Monday, May 18, 2009

Why I'm not "Just Sayin..".

I'm in a soapbox mood today, so indulge me.  

I am a big lover of so many things, as you probably know by now.   There isn't a day that I wake up to weather I don't love, there isn't a time of day that is less beautiful than any other to me.   I try to take everyone at face value, to appreciate the wholeness of a person, even the rougher spots that we all have, and sometimes show.

What really gets under my skin is people trying to "get under my skin."  I have, at certain times of my life, been a magnet for critics, would-be Henry Higgins, evangelists of all denominations.  Maybe I wear my heart on my sleeve so obviously that I look malleable, dewy-eyed and innocent, just waiting for the "right" idea to make me real.

Once, about a year ago, I was in the local mall with the girls when I was approached by a very aggressive salesman.  He waltzed over to me from his kiosk, gave me a sympathetic cluck and a tilt of the head, and said something to the effect of "poor mama, you look so old and tired."  Somehow, by putting me in this sad little category, he got me to slow down enough where he could step in front of me, and block my way.  The moment he got me to stop, he gave me the hard sell on hand cream.  $40 dollars later, I walked away with some lotion, a green vinyl bag, and a bruised ego.   The cream, by the way, was crap.  Which matched the way I felt.  I took a small comfort in knowing that at least he failed with his attempt to sell me eyecream "all those wrinkles, ma'am!" 

In each day, each of us is bound to cross paths with people going through trials, sometimes acting out aggressions or envy or need or disappointment.   It is taking me years to see it, but these actions don't really have much to do with me, other than the fact that when do I encounter them, I often take them too much to heart.   Could you guess that for days after that fleecing at the mall, I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to gauge the extent of my wrinkling?   Ugh. 

As I said, I have worked for years to accept the wholeness of people, the good and the bad, to look past faults and transgressions, sometimes to the detriment of myself.   I think I've done this in part because I long for that universal acceptance myself.    It's an unrealistic thing to expect from everyone you meet, but still.  It's a fantasy I'm working to let go of.  I remind myself that there will be no unicorn appearing in my backyard this afternoon, either.

The world is full of the need to project the mean, the critic, the unaccepting.   The worst is when these are couched in the guise of "friendship" or "help" (like the lotion salesman).   

Rhetorically, these attacks seek to throw the equilibrium of the listener.   Kindly delivered, they are like poisoned apples.  Seemingly harmless, but meant for injury.  Sometimes these friendly attacks come as "No offense, but...," which of course is just a warning of impending offense.  That "but" seeks to absolve the messenger of responsibility.   It's a gentle delivery, as the messenger hopes to injure but still remain in the "friend" category.   Nowadays we call those kinds of friends "frenemies."

The latest type of rhetorical poisoned apple is "I'm just sayin.."  Instead of prefacing an attack, it comes at the end, as a way of softening the blow.  Again, this sort of expression seeks to remove the messenger from responsibility for his or her own hurtful words.  In person, it might be accompanied with a sheepish shrug, or a little kick at the ground and an "aw shucks." It's an I-just-can't-help-what-I-feel sort of expression.   

To these expressions I say this:  Bullshit.  I think we should be responsible for our words, for the nastiness we throw out into the world. 

If a person has the chutzpah to let the words out of  her mouth, then she needs to own them, good or bad.  If you want to sell me some hand cream, don't make me feel ugly to do it.  Own it.  Sell the product, not a poor image of me to myself.  If you want to attack me, just do it.  Don't preface it with a request that I forget you said it.   Don't end it with the lie that you can't help your feelings.  That you're "just" saying.  Because, friend, if you're "just sayin," your words are poisoned.  And you put the poison there.

I'm asking too much to remove these time-honored means of attack and persuasion from language.  I'm probably asking too much of myself to disregard them entirely.  But I am promising that I won't ever use them.   And I'm promising that when I am sent these poison apples, I won't bite.   You shouldn't either.

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Cheryl said...

I agree with you about 'poisoned apples delivered kindly.' For me, the challenge is getting the balance right between self protection (which is often just tit for tat) and tolerance (which can often make us feel like a pushover). Because with some, once I stop reacting, they stop giving me stuff to react to. But there are also others who never stop looking for things to criticize. It's those people I cut out.

Anonymous said...

this is a *great* post.

Hilary said...



Add this to list of my favorite threel ittle chickies blogs of all time. You really know how to identify the heart of a matter. You find the truest, chewiest centers no matter how sweet or bitter. And this was one bitter center that I've never really known how to react to. What kind of backhanded friendship begins with "no offense, but ..." and/or ends with " ... hey, I'm just sayin'." Sayin' what, man? Like when my "friend" told me she could tell I was working out cuz I looked so much more comfortable in my clothes or cuz my hair was so much prettier today than usual? Thanks. Frenemies, indeed, have become so in vogue. The modern day, 'keep your friends close but your enemies closer.' That's fine in business and war, I suppose, but why must it be that way in true interpersonal relationships? Why must you be just sayin'? How 'bout just don't.

