Pissed Off Pontification: If You Can’t Handle Me At My Worst Then Get The Hell Out Of Here

I remember seeing this quote on a lot of women’s Facebook pages as I went through college and not thinking much of it.  I figured, “They want to be appreciated as they are.  How nice.”  But over the years, I’ve kept quiet about this famous quote and now want to unleash the beast onto this calamity that’s out of control.  What quote could have me this up in arms?

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
— Marilyn Monroe

I’d be willing to bet that this quote is on roughly 500,000 different Facebook pages at the very least and likely used in a truncated version on another 250,000 Twitter accounts.  Monroe, who by all accounts is one of history’s great thinkers, has some serious staying power with this blurb.  What’s the big problem,  you ask?  This sentiment is way too dangerous when folks think they can get loose and if their man can’t handle it, he doesn’t deserve her at her best.

I get what the great Monroe was thinking.  She will make errors and would appreciate it if her significant other wouldn’t hold those mistakes against her or lord them over her head.  But she was also Marilyn Monroe.  Y’all ain’t Marilyn Monroe.  If you get out of control and loose as some sort of test to see if your man CAN handle you and use this quote as your rationale, you are messing up.  Moreover, if you think that a true partner can act wild and that his/her significant other should stick by, then perhaps your idea of a healthy relationship needs to change.

But I’m missing the main point right now, which is that if Monroe the Great gets to put this idea out, let’s see what happens in this scenario:

A young man has a great relationship with his girlfriend normally.  He’s loving, caring, attentive, and responsive.  He anticipates her needs because he knows her so well.  They share in each others activities, she is caring and responsive to his needs and they generally have fun together.  The problem is sometimes he gets a little mad and has punched walls and doors and couches.  She gets scared during these moments and tries to get out of his path, in case he’s seeing red and “accidentally” treats her like one of the walls.

We’d tell the woman to either try to get him help for his anger management issues or to get out of there before he starts beating on her.  I’d suggest that’s the right way to go, given a situation such as this.  The problem?  When the guy gets mad and violent, it’s him at his worse.  He’s making mistakes, he’s out of control, and he’s certainly hard to handle. The girlfriend is struggling to deal with him at his worst, and the argument from Monroe is if you can’t handle the person at their worst then you don’t deserve the person at their best.  When he’s at his best, he’s one of the best boyfriends in the world.  Given what Monroe has argued, what do we make of the situation?

How about this one: he does begin hitting the woman, getting to a new low and a worst of the worst.  He’s still exhibiting all of the trademark signs that Monroe said – out of control, hard to handle, certainly insecure and selfish.  He’s still amazing at his best, however.  The poor woman can’t handle him at his worst, so she doesn’t deserve him at his best, right?  What does she deserve from him – more beatings?  This is where the quotation gets dangerous – if you can’t handle me at my worst (and my worst can be potentially vicious), then apparently you don’t deserve the full power of love I can give.  What exactly do you deserve then?  More than that, what does this mean for the person who has to go through my vicious worst so that I know that person deserves my best?

When misinterpreted, this quotation gives people unnecessary leeway to test their partners to see if they can stand up to the heat.  “If they can’t stand my heat,” the proud misinterpreter says, “then they can get the hell out of my kitchen because they don’t deserve the dinner.”  Already the relationship is starting from an unhealthy spot, wherein there’s an exam being proctored that the partner likely doesn’t know about.  Sure, one might say that partners are always testing each other’s limits to see how far they can push each other.  I did that with my parents to see how much I could do without getting into trouble (because parents are near omnipresent and omniscient when you’re a kid), but it makes no sense to test one’s partner to see if they can handle your bullshit.  Monroe the Great wasn’t advocating for testing one’s partner, just for acceptance of one’s humanity.  If you can’t handle that I will not be perfect, then no, you don’t deserve my best.  But if you think this means you get to test somebody’s patience as a means of gauging how “strong” they are and if they deserve your goodness because they endured your badness, then you need to get out of your own damn kitchen.

The One About Friends

Thanksgiving, and the resulting holiday season, are coming up sooner than we think.  Seeing as I’ll be going home soon, I wanted to take a moment and write on the importance of friendship.  It’s such a crucial form of interpersonal relation and yet it gets no love publicly.  We hear about romantic relationships, but who do you talk about those relationships with?  Perhaps a counselor or therapist, but more often than not you’re talking to people that you consider to be friends, or acquaintances of some sort.  Friendship is a basic aspect of  humanity, in my estimation, if humans are considered to be social creatures.

