. Actually, in fact, planning responses to common assclownery sounds like an excellent idea that will really help my coping. Snarkys you are so smart.

  14. “Assclowns don’t stop being assclowns merely because you’ve mastered the force.”

    I’m considering stitching this onto some kind of sampler.

    Thank you for this whole post. I needed it.

  15. This post is awesome and I can’t wait to disseminate it via Twitter.

    That said, it’s incredible to me how some people equate “Strives to not take bullplop” with “Bad-ass”. I feel you on that front!

  16. LOVE.

    Recently at one of my company’s sites, the black receptionist got a weave – intricate braids that are long and gorgeous. Now, bear in mind I work for an organization made up largely of Nice White Ladies – we not only Celebrate Diversity, we take Diversity out for a gourmet meal and a play at least twice a week. (sucky metaphor, meh.) Anyway, I was standing at the desk talking to her, and another worker (NWL) comes up and goes, “Ooh, fancy hair! I have to touch it!” And she did.

    It was only the barely-in-time realization that it was not my place to do anything that kept me from smacking her hand away from the receptionist’s head. I just stared at her, the word “Seriously?” resounding in my head in disbelieving echoes.

    Ahem. Anyway. I love this. I have learned to choose my battles, and also how to handle them. It’s been a long lesson to learn, but it’s worth it. (A politely worded email may not be satisfying as one full of vitriol and swear words, but it tends to a: get better results and b: more likely to be remembered without embarrassment.)

  17. Realized tonight that though its efficacy is questionable at best, when I’m on my bike and a car starts acting mildly aggressive I immediately say, quietly, “Fuck with me and I kill you.”

  18. I have what promises to be an extraordinarily stressful and confrontational meeting tomorrow. I may print this out and take it with me to reread beforehand.

    I confess, I’m a bit confused about the first paragraph in #4. I’m guessing this is about entitled jackasses thinking because your hair is so not like theirs they feel they have the right to invade your personal space with their curiosity and sometimes physically? Am I reading that right?

    DRST

  19. This really hit the spot in a week where I can’t choke down another eggs and see nothing on the horizon but windmills. I know I can’t do this all at once, but tomorrow…choosing.

    Thanks, SnarkysMachine…I’m visualizing the SJ kicking in already, and I’ve had it with the motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane.

  20. I love this. It is something I generally already do, but I love having it written out this way.

    In fact just today I told off my bus driver because he left the train station before people could walk down from the platform, yeah that extra 45 seconds was totally going to mess up the entire CTA schedule. I didn’t even get super confrontational with him, I just said “Too much trouble to wait for us to walk down from the platform huh?” (a bit breathlessly because I had just run two blocks). And he did the whole “Hey” thing as though I had no right to speak to him thus. But you know what dick head, I pay you, and I am unfailingly polite to you every day, the least you could do is do your fucking job consistently and not screw people over who are just trying to get home because you are trying to add 45 seconds to your break at the other end of the line.

    So yeah, thanks for making me feel better about being “scary.” (I’m tall and loud, apparently Tall + Loud + Assertive = scary)

  21. So I was all about this post generally, and was going to say how much I, too, really needed it this week. And then I scrolled down the comments and found something else even MORE wonderful from Snarkysmachine:

    “I also don’t care why X situation makes me feel like Y. Which is another reason I don’t really have much use for pop psych. The why never made me feel better or enabled me to craft effective coping strategies. It mostly kept me stuck.”

    I needed that even more. As a person who often feels like she has to explain or justify her assertiveness or her frustration, it’s nice to be reminded that the WHY doesn’t necessarily make a difference. I feel what I feel; the “why” won’t make it go away.

  22. Delurking to say, I had to post ‘Assclowns don’t stop being assclowns merely because you’ve mastered the force.’ as my Facebook status. Of course I credited my source and used a link!

  23. THANK YOU SNARKY’S!!! I needed this so badly, particularly the part about CONSISTENCY.

    I am, for the first time, teaching fourth graders (little kids! yikes!) and although I usually subdue my students with a healthy dose of Disappointed Indian Dad (TM), which is my version of Samuel Jacksonosity (thx GirlNamedCarl), I have become, out of sheer exhaustion and secret meltiness, totally inconsistent with my discipline. I am ashamed of myself, and I know that not only do I deserve better, but so do my STUDENTS. Not taking crap from people doesn’t only benefit yourself, but the people dishing out that crap, whether they’re ten or ten times ten. No more inconsistent tolerance of incomplete homework, chatting in class, or sassing!

    And git your sticky paws outta my hair, kids! Just because it’s ovedr three feet long doesn’t mean I’m your cat.

  24. This might be my favorite SP post ever, after Fantasy of Being Thin.

    The other day I was at the Dollar Tree, and the cashier asked me if I wanted to buy a toy for a military family. I said “Not today” or “No thanks.” Then I happened to sneeze. There was a kind of lull, and then the cashier looked at me and said, “Do you know why I didn’t say ‘bless you?'” and looked pointedly at the pile of toys for military families. I thought, DUDE! You have GOT to be kidding me. But I just smiled at him because I was about to spend the day outside eating ice cream and cake and he was going to be standing in a checkout line at the Dollar Tree. Yeah, the joke’s on ME. Whatever.

    I have never been a bad ass (ever) and probably never will be, but since having my kid, I find I just don’t care like I used to. I sometimes just want people to mess with me or say something about my kid so I can chew them out, but I never do. I like your advice to rehearse. I need to do that. Some cashier at Target (yes, I shop a lot; I am a suburban housewife) once gave me shit about my daughter’s hair. It took a few moments for it to register that she was being an assclown, but I had no clue of how to respond.

  25. You know, it’s funny, but as of today I feel in a position to say this is excellent advice because I tried it and IT WORKED!!!!

