We’ve all been in situations where we hate the person or people we’re near, but for one reason or another can’t leave. It’s your best friend’s birthday party, for example, and even though he’s just great, his old buddies from high school are dickheads. Or you’re at a work function, and you’re trying not to be rude and just walk away from that chick in accounting who you haaaaaaaaaaaate. Or you’re in the middle of a first date and you’ve just realized exactly how self-aggrandizing the person across the table is, and exactly how little they think of you for going to a state school instead of their cut-rate not-quite-Ivy-League private liberal arts college. Or you’ve just now met someone at a party, at a train stop, or at your friend’s place while you’re waiting for her to get ready to leave and it turns out her roommates are just … terrible.
Most of the time, you don’t want to be outright mean and say out loud what you’re thinking about them. I mean, what difference would it make if you told them you’d take joy in seeing their fingers slammed in a door, right? They’d be hurt or angry, but they wouldn’t change. All you can really do is suck it up and get some kind of non-verbal catharsis for your vitriol.
“But how, Rebecca?!?!!?!?!” I hear you asking. Well, here are seven prime examples of distaste-catharsis and the correct scenarios in which to apply them:
1. Winking. Far from being flirtatious, a wink is best used for social situations when you’re out with a friend and you need to signal to them that you are only ironically taking this annoying person seriously who’s been talking at you for the last 15 minutes. “Psychiatry is a pseudoscience,” he scoffs at you. “It’s part of a government agenda.” “Oh really? Please elaborate,” you say to him, noticing your friend with a dismayed look on her face five feet behind him. You wink at her over his shoulder as he goes on to detail the reasons that psychiatry is a form of government control over a sheeplike populace. Understanding via your wink that you’re all right but could use extrication, your friend can retrieve you and you can both run far, far away from the crazy without fear of being followed.
2. Cracking your knuckles. A true and pure catharsis mechanism, loudly cracking your knuckles is to your benefit alone. Maybe you’re at a family function and your uncle decided to get the political conversation rolling. You love your uncle, he’s great and really knows how to tend the grill, but he also likes to regurgitate sound byte-y political quips he heard from pundits on Fox News. Instead of interrupting him to tell him he is wrong, wrong, wrong, potentially ruining this otherwise very nice family gathering, you just crack your knuckles as loudly as you can. “Sheilah,” your uncle cringes, pausing his political rant, “you really need to stop doing that.” You smile and shrug.
3. Eye-rolling. A classic of teenagers everywhere, an eye-roll while a friend’s gaze is averted can give you just enough time to express your true feelings while your friend is momentarily on hold from his complaints about his workplace that you’ve heard maybe ten thousand times in the last two months but that he refuses to do anything about.
4. The Fingernail of Truth. Similar to winking, but more appropriate for occasions when you’re directly next to your friend and you can’t leave the conversation. So you’re at a BBQ with your boyfriend, for example, and there’s this engaged couple there who refuse to stop talking about all the very expensive bells and whistles they’re planning for their wedding. They turn to you and the beau and say, “So when are you guys getting married, already???” You dig your fingernail into the back of your boyfriend’s elbow to communicate how badly you want to backward-forward slap both of them. He looks at you and smiles. He knows. He knows.
5. Phone usage. You’re on the train, staring into the middle distance after your daily eight hours, when someone puts his or herself into the middle of your line of sight, breaking your mind-emptying on your commute home. “You look good today!” they say, or maybe “Hey, what’s your name?” and you just really don’t want to talk, man. You just want to continue staring into the middle distance until you get to your transfer. You don’t look them in the eye. You just pull your phone out of your pocket, hold it up straight in front of your face, and start scrolling through your e-mails. If they keep trying to start a conversation you don’t want to have, you keep making an increasingly exaggerated set of faces at your phone, pretending to be shocked and horrified by the information you’re receiving. When you get to your transfer, you bolt.
6. Overwhelming eye contact. This is the dead-eyed but very direct gaze that says “please stop talking” without you having to actually say the words out loud. Like when you’re in the middle of a bad OKCupid date and this person is telling you that they’re so sorry that you had to go to a state school, because they had the privilege of going to a cut-rate not-quite-Ivy-league private liberal arts college. You lay your dead-eyed gaze upon them and say nothing until they stop talking. At last, peace and quiet. You signal for the check, put your half in the folder in cash, and relish a free night to yourself.
7. Hair flossing. You’re hanging out with your brother for the weekend, because he’s in town, but you had somehow forgotten all about his sloppy personal habits – he’s leaving shit all over your living room, wet towels on the bathroom floor, beer bottles out on the kitchen counter even though it’s right next to the recycling. At dinner, he makes no effort to chew with his mouth closed or suppress gas from escaping either end of his digestive system. So you finish your plate, separate a few strands of hair from the rest of your beautiful head, and start flossing your teeth with it. He looks at you and frowns. “Ugh, that’s gross,” he says to you. You look up innocently and keep flossing.
Fear not. You don’t have to be mean to get your point across, or even just to relieve your irritation from your body like a really good trip to the bathroom – you just have to find the appropriate outlet for it. Have any of your own? Do share.[Image via Shutterstock]
Original by Rebecca Vipond Brink