The common postulate is that “No man is an island,” a quick metaphor that reminds us of the importance of other people.  But certainly, not every person is important.  In fact, out of the billions of people on the planet, there are probably around 50 people who you immediately consider important in that you care about their well-being deeply.  Let’s be honest, barring obvious and public moments of human suffering (2010 Haitian earthquake, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake/tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and September 11th come to mind), we don’t care about most of the people on the planet in an active sense.  I think we have an implicit care for humanity insofar as we are members of the group, human.  This is just fine, but what about those few humans on the planet we do care for actively?  What about the important people in our lives?

Let’s try this out as an experiment.  Without consulting any outside sources (so no looking at your cell phone or a Facebook friend list or your Twitter friends), reel off the names of people who you consider to be your friends (or who are, at the very least, important to you).  If you’re a brave soul, please post in the comments the number of people you came up with off the top of your head.

This experiment will show us a few different things.  First, whoever you’ve listed, you should probably make sure to keep in touch with them (if you’re anything like I am, plenty of people on the list haven’t heard from you in far too long).  Second, I would contend that the people who come to mind immediately are those important people who matter in our lives.  While this is an obvious point, go back and cross-reference your list to those Facebook friend lists and your cell phone contacts and the like, and see who you omitted.  That provides our more salient point – that our concept of friendship is more than likely so open that we will forget more of our friends than we think.

While a resulting question from this claim is, “If we forget them, should we still consider them to be our friends?”, I’m more interested in what prompts us to claim them still as friends when we initially say, “Whoops, I forgot about Bobby.”  When we acknowledge their omission from our list, we claim them as friends (or at least, important people) that we meant to put on the list but didn’t for whatever reason.  Before we can ask the first question (Are they still our friend?), we have to figure out why we claimed Bobby as a friend to begin with.

Certainly, there could be a bunch of reasons that are particular to the individual situations that prompt an omission from our list.  But my general theory is that we have a lot more people that we consider as friends than we would think at first glance.  Some of us will have more stringent requirements for someone to be their friend, but even those with the toughest of requirements will more than likely have an omission or two (this is admittedly purely speculative).  Could we chalk it up to memory errors and plain ol’ forgetfulness?  To a certain extent, that will ring true.  There will be some extremely important people to us that we might plum forget, and that happens.  But when a person who we didn’t think of at all, like our poor friend Bobby, gets remembered and we say, “That’s right, Bobby is my friend too,” this is more than just memory error – I think we’ve got hidden friends; friends who we claim as friends passively.

Those people who we care about actively, like I said before, those are probably the people who get listed immediately.  It’s the hidden friend that reveals so much more about friendship, because these are the people who, upon reflection, have already been established as a friend, and receive the passive benefits of friendship, whatever those may be.  I believe we’ve all got a ton of hidden friends, and I believe this to be so based upon the “No man is an island” metaphor.

Like I said above, when we use the island metaphor, we’re not referring to the human community (at least, not when I hear it).  We refer to the community of important people to us with whom we are social, and hence, not a solo island floating in the water, but we’re one island inside of a connected island chain.  But there are a ton of underwater connectors (like the Chunnel) to other islands, hence the hidden friends idea.  Whether or not we are still traveling that Friend Chunnel doesn’t seem to matter as much as the fact that the Friend Chunnel exists, which is why we exclaim that Bobby is our friend even though we forgot about him.

So what do we do with our hidden friends?  Make them visible and not hidden?  For some of us, that’s what will happen – the hidden friend will be on the list next time because that friendship will be active and not passive.  For others of us, we might be more inclined to get back in touch with our hidden friends a little bit more because people fall out of touch sometimes and that just happens.

I didn’t have a big conclusion to all of this, except that I feel very fortunate to have some very close friends, some close friends, and friends in general.  Hopefully you do also.  Now then, let’s make sure to at least keep in touch with some of them a bit more than we have.

On Why I Don’t Call People

Historically, I’ve been a recluse of sorts.  I tend to keep to myself and only call a select few people regularly to talk.  I talk to myself more often than not, and recently I decided I’d address why I don’t really call people to talk much.  I’ll text you, but call and talk?  Nah, won’t do that too much.  It could be due to the heavy level of psychoanalysis I’ve been receiving in class combined with my natural introspective prowess, but I thought I’d try to figure out why I don’t really communicate with many people.

