Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash
I’ve got a question swirling around in my mind because of a couple of particular run-ins I’ve had with the grizzly public over the course of the past week or so…
Why are people so mean?
I mean, I know we’re on month six of our downward trajectory into the very center of hell, but bear with me here; I can’t seem to wrap my mind around why people are so awful. Would a little kindness kill us, I wonder?
By now I have to hope you’ve heard about what happened to Bianca Roberson — she’s the 18-year-old woman who was shot in the head by a 28-year-old entitled and rage-driven white man who thought it perfectly acceptable to KILL A WOMAN who wouldn’t let him into the lane he wanted to be in, poor little guy.
This morning, as it happens, I found myself in the same situation that Bianca was in last week. As I merged onto a highway, some goateed jerk in his early 30s tried and failed to cut me off going 70mph after he’d slid into the merge lane. When I looked in my rear-view mirror, I saw him ram his middle finger into his windshield and use a slew of other such aggressive gestures to communicate his deep dissatisfaction to me. And for the mile in which he continued to drive behind me, I felt fear for myself (would he follow me when I exited? Thank god he did not), for my daughter, and for every person of color who is in inherently more danger than either of us will ever be.
(But please, I’m begging you, do not get me started on white cisgender males. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to talk right now about how much fear this demographic instills within me. I’ve got laundry to fold and a kid to feed and relationships to uphold. It’ll have to wait.)
I cannot for the life of me wrap my mind around the entitled mindset that people adopt when they’re tucked safely within the confines of their shelter, whether they’re inside a moving vehicle or hunkered down behind a screen spewing vitriol all over the internet.
If you follow me on social media, you probably know two things about me: that I’m raising an only-child after losing my second baby and being diagnosed with secondary infertility, and that for the past four years I’ve been breastfeeding that dear daughter of mine.
A few months ago, the Washington Post published an essay of mine about the grief that accompanies secondary infertility. Within hours I was drowning in a deluge of brutal comments from strangers who knew nothing about me: that I’m ungrateful, that I’m resentful, and that I should be ashamed of myself for being sad when I had a perfectly good child tugging at my pant leg and turning all my bread into peanut butter toast.
Then last week, a delightful woman hiding behind a private account wandered onto my Instagram profile and berated me for having the gall to breastfeed a child so old, telling me that I’m causing my daughter to be insecure and am hindering her cognitive development, and accusing me of doing such a thing for my own benefit.
And I’m sorry, but no amount of hatred is going to convince me that you know more about what’s best for me and my daughter than I do.
Also, go ahead and try to forcibly breastfeed a kid who doesn’t want to. The fact that my face is still attached to my head and that I have both nipples still affixed to my breasts is testament enough to the fact that in no way, shape, or form are our nursing sessions non-consensual.
Just the other night I was sitting around a fire, drinks in hand, with a handful of my closest girlfriends. We started talking about meanness, about the urge to deviate from our personal norm, and about the accompanying guilt that goes along with following through. The topic had come up after I’d told them that earlier that day, my four-year-old daughter had accidentally-on-purpose killed a tiny frog — an act which was wholly out of character for her — and the brutal memory of it had kept her awake from 2 a.m. onward. I was exhausted and fixed on whatever it was that had driven her to do such a thing.
So we sat around that fire and slogged through the muddy ditch that lines memory lane, recalling all the very worst things we did as children when we were otherwise the meek, the shy, the sweet, and the bullied. We had on isolated occasions pulled hair, kicked over and sworn at our unsuspecting peers — and directly afterward, we’d felt remorse so strong that it stuck to our bones and our souls for decades.
Why are people so mean?
What are we gaining by experimenting with harassment and by releasing our aggression and bearing down on people we don’t even know?
I’m not trying to bother anyone, I swear. I’m just out here doing my thing — parenting, being sad sometimes, being a walking pair of boobs otherwise, and merging onto the freeway every now and again.
It’s a rough sea out there, friends. I’m weary and tired. Let’s all treat ourselves to a little more self-care and practice empathy, kindness, and basic human decency, shall we? It certainly wouldn’t kill us to try.