I like looking a person in the eye, even if he wants to pummel me, when he tells me how pathetic I am.
Photo by Stacey Warde
The quickest way to ruin a community
By Stacey Warde
The things people say behind your back, or even to your face.
No good lowlife. No job. No money. Can’t dance. Can’t keep time or a woman.
“What are you doing with a loser like him?” someone asked my girlfriend.
No reason, really. Sure, he’s an asshole and he’s no sugar daddy but he’s good in bed, and always ready.
Turns out the plaintiff had come under the demon influence of someone who doesn’t think I’m worthy. Thinks I’m a loser. Can’t imagine why. Word gets around. And pretty soon people start to believe it.
“Hey, I heard you’re a loser. That true?”
“Well, I can’t pay my bills. I hate working. My car’s a wreck and I can’t afford to buy a house. I like to smoke pot and fuck a lot. I love to sit around the house all day and read and listen to music…yeah, I guess you could say that.”
You don’t score points being a loser in this town.
That’s OK. There’re worse things in life. Worse than being a loser any way. Like being a gossip, or a backbiter.
Still, it’s tough to swallow trash talk that goes on behind your back, even if some of it’s true, especially when someone’s trying to convince your closest ally to leave you.
Mom always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.” I used to hate it when she’d say that because I wanted to talk trash about some people. But she’s right. What’s the point of dragging someone’s name through the mud?
It’s all here—the good, the bad and the ugly—in our beloved Cayucos, which could stand to use a little more compassion and love. I understand why slander and malicious gossip can be so ruinous. It destroys a community.
Think about it. Talk poorly of someone. What does it do for them? What does it do for you? Most people I know need a lift not a putdown.
The in-your-face stuff, like God-hater and pathetic excuse for a human being, is easier to take for some reason. I have more respect for a plaintiff who addresses me directly and has the courage to say whatever he wants to my face than one who whispers behind my back.
I like looking a person in the eye, even if he wants to pummel me, when he tells me how pathetic I am. That way, at least, I have the option to respond.
“You know, you’re right. I never looked at it that way.”
In either case, trash talk cuts deep. It got so bad last month I started having murderous fantasies. “I’ll kill the sonofabitch!” I said in a burst of rage over the final insult, the one that put me over the top.
I’d heard it all last month: “You’re a loser.” “You just don’t have it.” “You’re a pathetic excuse for a human being.”
A friend, concerned for my unbalanced emotional state, put things in perspective: “You never know what sets people off. Maybe the guy was molested as a child.”
That helped. I never thought about it, but suppose it’s true, which would explain how someone could be so messed up that they would say mean, nasty things about someone, whether they were true or not. It put a damper on my anger and frustration over people who don’t know what they’re saying or doing.
It’s an awful thing, murderous rage, to be so angry you’d want to hurt someone. I felt it in high measure after a week of putdowns and unwelcome epithets. I wanted to strike back and make someone suffer for it.
And sure enough, I blew my stack. Tossed some dishes on the floor and made a mess. I felt stupid afterwards, ashamed, tired and sapped of life’s juices. I need to get some more rest, I realized. A vacation maybe.
And then, while cleaning up my mess, I felt glad that I hadn’t struck out at the guy who crossed me at my boiling point earlier in the day. How stupid would I have felt then? Sitting in a squad car? Going to jail? Hiring an attorney?
I’m not a pacifist. I’ll fight for my family, my friends, my life. Yet, I’ll take negotiation over violence any day. It’s those who refuse to negotiate, who turn their backs on people and resort to name-calling and obfuscation, who create wars and destroy relationships and communities.
It’s tough to stand in the gap, to confront our own hypocrisies, endure conflict, and speak the truth in love. We’re better at pointing out the faults of others, creating conflict and bashing people over the head when telling the truth or otherwise maligning them with our falsehoods.
I’m learning that the superior man speaks directly without violence or malice. He forgives an offense and watches out for the interests of others as well as his own.
I’ve heard some things, for sure, not just about me but a whole lot of people and situations in Cayucos. I’ve heard things that, if they ever got back to the person they were about, would cause enormous pain.
Crack whores. Tavern dalliances. Con artists. Floozies. Molesters. Threesomes. Unwelcome advances. Unhappy wives. Miserable husbands. Failed loves. All this in a town of less than 5,000 people.
There’s plenty here to talk shit about.
But you never know when someone’s going to die, or never show up for work or booty call again. I figure it’s best to be good to people and keep my mouth shut if I can’t think of anything good to say about them. §
Stacey Warde is editor of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.