I’m not an easy person to get along with. I never have been. Mostly because I’ve been pissed off since I was twelve… also because the people I’m pissed off at will never admit their complicity in the actions which resulted in my being pissed off.
And there never will be any resolutions. It’s not like I can satisfy myself by beating the people responsible for my clinical depressions into paste and then offer them my absolution. I also can’t explain to them adequately the pain they’ve caused. For the most part these people are in their 60’s and have given up trying to explain their actions long ago.
For the other part they just want to forget and try to move on with the remaining few years of their lives and seem to have no misgivings about dying a bunch of unforgiven bastards.
So when someone grows up angry with no means to confront the issues which continue to cause their anger they either turn it inwards or they turn it outwards.
Mostly I wrote. And mostly what I wrote were angry poems about black children getting beaten by white South African cops, newspaper columns comparing local school board decisions to apartheid and short essays about the inevitable nuclear holocaust.
I never really used that anger, the anger I used in my writing, against anyone. By writing about Strangers and never about me I mostly kept it inside. There were a few times with my brother when it got physical, and sometimes there’d be holes in walls and my mom would be threatening me with foster care. But again, that was all directed towards my home, never Outside.
There were times in classes, in high school, where I’d be on a tangent and I could feel my anger getting out — mostly over some random injustice — but the teacher would interrupt before it went too far. Abortion was one of those topics… I was the only person in my grade ten class who was pro-choice.
I used to get filled with a rage, I wouldn’t act on it and it would dissipate fairly quickly when I stopped being a target. But it was rage. In grade ten math class a kid behind me wouldn’t stop teasing… he just kept poking me. Metaphorically. But I felt like responding would be wrong somehow. So my rage just kept building and building… he finally stopped when another kid told him I looked like I was ready to kill someone.
I didn’t act out though. I sucked it in.
I do remember the first time I actually attacked, verbally, another student in anger. It was in grade eleven social studies class and we were discussing rape. I put forward the idea that if a dude thought about raping someone he should jerk himself off instead.
Then I said something about how masturbation was something we all do anyway. So of course — it being grade eleven — another student, someone I didn’t like, said “is that something you do?” And as the class laughed nervously, I whipped around and very forcefully said “you mean it’s something you don’t do?”.
Until that moment I had been a reasonably quiet non-confrontational kid. Sure, I answered a lot of questions in my English, History, Politics and Social Studies classes, and got angry on the walk home, but on the playground I had been a target since grade three for being the Quiet Kid.
After the masturbation comment, however, all bets were off. The kid I told off, the most popular kid in my grade, turned red and was very still until class was over. The entire class was dead quiet for that fifteen minutes. In that one moment I went from being the Quiet Kid to being the kid who could, metaphorically, punch a hole through your chest with words.
I don’t want to get into a lot of examples because I’m not proud of any of them, but that year I actually made a girl cry. Our assignment had been to pick a political song and defend it… she picked Neil Diamond’s “Forever In Blue Jeans”.
Whatever outward expression of anger I used, however, it was still always aimed at people I knew. What I had done was just expand the boundaries… I felt comfortable using words to attack people I knew. Besides I was angry with everyone in my school for having parents and a family, so it made sense. And why would you attack people you don’t know? You don’t, but you do defend yourself and that was something new to me.
For most of the 90’s I was a street kid so I was never in the position where random people were approaching me with their ideas on abortion or mans inhumanity to man. My friends mostly talked about how heartless Adults are and how cool it’d be having a part time job selling weed. When we did talk politics we agreed everything Out There was just retarded.
The thing about writing is the more you write in a certain style, or with a specific tone, the better you get at writing in that style and in that tone. Eventually you can say in twenty words what it used to take one hundred. I look back at the material I still have from high school, and then the articles and my column from College and I can see the evolution of my anger.
It was easy. I was angry at Everything and I hated Everyone. And working for the newspaper in College I had tangible targets like the Student’s Association and the College President. All I had to do was make someone laugh and I was untouchable. Because once you’ve got someone laughing you can shrug your shoulders and say “sure you’re crying, but it’s funny”.
The thing about sarcasm is when you mix it with deep rooted resentment, and anger with no resolution, two things happen… you run out of friends and eventually a major journalism association will give you an award for your humour column.
And I have lost friends because I haven’t been able to deal with my anger issues properly. Six years ago one of my very best friends grabbed a photo of my sister, put it in his back pocket and said he was keeping “her”. Not “it”, but “her”. I had to ask him three times to get it back. In that moment, with the photo in his back pocket, all I could think of was “he’s going to force me to hit him.”
It’s easy to deal with a stranger. You get angry, you swallow it or you never see them again. If a total stranger had done what my friend did I would have broken his arm. But it was my best friend.
And I didn’t get angry At him… With him, but not At him. I still suck the anger up.
Over the past few years I’ve made a conscious effort to calm down. Not directly because of the medications, or even the meetings with my doctor. Basically I’ve recognized that the anger is a problem. It’s a work in progress. There are dents in my cupboards from where I’ve flung video-game disks. Last year I destroyed a printer. A few weeks ago I destroyed a lamp.
And there’s a side effect of the unresolved anger, and the dark sense of humour that comes with it. I don’t have targets like I had in College anymore, and I don’t have the immediate feedback of a class full of readers. So what I’m writing now is just me being funny but, without the safety switch, most of the people I target think they’re being verbally assaulted.
And with that also comes the harsher responses for people I know, and trust. If a total stranger leaves an insult on my blog it’s easy to respond. Either I call him a fuckmonkey or I take his IP address and hunt the meatpuppet down.
But something like “I forget that you’re quite quite mental” left on my blog from a friend or someone I consider friendly feels like a betrayal, and that gives me licence to poke you with a stiletto until you cry uncle.
A few months ago I thought I was giving my very good friend Justin some advice, but I was writing it wrapped in 300lbs of sarcasm and hate. Not aimed at him, he was just the person I was sending the comments to. Eventually he told me to stop, but that just pissed me off. So I told him so… then he explained what I had been doing.
I had no idea. To me it was a game. You insult me, I insult you. It’s reciprocal, I felt as though I was responding in-kind, even if he wasn’t. And I really hurt him.
I immediately apologized unreservedly to Justin, and today we’re good friends again… I think mostly because he’s just as filled with hate and bile as I am. And our deep devotion to Hello Kitty.
This isn’t something that’s going to stop anytime soon. But it’s something I’m working on… kind of. There’s still a decent chance that just below the surface I’m just a monkey who enjoys playing with knives.