As for your horrible kiosk encounter, I actually get real live shpilkies when I am faced with going to certain malls back here in Chicago. Why? Cuz they hawk you their wares like circus barkers, and if you dare to say no thank you, no matter how politely, they intimidate you to dare to pass them by. I've become this nasty bitch as a coping mechanism when they say, "hey, ma'am (ma'am?!), come here, let me help you with your skin," and I give them the meanest, "No!," which is the only thing they seem to understand. And then I feel terrible about myself. Because if I don't, someone's gonna tell me why my life isn't good enough without their crap.

But ya know what, Kir? Between the circus barkers and the frenemies and the otherwise lack of ownership of words, I AM mad as hell, and I'm NOT gonna take it anymore. I'm gonna own my words, and next time I'm gonna make them own theirs, too.

Hilary said...

And by the way, for the record, you're adorable, and stop examining your wrinkles, cuz, dude, ain't none there.

Missy said...

Wow--this is what I have been waiting for for the last few slow months! What a fabulous post! I think paragraph four is key -- that a lot of these "people" are those who are going through WHATEVER and decide to take things out on whomever is in their path. I have seen it time and time again at work. I am DIEING to know who this is about naturally ... or what happened to get you to write this with such passion. In the meantime -- try believing in that unicorn -- it may just appear some day!

Oh, and I agree with Hillary -- what wrinkles was that guy talking about? And who the hell gets off calling YOU old and tired!!!

La Belette Rouge said...

Really well said, my friend.

I can't believe that he actually said that to you. Oh, honey. I think he needed glasses. Or maybe he was being ironic and that you really look like an adolescent and full of energy. I hope that is what he was saying as that is the truth. Cruelty in the name of cosmetics sale should land one in the deepest level of hell.

I am sick to death of "no offense" or "just kidding" comments that cut like a knife. I would love it if I never heard "I'm just saying" ever again.

As you know I just was critiqued by a Frenemie and it wasn't put out like a critique but it was loaded with tone and intention to get under my skin. Enough. I am sick of communication that is intended to hurt. I have always felt like I should get tougher skin and now I think I should exfoliate people like this out of my life.

Care for a loofah?;-)

Lydia said...

Thank you for putting this zinger out at Just Sayin'. It has become ubiquitous, and you are so right, when I hear it what follows is something that makes me squirm, wince, frown, and/or attempt to get away from the source.

As always, I love the way you write. About anything!

Kirie said...

Cheryl: I know what you mean about the balance. For me, I've been fortunately in not having many "frenemies," or at least, I've been able to sever those ties quickly.
For me, it's the random person just projecting badness that seems to gravitate toward me. Stopping my initial reaction to their poor behavior feels counterintuitive, but it's probably the best one, in that it's most effective.
My usual tactic is trying to convince the person in question that I'm really good, not the bad way they've pegged me to be. Of course all this energy is spent on someone who is a complete stranger, by the way. I sometimes think the person I'm most trying to convince about me being "good enough, really"--is me.


Kirie said...

3continent--Thanks for the kudos! Glad you're back. Looking forward to catching up with your blog.


Kirie said...

Wow. High praise! Thanks!

I have a "frenemy" here locally, and I've limited my contact with her after she said similar things to me years ago. Given the way people are, I think there have always been people who think it's okay to lob poison apples at their "friends." It's just now that people are more willing to talk about those dynamics. I'm sorry you have someone around who's acting out towards you. WTF, indeed!

I get the ploy of sales and advertising, and selling the image of the "better you," and all that garbage....but honestly, it's insidious, isn't it? Maybe it's that I'm old enough to be sick of it, or maybe it's that I'm old enough to feel okay about bitching about it. Either way, I'm done with the hard sell on how to "improve" myself. After the anger fizzles out, there will be a lovely little voidy place that will produce no reaction for these tactics. Wouldn't it be nice to just walk past such a kiosk and not even notice the salesperson insulting you? Ah, to have such ennui and confidence!

You own those words, girl! By the way, LOVE the word shpilkies! What's a good discussion without some Yiddish?


Cathy said...

LOVE IT! BTW - - my lovely daughter's favorite phrase is..."I'm just saying..."

Kirie said...

I love that you love this post. Fortunately, it was not inspired by a anyone pulling a "frenemy" act on me personally. Thank goodness! But a great friend of mine had a frenemy encounter this week that made me angry for her. That, and I keep hearing and seeing the "just saying" thing, and it grates on me and saddens me in equal parts.

I do think you are right about how others push their own issues outside of themselves. For years I've been thinking that it's something in me that pisses them off or makes them act out, but I'm starting to see that they would do it to anyone who happens to be in front of them.

I hate that you have to watch it at work--I guess these sorts of things play themselves out everywhere, and especially in an office setting.

Now my big question for myself is what I project outside of me onto someone else. What if we are all playing out those dramas? Weird! I'm going to start paying more attention to what I'm doing and saying, too.

I'm taking to heart your advice to believe in the possibility of the unicorn--or something else wonderful. I do think that the world balances itself out in favor of good: for every nasty event there seem to appear two or three great things.

You, my dearest one, are one of the greatest blessings in my life!


Kirie said...


Tell Miss S. that she's too smart to use tired phrases!


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