Or is it just your horrible personality…
It’s just her manner. They say. I’m just tired, you say. We’re just stressed, we all say. It’s hunger, it’s the mirena coil, it’s shyness, it’s just a funny way you, me, they, have about us.
Well, I have a question: at what point does your manner – or your circumstances – become your horrible personality. Because – somewhere – we all have a horrible personality. Even Emilie.
It seems to be that when your horrible personality takes over it’s usually about anger. Because, when we were growing up, women were not really meant to be angry. Made us seem…rabid. Do you remember the scathing phrase ‘rabid feminist’ which you probably still hear from old man in far flung counties. Female fury is ugly (apparently) to men, to children, to other women, even to furry animals. This is what we were been told and taught, all our lives. There is something unnatural and unnerving about the angry woman. Madwoman. Bitch. Harridan. No one wanted to fuck the activist, no one would love you if you were shouting. This is sounding quite angry already. What a turn-off. So we cover up the anger and say, ‘I just didn’t sleep.’ And we use our horrible personalities as anger invisibility cloaks so no one can see the fury.
And the problem we are left with, because we were good little learners and we yearned to be loved, is that as grown-ups we don’t know how to deal with the anger when it rises up in us, as of course it has and does and will. Perfectly justified but not recommended. We don’t know how to manage it and deliver it usefully. So we bottle it and contain it and add to it with each new fucking angry-making thing, so it grows and mutates. And we become, with each day, a little more difficult. A little more unresolved.
We can’t do the big anger so we must make do with being a little bit angry all the time; minor irritation radiating out of every pore. Some weeks are worse than other weeks. Some weeks we are more dangerous than other weeks. And we are ashamed, we think it is our fault. Please forgive me and my horrible personality. And then I worry that they can’t and they won’t and friends will fall away and I will end up not just solitary, but lonely, and anxiety becomes heaped on top of anger and I am somewhere underneath it all, barely able to breathe.
So we say sorry, I’m stressed; sorry, I’m hungry; sorry, I’m insecure, vulnerable, tired. I never say, ‘Sorry, I’m just angry.’ Anything but angry; the word is red, dangerous, unacceptable. So we find ourselves reacting disproportionately to stupid things– burnt toast, moth hole in jumper, slow tourist walking in front of me – any kind of momentary impediment or minor setback. And, by the end of the day, when I turn to look at myself in the mirror, I see a clenched jaw and find myself incapable of unclenching it.
So maybe we need to undergo a sort of self-devised free-style anger programme. To practise saying, ‘I am angry.’ To ourselves, to others, to the world. Not I am stressed. Not I am scared. I am angry. And our anger, expressed and heard, might be the thing that will help us feel less angry. Less anger, less horrible personality. Not no horrible personality obviously – because we still get stressed and the rest – but less. Because we have owned what we were taught was unattractive. The Furies were female deities of vengeance. Let’s do it.