Monday, May 31, 2010

Meanness and Cruelty *

A friend of mine made a comment to me recently that has been ruminating around in my head ever since. I had made the statement that I didn’t understand being mean and he said that I was mean. I was mean because here I was late at night hanging out with him and not home with my husband, who had long ago gone to bed without me. I was really troubled by the question of meanness. But I think perhaps, that I am not mean, I am cruel. There is a distinction to be made; it is not noble but it is important. In this case, cruelty is derived as an effect of an action. However, the action is itself selfish, self-centered, self-involved and at times even self-loathing but the end result may be an inadvertent cruelty to another. This is the type of action I participate in. I have been truly mean about four times in my life. Three times were necessary. I was in danger and had to react accordingly. As I have mentioned, I have the ability to see the best in people. The counter part to that is that I can also see their vulnerabilities, which is where I struck. I landed in all three instances and in one case even brought a grown man to tears. I think I was 14 at the time. I was immediately swollen with power and having touched the deepest recesses of my darker self was invigorated by it. I understand how people can become addicted to that kind of darkness. However, afterwards I was desiccated and hollow and although I know it was necessary, it took a great toll upon my soul.

The fourth time was utterly unjustified and horrible. I was mean for the sake of being mean. I wanted to see what it was like. I wanted to impress my friends and so I picked on someone who was just going out on a limb asking me to dance and even to this day if I saw him again I would take his hand and ask for forgiveness though in all likelihood he would not even know what I was talking about. But I filed that feeling away so that I would never again be tempted to act in such a manner. I was a mean girl in that moment, before the term was even coined.

So, this brings us back to the present. I am not mean and I don’t wish to be cruel. But my cruelty is a result of my actions, an aftereffect. It does not justify it, it does not mean I feel no remorse but I am acting to save myself right now. I have been dying in little pieces for a very long time. Dying and no one knew, no one saw. I was awfully good at covering my tracks. And now I have to gather up what’s left and try to put it back together. I don’t know how to do it-there is no handbook-so I try new things and have new experiences and yes, they have an impact on those around me including my husband. But that impact is a byproduct. It is not an intentional hurt. It is a necessity to my survival. I am no longer willing to sacrifice myself. But I still don’t enjoy being mean…or cruel. It is not who I wish to be. It is just who I am now.

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