The ABCs of Adulthood (Assertiveness, Bullying, and Condescension)

Let’s just say this: I hate condescension. HATE it. I don’t know if there’s anything worse to deal with socially as an adult.

I guess bullying is worse.

Either way, I have the unfortunate tendency to stick up for myself when maybe I should’ve just kept my head down and my mouth shut.

My overwhelming need to self-advocate stems from eighth grade, when, after months of harassment, I finally lost it and refused to give up my chair to the school bully during study hall, and she ran her mouth for a solid 45 minutes about how “ugly” I was for the entire class to hear. She, herself, was a truck. 18-wheeler.

In any case, the boy I liked, the dark-haired, brown-eyed one who stared, open-mouthed, at me in math class, was in the room, and I felt the urgent need to save face in front of him.

So I lit into her, too. Yup, me. Little, “mute” Leah: “Who do you think you are, Miss Fricken America?”

Twenty two pairs of eyes were on us, most accompanied by amused expressions, which just made me angrier.

Stunned for a second, she replied, “Well at least I’m not you, with your red Afro, and your this and your that and your…”

“BITE ME,” I said.

“Where’d you get those shoes,” she said, “Building 19?”

“Go to hell,” I said. And I kept saying it, until she finally left me alone or the bell rang.

She was twice my size. I’m lucky I didn’t get my ass whooped after school. But there was never any ass-whooping. In fact, she rarely bothered me again after that, turning her attention to other hapless victims who did not have the guts to tell her to go screw.

Even watching it happen to someone I don’t particularly care for can be painful. It makes me want to stand up and say, “Hey! What’s your deal? Why don’t you back the f— off?”

But then you’re fighting someone else’s battle, and not everyone appreciates that.

I feel as though Malia is sometimes picked on, but I get the sense that she wouldn’t necessarily like it if I said anything to anyone. She seems intelligent, just rather odd. It’s hard to tell if she’s aware of when someone’s being unkind to her, like, does she not know? Or does she just not care? I’m never sure.

It’s another justice thing. I’m like Dane Cook that way, I guess: I love justice, and I love files (Note that I am not so much a Dane Cook fan as I am a fan of the material he seems to have “borrowed”from other comedians. I think he and Dimitri Martin have a word-for-word same bit about ill-fitting shoe sizes? Not sure about that, though, so don’t quote me on it).

But mostly, I love justice. And when I witness displays of injustice in my natural environment, I become very uncomfortable. Especially if those displays are exacted upon me. And my fight-or-flight response usually seems to err on the side of fight.

I’ll be frank: I desperately want to end this post and am, for some reason, having a difficult time doing so. So I’m just going to pretend to be Dr. Katz, hear an imaginary jingle and say, “Oops, you know what the music means.”

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