I have, by no means, mastered the ability to control my temper. I have learned to restrain myself to a greater extent as I have gotten older. That I survived my anger from the high school years through my mid-thirties is impressive, in retrospect. Maybe, as I head into my golden years, I will learn some:
Somewhat in my defense (or maybe to my own damnation), I was surrounded by people who enabled, encouraged or added to my temper. There were also a few people who hated me, for no reason I can pinpoint, other than I was an easy target BECAUSE of my temper.
For example: Back in the 90s (in WV), a friend of mine started dating a man who was a cop, his detachment was just up the road from my house (maybe a half mile away). They would meet at my home, we would all have dinner, we hung out together. This man had an ex wife, Becky. Oof. What a vindictive cow she was. The house I rented was situated on the corner of a highly trafficked street and a narrow side street. The side street was, at best, a car width wide. From my dining room window, I could reach out and almost touch a vehicle as it passed. The distance from window to vehicle was maybe less than three feet. So, if a person drove past my window, from the height of a truck, they could see into my home with great ease. Becky had a truck, the truck had a cartoon rat on the tailgate. To be honest, I cannot recall what Becky looked like, that rat is what comes to mind when I say her full name. I think the reason for that is that as she antagonized me with her continual drive-by’s, I would make it to my front porch just in time to see that stupid rat driving up the street. She would drive by on the main road and if I was in the yard she would not do her usual antagonizing loop. She was like an annoying gnat that you swat at and it never really goes away. I would get so frustrated. I screamed a number of obscenities, a number of threats begging her to stop so I could stomp her. She would drive to the detachment where the friend’s bf worked and lodge a complaint against me for threatening her. His fellow cops would suggest she not take the road adjacent to my home. She would say it was her god-given right to drive where she wanted, she could legally take the public road. I had no recourse. At one point I “might” have taken a poster board and wrote “Fuck You Becky” with a smiley face and taped it inside the window. It worked to both block the view and send a message. But I had two small children who were curious about the why’s and what’s and how come’s. So, I took it down.
The drive by visits past my home, where I lived with my children, kept occurring as she continued antagonize me for a number of weeks. The kids were not allowed to go into the yard unless I was RIGHT by their side. Every time I heard a vehicle I immediately was on edge. It was a lot to take. At one point, I went to the detachment where she practically lived with her unfounded accusations, begging them to “do something” to me. They told me that their hands were tied, it was my word against hers. This was before cell phones and social media that now allows people to video and show the world when crazy stands at their doorstep. Once, one of the senior cops called and asked if I could come by the station to discuss my counter complaint. This was after dozens of false reports filed by Becky. We were sitting at his desk and he opened a top drawer, he asked me to tell him what I saw inside. I said “some money it looks like”. He asked if I could guess how much. I was confused and a little scared of where this was going, “no?” He then said: “The amount of money it would take for you to make bail if you just find her and go ahead and beat the shit out of her.” He patted the money and then closed the drawer. I type that and think back on that brief time in my life and am amazed by that interaction. I think it was then that I realized that the police would be of no real help if something ever did transpire and this situation was going to continue to escalate until someone was hurt or in jail. I decided to take it upon myself to protect me as best I could .
One of my places of employment was a huge concern for me. I tended bar at a popular spot in town and there were tons of people in and out the door there on the weekends. I talked about it with the owner and he agreed to ban her from the bar. She did try to make her way in on multiple occasions but was turned away. That was the thing that finally tipped her to full-on crazy. It was well known that the staff would eat at The Pancake House after work. We would gather in the wee hours of the morning and discuss our lives and chuckle about whatever happened that night with the ones who got too drunk. Becky had made her rounds that week. That’s what people like her do in small towns, telling people how she was going to finally approach me and give me a verbal what-for and “if” I laid a finger on her, maybe the cops would do their job and arrest me. Small towns are a lot like politicians in that they make sure they have “the people” behind them before they take on an office. I was well familiar with the ways of small town assholes and I knew she would make sure there were witnesses to back her up. I just needed to be smarter, to not let my temper flare like I usually did.
Now, looking at this in retrospect, I still get somewhat annoyed by the whole thing. First of all, I was not the one dating her ex so WHY for the love of God did she target me?? Second, we were grown ass women, come at me with your problems like a grown ass woman should and talk to me. Third, I hate bullshit, I have zero tolerance for it and bullshit flourishes in small towns where there is little else to do.