    My brother the medieval historian is very fond of whingeing on about what a poor, abused Very Special Snowflake he is because he’s stuck in a (gasp!) retail job that where he has to deal with understaffing and annoying customers and suchlike stuff he Should Never Have to Deal With Because He is a Special Fucking Snowflake. After a few minutes of him droning on about the Misery That Is His Life(tm), with him alternately ignoring and dismissing as mere inanity anything I say that suggests his life isn’t just one big sinkhole of suck, I tend to find myself being dragged into the sinkhole with him until I feel like curling up in a fetal position for a week.

    Since the last time he was here, I have been practicing not being dragged into sinkholes. Today when he came over, the instant he started telling me how his life SUCKS HIDEOUSLY, WOE, WOE, WOE IS HE!, I up and changed the subject. When he tried to drag the conversation back to the misery of his life, I changed the subject again. After about 45 minutes of cheerful Twistie who refused to be dragged into depression for his amusement, he finally said he had to go and went on his way.

    I kept busy, kept talking about things that interest me, refused to engage in the question of Why His Life Sucks, and came out the other side my usual cheerful self.

    This totally works!!!!!

    (performs Numfar dance of geeky joy and adulation for Snarky’s Machine)

  26. I confess, I’m a bit confused about the first paragraph in #4. I’m guessing this is about entitled jackasses thinking because your hair is so not like theirs they feel they have the right to invade your personal space with their curiosity and sometimes physically? Am I reading that right?

    You’ve never heard of this phenomenon before? There are a lot of good essays about there by WOC about this very situation — you should check them out.

    And Snarky, this post kicks twelve kinds of ass. The planning and practicing steps have been a real discovery for me in the last couple of years. I mean, after all, most people being assclowns have lots of practice with it, right? So no shame in having a practiced response to it.

  27. @anonforthis
    “For us social-anxiety folks, is there anything we can do not to be so afraid of the social repercussions of not sucking it up?”

    A different way of thinking about this question might be to ask – instead of “what might make me less afraid?” – “what would make experiencing this fear worth it?”

    Being assertive in social situations is taking a risk. People may not respond as you want them to. You may be judged. People may fling things at your head in the bathroom (… are you in junior high? Do kids in junior high even really do this, anymore?) What you need to decide is what you are willing to sacrifice in order to attempt to avoid all of these potential consequences. At what point do you decide that your right to determine your own boundaries trumps the things that you risk by enforcing them?

    Another thing to think about is the idea that social anxiety lies to you. Social anxiety says “if you just act in X way, people will not do these things to you. You will be safe.” And this might feel really true. If you are never assertive or engaging in conflict with anyone, you might avoid the kinds of consequences you fear. But it’s also entirely possible that the consequences would not have happened if you HAD been assertive. And it’s ALSO entirely possible that, despite your best efforts, people will treat you in the way that you fear. Social anxiety is a grandiose motherfucker who tells you that you can control other people if you just try hard enough. Social anxiety is an asshole, because when you believe it you sacrifice things that you want to do for the sake of the illusion that you can avoid something bad by listening to it.

  28. Hee, I read “Jacksonian” and one of my dad’s favorite quotes popped into my head.

    “One man with courage makes a badass motherfucker.” – Andrew Jackson.

  29. Only in my dreams will I ever be as badass as SLJ. Or be able to rock such a hat.

    But seriously, I think mastering “the look” is a crucial component. The withering, get the fuckity fuck away from me, or I will beat your ass and don’t think I can’t just because I have tits look. There’s also the look of withering academic knowitall condescenscion, but this is for different situations and frat boys.

    Men try to touch/say hello/hi five me when I am out running ALL THE TIME. The Look of Doom seems to work when they get too close.

    @ shinobi—I get that too. Apparently 5’8, mouthy, and non-thin=scary and threatening lady.

  30. I also feel that if you can manage to walk away from such an asshat *while wearing the SLJ sunglasses* pictured in the OP, you win at life forever. I mean, how badass is that.

    Imagine, you are in a cafe/grocery store/public area.

    Someone asshats you.

    You turn your sunglassed face to them, slowly. You turn it back. You turn around….and walk away.

    (cue terminator theme)

  31. “And git your sticky paws outta my hair, kids! Just because it’s over three feet long doesn’t mean I’m your cat.”

    LOL!!! Another embroidered sampler. Alter it to fit.

  32. In re sunglasses: Do you think the following could work?

    Turn around

    Lower sunglasses

    Utter cryptic bon mot, like “Really? That sounds a little… derivative.”

    Put sunglasses back on

    Walk away, with “YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!” reverberating in your head. The refrain from “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is optional.

  33. “Walk away, with “YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!” reverberating in your head. The refrain from “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is optional.”

    Silly Maureen! The refrain from Won’t Get Fooled Again is always mandatory.

  34. It is unfair but true, tall big women (me) have to put up with less shit because we are intimidating. Why? It’s wierd. not complaining mind you.

  35. I think it’s going to take me months to really dig into this post and own it. But I think that’s time I need to take.

    Thank you, snarkysmachine.

  36. @anonforthis, in addition to Laura’s most excellent advice, I would like to add SnM’s step four is extra extra important for us social anxiety types. It’s like martial arts training for your brain; you’re training your mental ‘muscle memory’ to assess and do before your anxiety has a chance to do more than sputter. I’ve found it really hard (and it’s still very much a work in progress) but it’s really, really worth it.

    SnM, this is a most excellent post. I’ve been flailing toward this kind of thinking for a long time; having a distinct process laid out in crystal clear steps like this delights me. It’s like, yay! A light to show me what I was vaguely poking around in the dark for! I’ve come a long long way from the cringing thing I used to be, but not as far as I’d like or need, and this is going to help with that. Go go inner SLJ!

  37. Laura says: Another thing to think about is the idea that social anxiety lies to you. Social anxiety says “if you just act in X way, people will not do these things to you. You will be safe.”

    Indeed. Depending on your anxiety level, this might be hard or impossible, but. One day I realized that hey, I am socially anxious regardless of what I am actually doing. I’m socially anxious sitting there trying to look invisible. That being the case, why bother? I can be socially anxious trying to play the ukelele instead. And actually, feel better that way, because saying “Oh, fuck this,” and meaning it does help, and hey, it’s a ukelele.

