Last week I got one of those phone calls that you never want to get — the kind that tosses you out of bed, forces you to pull on the nearest thing laying on the ground, and sends you flying out the door at top speed.
Hours later, relieved that all was well and crisis was averted, I took a few minutes to splash water on my face and grab a cup of coffee. As I headed back towards the doors marked, “Emergency,” I heard a little voice say, “You shouldn’t be wearing that here.”
Sadly, the little voice wasn’t my internal fashion police — it belonged to a woman who was some sort of self-appointed gatekeeper. I paused and, against my better judgment, engaged with her: “Excuse me?”
Louder now she pointed at my chest and growled, “You really shouldn’t wear that here. It’s not appropriate. What’s wrong with you?”
You would have thought I was Miley having a nip slip in church. Granted, it was a religious-based hospital, and also granted, the tiny skull and crossbones emblem on my chest was one of the more leering in my collection of Dia de Los Muertoes-inspired clothing, but who the hell did that woman think she was? Or I was — did I look like Cher with 17 convenient wardrobe changes in my car?
I would like to say that I ignored her, or had a snappy retort along the lines of what I just said, but of course I didn’t. Instead I apologized and blamed my unfortunately blasphemous clothing choice on accidentally grabbing my daughter’s sweatshirt on my way out the door.
(Apologies to my daughter — especially since I know she’d never be caught anywhere in my clothing.)
I spent the rest of the time sulking around; covering my chest, and praying I didn’t bump back into the gatekeeper.
It’s been a while since I was on the receiving end of such a pointed diss. Actually, it may come as a shock to my bitches (!) that I’m often on the other side, speaking my mind and occasionally poking at someone or something just a little too hard. Living with teens means that practically everything I say about their clothing choices, personal hygiene, and even choice of socks is taken as a mortal stab.
Still, I’ve never been one to go out of my way to take down a stranger. And yet, in the age of 140 characters and extreme everything, the veil of polite society has been lifted. The entire point of reality programs is to goad people into saying the nastiest shit to each other, and have it broadcast to millions of people over and over again.
Case in point: Survivor. I haven’t watched the show in years, but my kids love it. We tuned into the first episode, and lo and behold, one of the contestants was sporting a Boston-strong accent. Upon closer inspection, I realized that was a woman that I went to high school with — Trish Hegarty! Immediately I remembered her as big-hearted, funny gal with a great smile and a contagious laugh.
On Survivor, however, from the minute she got off the boat, she was called old, and then a lot worse, aimed particularly at some of what are actually her best attributes (her aforementioned smile and laugh). Several episodes in, during a titillating turn of events, one of her tribe mates, Lindsey Ogle, actually quit the show and said that she left before she physically had to harm Trish.
In my opinion, she’d already done her damage with this outburst to Trish: “”You disgust me… everything about you is annoying – your laugh, your teeth, your face. I think you’re terrible. I think you may be the most horrific person I ever met in my entire life!”
And the animals at home gnash their own teeth, enjoy the virtual scent of blood and jonesin’ for it to get a lot worse.
Trish laughs the barbs off, saying that she knew up front that one of the biggest requirements to compete on Survivor would be a thick skin. Considering the fact that as of this post she’s still on the show (one of just eight left!), I assume she’s wearing a pelt of nails.
But I can’t help but wonder about a world where being able to weather the shit storm makes you a bonafide survivor.
Over now to middle school, a place more notorious for public shaming than even one of Survivor’s islands. As much as things change, it so remains the same. I heard through the mommy grapevine that the latest hormonally charged tormentor recently went on a pre-spring break bender of nasty and left everyone reeling (thank goodness for spring break!). This kind of crappy behavior remains just as disheartening now as it was back in the day when Trish and I were junior high schoolers. (Remember when it was called “junior high school?” Don’t tell the children on Survivor…)
Strangely enough, out of the poisonous brew rises a stink blossom of hope. The current anti-bullying trend, which rose from lower schools and has begun to permeate our society is working. At least in my daughter’s school, the collective response from the kids was not to push back and bully the bully, but instead to let her know in no uncertain terms that her crappy behavior was not welcome.
So if you see me struggling for something to say, just know that I’m going to give it at least 140 characters-worth of thought before I speak. And I hope you’ll join me on the bully pulpit and remind the world that if you’ve got nothing good to say…. then, my bitches, just don’t say it!
PS: Hats off to Kim Novak — did you read about her response to the crappy treatment she received at the Oscars yet?