It’s Not Me, It’s You

I once admitted to my aunt that I felt like I was a misanthrope.

“I just really can’t with people sometimes” I told her, referring to no one in particular at that moment. But it was a feeling I have a lot.

Crying in line at the bakery because the cashier has asked me three times to repeat myself because she can’t understand my accent. Or cursing out the well-meaning ticket collector attempting to explain why the ticket I bought is the wrong one and how I can do better next time I buy it (a cursing which he reminded me was unnecessary since he wasn’t going to fine me).

These feelings, I realize now, come from my own insecurity, an insecurity that exists in all countries and at all times but which has definitely increased since being in Germany. Because in Germany, I get a lot more attention from strangers and the things that I know to be true about how the world works based on my childhood in the States are not the truths in Germany. Sometimes, even after nine years, I am amazed by how different things are here. And by things I mean people. Attitudes. Habits.

I still get annoyed at the bum rush to the cashier who’s opened a new checkout line. I still fucking hate that people can get drunk to puking at the street fairs but I can’t vacuum on a Sunday morning. And I am still unable to handle condescension, which is what I view anyone trying to tell me I am doing something wrong until I realize that really, they’re being helpful and I am the one practicing condescension.

I will never forget the time my mom came home from work and said her boss told her she had to stop being so condescending, to which she replied, “I can’t be condescending because I don’t know what that word means.” This. This is exactly me.

But part of growing up and my attempting to be a great role model for my kid has required that I drop that habit. That I learn to smile and nod and thank people for their help. That I start to accept that in all communications two people are required and pay closer attention to that other person and his or her needs before I tell him or her to fuck right on off.

I forget this a lot but having a kid helps. I have had to learn that temper tantrums are not about me being a terrible, horrible “bloede” mama and not take those words personally. They are about Diva. About her disappointment at not getting another damned princess dress. About her being hungry or tired.

I will admit that I am a horrible communicator. I will admit that I don’t do it right all the time. But it has been a watershed moment to realize that often in these discussions that make me angry or draw me to tears are not entirely my fault and that cursing and crying doesn’t change things.

Whew, glad I got over that already. It’s exhausting to go through life thinking that all these unsmiling, unhappy people are that way because of you. It’s not me. It’s you.