  38. Grafton, that is kind of amazing. Maybe I will be socially anxious while playing a ukelele tomorrow, we will see.

    I just wanted to share an almost-samuel-l.-jackson moment I had the other night. I was at a party, some guy was giving me a speech about how evolutionary psychology explains why men are from mars therefore women are horrible and should sleep with him, or something. And these words appeared in my brain, fully formed, primed to come out of my mouth:

    “Wait! I just realized… I’ve had this conversation before! It ends with me really bored, and wishing I’d spent the last ten minutes of my life doing something else. So I’m going to go do something else now, bye.”

    But then I didn’t say that, because I thought it might be mean. Instead I walked away without explanation, while he was in the middle of a sentence. Not as dramatic, but at least I got to go do something else.

  39. Great post Snarkysmachine. If you were a knight of old astride your trusty mount , you’d be Sir Kicksassalot, and feared in 9 counties. I’m all for cultivating my inner Samuel. This is a man so fierce he can make Golf clothes work, and he did that before everyone else even tried to go there…for me, rocking the golf casual without even a tremor of trepidation is up there with the best.

    I’m currently showcasing my badself by using a stick to walk. I’ve injured my ankle, so am having to hop and lean on a stick…This requires a certain steely glint of the eye, and I might even come up with my own Blues name to enjoy the experience fully. I’m thinking of Jumping Lemon Jones.

  40. I hadn’t heard the hair thing either – is it more prevalent in the US than the UK? (I live on the outskirts of a small overwhelmingly monocultural city leavened only by postgrads and their families, so I don’t think I meet anyone with hair like that.)

    People (apparently – I must be scary) often touch strangers’ pregnancy bumps, which I suppose is a similar thing.

  41. Yesyesyesyesyes (two whole more yeses than a mere standard yesyesyes) especially on steps 3 and 4.

    The old esprit d’escalier can work for you, if you make it work for you. Instead of thinking “oh, I should have said suchandsuch, damn it why didn’t I say suchandsuch. I should have said suchandsuch and instead I just sat there like a lemon. I suck at this assertiveness thing”… you can think “NEXT TIME, I’m gonna say suchandsuch. Or even, ahaaaaa, thisotherthing. That would pull the rug out from under them, the arseholes.”

    I learnt the power of a Hard Stare from the same place I learned the wisdom of carrying emergency rations, the value of a good wool coat, and the practicality and style of a good pair of primary coloured wellington boots. Paddington Bear: I thank you, sir.

  42. Julie paradox: The hair thing happens in the UK too, disguised as “it’s ok because we also do it to women with shaved heads, and we pull long pigtails too.” I’ve seen it happen in the workplace, even.

  43. @Danielle, re: ‘Realized tonight that though its efficacy is questionable at best, when I’m on my bike and a car starts acting mildly aggressive I immediately say, quietly, “Fuck with me and I kill you.”’

    When I used to ride my bike to work, drivers would occasionally honk a horn at me. It would startle me, so my great rational thinky-thought brain would respond by screaming obscenities, and peddling heart-attach fast because I’d be hell bent on doing just what you said.

    Yeah. I’m slightly less rational than NWL who think it is ok to touch someone else’s hair uninvited. Geez. I’m sorry, I hadn’t observed that before.

  44. @badhedgehog. Oh, am I with you on the Paddington Bear front! He’s the absolute daddy as far as I’m concerned. Only the baddest bears make it from Peru armed only with a marmalade sandwich and a don’t fuck with me stare. Beneath that toggled wool coat beats the heart of a ninja .

  45. The bike thing reminds me of my pedestrian peeve. When a driver stops for the red light. but takes up the entire crosswalk so I basically have to step out into the intersection to get around them. This always made me anxious, so I just started touching their cars. If I have to go around your car that is blocking the whole crosswalk, I tap or pat the hood of the car as I go by. Often I have my keys in my hand. I never actually scratch or hurt their car, but it succeeds in transferring my brief anxiety back to the driver who caused it.

    LOVE the post, Snarky! And the comments, Shapelings! Badass motherfuckers, one and all!

  46. A lot of times it helps me, as a beginner badass, just realizing that instead of answering a totally inappropriate question, I can go meta on them. I need to start practicing more scenarios, but the one that has worked for me several times is just to go “Really?You’re really asking that question?” which buys me (and/or the other person they are being an assclown to) a little time, and changes the dynamic instantly. Also it can be done with a mild friendly smile, even if I feel like screaming.

  47. This always made me anxious, so I just started touching their cars. If I have to go around your car that is blocking the whole crosswalk, I tap or pat the hood of the car as I go by.

    I am reminded of Miss Manners, who opines that for such inconsiderate drivers, either climbing over the hood of the car or opening the door and crawling through the back seat is acceptable, but to be extra civil one should tap on the driver’s window and politely inquire which they would prefer. I have not yet gotten up the chutzpah to actually try this, but I suspect that such a question would at least amusingly baffle the driver if not point out the error of their parking position.

  48. This post says things that aren’t said to women enough, and says them in the perfect way. As you said, we are unfortunately more often told to play nice, to defer, to be sweet. The most frustrating part about cultivating one’s inner Samuel Jackson is that, as a woman, it comes off as bitchy, mean, aggressive, etc. I think I got it from my mom, but even as a teenager I had my lines in the sand and I had my share of confrontations over them- with a pervy coach/health teacher, with a sleazy employer who tried to short me two weeks of my check, etc. Of course what came with that is that I was “disrespectful” I was “too opinionated” I was “too sensitive”, or I should learn to just “let it go”.

    What they didn’t realize is that I was so frustrated with their actions that I didn’t give two shits and a handclap about how “too _______” I was being.

  49. @Cortney ” The most frustrating part about cultivating one’s inner Samuel Jackson is that, as a woman, it comes off as bitchy, mean, aggressive, etc.”