If I went back to my childhood, I’d find that I kept to myself then – but I really only knew my family.  It was kind of how we grew up; very “clannish,” as my grandmother told my mom once.  You might know the folks in your neighborhoods, but you rode with your family.  Even now, my cousins stick tightly and the cousins my age are a deep part of my rideout crew.  But when phones got introduced to me and I learned phone numbers, I don’t remember calling people to talk.  I played with my action figures, read Calvin & Hobbes, and tended to keep to myself.  I had friends at school, and I’d go to their houses and stuff, but no, I don’t really remember talking on the phone to people much.  Then came middle and high school, and something happened – I did talk to people on the phone.  But I think those experiences might have shaped my phone use now.

I only called people if I wanted to talk to them or felt like I should call them for some reason or another.  So I’d call aunts, cousins, friends to either keep up with them or because I had a question.  But alas, enter the female into the equation.  Phone conversations became something…more important all of a sudden.  They gained an extra meaning.  No longer was I calling to see how you were doing; now I called to flirt and show interest and the like.  When I called my friends (this is prior to the text message), we would shoot the breeze and whatnot.  But when I called girls, everything flipped.  Words had to be chosen carefully.  Conversations needed to be interesting.  Always a salesman.  I can remember once having a buddy of mine on the 3 way on mute while I talked to this girl I liked and every so often I’d tell her, “Hold on,” mute her and quickly talk to him to see how I was doing.  Perhaps all of this just expresses my sheer awkwardness as a teen, but there’s something about those phone conversations.  The nervousness of it all.  The fear of saying the wrong thing.  You’ve really got to be comfortable to just TALK on the phone.

So high school happens, and my phone conversations become less and less.  I still really call my family and then my close friends…but talking?  No, there’s usually a reason to call somebody, right?  And at that point in time the instant messaging systems were REALLY booming, also lessening my need to open my mouth and use my voice to communicate.  Alas, this problem has only gotten worse with the advent of as many ways possible to NOT call people.  As the ability to text grew, along with social networking sites like Facebook, the need to call people lessened and lessened.  Still, the only constants were my family and close friends were the ones I called and who called me mostly – if someone else called, it was usually for a quick question or a meeting up or something along those lines.  As I write this, it dawns on me just how socially awkward I was (and probably still am).  Nevertheless, this little reflective piece is designed for information, and information indeed I am gaining.

So I get to college and the wonderful world of texting and Facebooking and instant messaging really hits.  I called now to contact people, not to communicate with people.  And the more phone calls became for contacting and not communicating, the bigger my personal thing with phone calls became.  It’s like an obsolete technology, reserved for emergencies or necessity.  But if people had their druthers, they’d just as soon text you/tweet you/Skype you…everything but call you.  I feel weird calling the vast majority of the people in my phone, because I don’t have anything to say to them.  Now, as I live alone, I find that those few people I call tend to get more phone calls than before.  But in college, I still had no real reason to call people unless there was a “conversation” to be had.

And there it is – conversation.  The only reason I would engage in a phone call is for a conversation.  But perhaps I’m not as confident in my conversational abilities, so I resort to the text.  But the phone call is designed for two people to converse now.  At least, my conception of the phone call is such that we talk.  Not like the obvious (if you use the phone, clearly you’ll be talking), but more like there’s a purpose to a phone call.  You can mass text people to see what’s going on on a larger scale, but if you want to see what’s happening with this one person, you give them a phone call.  It shows a type of intentionality.  You’ve expressed, by dialing their number or pulling it up out of your phonebook, that YOU want to talk to THIS SPECIFIC PERSON at that specific time.  The downside is…

I tell stories.  I firmly believe all conversations are nothing more than stories, and the good storytellers make great conversations.  I’m not the best storyteller though, because I ramble incessently while I talk, generally.  One story reminds me of another story so I jump to that story but end up forgetting why I jumped to that story…and many times I just don’t want to waste people’s time with my rambling.  I’ve been home for a couple of hours now and the only words that have come out of my mouth were the ones I left on a voicemail because I just needed to tell somebody something important.  Either way, many times I don’t value my phone call unless it goes to a close friend or a family member.  I’ve got friends who I should have called but now, I feel like I’m imposing on them if I do call them.

In the end, my reluctance to call people shows up even now – when trying to let someone know something I text much quicker than I think to pick up the phone.  Perhaps I’ve been caught up in the “now, now, now” action of the 21st century.  Either way, I’ll still be calling my family and close friends.  This was a fun reflection to do.  Maybe you all should try it.