TMI Thursday: My "No Assholes" Policy
I like nice people. Not because I think the world is unicorns, rainbows and gumdrops—because since the world is not sugar/spice/everything nice, love and human compassion are the only things that make this wretched existence tolerable. My New Year’s Resolution for 2019 was to institute a strict “no muggles” policy—to fill my life only with people who make it more wonderful and interesting. My new top priority, effective immediately, is to institute a “no assholes” policy.
In truth, I began cutting assholes out of my life back in April, though I wasn’t fully conscious of the shift. The extreme assholery I experienced during those dark months is difficult to describe. As a fifteen-year resident of Northern California, I was no longer used to such assholery. Unless you throw your trash in the wrong recycling bin or wear t-shirts that say things like “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve”, you’re gonna get treated pretty nicely up here.
To be clear, I have something to compare Northern California to. I grew up on the East Coast and had to develop pretty thick skin. I was one of the only black kids attending an elite old private school in a very old money community. When I turned seventeen, I promptly moved to New York City, where I had to maintain my thick skin. There, psychological and physical self-defense are necessity of life.
When I look back at early-twenties me, I see how much self-preservation impacted my behavior—how much my lived experience drove me toward the mentality of lack. How much, despite being an exceedingly caring and idealistic person on the inside, I was sometimes a total asshole. Being around people who fought and gossiped and queen beed and character assassinated normalized the experience and made me less aware of my own—and other people’s bad behavior.
Entering Romancelandia has been a jarring experience, because I’m no longer used to people who fight and gossip and queen bee and character assassinate. I used to have an instinct around how to go head-to-head with this behavior, twenty years ago when I lived in New York. This year has taught me just how Northern California I’ve become. This year has taught me that I no longer have that instinct. And—hallelujah—I’m so fucking glad I don’t.
One could attribute my inclination toward compassion and collaboration to the privilege of happy circumstances. In fact, one vicious aggressor who pits herself against me, repeatedly has. I won’t pretend it’s not easy to have a sunny disposition of the sun is—literally—always shining. I face adversity, to be sure, but the stakes of my biggest problems are low and my problems are exceedingly first-world.
Yet, there’s another perspective: that, regardless of our circumstances, civility is something we choose. In fact, there’s a book called Choosing Civility that I have owned, and kept, for years. I just looked for it on my shelf so that I could take a picture for this article. It was next to a book called The Art of The Handwritten Note, which was next to The Art of Friendship. The fact that these three books have weathered more than a decade of bi-annual bookshelf purges in this house alone should tell you more about me than anything I could ever say to you about myself.
I say all of this to say that being an asshole is something that all of us choose. And keeping company with assholes is something we choose, too. Doing something (or nothing) when we witness assholery is yet a third power under our control. And just because we live in a culture of normalized assholery (::cough::the news media::cough::the president::cough) does not make it even remotely okay. We are not lemmings. Just because the gal in front of us jumps doesn’t mean we have to, too.
So today, I will say publicly that I’ve had 1000% of enough. This post is not meant as a warning to assholes I know, but more an invitation to non-muggle, non-assholes to say, “Hey! You over there! You’re my tribe!” Come hang out with me, and not just so we can ride unicorns up rainbows and eat gumdrops as a starry-eyed horde. So that we can meet each other as humans and survive this world the way it’s meant to be survived: with the vulnerability it takes to come closer, then sticking together to fight the real dangers as we forge on.