    The way round this is to speak slowly, in a low voice, and simply wear golf casuals…there’s no way you’ll be perceived badly.

    Also, look to other Mofos for your inspiration. I give you Hong Kong Phooey. …he was NEVER called a bitch.

  50. YES. This is GOOD SAUCE. I am constantly amazed in my adult life at how many interpersonal feats of Better-Life can be accomplished by consciously practicing. I thought practice was for things like learning how to hate the clarinet or making crappy watercolors; I always forget that it could be used for things like going to the grocery store without losing your goddamn mind, or responding to the concern troll cave that is every party after 24.

    @snarky: I have to profess a fondness for “I” statements in difficult conversations with people I either personally care about or people with whom I want to seek a satisfying conclusion. Forcing myself to use “I” statements makes it harder for me to just give up in frustration, start spouting off insults, and forget the focus of the fight or why I should give a damn in the process. Ex: “I’m frustrated, close personal friend, because I don’t understand what you need from me to feel better, and I would like you to feel better because I care about you” vs. “Oh my god you are such a fucking needy nutbag, you have been like this since 7th grade.” To me, that’s also how I show the other person that I think they are worth the tremendous brain-killing effort it takes for me to frame my words appropriately and not start spouting off. Asking the other person to use “I” statements helps me make sure I’m getting a clearer picture of what they want, what they feel, and how they got there, so if I do decide they’re a nutbag, it’s a very informed and researched conclusion.

    But that’s for very specific kinds of conversations with very specific kinds of people. For everybody else, my technique has been:

    *aristocratic laugh* “Well! Aren’t you quaint?”

  51. Wow. I just read that first “No, you can’t touch my hair” post at Stuff White People Do, and the comments thread. UnFUCKINGbelievable! The original poster got called horrible racist names for not letting a stranger touch her hair, and then white people with “interesting” hair STILL derailed the comments thread and said it wasn’t about racism.

    (Plus sexism. It seems to be a standard clueless racist move by white women against black women specifically, not so much black men. I guess in the same way PeTA would rather harass women in fur coats than biker dudes in leather jackets?)

  52. I now realize that I like to combine @flightless’ “going meta on them” with @Sandrad’s point that tall, loud women are (unfairly) intimidating enough not to get as much of a constant shitstorm. One of my lines is people, often men, using my height as an “in” to talk to/catcall/hit on me. This once happened with a TSA employee who kept wasting my time looking at my license where it says 6’1″ and looking at me, and being all “damn girl, are you really that tall?”. My planned response is: “Yeah I am. What are you, about 5’6″?” Since other tall people pretty much never marvel to me about how tall I am, it is very useful.

    Thanks for the reminder that other lines need to come pre-packaged with a response, Snarkys. I only realized the tallness-retort by 15 years of being 6’1″ and trial and error about how to deal. Your way is much better!

  53. apparently I am “flightless” when I post from my iPhone, but “peregrin8″ when I post from the Real Computer. (Same monster, though!) Sorry about that; I think this is fixed now.

  54. Re: Social Anxiety, I too am socially anxious. I know that a lot of people are not comfortable with me so I worry a lot when I say or do weird stuff. And I do try very hard to make people like me.

    But something that I have found is, when you stand up for yourself, even if you are really mean about it, SOMEBODY is gonna like you for it. (Especially if you do it with humor.) It probably wont be the person you stand up to, but the fact that you are having to tell them off means that they already don’t like or respect you. I often find that friends and even bystanders are incredibly supportive of me asserting myself. So there is another benefit of assertiveness, some people will really love you for it. (i.e. How much do we all love Samuel L Jackson, Or Rachel Maddow, or Gabourne Sidibe? We love them and respect them because they are bad ass! People will also love and respect you in your badassness.)

    Also, Olivia, what is WITH that? I’ve also had people tell me I should be a model or play basketball (even though I am clearly too obese to be a model.) I definetly remember one lady at an airline counter who told me that if I just got on the treadmill I could TOTES be a model. I was sadly too blindsided by this to have a clever retort. Conversely I get all screwed up when guys call me “shorty” because obviously… they are not talking to ME. (I mean, I know it is slang, but… there is nothing short about me except my temper, so why on earth would anyone expect me to respond to it.)

  55. I am totally going to put this into action the next time a guy interrupts my workout to mainsplain/patronize. I have yet to end one of those confrontations in a satisfactory manner, so I am going to work on it.

  56. I accidentally found my inner badassitude as a TA in grad school proctoring an exam for a professor. Apparently, my deadpan sarcasm is too deadpan for some people, and they take me seriously and have no idea how to respond. It’s a great way to say completely outrageous things to people who clearly will not respond to Earth logic.

  57. Yeah shinobi42, I get model or basketball player all the time. I was a rower in college though, which is the only time in my life where my size seemed completely unremarkable (still obese during my entire athletic life according to BMI, btw!). I miss blending in sometimes, but I really love being tall. I’m always shocked that people think it is ok to comment on other people’s height or weight. I think it is so, so rude. To me it sounds like: YOU ARE DIFFERENT! EXPLAIN YOURSELF! People think it is a compliment…

    I was in college when 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” came out, and my German roommate (who is my size) was completely confused.
    “Who’s shaaawwwddy?”
    “He’s saying ‘shorty’, as in, ‘go shorty, it’s yo’ birthday.””
    “Who’s shorty then?”
    “It’s slang for women, or sometimes children.”
    “But I’m not short”
    “I know. I guess he didn’t think it through.”

  58. Snarkysmachine – Great post! I love Samuel L., and I agree with your stuff said here, but I wanted to say:
    My husband and I have this theory that there are certain personalities – actors, singers, etc., that are overused in media. I think this is because they’re too strong of personalities – nothing wrong with a strong personality, but it’s the fact that these are the kind of personalities that have the best effect when used in moderation.
    I think this shows up well in your first option “Decide”.
    It’s awesome to be badass and strong and willing to take your own side in a confrontation. It really, truly is. But you need to know when is the right time to do so, and when to just walk away. Using your power to *be powerful* is most effective when you use it the right amount, at the right time, in the right place, and then it will never be forgotten.

