There is a certain type of man who, when I spot him, I want to greet with a swift kick in the balls. I am not prone to violence; this is an almost visceral response, a (forgive me) knee-jerk reaction. Although I don’t know him as an individual, I recognize his type. I’m sure he doesn’t know I exist, doesn’t care one way or the other. At most I appear as a blip on his radar screen, one more blob among the mass of faces that blur as he rolls by in his gilded carriage. I watch with a peasant’s smoldering rage.
He is twenty-something with dark hair, a face that turns heads, a body to match: trim athletic build, rippling muscles in his arms, legs. His shirt would cost me a week’s pay; the day I wear shoes like his is the day I’m invited to dine with the Queen of England.
He walks, sits, stands—breathes—with the easy air of privilege, arrogance, conceit. He has, is everything I am not. Comfortable in his skin, his sexuality. Rich. Young. Good-looking. Born to convenience and easy living. Takes life for granted, gets away with it. Treats people like dirt, gets away with that, too.
Hating him, I feel better about myself. Some frigid part of me hunches over the flames of jealousy, envy, spite. These coursing emotions energize me, if only briefly. While in their grip I feel larger than I am, more powerful, more holy, more dangerous. As a steady diet of hatred would exhaust me, I use it much like horseradish on a sandwich—just enough so it hurts. I get a quick high, a cheap rush. And by holding onto hatred I don’t have to deal with pain.
My reaction is more about me than him, I admit. I despise myself for all I am not, did not, have not become. In lashing out at him I really lash out at myself. My anger simmers, seeks release. It feels easier, safer to direct my rage out and away from me. Let Mr. Got-It-All deal with it rather than me.
Perhaps similar feelings motivate the unknown person who vandalizes our property. We seldom leave the house but we wonder what shape it will be in when we get home. Our mailbox regularly gets bashed in, the house egged, debris scattered in the yard. Only once has a fire been lit on the front porch. Maybe the vandal’s motives are similar to mine; my husband and I perhaps represent the freedom, creativity and courage he longs for, that he lashes out against. Thing is, he doesn’t stop at thinking about it, at spicing his life with mental flights of fancy. Maybe he has a higher threshold for excitement, needs to down the whole enchilada. While I can see parts of myself in him, offer him a hand in recognition of our common humanity, I’m keeping the other strategically placed over the family jewels.
This essay appeared in The Letter, August 2007