Intersections – Rage Beast
By Nicki Salcedo
The world can sense when I’m emotionally fragile. It’s been one of those weeks where mean people have come out of the woodwork like termites. By the time you realize they are there, the damage has already been done.
When I am feeling confident and well-rested and I’ve been exercising and eating healthy, nobody bothers me. I don’t look like the right target when I’m strong. When I’m weak, I’m a target.
There’s a mom who has ignored me and my kid since kindergarten who decided this is the week to become best friends with us. It turns out that she needs something from me. Surprise, surprise. But here’s the newsflash. I’ve got nothing left to give. I’m all tapped out.
Then there was the man who decided to insult me by way of small talk. I look like an unwed, uneducated, mother of four. My hair is in braids. Chances are good one of my kids has wiped their yogurt from breakfast on my pants, and I have worn it all around town, on my bottom, without knowing. I might be a little MILFy, but Supermodel I am not. I look like someone you can ignore. I look like someone you can put in a box. But not this week.
They say you react to adversity by becoming hard, by becoming soft, or by becoming something new. They use the analogy of dropping an egg, carrots, or coffee in hot water. Except no one realizes that this week I’m an egg with a crack in it. Put me in hot water, and I will explode. Hot mess.
My family knows the real me. My mother will tell you that I’m rude and grouchy. My sisters will tell you that I’m indifferent. I avoid sister bonding at Lenox, because I despise shopping. I’m awkward and antisocial. My family knows this.
I try to do better when I enter the real world. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good poker face. Years ago, I started practicing ways to hide my natural “resting bitch face” with a more visually pleasing “resting Pollyanna face.” So far it’s been working.
People think I’m happy and pleasant. A few people believe I actually like them. Don’t get me wrong. I like people in theory. From a distance, I really like people. Then there are the days when I’ve had enough. I look at the moon, and I know it’s coming. I’m a werewolf. I’m like the Hulk. I go from “Pollyanna face” to “bitch face” to full-blown rage beast.
Raging is one of my favorite things to do. It is natural and unavoidable. I’ve come to appreciate my bouts of anger and the moments when I can’t help but give the side-eye. All of this comes at a terrible price.
A friend of mine was recently harassed while shopping at the mall by another mall patron. At first she felt uncomfortable, then threatened. She opted to make a quiet escape. Later, she felt like she made the wrong choice. In the weeks since, she’s been angry at herself.
When we set boundaries, when we stand up for ourselves, why do we feel like the bad guy? Why do we feel guilty?
It doesn’t matter if you turn into a rage beast or if you make a stealth exit, sometimes we have to protect ourselves and our feelings any way we can. It’s not the bully, but the victim that must face the consequences.
In the two situations above, I reacted very differently.
In the first situation, I saw the high road, but I didn’t take it. I didn’t curse anybody out, though I wanted to.
In the second situation, I let the guy talk for a few minutes. He was trying to put me down. Maybe he thought he was being funny, but I’m fragile this week. Maybe I’m not fragile. I’m strong. I waited him out. Then I asked him about the last good book he read.
He paused. That was me delivering the death blow. It turns out he had read a good book, and we spoke about it at length, because I took the high road. I wanted to take the low road. I’ve been told that the low road has donuts.
Rage comes and goes.
I actually think you might like me when I’m angry.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.