    Killer post, seriously. I loved it. Now I only hope I can learn from it!

    Also, Maureen – you made me laugh out loud!

  59. It’s also good badass practice, when you *are* caught so unaware that you simply sputter (or are in a situation where judge that maybe you really don’t want to rock the boat) to address the issue later.

    Did this with some inlaws recently–they decided it would be totes OK to go off about how awful a person my husband was to ME, and how as a woman and the “lady of the house” it was my job to control him and but “the apron strings.”

    So I wrote them an email calling them on that shit the next day. I don’t know if they cared but *I* felt a lot better about myself.

  60. @ chava & shinobi—I get that too. Apparently 5′8, mouthy, and non-thin=scary and threatening lady.

    Can I join too?
    I’m only 5’6″, but the engineering guys visit me in pairs, because I’m too scary to approach alone.

  61. @chava. Next time don’t e-mail, actually hand write a letter, and ask Joe Pesci to run it round for you. One way or another, problems solved.

  62. “It’s awesome to be badass and strong and willing to take your own side in a confrontation. It really, truly is. But you need to know when is the right time to do so, and when to just walk away. Using your power to *be powerful* is most effective when you use it the right amount, at the right time, in the right place, and then it will never be forgotten.”

    Yes! This!

    About twwenymumble years ago, I was cast in a play being done by an independent director who planned to take the show around to schools, etc. Very cool. Unfortunately, out of a cast of five people, only two of us took the show seriously. The other three tended to wander into rehearsal whenever they damn well felt like it, give minimal effort, and then try to duck out early.

    The director, lacking an inner SLJ, couldn’t figure out what to do about this and so kept soldiering on. This didn’t work.

    Finally the day came when I, the director, and the one other responsible cast member had been sitting around waiting for these three goobers for nearly an hour when they sailed in the door and started complaining about how much time this play was taking from their important lives. The director had had enough. She stalked out the door, taking the responsible cast member with her.

    I was going to go with them, but I had to change out of my rehearsal shoes into my street ones. The three Stooges decided to berate me for the ‘irresponsibility’ and ‘cruelty’ of the director.

    I am reliably informed that I could be heard word for word in the street from the third floor of a brick building.

    The next day all three Stooges came up to me individually and apologized with great timidity and much hat in handing. And while that particular play was cancelled due to annoying douchebags in the cast, I worked with all three Stooges in other plays… and they behaved themselves.

  63. Oh, and the point of the story is that this would never have been nearly as effective if I hadn’t been a generally quiet, pleasant, diplomatic person. Nobody expected a mouse to roar.

  64. And yes, the after-the-fact thing works, too. My parents gave me a little “no one will buy the cow if he gets the milk for free” speech the other week. (Um, I am 32. THIRTY-TWO. Also, I have been supporting myself for the past decade or so. And I am 32.) At the time, I just sat there and stared at them. The next day, I took each of them aside separately and discussed the fact that a) I do not aspire to be compared to a barnyard animal and b) my sex life is none of their affair. Also, c) we are never having this discussion or any similar to it ever again. It works! (For the last two weeks, anyway. Crossing fingers. Same discussion re: my weight has held for eight years, though.)

  65. The classical ‘I beg your pardon?’ is the reply I have memorised. But somehow I am lucky, I hardly ever get questions I do not want to answer. Then again, the only time I was called a fat person by a stranger in the street was in the US, and I live in Europe. Must be a cultural difference.

  66. @Olivia
    “YOU ARE DIFFERENT! EXPLAIN YOURSELF!”

    This!

    There is a perverse part of me that wishes people would actually just say that instead of the flasshattery people use in such instances – like “Oh, I wish my hair did that” “You’re so lucky that at your size you can wear that” & et cetera, ad nauseum. I wish this because it would then be so much easier to say “Yes, I’m different from you in this way, but that does not make me an exhibit for your amusement.”

  67. Sometimes I wish I had a canned laughter machine. Preferably the one with the kind of canned laughter they used on eps of Scooby Doo. It always sounded so patronizing. I think it would go a long with my SLJing.

  68. “Sometimes I wish I had a canned laughter machine. Preferably the one with the kind of canned laughter they used on eps of Scooby Doo. It always sounded so patronizing. I think it would go a long with my SLJing.”

    You know, snarkys, in these days of easily available home recording equipment, it wouldn’t be too difficult to come up with just such a laugh track. I’d even come do a patronizing laugh for you.

  69. “no one will buy the cow if he gets the milk for free”
    Holy Shitting Nora. I’m doing a full Yosemite Sam and firing bullets into the ground. There’s very little to say when faced with a sentence like that because eye-watering surprise takes over and kills the inspiration off, which is nature’s way of protecting the rude. If the confusion fog didn’t come over us at such moments, most of our parents would have been disemboweled by us in ruthlessly cold silence. I seethe quietly with you in solidarity.

    An old male relative of mine used to say “Why have a dog and bark yourself?” when he wanted any female family member to get him a drink or food or whatever. Thankfully I was a mere child when he used to say that, so I never got to say “A kick in the balls is as good as a holiday,” and then go medieval on him.
    Thankyou for saying you love me Starling…I’m simpering behing my posy at you.

  70. When we first moved in together, Mr Machine’s mother asked if he was “going to make an honest woman” out of me. This inspired many cow/milk jokes from me.

  71. *sigh*
    The boyfriend grew up on a dairy farm, so he found the comparison irresistibly funny. I myself was a little stabby. I agree that the moment of “What the HELL?” is Nature’s way of protecting parents from their offspring. They also caught me pre-caffeine, which means I am pretty much incapable of responding to anything that needs more than a nod.

    Also on the annoying male front is the 15 year old brother who says this at least once a week: “You wanna hear a joke? Women’s rights!” Yeah, babe. From a Darwinian point of view, that impulse ought to have died off a long, long time ago.

