Friday, 21 September 2012

Angry in Public is Rarely Good

Another sunny day in Edinburgh--how nice! The sky is blue, there are no clouds, I am full of coffee, there's a party tonight. All is well in Seraphic Land.

I was saying to my neighbour yesterday that when I was in my late twenties I was very thin and high-earning, but I was miserable and angry, whereas now I am in my extended late thirties and plump and make very little, but I am happy. Young + thin does not = happy, and 39+ + plump does not = miserable.

I admit that this happiness has something to do with B.A. and the vastly interesting life he was having in Edinburgh and offered to little me. (Actually, the amount of plump does too. The very air has calories.) But I don't think he would have offered it if I hadn't striven very hard to be as happy as possible in my Single years. I don't think B.A. likes angry people because, come to think of it, we don't know any. At least, we don't socialize with any.

Oh, except me. Because I often get angry, usually at myself, most recently for leaving a plastic spoon to melt on one of the stove elements. But I also harbour grievances towards other people and institutions for this or that, and need to remember not to dwell on them. Particularly in social life.

Righteous indignation is rather delicious, like a martini, and has the same intoxicating effect, but too much of it becomes addictive and takes its toll on your personality and looks. It does add excitement to things like columns in newspapers, so occasionally I trot it out, like here, for example.

Personal unhappiness, though, is an even more dangerous drug, and if you wish to share your personal unhappiness with others, it is very hard to get the tone right.

Can you imagine if I had a "How come everyone has a baby except me?" blog? Shudder, shudder, shudder. Who but ghouls and Dementors would want to read it? I can't even read the fertility message boards; the grief, desperation and icky details seem to leak from the screen and fill the room with a dank fog.

But there is a good tone for expressing unhappiness and frustration and disappointment and all, and I think there is room for that on the internet rather than at parties and dinners and after Mass tea. The internet is still public, though, although you wouldn't know it from the frightening way people express themselves in other comboxes. Yikes.

Recently I defended the Duchess of Cambridge in a combox attached to the online Telegraph, and I was amazed at how people addressed me. I was tempted to reply that I thought the Telegraph was for thoughtful, educated people, but I did not want to demean myself.

By the way, I am always delighted when you tell me how much you enjoy the usually gentle tone of the combox. Once upon a time I felt bad about erasing and blocking comments, but I soon got over that. I think of my blog as if it were a magazine, and of myself as its editor, particularly its letters editor!

Update: Absolutely awesome metaphor for today's theme. "I'm a pirate!" Wah ha ha!


Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

The internet is probably the worst place to say anything in frustration, even when completely justified. I've posted in frustration a couple times but only when I think it actually should be said (at this point I think I may be not speaking up enough, but I agree with you that discretion is the better part of valor on this one).

A couple weeks ago I noted in my Facebook status a difference between the northeast US (where I'm from) and the more rural, southern state where I live now. It was really just noting a little cultural difference, but someone actually took offense. I wisely listened to another friend's advice to let this person's comments stand in all their ridiculousness and left it at one comment saying I wasn't judging either region, just noting a quirk of difference (to her 4 comments). I don't mention it here to show my great restraint, but because just Wednesday someone said to me, 'I know it's really out of date now, but I saw that whole thing with [person] and that was ridiculous.' 2 weeks later, those comments from that person stuck out enough in someone else's mind to mention to me specifically. I don't want to be that person.

(Which is why I am now trying to exercise restraint with regards to another classmate who posts very emotion-driven statuses and comments on articles... )


MaryJane said...

I was just thinking today about how it really is work to not grow bitter at times, but it is totally worth it. Who wants to be around bitter people? (Or for that matter, read bitter blogs full of why-don't-I-have-a-[insert wish] (husband, baby, great job, etc.))

Griping to friends is great, but becoming addicted to it is annoying to everyone around.

And I love the vibe of the combox. If I want to spend a lot of time having a huge debate, there are plenty of other venues, and frankly, I don't frequent them much.

Meaghen said...

Thank you for this post, Seraphic - and thank you especially for your post on the Duchess of Cambridge. It was so measured, and showed so much understanding - quite a relief after seeing her constantly being made the villain in the situation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for defending the Duchess. A quote from an Italian magazine editor prompted me to resurrect my blog to address a misappropriation of the word "dignity."

I feel like in this season of my life, I am called to channel irate snarky anger on the Internet to more...loving...smackdowns of certain stupidities encounter. Most often it is trying to inform people that "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Anonymous said...

Most women already feel like they're never allowed to get angry about anything. It's not "nice," which is the worst crime a woman can commit. For every girl who seems angry all the time there are probably fifty who let people walk all over them because they know that the moment they open their mouths they will get labelled as difficult. I just wonder if a post like this is going to make your readers paranoid that unless they act really nice and passive all the time, no man will ever marry them. It's not hard to fall into that pattern of thought. I know I have.

CD from a phone.

Urszula said...

I think there is a difference between righteous anger and indignation that we feel when someone hits a 70-year old in front of us in a grocery store or does something equally awful, and getting very worked up about 'this terrible thing I read about on the internet'.

I generally avoid combox discussions except where I can see that the tone of discussion will be civil and friendly. That limits me to this corner of the internet, and a few other blogs. I used to get up all worked up about things I felt I couldn't change, but that I had to talk about. For my temperament, somewhat prone to anxiety, I'd say stepping away various otherwise meaningful discussions has been only positive. But it depends on your personality - and a clear-headed, well-stated position on an issue is not the same as bitter whining about all that is wrong with the world. Not that I think any of the readers here falls into the second trap.