I think about all of the factors that played into the night that everything came to a head. I was a great bartender. I liked to tell stories and jokes. I danced all crazy on the dance floor at least three times during the evening, engaging both the women and the men. I was smart enough to be able to carry the conversation on a wide range of topics with all sorts of people. Overall, I was liked. My patrons truly worried for me and would tell me about crazy Becky and the plan she had devised and communicated to everyone who would listen. They told me to keep myself safe, some offered to walk me to my car. I never once thought she would approach me in a dark parking lot, alone. She would not be able to have the attention of onlookers if she did that. I was right.
I was sitting at a table at The Pancake House with the bar owner and our DJ. Every table had occupants. I had just commented on how I loved the french toast and that I was really looking forward to it. I was exhausted and starved. Our waitress seemed to be taking forever. My back was to the door. Danny looked up and over my shoulder and winced a little. At the same time, our waitress came up to the table and deposited our orders. The smell of the french toast made my mouth water. Danny leaned over and whispered, “Heads up, Becky just walked in.” I said something to the effect of: I am not letting her ruin the french toast. We all chuckled and I began to cut it up into bite-sized pieces. I took the first bite and marveled at my ability to utilize the correct ratio of butter to syrup. As I chewed, she came up to our booth. I cannot remember what she said but I am sure it was some of her regular, hateful bullshit. I finished chewing and swallowed. I then looked up at her and calmly said “I have wanted these french toast all night. I am going to eat these french toast and you are going to go the fuck away.” I was calm, that never happened for me in those days. Calm and collected. She started to scream at me, spittle hitting the side of my face as she bent closer. I looked at Danny, who grimaced and then nodded his head. My tipping point was reached. I took the flat of my hand and put it on her face and shoved as I simultaneously stood up. She fell backwards and ended up sprawled on the dirty floor. I towered over her and screamed “ENOUGH already. Fuck you. Fuck your bullshit. Fuck every bit of it. Go the fuck away and let me eat.” I sat back down and took the second bite as the silence from all the tables closed in around me and I started an internal panic. She had won. This was the time she would finally be able to have the cops arrest me. This would not be trumped up bullshit, I actually put my hand on her, even thought I did not throttle her like I truly TRULY wanted. It was hard to chew the french toast but I kept doing it anyway as my thoughts raced to what I needed to do next.
“Did you see that?!?” She started to scream from the floor? “DID you see THAT?! She HIT me!” She looked to each of the tables, repeating the words. I looked up from my plate and followed her gaze to each table as she called to them. I remember being so utterly exhausted and just glad that, even if arrested, maybe we could be done with this bullshit which I never wanted any part of. I was a single mom. I was doing my best, working as many jobs as I could to get by and to give my kids a good life. And here was this cockroach of a human, insisting on fighting when we had NOTHING in common to fight about. As I looked around the room, at the occupants of adjacent tables I realized something: Every single table was filled with people who I had been serving drinks to all night. They were all looking at the floor scowling. Those on the other side of the restaurant were standing to look over at Becky, lying there like a blithering idiot, screaming up everyone. The other thing I realized, Becky made the mistake of showing up alone and had no one to “support” her side of this story. As she called to each table, the diners all said “I didn’t see anything.” Or “What happened?” Even the ones at the table she was lying closest to. People were shaking their heads no with fake bewilderment on their face. Her voice slowly died down. She stood and turned to me and before she was able to start again, the old woman who took my order every week walked over and informed Becky that she had called the cops, that they were on their way and that everyone saw her attack me and maybe, just maybe she should leave. What a glorious moment. What a hands down glorious moment. Everyone started shuffling back to their seats, picking back up their conversations and forks. She looked around. Absolutely no one supported her craziness.
I stood up for myself to a crazy person. I did not go berserk, like I had truly wanted. I remained quazi-calm. And, even though this woman had gotten the better of me for a couple of months, she was not able to sway these people to back up her false narrative. The amount of relief I felt in that moment was something words cannot begin to describe. For a week or two after that, she tried her best to continue on with her regular bullshit but it had lost its luster. More folks were laughing at her instead of with her. Eventually she quit trying completely.
As I stood in the aftermath of all this unsolicited anger, I thought of a line of poetry I had heard in one of my high school classes: “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” And although it really did not conform to the anger of those particular moments, it was what my inner voice said to me while I processed my thoughts.
To this day, I love to hear Dylan Thomas read his own poem, his strong but melancholy voice, calling out the anthem of my overcoming that particular emotional upset.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
So, what is the lesson I took away from all of that? Sometimes in life people will come at you with drama that you want no part of. You cannot control the actions of others. Sometimes people will be irrational in their approach to you. These are people you really cannot prepare for or expect. But, on the other side of it, sometimes unexpected people will support you based on how you have treated them. Remember that. Enjoy your french toast. Don’t be a Becky.
rat fink car decal – Bing