  72. “*aristocratic laugh* “Well! Aren’t you quaint?”” Ooooh, I’m going to steal that. Though I think I’ll go with one raised eyebrow instead of the laugh!

  73. Just today, I was in such a situation when I stuck to the plan I’d made in case a certain thing happened. When I did, the other person looked at me with total disbelief and disdain, but I just stuck to it – and it worked. And I told myself, “Just do this every time it happens.” Then I come online and read your post :) I think I’m going to print it out and put it somewhere I see it each day.

  74. Thank you! You have reminded me of what I had down cold as a three year old!

    I have red hair. Not, “oh, cool, you’re a redhead, that’s not as common as other hair colors, and so is vaguely interesting” red hair, but instead “VENERATED BOVINE! YOUR HAIR IS SO RED THAT I AM STARTLED BY IT! STARTLED, I SAY!” red hair. And when I was three, I had Had Enough of Strange People Asking Me Where I Got That Beautiful Red Hair, so when the cashier at the grocery store asked me for the 47 thousandth time, I gave her the three-year-old death glare and growled, “It. Just. Grew. There.”

    And now! I am a grown woman, and still, there are assclowns who want to pet me like I am some sort of stray dog.* I should totally practice my response to that. I think I am going to go with, “Hey! I am not a dog for you to pet! Keep your hands to yourself!” If I am particularly cranky, perhaps I will add “Did you fail kindergarten?”

    *My hair comes with a hide so pale it’s see-through in places; experiential differences very much acknowledged.

  75. Re: Canned laughter

    Just get an MP3 of it and import it onto your phone as a ring tone, then preview/play it as appropriate. I’ve never yet carried around a laugh track, but one of the many things I used my old Treo for was so I could play appropriate musical cues.

  76. I do consider myself a badass motherfucker. I do not take any shit and use my somewhat scary appearance and loud mouth to muscle my way around. That being said, my favorite way to handle an assclown that feels it necessary to confront me about anything (most frequently their opinion of my tattoos), is to say,

    Me: “Are you talking to me?”
    Assclown: “Yeah.”
    Me: “Why?”

    And then I let them stammer a sec and walk off after a well-timed and dismissive eyeroll. It saves me from actually starting a fight (usually). I don’t want to be on the news.

    And my favorite quote from Will Rodgers – “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

  77. Sweet Machine – no I have heard of the immensely complex politics surrounding hair before, but I just wasn’t clear that that was indeed what the paragraph was talking about. And I didn’t want to assume.

    DRST

  78. And I am always on the lookout for the appropriate rock for any situation. It’s the Samuel Jackson Way.

  79. Also, not to nit pick, but I think I’d prefer to use Angela Bassett in all her variety of badass roles as my model for “how to deal with the assclowns of the world.” Nothing against Samuel. L. of course. ;)

    DRST

  80. Twistie –
    That is quite exactly what I’m talking about, and good for you! :)

    (Also, I totally squee’d out loud when I saw I had been quoted and agreed with! That happens so rarely. :) )

  81. @DRST – Pam Grier would do the business too. I’d also suggest the fabulous Kathy Bates for some serious shitdown badassery.

  82. A good one for interfering relatives is “I, uh, think we’ll be making our own decisions about that,” said in the same tone as “I, uh, think we’ll have the fish.” *closes menu, hands it back to waiter*

  83. Thanks for the excellent advice to those who proffered it! (Just to be clear, I am not afraid of people *literally* throwing things at my head, it was a metaphor – I’m afraid of people making me feel the way I did when the 6th-grade bullies threw real things at my head way back when).

    I love the idea of being socially anxious and playing the ukelele. And trying to realize that I don’t spare myself anything by avoiding participation in social life, that I can’t make bad things NOT happen by being anxious and mouse-like enough.

    FABULOUS post and comments…

  84. @ Grafton – That is brilliant. I have never considered social anxiety in such a fantastic way before. I think I will bring a ukelele the next time I have to attend a big, embarassing party at my in-law’s.

    @ Elly – I LOVE I BEG YOUR PARDON!!! Why does it always work so effectively? Why do I always forget it when I need it? I am always too loquacious, which kills the effect.

    So what happen with my 4th graders today? I was totally SLJ in measurement lab – ZION DON’T YOU TEST ME! TEST YOUR BEAKER MEASUREMENT YOUNG MAN! Naziar, am I a pane of glass? You awake or sleeping with your eyes shut? Jewell, if Keyerra is bothering you, do something about it, don’t spread the disease and start bothering me. I got those kids on TASK.

    But they were still all up in my hair, dammit, and Sade decided my blush would look good on her, so she wiped her hand across my cheek and rubbed it on her own. WHAT?! What would SLJ do in this situation? I was literally dumbstruck. Any tips?

  85. Yeesh. This reminds me why I’m not so great with the little ones…when I worked with 5 year olds as a camp counselor, about 80% of the subtext of everything I was saying was “For the love of gawd, STOP TOUCHING ME.”

    I read this book once, and it’s not amazing, but it was kinda cute…maybe a mini-lesson about personal space? And maybe you could read it in SLJ’s voice?

  86. “no one will buy the cow if he gets the milk for free”

    And why should she buy the pig for just a little sausage?

    That’s been my response every time I hear that horrible cow/milk phrase. And I’ve come to deal with intentional sexist remarks, purely designed to piss me off so I can then be ridiculed for not having a sense of humor, by using the withering glare and not acknowleding that person exists for most of the rest of the evening… if he has such a problem with women then I’ll be a dear and keep away from the jerk. It’s amazing how people take offense to being ignored!

    This is a really important post because socially groups seem to rally around the bully–usually for fear of being their next target. So having well practiced and rehearsed responses is important to keep one’s sanity.

  87. In re sunglasses: Do you think the following could work?

    Turn around

    Lower sunglasses

    Utter cryptic bon mot, like “Really? That sounds a little… derivative.”

    Put sunglasses back on

    Walk away, with “YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!” reverberating in your head. The refrain from “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is optional.

    This totally cracked me up! Horatio Caine’s sunglasses move FTW!

    Snarky, I am in awe of your ass kicking skills! This post is brilliant, as are all the comments!

  88. “Why should he buy the cow when he can have the milk for free?” ticks me off because it’s not even good economics. Owning the cow is better because the cow is a RESOURCE; if you decide you don’t want the free milk anymore or they stop giving it to you, you’re SOL. However, if you OWN the cow, you can sell it or butcher it and be exponentially better off. Similarly, your girlfriend can walk off with the stereo you purchased together, but your wife cannot. Are people really dumb enough that they don’t realize this?

    I guess I could argue that women aren’t cows, but it wouldn’t get you very far with the assclowns I deal with on the regular. Astonishing them by my ability to GO OFF ON A FUCKING TANGENT seems to work best.

  89. paintmonkey – Pam Grier and Kathy Bates are both awesomesauce.

    I smell a Friday Fluff thread: favorite badassitude role models.

    “no one will buy the cow if he gets the milk for free”

    And why should she buy the pig for just a little sausage?

    Diane, that is brilliant and should be quoted all over the internet.

    DRST

  90. 4. Practice

    I thought I was CRAZY when I do this while drying my hair or showering. Literally speaking out loud what it is I would like to say to someone being an assclown. I challenged my own sanity in doing this, but now feel like I am not alone…and THANK YOU FOR THIS Snarky!
    To elaborate….practicing what you would say, and even thinking of responses from the other party, are great confidence boosters and excellent preparation for the “next” time ( and there will be a next time) someone treats you less than. And it’s not like you have to MAKE UP a scenario…just replay past interactions and practice what you would have LIKED to have said, had you been in full SLJackson mode. You will be surprised at how quickly you can call up your practiced responses. For me, saying the words OUT LOUD makes it stick more because it’s not just thoughts floating around in my head….and having actual soundwaves entering my ear canal somehow makes it even more solid. *insert fist pump here*

  91. But something that I have found is, when you stand up for yourself, even if you are really mean about it, SOMEBODY is gonna like you for it. (Especially if you do it with humor.) It probably wont be the person you stand up to, but the fact that you are having to tell them off means that they already don’t like or respect you.

    And little bells went off in Caitlin’s head…

  92. Clown horn ending or no, this is the post I needed to read right now. Step-by-step guidelines, while they make me feel silly and like I’m failing at sprezzatura are totally what I need right now. (New word courtesy of this awesome post by Mary Ann Mohanraj: http://www.mamohanraj.com/journal/show-entry.php?Entry_ID=5354sprezzatura is fancy italian for making hard work look effortless, and is v. connected to sucking it up for me.)

    Telling people to go shove it when that’s what needs saying is so simple, and yet still so difficult. I’m going to have to try the writing it out thing, since I have a feeling that’s going to make a world of difference in tackling the problems that have, thus far, proved resistant to embracing my inner SLJ.

  93. @ paintmonkey – You’re in the UK, right? I heard the why-have-a-dog line from multiple relatives in Scotland, along with all other manner of jackassy rudeness.

    One day I finally turned round and said “you know, before you start taunting a dog, you should probably check to make sure it isn’t part pit bull”. And then I smiled.

    My asshat of an uncle looked quite alarmed.

  94. Awesome post – the clown horn ending was an excellent coda. I have gotten better at SLJing people since I realized that I don’t really care that much about being liked by the general populace, and also since I realized that assclowns don’t respond to your efforts to get along with them, they respond to being dominated.

    An especially gratifying aspect of it for me is that I look like a Nice White Lady(TM) so when I pull out the Jacksonosity the cogdiss is priceless.

    Also, a few years ago I realized I had perfected the art of the Miss Manners approved chilly stare. I was waiting to board a plane to Chicago when a fellow traveler and I got into a conversation about a Chicago neighborhood we both used to live in. It was all going nicely until she leaned in and confided that the only thing she didn’t like about the neighborhood was that there were so many Jews. If she had been alone I would have let her have it, but she was with her small daughter, whom I didn’t want to upset, so I tried really hard to shoot out rays of icy disapproval and offense, while staring her down. It worked because she started backpedaling and apologizing. Yeah, she’s probably still an anti-Semite, but at least she got the message that her comments were not acceptable.

  95. Jenniferal – I think it depends on where you sit on the privilege food chain. Those having more privilege can worry less about being perceived as “bitchy” given they are afforded the benefit of the doubt in most cases. But those having less privilege have to be more aware of how they are being perceived in the spaces they occupy because of the repercussions for them can be far more severe.

  96. Diane totally wins an internet. Makes me want to run out and get a boyfriend and then get some intrusive friends, so I can use the little sausage line!

  97. I’m a little late in the game here, but could someone clarify the meaning of NiceWhiteLady(TM) for me?

    I think I would more qualify as a BitchyWhiteGirl, but still.

  98. @BrieCS – My first exposure to the NiceWhiteLady(TM) concept came from this lovely Mad TV video:

    The Nice White Lady will solve all the problems, with her Nice White Lady wisdom! Yes indeedy. She will totally uplift those Poor Disadvantaged People! Which is all kinds of patronizing and problematic and I’m sure other folk would have much more in-depth and on-point and hella-funny breakdowns of the concept.

  99. Cultivating my inner SLJ is very difficult for me. I definitely take less shit from tools and busybodies than I used to, but I do struggle with occasions where an associate (rather than a friend or stranger) says something, um, problematic, and I know they “mean well.”

    Being socially inept, I worry that speaking up will cause their tolerance of my presence to lessen – I already have a lot of trouble just making conversation. Being a bit racial, I worry that I will be slapped with the “hypersensitive”/fun police tag, or that they may judge all vaguely brown/yellow people by my behaviour. I’ve learned that it’s sometimes hard to pick whether someone truly sees me as an individual, or whether they see me as the Borg Other.*

    *You know you’re seeing Borg when you judge X-group by your experiences with a member of that group, a similar group, or an oh-bugger-it-they’re-close-enough-aren’t-they?-group.

  100. Being socially inept, I worry that speaking up will cause their tolerance of my presence to lessen – I already have a lot of trouble just making conversation. Being a bit racial, I worry that I will be slapped with the “hypersensitive”/fun police tag, or that they may judge all vaguely brown/yellow people by my behaviour. I’ve learned that it’s sometimes hard to pick whether someone truly sees me as an individual, or whether they see me as the Borg Other.*

    This. Exactly. I generally tend to speak up only with people who are very close to me or with complete strangers (as long as the situation is not threatening). I tend to keep my trap shut around colleagues and acquaintances (and in-laws) for exactly the reasons you’ve stated. And I feel like a weakling for doing this.

  101. Although I have social anxiety, mine tends to make me extremely defensive. I also swear like a sailor so when you combine these two elements you get a somewhat intimidating fat white woman who will snarl, “Why the fuck are you talking to me?!” on the unsuspecting. I’m working on slowing my roll and giving other people the benefit of the doubt but it is so hard.

  102. @paula – I hear you on this one. I’m extremely awkward sometimes especially when meeting people I don’t know and can if provoked react Sailor style. I mean well, but I end up stressed out and then the bullshit starts coming out and I can’t stop it. I also try to be funny when stressed, and this usually ends in tears. What I’m gradually learning is that nearly everyone feels socially anxious and unsure of themselves, and most people simply want approval too.
    Swearing like a sailor is still fun though, so should be encouraged.

  103. What works for me when someone starts talking in one of those colorful yet offensive metaphors, such as “why buy the cow” or when my bigoted uncle was making remarks about a “third sex” when talking about his brother, my gay uncle, is to Not Get It. Look blank and ask them to explain. They won’t, of course. Sometimes they’ll repeat themselves as if you didn’t hear them. Just keep looking blank and say “I heard you, I just don’t understand what you mean.” They may backpedal, or they may insist that you do know very well what they mean, but they will quickly change the topic.

  104. This post is a real gift, & I was really ready for it. Thank you so much.

    Don’t diminish yourself by thinking your lines are petty, picky or foolish.

    Wow. & lo, Sparky has blown my mind. Thank you.

  105. Rebecca V.: That one’s actually a classic Miss Manners tactic, and it works very well for those situations in which I don’t feel like expending any of my limited amount of SLJ-energy.

  106. Other Becky: Yes, Miss Manners is probably where I got it from. I first read her Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior when I was in my teens, and it made a strong impression.

  107. Rebecca V.: Yesss! I used that one on a jerkass boss once, with the added benefit of knowing that everything I’m thinking shows on my face. I have no doubt that she got the message. AWESOME.

  108. @Snarky – yes, sorry, I didn’t factor in privilege when I wrote that. What I was thinking when I wrote it was of women in my workplace, who are plenty privileged but just don’t want to risk being disliked. Or the very smart woman I worked for on the 2008 Dem campaign who were getting rolled over by her male staff members because “I don’t want them to think I’m a bitch.” In these situations the women were giving up all their power in exchange for the goodwill of douchehounds, and it was really frustrating to watch.

    But yeah, I have also seen WOC get slapped with the “angry black woman” label in situations where anyone with a pulse would have been apoplectic, and someone with more privilege might have been told to calm down, but no one would have attributed their anger to their race.

  109. Thank you so much for taking the time to spell this out. I am a huge believer in concrete lists of steps you can take to become better at things–even or especially if you feel like they should be obvious. I know this is a process I can put to use concretely in my life and I appreciate you sharing it with us.

  110. I also have social anxiety and need to work on standing up for myself more often. I have really long hair and there have been a lot of times when someone will come up behind me and start running their hands through it. It’s usually older women and they don’t seem to realize that it’s inappropriate. I guess they think it’s non-threatening because they’re women, but it drives me crazy when strangers touch me like that. I usually just act polite until they leave because I don’t want to seem loud and bitchy by telling them to stop touching me. I yelled at someone once when I as a child and she acted like I was overreacting; people were looking over at us like they thought we were nuts so now I’m always afraid of making a scene.

  111. Agreed. I totally resist the idea that one needs to confront someone engaging in assclownery. For one thing, they aren’t really engaging with you, so why are you expected to generate new and refreshing ways to end up upset, silenced or defeated?

    Thank you for this. I just recently had to walk away (in several senses) from a friend who insisted in engaging in assclownery with me and other friends as their audience. They weren’t trying to persuade or engage any of us; they were just charging their superiority batteries by being insulting and demeaning.
    My gut told me that confronting them would be completely pointless and merely provoke more insults, so I chose to walk away.

    I still feel a little bad about walking away without saying why, but you’re right, SnM: I had no obligation to engage and put myself through a worse round of crap when said assclown wasn’t engaging with me in the first place.

  112. Snarky, a while ago in a post I can’t remember I asked a question about hair and privilege, and you gave me a very nice answer and a very polite smack down. I didn’t respond then because the thread had moved on and I thought I was being a grown up. But I think this would be a good opportunity to apologise for being so intrusive – as soon as I hit post I thought ‘hmmm. I think that wasn’t a great idea.’ And I wanted to thank you for reinforcing that it doesn’t matter how INTERESTING or even valid a point is (although I am not sure mine was either, truthfully), it is not good ettiquette to use a human being as an example of it. I am sorry I was rude and stomped over your internet space, and thank you for your good grace in gently making sure I knew it.

    Excellent internet staring! ;)

  113. FYI, SnarkysMachine, I was so inspired by your post that I laid down some smack/righteous indignation the other day on a jerk who was ruining my night at the comedy club. Let’s just say it involved a “church pinch” (yeah, what your mom uses to make you shut up/behave when you’re in church) and some very choice words. It worked so well that I might just exercise this option all of the time! Never know when a church pinch might come in handy …

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